October 2009

10/10 Gila River Cubs?

The Gila River Indian Community is trying to lure the Cubs from Mesa to an area south of Phoenix. According to the East Valley Tribune, the tribe traveled to Chicago to meet with Cubs management. There is a 500-room Sheraton resort and a golf course, plus a 400-acre business park along Interstate 10 near Chandler and Ahwatukee Foothills on the Gila River Indian reservation.

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith has tried to discourage other Arizona communities from talking to the Cubs. He says the team’s fans spread money across the Valley, which helps all cities, so everyone should join forces to keep the team in Mesa. According to the Arizona paper, Mesa is marketing several sites near the city’s eastern edge, which would allow the Cubs to build a larger stadium and better practice facilities.

Representatives of the city of Mesa will make one more presentation in November, when Cubs management visits the Arizona city. The delegation is expected to include new owner Tom Ricketts.

How important are the Cubs to Arizona? A study showed the Cactus League would lose $31.1 million and the state would lose $52 million if the team left Mesa. The team has called Mesa home since 1979. Two Florida communities also have expressed interest in the Cubs, including Naples.

— Carrie Muskat

10/10 Samardzija update

Jeff Samardzija gave up one run on three hits and two walks over four innings, striking out two, in Mexicali’s 13-4 loss to Hermosillo on Friday night. It was Samardzija’s first Winter Ball game, and the first game of the Mexican Winter League. The right-hander did not get a decision. Matt Camp was 3-for-4 and Brad Snyder 1-for-4 for Mexicali, which is managed by Cubs’ Triple-A Iowa manager Bobby Dickerson.

— Carrie Muskat

10/9 Samardzija to start in Mexico

Jeff Samardzija didn’t get much of an offseason. The right-hander was scheduled to start Friday night for Mexicali against Hermosillo in the Mexican League opener. Iowa manager Bobby Dickerson is the Mexicali skipper, and Samardzija will have three other Cubs Minor Leaguers on the roster in Brian Schlitter, Matt Camp and Brad Snyder.

Samardzija’s last start for the Cubs on Oct. 1 was rained out. The right-hander gave up three runs over three innings before nature intervened. He finished 1-3 with a 7.53 ERA in 20 games, including two starts.

“The kid needs to pitch Winter Ball,” Lou Piniella said after Samardzija’s last outing. “He’s on the right path. He just needs to work on the things he’s working on and get more consistent with it and Winter Ball will give him that opportunity.”

The right-hander is a candidate for a spot in the Cubs’ rotation in 2010.

— Carrie Muskat

10/7 TV ratings

Tuesday’s 12-inning AL Central tiebreaker between the Twins and Tigers was the most viewed for a postseason play-in game since the 1998 Wild Card playoff game between the Cubs and Giants. The Twins-Tigers drew an average audience of 6.54 million viewers. Of the six one-game postseason play-in games since the Wild Card era, only the Cubs and Giants delivered a larger network audience.

The Cubs-Giants game, played at Wrigley Field, was watched in 6.1 million homes on ESPN and 1.4 million additional homes on over-the-air networks in Chicago and San Francisco. ESPN got an 8.1 rating for that game.

— Carrie Muskat

10/7 Roster info

MLB Trade Rumors has sorted out the projected Type A and B Free Agents. The Cubs have two in each category:

Type A Free Agent

John Grabow
Kevin Gregg

Type B Free Agent

Rich Harden
Reed Johnson

The Cubs would like to keep Grabow, and already have had talks with his agent. Harden and Johnson could stay, but it depends on their contract demands.

* Also, players with three to six years of big league service are arbitration eligible. The Cubs will have until Dec. 12 to tender the following players contracts:

IF Jeff Baker

LHP Neal Cotts

IF Mike Fontenot

LHP Tom Gorzelanny

RHP Angel Guzman

RHP Aaron Heilman

C Koyie Hill

RHP Carlos Marmol

LHP Sean Marshall

SS Ryan Theriot

Players with between two and three years of big league service time are eligible as “Super Twos” if they both collected at least 86 days the prior year and rank in the top 17 percent in total service time of this group. Fontenot and Gorzelanny qualify as Super Twos.

— Carrie Muskat 

10/4 Cubs fire Joshua from big league job

The Cubs will bring their entire coaching staff back for 2010 with the exception of hitting coach Von Joshua. GM Jim Hendry says Joshua didn’t do anything wrong, but there wasn’t significant improvement. That, Hendry said, prompted him to look for someone else.

Joshua, who was the Triple-A Iowa hitting coach, had taken over the big league job on June 14, replacing Gerald Perry, who was fired.

