STORMS

In case you don’t know, I am from Southern Illinois.  I have friends and family all throughout the state.  From the suburbs of Chicago all the way down to the Kentucky/Illinois border by Metropolis, Illinois and Paducah, Kentucky.  I have friends near the metro east area outside of St. Louis and in central Illinois near Champaign-Urbana.

I also have a close friend outside Peoria, Illinois in a town called Washington.  Below is a quick video of the destruction of today’s tornado that occurred there today.  Josh was filming the destruction for about 17-18 seconds when he heard someone crying for help.  He ended up pulling at least two people out of the decimated homes.  Josh is the Pastor at First Baptist Church in Washington and also writes a blog.  Here’s the link to his blog as well.  http://www.baddaysbetter.com/

I am thankful that my family along with our loved ones are all safe.  I am praying for those who weren’t as fortunate as we were.  The severe weather literally hit the entire state.

 

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN…..

I was reading up on the MVP races last night after Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen won the award for their respective leagues.  I felt both players were the right choice.

Then I received a call this morning from my buddy Dave, a Red fan, and was reminded about Josh Donaldson who finished 4th in the AL MVP race.  You see, Josh Donaldson was drafted by the Cubs in 2007 and traded to the A’s in 2008 in a deal that netted Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin for the Cubs.  Just think, Donaldson could have been our future at third base.

In addition to Donaldson, another former Cubs prospect received some attention in the AL Rookie of the Year race.  Chris Archer, originally drafted by the Cleveland Indians, was acquired by the Cubs after the 2008 season in a deal that sent Mark DeRosa to the tribe.  Archer was later dealt to the Rays in a deal that brought Matt Garza to the Cubs.  He finished third in the AL ROY voting this year posting a solid 3.22 ERA in the tough AL EAST.

These are just two examples of players the Cubs traded away while trying to add pitching just a handful of years ago.  Rich Harden, Chad Gaudin and Matt Garza have all moved on from the Cubs now.

Donaldson and Archer have bright futures ahead of them and I wish them the best.  Yet, it still makes me wonder what could have been…………..

RICK RENTERIA, JEFF SAMARDZIJA AND MORE

Two weeks ago I wrote about the new To Do List for the Cubs this off-season. Well, the Cubs have checked off the first item on that list, hire a new manager. I had a feeling it would be Rick Renteria and I was correct (for the first time).  He was not my first choice, but with Theo & Co., I am beginning to see a pattern.  They are wanting coaches that they are already familiar with and have some sort of previous relationship.  From October 2009 to October 2011, Jed Hoyer was the GM of the San Diego Padres.  Renteria was a coach with the Padres during that time.   There’s your connection!  I’m hoping it works out better than Dale Sveum did.

Yesterday, I mentioned that the Cubs could be trading Jeff Samardzija to the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The Cubs still have two years of control on Samardzija’s contract.  He will not be a free agent until 2016 at the earliest and he will turn 29 in January.  He has the potential to bring in a decent haul if traded.  I’m not naive enough to think he would bring as much as the Matt Garza trade did in 2011 for the Rays, but I think it would be close.  I took a quick look at Arizona’s top 20 prospects.  I think the Cubs could land 2-3 of these players in a deal.  I’m not sure which ones it would be and it is too early for me to make a guess.  I plan on keeping an eye on this over the next month and see what happens.

Finally, on January 22, 2011, I wrote a blog and an email to the MLB Network with some ideas for programming.  One of those ideas was to start showing Arizona Fall League games.  I also included the Caribbean League.  Well, lately, the MLB Network has been showing the AFL and I love it!  I have watched it with my 6 year old son and was able to enjoy seeing some of the young names you hear about in baseball today.  Plus, I have seen Albert Almora and Jorge Soler this week as well.  That’s a plus for me.

TRADING SAMARDZIJA?

One of my favorite players on the Cubs is Jeff Samardzija.  I feel like he has the potential to be a really good pitcher.  He will turn 29 in January and hasn’t reached that full potential yet.  Unfortunately, it seems that Theo & Co. are willing to trade the former Notre Dame two sport star.

I read, once again, that Arizona is interested in Samardzija.  I have no clue what the Cubs are asking nor what the D’Backs are even offering.  All I know is I would rather not make this trade.

AROD BAD FOR BASEBALL?

Okay, this post is about the game of baseball as a whole.  Today, as I was creeping on Facebook, I saw where ESPN BASEBALL TONIGHT asked the following question, “When his career is over, will Alex Rodriguez have been bad for baseball?”.  As I scrolled through all the comments I noticed the usual trolls were out in full force.  Some people were praising AROD, others were demonizing him and others were your homer fans acting as if this was an attack on the Yankees.

