The Cubs appear to have found their center fielder in Marlon Byrd.
According to a high placed team official, the Cubs have signed Byrd to a three-year contract. A formal announcement was expected later Thursday.
The Cubs wanted to move Kosuke Fukudome to right, which left a hole in center.
Byrd, 32, batted .283 last season with the Texas Rangers and will be reunited with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. The center fielder drove in a personal high 89 runs last season and in three years in Texas has batted .295. He had wanted a long-term deal.
— Carrie Muskat
It’s time to ring in the new year and new decade. In the first 10 years of the 2000s, the Cubs reached the postseason three times (2003, ’07 and ’08), had five managers (counting Rene Lachemann’s one-game in ’02 and Bruce Kimm), and changed ownership. Here are 10 of the most memorable games of the last decade. Agree? Disagree? What’s your favorite game?
1. Game 5 of National League Division Series, Oct. 5, 2003: For the first time since 1908, the Cubs won a playoff series. Kerry Wood had won Game 1 of the ’03 NLDS when he struck out 11 and hit a two-run double. In the deciding Game 5 on Oct. 5 in front of 54,357 at Turner Field, Wood fanned seven and held the Braves to one run in a 5-1 victory. Aramis Ramirez, a key in-season acquisition from the Pirates, hit a two-run homer.
2. Game 7 of NL Championship Series, Oct. 15, 2003: After the debacle of Game 6 (see No. 3), Wood started the deciding game of the series on Oct. 15, and served up a three-run homer to Miguel Cabrera in the first inning. But Wood gave Cubs fans hope when he hit a two-run homer in the second to tie the game at 3. Moises Alou’s two-run homer in the third opened a 5-3 lead. But the Fish scored three in the fifth and dashed the Cubs’ dream with a 9-6 series-clinching win.
3. Game 6 of NLCS, Oct. 14, 2003: The Cubs led the NLCS against the Marlins, three games to two, and had taken a 3-0 lead in Game 6 in front of 39,577 at Wrigley Field. Then the fateful eighth. Mark Prior started the game and retired the first batter. The Cubs were five outs away from getting to the World Series for the first time since 1945. Juan Pierre doubled, and Luis Castillo popped up, sending a ball to foul territory which fans in the left field seats tried to catch. So did Cubs left fielder Moises Alou. Nobody did, and Castillo walked. Both he and Pierre moved up on a wild pitch by Prior. Ivan Rodriguez hit a RBI single and Miguel Cabrera reached on an error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Derrek Lee — yes, the same D-Lee now with the Cubs — delivered a two-run double which tied the game and chased Prior. The Marlins would score eight runs in the inning and win, 8-3.
4. Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter, Sept. 14, 2008: The Cubs and Astros were relocated to Miller Park in Milwaukee because of hurricane damage to Houston, and 23,441 bought tickets to the last-minute game. What a trip. Big Z struck out 10 and walked one in a 5-0 victory over the Astros, the first no-hitter by a Cubs pitcher since Milt Pappas did so Sept. 2, 1972.
5. Sammy Sosa’s 500th home run, April 4, 2003: In the top of the seventh inning in Cincinnati, Sosa connected off Scott Sullivan for his historic blast, launching a 1-2 fastball over the right-center field wall. It was his first home run of the ’03 season.
6. Greg Maddux’s 300th win, Aug. 7, 2004: Maddux had returned to the Cubs for the 2004 season, and in San Francisco, he became the 22nd pitcher to join the elite 300-win club. The Cubs posted an 8-4 victory over the Giants in front of a sellout crowd of 42,578. Maddux notched the win in his second try.
7. The Ramirez walkoff, June 29, 2007: Aramis Ramirez belts a two-run walkoff homer with two outs in the ninth off Francisco Cordero to power the Cubs to a 6-5 victory over the first-place Brewers in front of 41,909 at Wrigley Field. The win was the Cubs’ seventh straight and boosted them to .500 for the first time since early May. “I know it’s early,” Mark DeRosa said, “but it’s an exciting win for us.”
8. Lou’s first ejection, June 2, 2007: One day after Michael Barrett and Carlos Zambrano scuffled in the dugout, Lou Piniella erupted and was ejected in the eighth inning for arguing a call at third base. It was the first time he was tossed as a Cubs manager and the 60th ejection of his career.
