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.