The Chicago Cubs will continue to be involved in the Prince Fielder free-agent bidding, according to two major league sources with knowledge of the negotiations. Cubs manager Dale Sveum said on Friday that the Cubs' interest in Fielder was mostly "media-talk" and that neither he nor Cubs officials have talked to Fielder. An MLB source confirmed Sveum's statement, but also said that Fielder is sitting back while his agent, Scott Boras, talks to ownership and top baseball officials when it comes to negotiating a deal for the Brewers All-Star first baseman.
The sides began preliminary negotiations on Nov. 15 at Major League Baseball's general managers meetings in Milwaukee and the sources confirmed that the two sides have continued to talk since that initial meeting. The Fielder camp is seeking a 10-year contract. However, there may be some options that allow both Fielder and the signing team some flexibility with opt-out clauses. The Cubs' approach to negotiating with Fielder may incorporate offering fewer years, but with a higher annual contract average than other teams may be offering. If the Cubs presented Boras an offer of four or five years, Fielder could become a free agent again at 31 or 32 and have the ability to sign another long-term mega-million dollar deal. The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly the main suitors for Fielder at this point, with the Cubs still in the running.
I'd love to see the Cubs steal a Milwaukee player away, but 10 year contracts are insane.
After trading Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins on Thursday, Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said his first inclination after talking to team players and personnel was to trade the disgruntled pitcher. "I talked to enough [players] in order to get an understanding of the history here," Epstein said. "This isn't a decision that players will make. But I think if you don't listen to what happens in the clubhouse then you can't develop a proper understanding of it."
The transaction requires the Cubs to pay $15 million of the $18 million owed Zambrano in 2012, a source said. Zambrano had a $19 million vesting option for 2013 if he finished in the top four in Cy Young Award voting, but he waived that and will receive a $100,000 bonus if he is voted the comeback player of the year. Zambrano also waived his no-trade clause, and the deal hinged on the Cubs agreeing to pay back $2.4 million of the $3 million Zambrano lost when he was put on the disqualified list for leaving Atlanta's Turner Field -- and saying he was retiring -- on Aug. 12, the source said. "I'll just say that the people who have been around the situation over the years heard before there would be change," Epstein said. "They heard before there would be a new attitude, and they have been burned. Physical altercations, deserting the team, that type of thing. The best way to put it is there was a breakdown of trust. It would have been very difficult to re-establish that trust." The Cubs will receive right-handed pitcher Chris Volstad in return. The former first-round draft pick was 32-39 with a 4.59 ERA in 103 major league appearances, including 102 starts, with the Marlins the past four seasons. The 6-foot-8, 230-pound Volstad is 25 and a workhorse, having made at least 29 starts in each of the past three seasons. "We've all been a little bit baffled by some of Chris' inconsistencies," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. For Zambrano, the possibility of pitching for friend and former Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen may have played a role in waiving the no-trade clause. "Ozzie has a long and close relationship with Carlos," Beinfest said. "We went with Ozzie on this one. The bottom line was Ozzie just really, really felt confident about this deal." The emotional right-hander had several highly publicized outbursts as a Cub, one being a dugout altercation with former teammate Derrek Lee in 2010 while facing the White Sox that lead to a suspension. After that game, Zambrano had dinner with Guillen, who supported the pitcher.