9. The rally vs. the Rockies, May 30, 2008: The Cubs rally from deficits of 8-0 and 9-1 to beat the Colorado Rockies, 10-9, at Wrigley Field. Kosuke Fukudome, Jim Edmonds and Henry Blanco each homered and DeRosa smashed a two-run shot to cap a six-run seventh inning. Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez didn’t start the game and Piniella pulled Derrek Lee and Geovany Soto after the Rockies opened a 9-1 lead in the sixth.
10. The Barrett-Pierzynski game, May 20, 2006: Barrett and A.J. Pierzynski collide at home plate in the second inning of the Cubs’ Interleague game against the White Sox, sparking a bench-clearing fight and four ejections. The White Sox had the bases loaded with one out against Rich Hill at U.S. Cellular Field. Pierzynski raced home on Brian Anderson’s fly ball and barreled into Barrett. Pierzynski slapped the plate with his hand and got up. Barrett grabbed the White Sox catcher and delivered a right punch to the face. The Cubs eventually lost, 7-0.
— Carrie Muskat
The Cubs won’t comment on trade rumors, which includes the latest talk regarding Carlos Zambrano. According to a story out of New York, two American League officials claim the Cubs are dangling Big Z but also say the pitcher won’t waive his no-trade clause. GM Jim Hendry told the Chicago Tribune: “He’s got full no-trade rights, which he negotiated into his contract. I fully expect him to come back in 2010 and pitch like the old Big Z.” Zambrano’s agent Barry Praver also has said the pitcher will not waive his no-trade rights. Zambrano is coming off a disappointing season in which he won nine games. The Cubs have been encouraged by reports about his offseason workouts.
— Carrie Muskat
A rally to garner support for relocating the Cubs’ Spring Training facility to Collier County in Florida has been postponed because it was scheduled to run the same time as the Cubs Convention.
The rally was to have been held Jan. 16. The Cubs Convention runs Jan. 15-17 in Chicago.
Florida organizers will set a new date “more conducive for fans in southwest Florida as well from the Midwest states to attend,” according to Floridacubs.com.
“We didn’t want to have it at the same time (because we heard) people were going up for the convention,” Gary Price, a partner in Fifth Avenue Advisors, told the Naples Daily News. “It’s a huge event and we didn’t want this to be something where people had to choose.”
The Cubs are looking at sites near Naples, Fla., in Collier County as well as in Mesa, Ariz. The team was expected to make an announcement in mid January.
— Carrie Muskat
Andre Dawson’s wife Vanessa was determined to get their son, Darius, a pair of the latest Nike Air Jordan shoes for Christmas, which meant they had to be at the store by 5 a.m. Wednesday. Andre went with her.
“I told her, ‘Michael [Jordan] is sleeping, dreaming, and counting his millions and we’re out buying sneakers,'” Dawson said Wednesday from his Florida home.
They came away empty handed because the store didn’t have their son’s size. Dawson is hoping he gets better news on Jan. 6 when the Hall of Fame announces the induction class for 2010.
This will be Dawson’s ninth year on the ballot and it’s his best chance to get into Cooperstown. The former Cubs outfielder, who won the NL MVP in 1987, has heard from plenty of other players and Hall of Famers surprised the Hawk isn’t already enshrined.
“They say, ‘You should have been in already,'” Dawson said. “I hear that a lot. A lot of them say, ‘It’s going to happen.’ … A lot of people ask, ‘Why are they waiting?’ I obviously don’t have an answer for that. With no one ahead of me to hurdle, there’s a reason to be a little more optimistic.”
He’ll spend the day the same way as any other day, going to the gym in the morning. He’ll be home in time for the announcement.
“You want to be there when it is announced, just to get some of the feedback from the analysts on who got in and the reasons why the other players didn’t,” Dawson said. “That’s what I’ve had interest in the last few years is if the vote percentage is going up and how much.”
All the Baseball Writers Association of America voting members need to do is check with Dawson’s teammates, like Shawon Dunston. He worships the Hawk.
“When he was hurt, he just played and played and I was very impressed,” Dunston told me in September. “People always talk about intangibles. He had bad knees and never complained, not once. He never asked to come out of a game, if we were winning 10-0 or down 10-0. … He’s a true gentleman and a true professional.”