First let me say this, AROD had a lot of talent coming into the big leagues.  Unfortunately, we will never know when he started using PEDs and for how long.  With that said, I think he deserves a lifetime ban.  I am rough on my view of PEDs.  I think Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds need lifetime bans as well.  The same goes for Manny Ramirez, Ryan Braun and Bartolo Colon.  I could continue with writing a ton of other names that have cheated.  But I think you get my point.

I don’t like cheaters and cheaters.  Players that choose to do this disgust me.  Give me Ken Griffey, Jr., Derek Jeter, Tony Gwynn, Andre Dawson, Greg Maddux and Ryne Sandberg.  These are some of my favorite players all time.  They did it the right way.

I think MLB hid their head in the sand during the 90s when PEDs began to thrive.  Thankfully, they have addressed the problem and hopefully they will get tougher on the liars and cheaters.  That’s just my opinion.  I’m not talking about spitballs, corked bats or too much pine tar.  I’m talking about drugs that make you significantly run faster, throw harder and hit the ball farther.

When it’s all said and done, AROD hurt the game and is the guy receiving most of the blame in the media.  He’s not the only one guilty, but has become the face of the PED users.  So, yes, AROD is bad for baseball in my opinion.

NOW THE OFF-SEASON BEGINS

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals as champions of their respective leagues.  The World Series was a good one which I felt the umpires did an excellent job.  In the end, the Red Sox were able to win their first World Series at home since 1918.  Congrats to Boston and their fans.

Now, it’s time to begin the off-season and it’s going to be an exciting one.  Some of the big names in free agency are Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-soo Choo and Brian McCann. There are also several names being floated around already in trade rumors.  The Angels’ Mark Trumbo, Dodgers’ Andre Ethier, Rays’ David Price and the Reds’ Brandon Phillips.

I really don’t see the Cubs making any major moves after any of those names as of today.  The Cubs will probably have another season of spending on guys like Edwin Jackson or David DeJesus.  I don’t see Theo & Co. trading the farm away for someone like David Price either.  Instead, I think Rick Renteria will be the next manager and there will be a few minor moves after that, but nothing earth shattering.

There is also the issue of Jeff Samardzija.  Do we sign a contact extension or do we go to arbitration?  Or does he get traded?  This is one player I will be watching closely.

I’m already looking forward to the winter meetings so I can learn what direction the Cubs will be heading this off-season.

RELATIONSHIPS AT WORK

All kinds of rumors involving the Cubs manager search as of late.  I’m pretty confident that Rick Renteria has the best chance at getting the job.  I’m also still hoping that Mike Maddux would be put on the short list, but that is not looking very promising.

Regardless of who becomes our new manager, there are a lot of issues that he will have to address next year.  It seems to me that our chemistry as a team and the relationship between Theo & Co. and several players need to improve.  We don’t have that veteran presence and leadership in the clubhouse and that does hurt.  We have traded away most of our leaders or allowed them to leave via free agency under Theo & Co..

In addition to that, Dale Sveum didn’t have the best relationship with several players including Starlin Castro, who put up the worst numbers of his short career in 2013.  I know what it is like to go to work everyday and have conflict.  I’m sure that’s what was happening for several of the younger players in the Cubs clubhouse.

Where I work, I have a co-worker that is constantly making things difficult for everyone else.  I will call him, BIG JOE.  You never know what kind of mood Big Joe will be in when you go to work each day.  He constantly causes divisiveness between other staff members as well.  I think that may have been one of many problems last year with the Cubs.

Now I know my work is nothing like a big league clubhouse.  But personal relationships and being able to get along with co-workers(teammates) is important.  It makes for a better working environment.  Whoever the Cubs hire for their new manager, I hope he is able to address this issue.

We have several young players that are talented.  Hopefully, our new manager can unite these players into something more than a team.  My hopes would be a family like atmosphere in the clubhouse in 2014.  Something similar to the 1979 Pirates would be great, but we don’t have a 39 year old Willie Stargell to lead the team.

Just my thoughts for today.

2013-2014 TO DO LIST

I do this every year.  I come up with a “TO DO LIST” for the Cubs.  Each year, I am a little ambitious in my list.  This year, will be somewhat similar.  So, let’s do this!

1.  The Cubs need to hire a new manager.  Some of the names that have been floated around are Dave Martinez, Rick Renteria, A.J. Hinch, Mike Maddux and Manny Acta.  I would prefer Mike Maddux, but I have a feeling the Cubs will go with Rick Renteria.  Just think, we could have had Ryne Sandberg a couple of years ago, but Theo & Jed went with Dale Sveum.  We see how that worked out!

2.  The Cubs have a lot of holes on their roster.  Free agency cannot fill all of them realistically.  Yet, there are some potential moves that could happen.
Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-soo Choo are both viable options to sign and become our new leadoff hitter.

