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Some thoughts on recent Cubs news:

-Mike Quade will go down as particularly star-crossed Cubs manager, having been given the job in a no-win situation: He got a job everyone assumed Ryne Sandberg would get, was handed a team of unproven newbies combined with free agents who were either surly or bloated, sometimes both, and was left a dead man walking by the former GM's firing and the hiring of new executives. Quade had his chance, and he often had the right approach and mindset, but too often let the game within the game get away from him. His authority also was challenged one too many times by veterans, and if this speaks ill of the players, it also suggests Quade failed to inspire and motivate them.

-Billy Corgan thinks Ryne Sandberg should have gotten a chance to interview for the job left open by Quade's firing. I'm not sure how Ronnie Woo feels about it, but I would classify Corgan's view of the matter as having roughly the same weight as the Woo-man's. The indication that Sandberg will not be interviewed for the manager job is easily the most controversial decision of the Theo Epstein era thus far. Though, should it be much of a surprise?

Much was made of Epstein having interviewed Sandberg, and possibly having wanted to hire him, for the minor league Pawtucket Red Sox manager job last season. I'm not sure why the next logical conclusion would be that Sandberg would become the favorite for a major league job. Sandberg has the same amount of major league level coaching experience he had prior to the 2010 season--none. I'm betting Theo & Co. would be open to having Sandberg manage in the farm system, or coach at the major league level if the next manager wants him in the dugout (though Sandberg's notoriety almost guarantees that won't happen), but there is no reason for Sandberg to be considered to lead the Cubs. It was a nice idea once, when the Cubs needed a warm body to fill the job for half a season and audition for future work, but not anymore.

Hiring Sandberg would be the easy and obvious thing to do, and a wonderful way for a new regime to win fan support, but that is not the No. 1 thing Theo & Co. is trying to win.

-Ryan Theriot was roundly criticized for landing for saying he had landed on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry when he signed with St. Louis before last season, even though he didn't leave the Cubs by choice the season before last. Apparently, Theriot was right--though in the darkest corner of your Cub fan sould you knew he was. He is now a World Series champion, and though he didn't hit well in the series--only 1 for 13--he did driven in two key runs for the Cards.

So, two of my favorite scrappy players from recent years--LSU products Theriot and Mike Fontenot (I liked to call them the French Connection, though no one else ever pick it up)--both have World Series rings. Yet, they weren't good enough for the Cubs, always on the hunt for the future HoF-er who could do everything and help them win it all.

--Carlos Zambrano is pitching in Venezuela. A lot of us hope he stays right there, though I wouldn't be surprised if Theo & Co find a way to smooth things over just enough and polish up his rough edges just enough to trade him.

--Aramis Ramirez is not in the Cubs' future plans. So says Theo. Is Bake DeWitt taking over, or is Bryan Lahair learning how to play third base as we speak? Or maybe Thepo has something different in mind.


Southbound and up

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Needless to say, it is much more fun to go to White Sox games these days than Cubs games. On some nights, you will even see more fans at The Cell than you would have for certain recent weekday games at Wrigley.

I was at The Cell last night for the second game of the Seattle series, and there was a nice turnout for a sweltering Tuesday night when most people would rather remain under cover of air conditioning. It was hard to hope for too much, with the Sox taking on Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez, but the offense jumped out early with homeruns by Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin. Starter Phil Humber showed once again that the Sox were smart to save him from the srap heap by shutting down Seattle for a 5-1 win.

Last weekend's losses to Detroit were a letdown for the Sox after it had seemed like they were ready to break out. But, after taking the first two games from a very hot Mariners team, things are looking up again. With a 30-33 record, the Sox are six games in back of a Cleveland team that has definitely started to fade. If the season is going to come down to a duel with Detroit, they can't let the Tigers escape with another series win next time around.

I still think the best is it yet to come from the Sox. Both Adam Dunn and Alex Rios are still on life support, and assuming they get going soon, it could be the difference between three games under .500 or three games over. There is real concern in particular about Dunn, but it would be hard to believe that he is so washed up or so thoroughly unable to handle American League pitching that he will remain useless. Something's got to give soon.

Ozzie Guillen is starting to look like a genius for going to a six-man rotation (even if Jake Peavy's ongoing issues more often make it a five-man set). Humber has made the most of a slim chance he was given in spring training, and now he seems to be throwing even more confidently knowing that he's not just rotation filler. Meanwhile, John Danks finally got his first win and has looked strong in his last two games.