Zambrano was required to attend anger-management sessions, and they seemed to make an impact as he won all eight decisions upon his return to finish the season 11-6. He spent part of the season in the bullpen after a slow start and because the Cubs were struggling with their relief pitching. Last season proved to be marked by more erratic behavior by Zambrano, whose emotions boiled over Aug. 12 after he allowed five home runs against the Braves. After two inside pitches to Chipper Jones, Zambrano was ejected. He proceeded to clean out his locker stall and left Turner Field during the game after telling clubhouse workers he was retiring. The pitcher quickly recanted, but the damage already had been done, and Zambrano was put on the disqualified list by then-general manager Jim Hendry. The players' union filed a grievance and Zambrano was activated Sept. 11, but he did not pitch the rest of the season. Epstein had a face to face meeting with Zambrano and his agent Barry Praver on Nov. 15 in Chicago. Epstein said Thursday he told Zambrano that he believed the best option for the team and the pitcher was a trade. With a no-trade clause, Zambrano said he would not consider a trade and asked for a chance to repair his relationship with the players and fans. Epstein had no choice but to go along with Zambrano. That all changed on Monday when the Cubs and Marlins agreed to the parameters of a deal. At that point the Cubs contacted Praver who then asked Zambrano if he would waive his no-trade and 2013 option. Epstein felt this was the best option for both sides. "Not just talking to players but talking to a lot of the people that have been here for many years, they made it clear in my mind this wasn't just a mob mentality or unfair momentum to run this guy out of town," Epstein said. "This was a very legitimate situation. It would have been very difficult for him to re-establish himself in that clubhouse and gain the trust of his teammates back. Therefore it would be very difficult to establish the culture we want in the clubhouse. I think the certainty of this move, turning [Zambrano] into a 25-year-old starter that we liked made a lot more sense." Hendry, who gave Zambrano a five-year, $91.5 million contract extension in 2007, was relieved of his GM duties on Aug. 19. Several Cubs players had questioned publicly how Zambrano would be welcomed back to the clubhouse, and now they don't have to ponder it. Zambrano's demeanor now becomes a question for the Marlins. "It would be hard for me to say everything is going to be perfect and incident-free, given the guy's history," Beinfest said. "It may happen that he has a blowup or two. But Ozzie is very confident he can help him."
Zambrano, who has been playing winter ball in Venezuela, is one of the best hitting pitchers in MLB history and set a Cubs record for home runs by a pitcher with 23. He often was used as a pinch hitter.
Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have stated since they were hired that the team needed to become younger and more athletic if it is to move forward.
After trading Carlos Zambrano, the remaining piece of business that needs to be addressed is the future of Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs owe Soriano $54 million over the next three years.
The Cubs have talked to at least eight American League teams over the last six weeks about a trade for Soriano. At one point, it appeared the Los Angeles Angels had interest, but that quickly went away when the Angels signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal on Dec. 8.
There were two teams that needed a designated hitter desperately. Baltimore and Seattle are looking for someone to provide RBI punch. The skills of Soriano, who turns 36 on Saturday, have eroded, but his power numbers increased in 2011 with 26 home runs and 88 RBIs, which were second-highest on the team. It was Soriano's best RBI total since driving in 95 for the Washington Nationals in 2006, which was the year before he signed an eight-year, $136 million deal with the Cubs.
The good news for any team that trades for Soriano is it is getting a top-of-the-line individual who is well liked by teammates and organization personnel. Soriano gets credit for taking young star Starlin Castro under his wing and helping him adjust to life in the big leagues when he broke in as a 19-year-old.
"Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams did that for me when I was with the Yankees," Soriano said last season. "So I must continue to do that for young players like Castro. That's what baseball is about."
Much like the Zambrano trade, the Cubs would have to absorb a large portion on the $54 million remaining on Soriano's contract. Realistically, if a Baltimore or Seattle deal can be consummated, the Cubs would be lucky to save $15 million, or $5 million per year.
Epstein and Co. are trying not only to get younger and more athletic, but they're also looking for a culture change in the locker room. They have divested themselves of Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez and Sean Marshall while adding a more youthful mix.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts will have to make the final decision on Soriano's fate. The money is already spent. In the case of Soriano, it's now a matter if you're better off with or without him.
Kerry Wood may not be back with the Chicago Cubs in 2012, as the two sides can't agree on money or length of contract at this point, a major league source told ESPNChicago on Sunday night. Wood, a free agent, also told NBC-5 Chicago television on Sunday night that he'll make a decision on where he will pitch next season by Friday, which, ironically, is the day that the Cubs' 26th annual Cubs Convention begins. Wood told the television station that a week ago he was confident he would sign with the Cubs, but now he's not sure where he'll pitch.
The Philadelphia Phillies are one team that is interested in the 34-year-old reliever, according to a report from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnik on Sunday. Wood told reporters last September that he wasn't planning on leaving the Cubs, and that if he didn't pitch for the Cubs in 2012 he would most likely retire. Wood signed a $1.5 million deal with the Cubs last season, leaving a two-year, $10 million contract offer from the Chicago White Sox and a one-year, $5 million offer from the Boston Red Sox on the table. Wood and then-Cubs general manager Jim Hendry agreed to the under-market deal in order to help out the team, which was cutting payroll, and to re-establish Wood's relationship with the Cubs. Before re-signing with the Cubs last season, Wood sat down with team chairman Tom Ricketts for their first ever face-to-face meeting, during which Ricketts told Wood that after his career ends he'll have a job with the Cubs for as long as he wants to be associated with the team. According to MLB sources, Ricketts didn't go into detail as to what the pitcher would be doing, however, Wood left the meeting feeling that he'd be an ambassador for the team in some capacity when he retired. Wood, the Cubs No. 1 pick in the 1995 June draft, spent the first 11 years of his career in the organization before signing a two-year, $20 million contract with the Cleveland Indians before the 2009 season. Wood was traded on July 31, 2010 to the New York Yankees before becoming a free agent in 2011. Wood was 3-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 55 games for the Cubs last season. He suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee mid-September and had successful arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 30.