3.  As much as I like Welington Castillo the idea of signing Brian McCann is enticing.  His bat in the lineup as a catcher would be an upgrade.  Yet, no matter if the Cubs make a big splash in free agency, we do not have the depth at pitching needed to compete with the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds in the NL Central at this point and time.

4.  Trade options.  Trading for David Price would cost the farm…..literally!  But it is an option.  Heck, trade Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler in a deal for him.  I know it would take more than just those two, but it is a start.  Don’t trade Javier Baez or Albert Almora though.  Those two have too much talent to lose.

5.  Stay patient and wait til our younger players arrive.  Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant all have high ceilings and are not that far off from playing in the big leagues.

Basically, the Cubs have a lot of money available to spend.  It’s hard to believe that the Cubs were 3rd in payroll in 2010 at just under $150 million.  Since then the Cubs no longer have to pay the huge contracts for Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Silva, Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee.  The farm system has been restocked with hitters at every level.  Pitching is still a little bit thin, but it is improving.  I truly believe the Cubs are not that far off from competing.  But it’s going to take some work.  The Cubs have too many holes to fill in free agency this off-season.  I say let the young players earn their way to the big league roster and get their feet wet.  Our infield could have Javier Baez at SS or 3B, Rizzo at 1B, Barney at 2B and Castro at SS or OF.  The outfield could consist of Almora CF, Bryant LF or 3B and Soler in RF.

Whatever decisions are made I’m still a Cubs fan.  First things first though.  Let’s hire a manager.  I want Maddux but am predicting Renteria.

THIS IS THE END…..

Okay, the season is not over just yet, but it’s almost there.  The Cubs have avoided a 100 loss season but will finish last in their division.  It appears they will have a top 5 pick in next year’s draft as well.  Unfortunately, it appears the Cubs may be looking for a new manager as well.  There are rumors that Joe Girardi, among others, is a potential target.  Too bad that Philly already landed Ryno for their job!  

Anyway, the Cubs had another rough season on the surface.  They traded away several players including Matt Garza, Scott Feldman and David DeJesus.  The Cubs have continued to cut payroll and strengthen their minor league system during this rebuilding process.  

The future of the Cubs may not be built around Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro after the disappointing season they each have had.  I really believed at the beginning of this season that these two youngsters would be the cornerstones of the future.  Instead, they have had difficult years with few bright spots.  I’m hoping they can rebound next year.  With the Cubs having Javier Baez in the minors I could see Starlin Castro being traded or moving positions unless he plays better next year.

The season is not over yet.  I’m rooting for the Pirates.  Sentimental pick I guess.  I like the Reds as well.  As long as the Cards don’t win…..spoken like a true Cubs fan! Anyway, I am going to watch as much of the playoffs as I can.  It’s a long winter without baseball.   

LIARS, CHEATERS AND THIEVES

I’ve been debating if I wanted to write anything on the latest round of PED use in Major League Baseball.  This latest revelation of users involved with BIOGENESIS is sadly not very surprising.  It’s also makes me sick!  Having to explain to my 6 year old son about all of this is something that I was forced to do.  I had to explain that players like Ryan Braun and A-Rod are liars, cheaters and thieves.

I cannot stand a liar.  I know that everyone lies at one point or another, but that does not make it right.  If you lie to me and I find out it causes me to have little trust in you.  When raising my children, I have caught them in lies on multiple occasions.  I have tried to teach them that no matter how bad the truth is it is always better than lying.  I want them to trust me and know that I love them no matter what.  However, when it comes to professional athletes I have no personal relationship.  Most of us fans don’t.  Yet, they still continue to lie to us as if we are peons.  We see our elected leaders lie to us constantly as well.  Lying has become more than accepted by some in today’s culture and it’s not surprising that these players did as well.  BUT IT’S STILL WRONG!!!!!

Then you take into account that each of these men are cheaters!  Here are just two definitions of the word cheat.  CHEAT-verb-Act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage.  CHEAT-noun-A person who behaves dishonestly to gain an advantage.  Both of these definitions are appropriate.  I have little trust in a man who would lie and cheat.  It says a lot about a persons character in my opinion.

Finally, it is my opinion that these men that lied and cheated are also thieves.  I feel that they should be forced to pay back all of the money that have stolen from the fans and the organizations they have played for.  I know this will not happen, but it’s how I feel personally.  They let their bank accounts continue to grow and grow.  They continued to lie and cheat.  That’s a thief to me!

It comes down to the fact that these men are not making moral choices.  Instead, their greed for money, fame and performance outweigh integrity and truth.  It is a moral choice to cheat and they should be held accountable.  I feel all cheaters should be banned from the game!  I know it’s harsh for some to hear, but that’s how I feel.  Especially, when I have to explain it to a 6 year old who doesn’t understand why a grown man would do such things.

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