Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

November 2011 Archives


Among the ramifications of Wednesday's signing of right fielder David DeJesus is that once-promising outfielder Tyler Colvin, who slumped significantly in his 2011 sophomore season, is officially back to prove-it status.

The lefty hitter who hit 20 home runs as a rookie 2010 never got on track in '11, slumping from the start of spring training and spending much of the season at AAA.

The front office and field staff expected Colvin to win the everyday right field job from Kosuke Fukudome when spring training opened last season.

He wound up hitting .150 (.204 on-base percentage) with just six home runs and nearly a 2-to-1 strikeouts-to-hits ratio (58-31) in 222 plate appearances.

This time around he'll be starting over, fighting in Mesa for a big-league job - that is, unless he winds up in Boston as compensation for Theo Epstein (Colvin's name has been loosely linked to those talks).

But general manager Jed Hoyer insists the DeJesus signing doesn't mean the club has given up on Colvin, the Cubs' first-round draft pick in 2006.

``He's certainly not out of the picture,'' Hoyer said. ``He's got to come to camp and look to bounce back from [last season]. We signed DeJesus to round out the lineup and do everything we can to put a competitive lineup on the field. But to say [Colvin's] out of our plans would be wrong.''

Cubs offer compelling case for Santo in '12

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A 16-member veterans committee made up of baseball writers (3), executives (5) and Hall of Famers (8) meets Sunday to vote from a list of 10 finalists, from baseball's so-called Golden Era (1947-72), to determine who becomes a member of the 2012 Hall of Fame class.

Since the veterans-committee process was altered in 2001 to include large numbers of Hall of Famers as voters, no players have been added to the Hall via this process -- leading to multiple changes over the past decade.

But many believe this will be Ron Santo's best chance for enshrinement in that span, and the Cubs have put together a compelling one-page case for the legendary third baseman to lobby committee members.

Twelve votes are needed to get in; committee members are allowed to vote for as many from the finalist list as they want.

Santo figures to have two votes in the bank from the start, with former teammate Billy Williams and longtime Chicago baseball writer Dave Van Dyck on the committee.

The nine others on the ballot: Tony Oliva, Gil Hodges, Ken Boyer, Minnie Minoso, Jim Kaat, Luis Tiant, Allie Reynolds, Buzzie Bavasi and Charles Finley.

Sources: Cubs target ``other'' Cuban defector, Capuano

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MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs are one of numerous teams with top scouts in the Dominican Republic this week to look at power-hitting Cuban defector Yoennis Cespedes.

But the Cuban defector the Cubs are targeting with greater interest, according to sources, is another athletic, hard-hitting outfielder - a seven-years-younger version of the flavor-of-the-month Cespedes: Jorge Soler, 19.

Soler, who defected this year and is expected to become a free agent within weeks, is exactly the kind of player the Cubs' new regime is looking for as it restocks the farm system and tries to build a long-term home-core contender.

The Washington Nationals and New York Yankees are among the teams said to also be interested in the 6-foot-3 Soler.

``He's got a Hanley Ramirez-type body,'' Washington's international scouting director, Johnny DiPuglia told the Washington Post. ``Plus arm. Plus bat speed. He's a good kid, a good-energy kid.''

MEETINGS NOTES - Cubs' GM Jed Hoyer was vague on whether the Cubs planned to retool their roster more through trades or free agency, and talks with agents (for Aaron Harang, Mark Burhrle, Livan Hernandez, etc.) and teams were at full-speculation-fueling speed Tuesday night as GMs filtered into the Pfister Hotel lobby, where dozens of player agents also were gathering, after dinner. ... One pitcher to keep in mind as the hot stove league simmers toward next month's winter meetings: lefty Chris Capuano, who went 11-12, 4.55 (31 starts for Mets in '11) and is said to be seeking a two-year deal (made almost $4 million with incentives last season.

Aramis vs. Brenly: agent vents over criticism of 3B

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MILWAUKEE - Using his forum at the first major off-season event on the major-league calendar, the agent for Aramis Ramirez blasted Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly for ripping his client in a radio interview as Ramirez prepared for free agency.

``For a broadcaster to come out and say that, I think it was very low class,'' agent Paul Kinzer said Monday as the annual general managers meetings opened in Milwaukee. ``Especially when a guy's a free agent, to try to damage his [value]. ... That bothered Aramis and bothered me a lot.''

Brenly, during an interview on ESPN 1000's Waddle and Silvy show the week after the season ended, called Ramirez a ``numbers gatherer'' who doesn't hit in the clutch and whose fielding at third base has ``just fallen off the face of the earth.''

``I don't know if it was a personal attack or what,'' Kinzer said. ``But if he had a personal problem with him, he should have come to Aramis or me instead of trying to destroy him in the media. ... The whole time we've been there, it's been a great relationship [with Cubs management]. Why a broadcaster needed to step out and do that I just don't get it. You can ask his managers; they don't feel that way. You can ask Jim Hendry, who was his general manager the whole time; he doesn't feel that way.''

Brenly, who also said during the interview he thought it was best if Ramirez left for another team, did not immediately return a voice message Monday night.

Ramirez, who spent the last 8 ½ seasons with the Cubs, earned a Silver Slugger award for his position this year, when he hit .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs. He's a career .299 hitter (.916) OPS with men in scoring position and .353 (1.003) with the bases loaded.

``How can you say he's not a clutch hitter?'' Kinzer said. ``They don't give Silver Sluggers out to punch-and-Judy hitters.''

Kinzer, who also represents free agent shortstop Rafael Furcal and free agent pitcher Matt Capps said he expects all three to be signed by the winter meetings (none with the Cubs).