Kerry is a class act and deserves whatever he wants. Since Ryno, no one has been a more positive influence on Chicago baseball.
Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts acknowledged on Saturday that the front office could have handled the Kerry Wood signing in a more timely fashion. The 34-year-old veteran pitcher told the media on Friday that he was 25 minutes away from going for a physical with another team, with which he had agreed to a deal in principle. That's when the Cubs closed in and finished off the contract. "I'm not sure why the timing ended up the way it did," Ricketts said at the team's annual convention. "We probably could have had that conversation a month ago. My gut would just say that (Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer) were focused on everything else that was going on. We probably could have done it a little sooner."
Ricketts said he did get involved at the end of negotiations for the one-year, $3 million contract Wood signed late Friday afternoon, which also includes a team option for $3 million in 2013. "Theo's pretty communicative," Ricketts said. "We talk about all the player decisions and Kerry's no exception to that. We definitely talked about it. And we talked about what was the best for the organization and (signing Wood) was it." According to a major league source, the team that was the most interested in Wood before he re-signed with the Cubs was the Cincinnati Reds. "He had a lot of offers," Ricketts said. "From our standpoint, we are happy he wants to stay with the Cubs. We are looking forward to having him one more year." On Jan. 8, Wood told NBC-5 in Chicago that he wasn't sure he'd be back with the team in 2012. According to sources, that's when the Cubs began to inch up their offer. "In the end, it works out great," Ricketts said. "This is exactly what everybody wanted. Every fan and everybody in the organization, and also Kerry." When Wood signed his previous deal with the Cubs last offseason, Ricketts sat down with Wood and told him that he'd like the Cubs pitcher to continue to work for the organization when his baseball career was over. Wood then signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Cubs after turning down larger offers from the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. Ricketts said he talked to Wood directly again before the 2012 contract finished. "A little bit," Ricketts said. "Just because we are friendly and he's more than just a regular player. He really means a lot to the organization. But like I always say, this is a baseball decision made by the baseball people. Going into the future, I hope Kerry will always be a part of the Cub organization."
A dramatically-overhauled roster won't be the only fresh look at Wrigley Field next season. The Cubs announced plans to reconfigure the right-field bleachers by elevating seating in the newly-constructed Budweiser Patio section. The new design was revealed on Saturday at the team's annual fan convention. "We're thrilled to expand our partnership with Budweiser and offer our fans an exciting new experience in the right field Budweiser Bleacher section at Wrigley Field," said Wally Hayward, the Cubs' executive vice president of chief sales and marketing officer. "The Budweiser Patio will provide our fans with a rooftop experience inside the ballpark and more baseball content during the game on our new 75-foot LED board."
The section will hold up to 150 fans and won't require an actual addition to the stadium. Standing room only and seated tickets will come with an all-inclusive food and beverage package. "We are still formulating the plan as to how the section would be sold and the pricing," said Crane Kenney, the team's president of business operations. "I think it will be a great section for groups because you're going to be able to aggregate seats. What we are finding about our suites and other areas is that people want to circulate. You see it on the rooftops and that's what kind of generated this. We are still working on whether it will be sold to groups or individuals." Kenney said the Cubs' plan for the Budweiser Patio wasn't inspired by the seats the Boston Red Sox installed on top of Fenway Park's famed Green Monster in 2003. "No, not at all," Kenney said when asked if the plan was similar to seats on top of the Green Monster. "I get that question asked all the time. Why isn't that section full even though the rest of the bleachers are full? So we've done some research into that as to why, and one of the issues is that there's some obstruction. So if you sit in the very center field section of that section, you're blocked from seeing the center-fielder. So we're trying to alleviate the obstruction there. One of the ways to do that is to raise the seats up. So you're not looking over the well and the way the well cuts in there. So that depression there creates the obstructed view. So the elevation was really generated by trying to avoid obstructed views." The team expects the renovation to be done in advance of Opening Day 2012.