“There’s no blame to be handed out,” Hendry said. “We had a lot of guys who didn’t swing the bats like they’re capable of. When Von came up, we were scuffling, and we never made a lot of progress in the same areas that we were deficient in the first half.”

The Cubs finished with a team .255 batting average, 12th in the National League. They struggled this season to deliver with runners in scoring position, and scored 707 runs. Last year, the Cubs led the NL with 855 runs scored.

— Carrie Muskat

10/4 Last day of school

Sean Marshall and Jeff Stevens got one more game of pre-game frisbee in on Sunday at Wrigley Field. Reed Johnson was packing his locker up for his drive home. Jeff Samardzija was prepping for his Mexican League stint in Mexicali. Johnson, Sam Fuld, and Geovany Soto were all gearing up for new babies this offseason.

“After today,” GM Jim Hendry said, “we’re going to put [the season] behind us and start working on putting together a better club for Spring Training.”

* Lou Piniella planned on meeting with the players to thank them for their efforts and say goodbye. An official announcement was expected Monday or Tuesday, but Piniella’s coaching staff was expected to be retained.

* Ryne Sandberg was expected to be invited back to manage in the Cubs Minor League system in 2010. Piniella didn’t want to get involved in whether Sandberg would replace him.

“I’m not the one who will be hiring the next manager here,” Piniella said.

* Here are some World Series picks:

Alfonso Soriano: Yankees over Phillies

Justin Berg: Yankees over Cardinals

Sean Marshall: Yankees over Cardinals

Jake Fox: Red Sox over Cardinals

Micah Hoffpauir: Red Sox over Phillies

Kevin Gregg: Tigers over Cardinals

Aaron Miles: Phillies over Yankees

Len Kasper: Yankees over Cardinals

John Grabow: Yankees over Cardinals

— Carrie Muskat

10/4 Last lineup

Here’s the lineup for the Cubs’ final game of the regular season:

SS Theriot

LF Taguchi

1B Lee

3B Fox

2B Baker

RF Johnson

C Soto

CF Fuld

P Dempster

— Carrie Muskat

10/3 Miles to go

Cubs fans should know Aaron Miles is more upset about this season than anyone else. The infielder, who entered Saturday’s play batting .185, won’t use injuries as an excuse, but heading into the offseason, he’s still bothered by his right elbow. He doesn’t need surgery, just rest.

“It’s bothering me right now,” Miles said. “The shoulder obviously hurt this year. I always felt good enough to go out there and compete but I don’t think I was 100 percent and doing it at my best. I feel I’ll get there again. I’m up for the challenge of getting back to the form where I can hit .300 in this league and be a productive player.”

The biggest adjustment for Miles wasn’t switching from night to day games, which has bothered some players in their first year at Wrigley. It was changing his routine to deal with the realities of the ballpark. At the new Busch Stadium, Miles had an extra batting cage to go to during games.

“Here it’s tougher,” he said of Wrigley. “It’s more old school baseball. You have to tweak your routine a little bit because you’re not going to get all those extra swings because there’s one cage.

“For a guy like myself who takes pride in all the extra work he does and all the drills that help me get to the point which help me succeed, you have to tweak it and lock into other things to find success,” he said. “It’s a lot tougher in a place like this.

“At the same time, I’ve been fortunate to play in St. Louis where there’s a big crowd,” he said. “This crowd here will get you up any time. You always have the adrenaline and excitement and that’s a plus.”

And next season, expect a different ballplayer, more like the one who batted .317 in 2008.

“Definitely, people here haven’t seen what I can do,” Miles said. “One of the biggest things is to be a consistent tough at-bat and put the ball in play and be somebody the opposition hates to see. I’ve got a long road ahead of me to show these guys that I can still be that guy and show the fans, too. I’ll be up for the challenge.”

— Carrie Muskat

10/3 Minor matters

The Cubs honored Kyler Burke and Casey Coleman, the Cubs’ Minor League player and pitcher of the year, during pre-game ceremonies Saturday. They also honored trainer Nick Frangella as the Minor League athletic trainer of the year, and Ryne Sandberg, who led Double-A Tennessee to the Southern League championship. No. 1 pick Brett Jackson also attended the ceremony, his first visit to Wrigley since he was drafted in June.

Burke batted .303 with 43 doubles, three triples, 15 homers and 89 RBIs at Class A Peoria. He was acquired by the Cubs in June 2007 from San Diego for Michael Barrett. Coleman, a 15th round pick in 2008, was 14-6 with a 3.68 ERA in 27 starts for Tennessee.

— Carrie Muskat