Dunston bonded with Dawson immediately. The shortstop was stationed between Ryne Sandberg and Dawson in the home clubhouse at Wrigley Field.
“They were two of the quietest people in the world,” Dunston said. “They didn’t say more than 10 words a day. … I learned from Andre and Ryno how to go about your business and never complain.”
— Carrie Muskat
If Matt Capps does sign with the Cubs, credit pitcher John Grabow with an assist.
Grabow, who was Capps’ teammate in Pittsburgh before he was traded to the Cubs in July, has talked to the free agent right-hander, who has apparently narrowed his choices to Washington and Chicago. The two pitchers have the same agent, Paul Kinzer.
MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reported that Capps, who was not tendered arbitration by the Pirates, planned on making a decision by Wednesday. Grabow signed a two-year contract on Nov. 20 with the Cubs and gave Capps a little inside information.
“I basically told him about the organization and how the guys are in the clubhouse,” Grabow said Tuesday from his Arizona home. “If he comes to the Cubs, he’s coming to a contender.”
The Cubs starting pitchers do go deep in games, which, Grabow said, could mean a lot of meaningful innings for Capps. The difference could come down to what Capps wants to do. The Nationals are looking for a closer, while the Cubs already have named Carlos Marmol as their closer. Marmol took over in mid August for Kevin Gregg, and went 11-for-11 in save situations. Marmol also walked a lot of batters.
Grabow said Capps is exactly what a manager wants — he’s durable and throws strikes.
“I told him, if you come to the Cubs, you might not close right away but things happen,” Grabow said. “[Capps] is a great guy. He’ll take the ball every single day. He’s a bulldog. He’s the sort of guy you want in your bullpen.”
Grabow wasn’t too concerned about Capps’ 5.80 ERA this season with the Pirates.
“I think he’s going to bounce back this year,” the lefty said.
— Carrie Muskat
According to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, free agent Matt Capps has narrowed his list of teams to the Nationals and the Cubs, and will make a decision by Wednesday night. Capps was not offered arbitration by the Pirates after saving 27 games. If he signs with the Nationals, Capps will be their closer. If he signs with the Cubs, he’d be a set-up pitcher for Carlos Marmol. He’d also give the Cubs some insurance in case Marmol has problems with walks.
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs prospect Robinson Chirinos has been on fire in Venezuela. On Friday, he went 4-for-4, hitting a home run and driving in two runs, to help Magallanes beat Caribes, 7-4, in the Venezuelan Winter League. The catcher followed that with a 1-for-3 game on Sunday. He’s batting .359 in 46 games with 10 doubles, nine homers and 32 RBIs.
Andres Blanco played 37 games with Magallanes, and hit .291 with 11 doubles, two triples, two homers and 27 RBIs. He played primarily at second base and hit second in the order.
Sam Fuld played in six games for Aragua in Venezuela, and batted .241 with two doubles, two triples and five RBIs.
In the Mexican League, Jeff Stevens struck out one in one inning of relief Sunday for Mexicali. Stevens has appeared in 16 games for the Mexican League team, and has a 0-4 record, two saves and a 4.15 ERA. He’s walked nine over 17 1/3 innings and struck out 12. The right-hander is holding batters to a .212 average.
Infielder Junior Lake, who batted .248 for Class A Peoria this season, was 7-for-16 in four games with Estrellas in the Dominican League.
Outfielder Jim Adduci appears to have finished his Winter League assignment. He played in 20 games for Hermosillo and batted .224 with two homers and seven RBIs. Infielder Matt Camp batted .333 in 56 games for Mexicali. He hit 18 doubles, two triples, and two homers.
— Carrie Muskat
According to a story in the New York Post, GM Brian Cashman asked Jim Hendry about possibly acquiring Carlos Zambrano but the Yankees did not like the asking price. Zambrano, who has a full no-trade clause, is owed $53.75 million over the next three years. Another report says the Yankees did not even inquire about Zambrano.
What is certain is that Hendry never asked Zambrano’s agent, Barry Praver, about whether the pitcher would waive the no-trade clause to go to New York. Praver said Monday that Zambrano is not interested in doing so.
— Carrie Muskat