It's a solid plan, the Cubs need to generate more revenue in every way possible. I love Wrigley, but it has to be improved upon over time, or else they might as well just build a new stadium.
Now that the Tigers' Victor Martinez has been lost for the season, it appears to some that Detroit's answer would be a trade for the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano.
There are pros and cons to that premise.
Is it realistic to believe that the Tigers brass thinks Soriano would be a good fit? Can Detroit look past the 113 strikeouts and .289 on-base percentage?
Soriano would have to replace a player who hit. 330 and had an on-base percentage of.380. The Cubs outfielder out homered Martinez 26 to 12, but that is the only area in which Soriano had an edge.
At age 36, it is time for the Cub left fielder to become a full-time designated hitter.
Soriano told me at the Cubs Convention that he would consider a trade if both the city and the team were a fit for him and his familly.
What the Tigers offer is a great manager in Jim Leyland and a team that should win a division again in 2012.
The reason Soriano must be made happy is that he has complete no-trade rights because he's been in the majors 10 years, including five with the same team.
The compensation for Soriano would likely come in the form of relief for some of the $54 million still owed over the next three seasons. The Cubs likely would eat 80 percent of the money as long as they got back a decent prospect.
Soriano, who is among the most well liked players in the game, would be an easy clubhouse fit.
Adding Matt Garza into the mix is a bit of a reach. The Cubs wanted two top pitchers when the teams were talking trade 10 days ago. The Tigers refused to give up Jacob Turner and a young lefty, and nothing has changed on that front since then.
A better fit in the short term for Detroit may be the return of Johnny Damon on a one-year deal. The left-handed bat is something that might work out as an alternative to trading for Soriano.
Soriano as a person is Great. But he sure has not performed the way the Cubs has expected. And for the price they paid way too much. If the Cubs can get rid of him, I say good riddens to him. He's way to expensive for the production(or lack there of) that we've gotten from him.
ST. LOUIS -- Still not a finished product, highly-talented Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro can amaze and baffle, sometimes at the same time.
He can range to his right or left seemingly with ease, but Saturdayís game showed again that sometimes he isnít completely accurate with his throws.
Twice in Saturday's 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals Castro uncorked high throws while on the move, pulling first baseman Bryan LaHair off the bag. Getting his feet set and moving in the direction of the target was a goal this spring, but sometimes the hurried nature of the situation eliminates the best-laid plans.
ďItís very frustrating because I have been working hard a lot [this offseason] in the Dominican and here,Ē Castro said. ďThose kind of things arenít supposed to happen. Itís happening because itís the game and everybody makes errors. If it happens one time thatís [OK]. Two times? When you know that can happen in the game I donít stay with that in my mind. I keep playing.Ē
It was believed that with a former shortstop in Dale Sveum as his manager now, Castro could take the next step in his development on defense, but so far that isnít happening. He committed his third and fourth errors on Saturday in his ninth game, leaving him on pace for a whopping 72 errors.
His error in the fourth inning opened the door for the Cardinals to score four runs and essentially take over the game for good, although that seemed to be more of a product of Cubs starter Chris Volstad not making the pitches when he needed to make them.
Other than his defense, though, Castro has been off to a hot start. He had two more hits Saturday to give him a .371 batting average and his six stolen bases led the National League before play Saturday.
ďThatís what I want to do, put everything on the same level, defense, running, hitting and everything,Ē Castro said. ďNow itís been tough with a couple of errors on defense but I think I can get it level and get everything at the same spot.Ē
At the ripe young age of just 22, Castro is already respected enough by his teammates that they donít sweat things like a two-error game from their shortstop. Volstad knows what Castro is going through as a young player breaking in the major leagues and likes what he sees.
ďHeís doing a great job,Ē the 25-year-old Volstad said. ďThere are no worries there. He has a powerful arm and itís going to happen. Youíre also going to make bad pitches. Thatís just the way the game is.Ē
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox have acquired Chicago Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd and cash for reliever Michael Bowden and a player to be named later. Byrd broke the news of his own trade to ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine, with the clubs both announcing the deal officially Saturday night. The 35-year-old outfielder, who has also played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers, is an 11-year veteran and experienced center fielder with a .278 batting average. But he had just three hits in his first 43 at-bats with the Cubs this season (.070), with no extra-base hits and 10 strikeouts. "He's been a good major league center fielder for a long time and he's off to a tough start,'' said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, who spoke with reporters late Saturday night. "Our hope is that a change of scenery and in a new environment we can get him going to help us and give (manager) Bobby (Valentine) another option in the outfield."