He seemed optimistic that Ramirez's market would gain speed once Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols signed, especially since Ramirez isn't looking for more than a four-year deal.

Alomar on White Sox snub and interviewing for Cubs job

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He started thinking about one day becoming a manager more than 10 years ago, he said. He believes his background as a catcher is an advantage. He thinks he can successfully manage Carlos Zambrano and associated demons - admittedly with the possible help of a ``stun gun.''

And as much as anything, Sandy Alomar Jr. - the four-time White Sox catcher who still lives in Chicago - says he appreciates the perhaps less-obvious call of interest from the Cubs after getting no call from the White Sox before they surprisingly hired Robin Ventura over Paul Konerko to replace Ozzie Guillen.

Alomar, who interviewed with both the Boston Red Sox and Cubs this week, was rumored to be one of the early favorites for the White Sox job but was never contacted.

``I don't take that personally,'' he said Friday after becoming the fourth - and likely final--candidate to interview for the Cubs' vacancy. ``I have a lot of respect for the White Sox organization. They brought me here many times. I think what [GM] Kenny [Williams] did over there with Robin opens doors for many other people get opportunities to manage without experience.

``They don't owe me a call. They don't owe me anything. They did what they did. You wish them the best of luck. Kenny always treated me with respect when I was there. I have no problem with it.''

So now that he's in the running to manage across town, how would he go about burying the White Sox deeper in the Chicago shadow of the Cubs? How would he manage the clubhouse, the uniqueness of the ballpark and schedule, and the ultra-uniqueness of Zambrano?

And what might make him the best candidate for this job, compared to Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum or Mike Maddux?

``I think I bring a lot of things to the table that maybe some other guys don't bring,'' said the six-time All-Star catcher, who also has a rookie of the year award and a Gold Glove on his resume. ``In regards to being a player, going through injuries in the past, spending a lot of time in the minor leagues as a player, how many times I played in the postseason [five times], going to a World Series [twice], playing for 10 different managers and they all participated in the postseason. Seven of them went to the World Series, and three of them won the World Series [Jack McKeon, Charlie Manuel, Ozzie Guillen].

``I have played for winning people all of my career, and it gave me the opportunity to learn the values and take ability from other people and incorporate it to myself.''

Alomar on other topics:

Cubs' Epstein: Zambrano pitching in Venezuela ``good thing''

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The Cubs gave their approval for on-the-outs pitcher Carlos Zambrano to pitch during the winter season in Venezuela, where he's expected to make his season debut this weekend and make nine starts in all.

``Actually, I think it's a good thing under the circumstances,'' team president Theo Epstein said. ``He probably needs the innings and it could be good for his state of mind to get out there and perform.''

Zambrano, who has a year left on his contract at $18 million, hasn't pitched for the Cubs since packing his belongings and quitting on the team after being left in a game to get hammered Aug. 12 in Atlanta.

He was placed on the disqualified list and later told to spend the final weeks of the season away from the team, with pay. He finished the season with 145 2/3 innings.

During a national TV broadcast in September, chairman Tom Ricketts said he didn't envision Zambrano pitching for the Cubs again.

Epstein, who said the Cubs have a scout monitoring Zambrano's work and performance in Venezuela, said he plans to talk with Zambrano for the first time sometime within the next week.

He has conspicuously left open the door for Zambrano to return in an apparent attempt to keep alive any semblance of a possible trade market for as much of the former ace's contract as the Cubs might be able to move.


Cubs' Quade ``not leaving here with my head down''

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As much as Mike Quade knew it could be coming, it still hit hard enough to send him to one of his quiet spots on the water for a couple of hours Wednesday after being told he was out as the Cubs' manager.

``I've run the gamut of emotion,'' said Quade, who was told in person by team president Theo Epstein. ``Disappointed, upset, irritated, bitter - a little bit of everything. But it comes with the turf. It hadn't come with the turf at this level ever with me. But it's part of the deal.''

In his first big-league managing job, Quade went 95-104 in one full season plus six weeks at the end of 2010. His Cubs finished in fifth place in the National League Central this season with a 71-91 record.

Quade, who hopes to manage again but plans to spend at least the next week or two away from all things baseball, said he was impressed with the way Epstein handled the process.

The met for more than six hours in Chicago Thursday, and after making the decision Esptein flew to Florida on Wednesday to tell Quade personally.

``This is a first-class guy, and I appreciated it,'' Quade said. ``It doesn't mean I'm thrilled with the decision. But at least there's a part of me that understands a little bit and appreciates the way it was done.''

Whether he got a fair shake, given the flaws and lack of depth on a team that lost two starting pitchers to injury the first week of the season, Quade said, ``Nobody promised fair. That's life in baseball - in a lot of things.

``I'm not leaving here with my head down,'' he added. ``I think it was a tough situation that we handled about as well as we could. ... It's part of the deal. We're all accountable. ...

``Given the situation, I'm not unhappy with the way I handled myself or the way the club handled itself.''

Quade, who has a year left on his contract, said where he goes next might be more a matter of ``what presents itself'' than the second shot at big-league managing he'd like to get.

``It's something that I enjoyed doing and something that I would like to do again, but I presume nothing,'' he said. ``I understand who I am. If you're Tony LaRussa, if you're somebody with clout and years under your belt and successes, that's a natural transition. I would love that opportunity to manage gain, but I think you're foolish if you get an opportunity like I did and things don't work out, and you immediately assume I'm on someone's short list.

``The most important thing right now to me is I get away from this for a week and figure out what's available, what am I doing, and who can I talk to about helping their organization in whatever capacity.''

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