Results tagged ‘ Cubs ’

9/30 Theo: Goal in ’15 is to win division

The emphasis in the first three seasons under Theo Epstein has been to restock the Minor League system and build a foundation of impact players. In 2015, Epstein feels the Cubs will take a major step and not just develop players, but be competitive.

“I think we’ve proved we can be very competitive in this division and when you have a chance to compete, you should set your sights high and that means our goal is the [National League] Central title next year,” Epstein said Tuesday.

Here are some highlights from a 40-minute media session at Wrigley Field:

* The Cubs will be looking for impact talent via free agency but Epstein cautioned that any deal has to make sense and they will not “sell out just for 2015.” Among the needs are another starting pitcher, a left-handed reliever, and outfield help. The next 15 months will be key in terms of player acquisitions, he said. That time frame includes this coming offseason, the next Trade Deadline, and next offseason.

* They are aware that some of the young talent still needs time, such as Javier Baez, who batted .169 with 95 strikeouts in 52 games after he was called up Aug. 5. Baez is expected to be the Cubs’ Opening Day second baseman, Epstein said. He’s a perfect example of the theme Epstein projected for 2015.

“We’re being open about the fact that we’re here to compete and our goal is to win the [division] title, but at the same time we’re not going to bail on our young players, we’re not going to abandon our vision,” he said. “We just have to make the tough decisions and strike that balance the right way.”

* Epstein admitted Renteria had some limitations with the roster, such as relievers who were restricted because of past injuries and youngsters without much experience. But the manager did fulfill many of the criteria laid out for him, such as developing a positive attitude, setting a good tone for the players and getting them to play hard.

“He established an environment where our young players could continue to grow and feel support, and where they could learn how to be big leaguers, and where they could learn how to win,” Epstein said.

* Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm will stay in the bullpen for 2015, and not be considered for the rotation.

* The Cubs have not made as much improvement in terms of on-base percentage as Epstein would like.

“Frankly, it’s one of the areas where we haven’t had a lot of success,” he said.

* Epstein’s feelings on the Cardinals? He says: “How do you balance admiration and contempt? I’m a Cub, so I have to hate the Cardinals, but I also admire the way they run their baseball shop. They’re really consistent, they make good decisions, all the way back to George Kissell. They teach the game the right way, they stay true to the vision of how to play Cardinal baseball. In some respects, and I hate to say this on the record, but we have to do a lot of things that they do to be successful. On the other hand, I think we’re building something that has a chance to go toe to toe with them and surpass them. I think we have a chance to win this division and win it on a consistent basis, and we’re going to need to beat them to win the World Series.”

He feels the NL Central is becoming a powerhouse. When Epstein first joined the Cubs in October 2011, he thought the NL Central would be a little easier than the AL East.

“I was dead wrong,” Epstein said. “If you look forward over the next five years, or so, I think this has a chance to be the most competitive and best division in baseball. When you have the talent to compete you should set your sights high.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/30 Cubs coaching staff

The Cubs coaching staff will remain intact for 2015 with the exception of assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley, who will likely be re-assigned in the organization, possibly as a scout. Theo Epstein made the announcement Tuesday at Wrigley Field. That means manager Rick Renteria’s staff will include bench coach Brandon Hyde, pitching coach Chris Bosio, hitting coach Bill Mueller, first base coach Eric Hinske, third base coach Gary Jones, bullpen coach Lester Strode, catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello, quality assurance coach Jose Castro and assistant Franklin Font. This was Brumley’s first season on the Cubs coaching staff.

9/30 The Year in Quotes

CSNChicago.com’s Patrick Mooney compiled a “Year in Cubs Quotes,” which summed up some of the highs and lows of the 2014 season. Here are excerpts:

* “It’s as peaceful as I’ve ever been as a person.” — Rick Renteria, the 53rd manager in franchise history, at the opening of spring training, Feb. 13.

* “You guys are going to crown them the next Babe Ruth.” — first baseman Anthony Rizzo, responding to reporters asking about all the prospects, Feb. 18.

* “Just be myself. Be me. My mind’s clean and ready to play hard.” — shortstop Starlin Castro, promising to return to an All-Star level, Feb. 19.

* “It sucks for the person who parked there. They’re parking too close to the field.” — mega-prospect Javier Baez, after shattering a car window with a batting-practice bomb at Cubs Park, Feb. 21.

* “(Baez) doesn’t care. He’s like: ‘Oh, cool.’ Not cool for whoever’s car it was, I guess.” — eyewitness Logan Watkins, Feb. 21.

* “Losing sucks.” — Theo Epstein, after a reporter asked if winning is “overemphasized” in professional sports, April 22.

* “I was pretty hungry for that one.” — Jeff Samardzija, after allowing one unearned run in nine innings and throwing 126 pitches during a 12-inning loss to the White Sox, May 5.

* “I do believe in second chances. I do believe in redemption. I do believe that Manny has turned his life around for the better in the last couple of years.” — Epstein, stunning the baseball world by signing Manny Ramirez to a minor-league deal as a player/coach for Triple-A Iowa, May 25.

* “I got some goose bumps there. That’s kind of why you play this game, for moments like that.” — Jake Arrieta, after being four outs away from a no-hitter against the Red Sox and getting a standing ovation at Fenway Park, June 30.

* “We shared a beer and a cigarette and sent him on his way. It’s just tough to see your boys leave.” — James Russell’s farewell to Samardzija, July 5.

* “We certainly hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the trade deadline.” — Epstein, July 5.

* “I got beer. I got chocolate milk. I got hair gel. I got shampoo. I got body wash. And then I got some more beer. It was great. Best shower I’ve ever taken.” — catcher John Baker, after pitching the 16th inning and scoring the game-winning run to beat the Rockies in the longest game in franchise history, July 29-30.

