Do the Cubs intend on winning the World Series in 2015 or just starting to compete that particular year? I am anxious to see what the game plan is. -- George V, Lombard, Il.
The master plan is to build sustained success. I just wonder about the fans’ patience if there aren’t improvements next year on the field and in the National League Central standings, where the big three of St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati should be competitive through at least 2015.
And if you’re building sustained success, can you accept division and league titles without winning the World Series?
On more than one occasion, Pedro Strop has been touted as next year's closer. Yet, instead of auditioning him for the job, the Cubs continue to allow the soon-to-be-gone Kevin Gregg to close games. Why? -- Alan Koufer, Nashville, Tenn.
About 10 days ago Sveum said that Pedro Strop would get a chance to close games in September. Since then, all save chances have still gone to Gregg. Do you see Strop getting a chance over the remaining weeks? I have him on my fantasy team and I need saves! -- Jim, Morris Plains, N.J.
First, the Cubs haven’t enjoyed many comfortable victories, let alone wins. I’m not sure that next season’s closer will be determined by what Strop does with one or two save chances.
But I’d like to see him get a chance to save a game. We saw Tuesday night where Justin Grimm entered the ninth inning of a tie game. The results weren’t great, but at least Grimm got his feet wet in that situation after spending most of his career as a starter.
Jim, I hope you have a closer for a playoff contending team on your fantasy roster.
Do you think Anthony Rizzo will amount to anything? I haven't been impressed with what he's done so far. He doesn't seem to be a good clutch hitter. He's hitting for a low average and seems to be an average fielder. Is he the future of the Cubs? -- John Ptaszynski, Austin
He has to be part of the future for the Cubs. They gave him a seven-year, $41 million contract in May, and he’s accompanied general manager Jed Hoyer on his stops at Boston, San Diego and now the Cubs.
I think he’s a pretty good fielder. He’s only 24, and I chalk this season up to a learning process. He’s got to adjust quicker to the pitchers, but I think he’s capable of doing that.
Rizzo is at a point in his career somewhat like Will Clark in 1988. Clark had a much better average (.282), but it dipped 26 points and he struck out a career-high 129 times from the result of not adjusting to pitchers.
Clark made the proper adjustments and hit a career-high .333 and cut his strikeouts down by 26, and you Cubs know what he did in the playoffs.
The lack of clutch hitting, however, is disturbing, since he hit .338 with runners in scoring position in 2012. There will be a lot to assess this winter, but I think he can bounce back the way his Miami Dolphins have so far.
Can you please tell me why we are waiting so long to call up our top prospects? This year will be the second year in a row I have not attended a Cubs game. Before then, I went to 15 or so a year. This product on the field is not a good product or a chance to see the future. -- Josh, Lexington, Ken.
The last thing the Cubs want to do is rush their prospects as well as start their service time clocks. I think they’re taking the proper approach with Baez in that when he’s shown he’s dominated Triple-A pitching, then they’ll move him around at second base and third base as the final steps to his minor league development.
Soler and Almora missed some valuable time because of injuries, so they need plenty of at-bats. Kyle Edwards threw a career high 166 1/3 innings in the minors, and there were no innings for him on the major league level.
When I think of this talk about Kris Bryant being the Cubs’ opening day third baseman in 2014, I’m reminded of a recent conversation I had with Pat Hughes about the 1971 San Francisco Giants and a rookie named Dave Kingman who was promoted to the majors slightly a year after he was drafted.
Kingman batted .278 in the final two months and helped the Giants win the NL West, but the opposing pitchers caught up to him the following seasons and he never completely rebounded as a complete hitter until his 1979 season with the Cubs.
I’ve seen Bryant play in person once as a sophomore and was very impressed. But I think he’s got some seasoning ahead of him before he forces the issue at the major league level. The Cubs also have done the right thing in adding depth in the outfield (moving Vitters) and third base because there are no assurances that their marquee players will become bonafide stars.