The Cubs will send cash covering nearly all of Byrd's pro-rated $6.5 million salary. To make room for Byrd on the roster, the Sox designated Nate Spears for assignment. Byrd did not play in Chicago's game against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday afternoon. The trade took on added urgency when Red Sox outfielder Jason Repko went down with what Valentine described as a slight separation of his left shoulder, an injury incurred when Repko ran into the center-field wall Friday. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said Repko's injury did not directly lead to the trade. "No, we've been talking to them since the end of spring training," Hoyer said in a conference call with Chicago media. "We've been trying to get relief pitching. In trading Marlon we felt we had outfield depth with some young guys that can play the position." The Red Sox already have two elite outfielders on the disabled list, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. Repko was projected as a stopgap until Crawford's return, which is believed to be still a couple of weeks away. "Obviously with Ellsbury out and Crawford still coming back, we felt there was a need to add to the outfield,'' Cherington said. "I think he knows he has to come in and perform to play, but it's a fresh start and I think he's excited to be here and we're excited to have him.'' Cherington acknowledged the difficulty of finding outside help at this time of year, which explains in part why the Sox are adding a player who has performed this season as poorly as Byrd has to date. "We don't think his performance so far this year is reflective of who he is -- he's been a pretty consistent performer -- but teams are not anxious to give away good players this time of year, players who are helping them and are part of their future. It's a challenging time to make trades, but we felt this was a good fit for the team, made sense for the Cubs and Red Sox, and hope Marlon can help us.'' Last May 21, Byrd was struck near the left eye by a pitch by Red Sox reliever Alfredo Aceves and sustained multiple facial fractures, missing 39 games. At the time he was hurt, Byrd had posted a .308/.346/.419 line. After returning July 2, Byrd hit .255/.311/.380 for the rest of the season. "He came back pretty quickly from it and performed pretty well when he first came back,'' Cherington said, when asked about the impact of the beaning. "And then he tailed off a little bit at the end of the season. I don't know. It's hard for me to answer that one. But physically, he's fine, he's passed all the tests. From a scouting standpoint, there's no obvious change in skills except his performance hasn't been there. "We get to know him better when he gets here and we get him in the lineup and try to get him going.'' Bowden was once regarded as a promising prospect, first as a starter, then as a reliever, with brief stints in the majors in each of the last four seasons. But the Red Sox designated him for assignment on April 15, even though they have the highest earned run average in the major leagues. "This underscores (Bowden's) slow start," Hoyer said. "Small samples shouldn't cloud your opinion on a player. We've known him since 2005. He's a local kid. I know he's excited to be coming to Chicago."
Crawford had left wrist surgery in the offseason and then strained his left elbow during spring training. On Opening Day at Fenway Park, on April 13, center fielder and offensive sparkplug Ellsbury suffered a subluxation of his right (non-throwing) shoulder and was placed on the disabled list. Crawford has begun playing in extended spring games as a hitter but has yet to play in the field, though he could be out there soon, according to Valentine. Crawford hit a home run Saturday, Valentine said, and will be evaluated in Boston in the next few days before getting clearance to play in the outfield. Crawford's rehab has been overseen by former big league outfielder Brian McRae, who is a consultant to the Red Sox baseball operations department. Ellsbury is expected to be lost for a minimum of six weeks, though he said earlier this week that surgery has been ruled out. Repko's momentum caused him to crash into the wall after gloving the ball. Will he be placed on the DL?
"No," said Valentine haltingly. "Not today. We'll find out in a couple of days about 'slight' -- more 'slight' or less 'slight.' He has limited role duty (Saturday)." In the meantime, Valentine has been forced to juggle his outfield. He had defensively challenged Cody Ross in center again Saturday, with Darnell McDonald in left and Ryan Sweeney in right. His outfield options off the bench were limited -- utilityman Spears and infielder Mike Aviles, who had worked out in right field in the offseason. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez also has a little experience in the outfield.