* “I was like: ‘Are you serious?’ And then I realized I was really going to the big leagues. I got really excited. I called my mom, told my brother and everybody started jumping around and crying.” — Javier Baez, before debuting at Coors Field and hitting the game-winning homer against the Rockies, Aug. 5.

* “The best thing to happen to the whole city of Chicago this summer — certainly from a baseball standpoint — was put together by 13-, 12-year-old kids from the South Side. At industry meetings, in lots of front offices around the game, people talk about (it). People ask the question: How can we get young kids playing baseball again, especially in cities, especially in the inner-city? There’s nothing that a bunch of suits in a boardroom can do that would be as powerful as what those 12-year-old kids did to demonstrate how compelling the game of baseball can be, make baseball cool again for young kids.” — Epstein, on the Jackie Robinson West team that won a national title at the Little League World Series, Aug. 27.

* “We’re just waiting for Bryant now.” — Baez, after Jorge Soler hit two homers to beat the Cardinals in St. Louis, Aug. 29.

* “To be the NL Central champs … that’s the message we’re going to send.” — Rizzo’s expectations for next year’s team, Sept. 28.

9/29 End of the party

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The Wrigley Field tours are over, as the ballpark is prepped for the renovation work.

9/29 Wrigley Field from Sheffield Ave.

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Crews are hauling scaffolding into the ballpark to prep the bleachers, while the Wrigley Field grounds crew continues to maintain the outfield grass.

9/29 Wrigley Field

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Waveland Avenue behind the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field is closed as city of Chicago crews wrap up their prep work for the renovation project.

9/29 Cubs 2014 stats leaders

Batting

Games played: Luis Valbuena, 149
RBI: Anthony Rizzo, 78
Hits: Starlin Castro, 154
Home runs: Rizzo, 32
Doubles: Valbuena and Castro, 33 each
Batting average: Castro .292

Pitching

Wins: Jake Arrieta, 10
Losses: Edwin Jackson, 15
ERA (starter): Kyle Hendricks 2.46 (13 games), Jake Arrieta 2.53 (25 games)
Innings pitched (starter): Travis Wood, 173 2/3 innings
Strikeouts (starter): Arrieta, 167
Quality starts: Arrieta, 18

Innings pitched (reliever): Justin Grimm, 69
ERA (reliever): Neil Ramirez, 1.44
Games (reliever): Grimm, 73
Strikeouts (reliever): Pedro Strop, 71
Saves: Hector Rondon, 29

* Cubs starting pitchers recorded 79 quality starts, yet had only 40 individual wins in those games.

* Ten players made their Major League debut: Rafael Lopez, Arismendy Alcantara, Jorge Soler, Matt Szczur, Javier Baez, Dallas Beeler, Kyle Hendricks, Neil Ramirez, Eric Jokisch, and Tsuyoshi Wada.

* Starlin Castro led the Cubs with 386 assists, made 15 errors for .973 fielding percentage.

9/28 Extra bases

* The Cubs and White Sox finished 73-89 this season, the first time in the city’s history that the two teams posted identical records.

* If you’re looking ahead, the Cubs will pick ninth in the June 2015 First-Year Player Draft, according to MLBTradeRumors. Here’s the order based on how teams finished 2014:

1. Diamondbacks
2. Astros (for failure to sign 2014 No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken)
3. Rockies
4. Rangers
5. Astros
6. Twins
7. Red Sox
8. White Sox
9. Cubs
10. Phillies
11. Reds

The first 11 picks are protected, meaning that teams cannot lose those picks for signing free agents who have been extended qualifying offers.

– Carrie Muskat

9/28 Rizzo: We want to win the division

The Cubs closed the 2014 season with a win and lots of momentum, and Anthony Rizzo made it clear what the goal is for next year.

“To be the [National League] Central champs,” Rizzo said after hitting a two-run homer in the Cubs’ season finale, a 5-2 win over the Brewers. “[We want] to win the division, and obviously, that’s the playoffs and we want to go deep.

“It takes a lot of work and we have a very tough division and teams aren’t going anywhere in it, it’s only getting better,” Rizzo said. “That’s our expectation, that’s the message we want to send.”

The Cubs finished fifth for the fifth straight season, but the future looks bright with players like Arismendy Alcantara, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks in the mix.

“All those guys know we want to step it up, and we need to go into Spring Training prepared to be a better club with the expectations of us improving and making ourselves hopefully a topic of conversation throughout the season,” manager Rick Renteria said.

– Carrie Muskat

9/28 Cubs 5, Brewers 2

Anthony Rizzo hit his 32nd home run, a two-run blast in the first, and scored on Arismendy Alcantara’s tie-breaking two-run double in the sixth to lift the Cubs to a 4-2 victory over the Brewers in the season finale Sunday in front of 33,837 at Miller Park.

Under new manager Rick Renteria, the Cubs finished 73-89, and below .500 for the fifth straight season, but they did top last year’s 66-win total and head into 2015 encouraged by the play of some of the top prospects, including Alcantara and Jorge Soler. It’s the first time the Cubs have won 73 games since a 75-87 season in 2010.

The Brewers, on the other hand, have to be wondering what happened after leading the division for 150 days and not making the playoffs.

Jacob Turner picked up the win, starting in place of Kyle Hendricks, who was scratched after the Cubs decided the rookie right-hander had reached his innings limit. Turner improved to 3-1 in six career games (five starts) against the Brewers, which included a win at Wrigley Field on Sept. 1.

Chris Coghlan walked to lead off the game against Brewers starter Mike Fiers, stole second and one out later, tallied on Rizzo’s 32nd home run. Rizzo is the first Cubs left-handed batter to hit 32 homers in a single season since Rick Monday did so in 1976.

– Carrie Muskat

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