I don't know why the Cubs aren't playing Logan Watkins more. I would like to see what he can do. I think of Darwin Barney as more of a utility guy. What do you think? -- Jim Pedigo, Chicago
Barney has played Gold Glove caliber defense at second base for the second consecutive season. His average has been disappointing, but he’s been asked to handle the bat in the second and eight spots, the latter not an easy task in the NL.
I thought Watkins would get more than three starts since being promoted on Aug. 4, but Barney is young and a solid defender, as his unpaid advisers point out frequently. This could be an interesting situation with Baez potentially moving around at different positions – including second base.
How long will the owners put up with Sveum? His choice of players and plays make it impossible to win a game. He is also scruddly-looking and needs to clean himself up. Tatoos, unshaven, red eyes, makes me long for Dusty Baker. The Cardinals’ manager is always neat and clean and looks the part. -- Norma Stasi, Iowa City
The decision on Sveum will be left up to the team president, who has stressed that he won’t evaluate the manager on wins and losses.
I don’t think Lou Piniella was the most frequently groomed man, and Joe Maddon bleached his hair. I don’t think that stopped them from leading teams to the World Series.
This is no knock on Mike Matheny, the Cardinals’ manager. Managers, like players, come in different shapes and styles. Whitey Herzog stretched the Cardinals’ polyester uniforms very well and is a Hall of Fame manager.
With just under two weeks to go, it looks like the Sox are going to edge the Cubs for the third pick in next year's draft. Who are the Cubs taking with the fourth pick? --J.B., Chicago
August was a huge month for planning for the 2014 draft with the annual Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., the Perfect Game All-America Classic in San Diego, and the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field.
There’s a deeper track record with college players, but the Cubs have found promise through the high school route with Albert Almora and Javier Baez with their recent first picks.
The consensus No. 1 pick is North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon. One scouting director told me that the quality of the draft among the first 20 picks is deeper than it was last June.
The Cubs would like to improve their catching depth, and Alex Jackson from Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego could be available. I’m sure that Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ senior vice president of player development/scouting who grew up in San Diego, is familiar with Jackson.
However, I believe the Cubs will take the best player available, regardless of need.
In 2012, the Cubs drafted at least 15 pitchers in the amateur draft. We haven't heard anything about them. Are any of them projected to be major league pitchers? -- Dennis Butler
I wrote about the playoff performances of Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn, the Cubs’ sandwich picks, last week.
Duane Underwood and Ryan McNeil, the Cubs’ second and third round pick in the 2012 draft, were selected out of high school. So there’s no urge to advance them until they’ve proven they’re ready.
Underwood had a 3-4 record and 4.97 ERA at short-season Class-A Bosie, and McNeil was 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA with 18 strikeouts (but 10 walks) in 20 innings for the Cubs’ Arizona League affiliate.
While all signs created by current management point toward a bright future, I'm extremely disappointed by the product they put on the field THIS season and the lack of attention to players signed to play in 2013. Edwin Jackson had a losing record prior to coming to Chicago, had played for seven teams and had a losing record. Teams don't give up on winners easily. Brent Lillibridge is a .205 career hitter. Ian Stewart? Dave Sappelt?
Those are just a few of the names from the opening day roster -- and take a look at the guys on the team, now and you'll continue to scratch your head.
My question is: Who is the brainiac responsible for this roster? Is anyone accountable? I'm not a huge Dale Sveum fan, but he sure got a pathetic opening day roster. Will there be more emphasis on the product on the field to start next season? -- Steve Monroe, Chicago
Sveum isn’t the president of baseball operations, nor is he the general manager. And consider that the 13 players on the opening day that are no longer with the Cubs were either traded, outrighted off the 40-man roster or granted their unconditional release.
The offense has suffered gradually since Alfonso Soriano and David DeJesus were dealt. That hasn’t helped Anthony Rizzo, although he’s been terrible with runners in scoring position. If you’re going to have a competitive offense, it takes more than two players to carry the team at various junctures of the season. I don’t think it’s fair to squarely put the blame on a manager when a successful player like Starlin Castro is asked to be more selective and be barbecued when he struggles, but that’s where we’re at right now.
He is accountable for some managing decisions, but you can only do with what you have to work with. And that’s presented by the team president and general manager.
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