CHICAGO -- Dale Sveum took another step in his evolution as Chicago Cubs manager Friday. He did his first pregame chat about a Kerry Wood move to the disabled list. Enjoy it, Dale -- you never know when this day will come again.
For the 16th time in his 14-plus year career, Wood went on the DL. It's a 15-day trip with right shoulder fatigue, and because the move is backdated -- I assume Wood is the Cubs' all-time leader with backdated trips to the DL -- Sveum expects it to be an eight-day stay. Speaking of Cubs' injury expectations, I saw ex-Cub Todd Hollandsworth in the press box before the game. I was tempted to ask him if he's still "day to day" from that prolonged absence with a shin injury in 2004. I'm just having a little fun here. I'm sure Wood will be back putting up zeroes in a week or so. Maybe the Cubs will even sneak in a few wins in the meantime, but first they will have to snap that losing streak that was extended to six with a 9-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday. But what does it say about this organization that Wood is DL'ing it with the Cubs for $3 million and Sean Marshall is the new closer for the Reds for $3.1 million? The guy Marshall was traded for, starting pitcher Travis Wood, has a 5.19 ERA for the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League with Triple-A Iowa. Here's what it says: The Cubs don't care about winning this year. They care about the illusion of competitiveness -- hence all of Theo Epstein's eyewash moves -- and they want their fans to believe they're getting their money's worth. But no, when the owner lets Marshall go and Wood comes back for the same money, well, it's not hard to figure out where this season fits in the long-term plan: another summer wasted. Don't get it wrong. The players care. It's too early to count outs. The coaches care. I'm sure Epstein is in unfamiliar territory, too, being used to wins and all. But he has his long-term plan and owner Tom Ricketts has his long-term plan -- which is about monetizing the Cubs' cachet -- but neither involved a real effort to compete this season. To be fair, much of that has to do with the state of the organization. Salaries come off the book next year. There are some real prospects cooling in the minors -- Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson, mostly. There is no sense in spending to spend. See Byrd, Marlon.
But it was Epstein who said every season was sacred when he was hired. Way back when at Cubs Convention, I followed by asking Epstein if this team could win this year. What was he going to say, no way in hell? But you had to ask. Here is what he said. "I know we have young players with upside, players entering their primes or pre-prime years," Epstein said that winter evening. "When you have that, you can surprise a little bit. If we stay healthy, and one or two or three or four of the players we have actually take a big developmental step forward, I think you might look up and be surprised in the middle of the summer." I don't know if you made it through that quote, but he meant, "No, not this year." In 2014, the Cubs could be a team to be reckoned with, a team ready to fulfill big-boy expectations. Maybe 2013 when Epstein has money to spend. But the Cubs came into Friday's game 3-10, as cold as Wrigley Field on Friday morning. The team came in slugging .328, 27th in baseball. Alfonso Soriano still didn't have an extra-base hit. The starting pitching has had more good moments than bad, the bullpen the reverse. The pitchers were 21st in WHIP (1.37) coming in, 26th in ERA, sixth in walks (46) -- well, you get the picture. "It's still early, but we didn't want to have a rough start," said a frustrated Soriano before the game. "Three and 10? That's not the way we want to be."
You know how it's always 10-15 degrees cooler inside Wrigley? It always feels 50-75 percent more miserable when things go bad, even early. I don't know the record of any other teams, but I knew the Cubs were 3-10. The combination of chilly weather and a cold team led to a sparse crowd Friday. But I applaud those who showed up, especially the locals. There was no reason to be here. No reason to watch this team. When I criticize the Cubs, I don't mean to just rip the players, especially the ones who bust it on a daily basis. And I don't mean to suggest that this master plan of Epstein's isn't going to work. He's got a track record and his front office improvements were solid. But I think something is wrong with an organization when Wood is on the DL, The Noodle is the hottest thing at any corner, and a real-life major leaguer like Marshall was traded for next to nothing. It should make Cubs fans mad. (The good news in that department is a Cubs game has never been cheaper. The secondary ticket market is more flea market right now.) If you're a Cubs fan, you have every right to think positive toward the future. But don't forget to embrace the present as well. I can't predict the future, but what I know is that in the present, the Cubs are still very bad, just like you remember them. You would hope things pick up as the season progresses. We're still in the "it's only April" stage, but a 100-loss season looks very possible. If every season is sacred, then is this team is a desecration? Or is it just another Cubs team? What's the difference, I suppose.