A month ago, you might have wondered if the Sox would see first place for the rest of the season. Now, it seems more like a matter of time.


A day after my assessment of the Cubs, it's good timing to look at what's happening with the White Sox, as we've been greeted with two fairly big pieces of Pale Hose news this morning: Manager Ozzie Guillen has chosen Matt Thornton to open the season as his closer, and The Great and Powerful Oz also said Jake Peavy looks ready to start in April, at least a month ahead of what many of us assumed earlier.

With this news in mind, I'll kick off my spring training likes/unlikes:

Matt Thornton: Like. He actually hasn't done much one way or the other, and if he is going to be the closer, I would like to see him in some save situations soon, but you know what you're getting with Thornton. I have been a big fan of Chris Sale, but Thornton deserves the call right now.

Chris Sale: Unlike. I still actually like his promise, and hope Ozzie's tough love methods don't make him worse before he gets better again (and he will get better). However, spring training has been a big missed opportunity for him. On the plus side, he is striking guys out, and has only issued a couple walks, but he has been way too hittable for further consideration as closer.

Jake Peavy: Like. I have not always been a fan of Peavy, but the guy is showing his toughness coming back ahead of schedule, and has been pretty effective. I'm feeling more confident about him right now than about Mark Buehrle.

Mark Buehrle: Unlike. This is a borderline call, because he looked great in his start this week, and you know he will show up when the season starts. But these off-season regimens he has been engaging in the last two winters seem to do little for him, and I'm also getting tired of reading how baseball is a burden for him.

Ozzie Guillen: Like. He has been behaving well, and has been decisive about things like the closer move. What more can you ask for? Also has been very funny on Twitter--I want to create a Twitter feed built only around Ozzie retweets.

Lastings Milledge: Like. He has been a problem child and a bust elsewhere, and I'm not ready to believe he is a long-term answer for the Sox, but he has shown power, hitting chops and nice defense, and his speed fits the profile for the role previously played by Willie Harris, Dewayne Wise and Pablo Ozuna. It may be him of Brent Lillibridge. Sorry, Brent.

Tyler Flowers: Like. He was practically written off days into spring training, but has been hitting really well. The Cubs (with Wellington Castillo) and Sox both have great young catchers just about ready for the majors. I think the Cubs should turn to their newbie now, but I'm not sure the Sox would consider the same. I have a feeling the Sox' traditionally heavy focus on pitching favors vet Ramon Castro and puts Flowers back in the minors to start the season.

Brent Morel: Unlike. Like Sale, another young guy that was in a position to win a big job, but he just has not delivered, leaving Mark Teahen looking like a possible starter. Why do I have the feeling we will be seeing a lot of Omar Vizquel at third again?

Phil Humber and Jeff Marquez: Like. In a battle for bullpen spots, these guys are really showing their stuff. Humber looked good enough to be a possible fifth starter if Peavy would have need more time. He still looks like a bullpen lock and a successful Don Cooper reclamation project. Marquez has show flashes before, but could never stick with the big club. His 11 strikeouts in 9.1 innings and 1.93 ERA are pretty enticing.

Dayan Viciedo: Like. There was a lot to like before he was injured, and let's hope he can make a quick comeback.

Sox offense: Like. In terms of springs stats, the Sox are among the leaders in HRs and RBIs, which probably was expected. They also have been generally hitting better recently than earlier in the spring. On the down side, there have been fewer stolen bases than you would expect from an Ozzie team, and Adam Dunn has not done much yet. But, other middle of the order guys like Alex Rios, Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin look ready.

Sox defense: Unlike. The defense overall has been creaky (though not as bad as the Cubs'), and Gordon Beckham and Mark Teahen have specifically not been good. Beckham has hit well, but I hope he's not sacrificing growth on defense. Watching Teahen on defense makes me prefer Vizquel with one hand tied behind his back.


First place finish

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The White Sox reached first place in the A.L. Central Division on the final day of the first half of the season before All-Star Break. Now, they just need to repeat for the next half.

A 15-5 victory of the Royals today featured a franchise record-tying four homers in one inning. Carlos Quentin had two homers on the day, including a grand slam, making it four for him within the last 24 hours. He can keep hitting below .250 as far as I'm concerned if he keeps knocking homers with men on base.

Dayan Viciedo also hit a monsterous homerun almot all the way to the left field concourse. He is looking more and more like this year's Gordon Beckham, a rookie addition making a huge contribution.

It remains to be seen if the Sox will make a trade within the next few weeks to increase their chances of holding onto first place. Daniel Hudson did not do well today at all, even though the Sox gave him an 8-1 lead, but if you believe Ozzie Guillen, Hudson will get a good, long look as the fifth starter. On the other hand, if you believe more in Kenny Williams fidgety trade fingers, the Sox may add to the rotation through a trade sooner rather than later.

As I've said before, I'm hope for a trade for a power-hitting lefty DH, if anything, and I don't want the Sox to give up Beckham to make it happen.

In other news, Paul Konerko is headed to the All-Star game as a replacement.

The White Sox, having beaten the Angels two in a row this week, are still looking like a team ready to make its big move. Yes, they are still in third place, but it's all bunched up at the top of the A.L. Central, and going into the second half, the Sox are looking at least as good as the Tigers and probably better than the flagging Twins.

Now, the bad news: Jake Peavy, who seemed to be turning around his season of late, is probably headed to the DL. Until he walked off the mound in pain last night, the Sox pitchng staff, top to bottom, looked every bit as good as we thought back in spring training. Looks like Daniel Hudson gets another try.

Offensively, the Sox have been looking great, scoring without homeruns when they need to, dominating with power when they can. With the resurgence of Carlos Quentin and the pretty impressive arrival of Dayan Viciedo, the only sagging spots in the line-up have been those occupied by Gordon Beckham and Andruw Jones/Mark Kotsay.

What can the Sox do to help their chances in the second half? If Viciedo plays well enough to stay, that could solve the Beckham problem by pushing Omar Vizquel, Brent Lillibridge or even Alexei Ramirez to second base. That would still leave currently-injured Mark Teahen as a third base or DH option.

Of course, GM Kenny Williams loves to make moves, so trading for another veteran infielder or a regular DH (too bad Jim Thome isn't available) wouldn't be out of the question.

So much to talk about, so little time...

--The White Sox have a 10-game winning streak, reportedly their longest since 1976 (?!), and everything is clicking. Even Gordon Beckham homered yesterday in the Sox-Cubs crosstown clash at The Cell. Excellent pitching and just enough hitting allowed the Sox to sweep the first-place Atlanta Braves earlier this week, which should convince many that the streak is for real, and not just a hot run against cold teams (though playing the Cubs twice in two weeks really helps).

--Carlos Quentin is still punishing pitchers, homering yesterday off Carlos Zambrano, but it's even better to see him driving singles up the middle and to the opposite field. It's 2008 all over again.

--Jake Peavy had his third straight strong outing, though again, two of those have been against the Cubs and the third against another the National League foe, so it remains to be seen if he can deliver against the American League.

--The Zambrano tirade is all over the place, so I won't get into the details, but his most recent meltdown into Zammy the Clown has many people demanding and believing that Zambrano's days are over as a Cub. How that will happen remains to be seen. The Cubs once again have held onto damaged goods for far too long, and (as with Milton Bradley) are forced to try to move a player who is suspended. Who will want him? (Even the Mets have to be shaking their heads...)

I'm not saying Zambrano didn't deserve to be suspended. It was the only remaining option. It's unfortunate because it leaves the already sad-sack Cubs a man down. And, it only reminds us that GM Jim Hendry should have tried to move Zambrano long ago, when teams like the Mets were still interested and their praise could have convinced Zambrano to wave his no-trade option.

I don't think Zambrano's days as a Cub are over. I think he will apologize and will be allowed to come back to the team--but only long enough for Hendry to move the once-promising (always promising, it seems) pitcher to another team, probably for a couple of iffy minor leaguers.

There are further implications to consider after this episode: Lou Piniella, I fear, has lost his team. They are not just bad, and behaving badly--they are unresponsive. With the exception of Marlon Byrd, who is a true gamer, they are a lackluster group. Zambrano's tirade yesterday apparently was aimed partly at Derrek Lee for not diving at a ball hit down the line by Juan Pierre, and while Lee's resume is impeccable and Zambrano's criticism questionable, Lee has not been the same strong fielder lately that he was earlier in the season and throughout his career. You could say the same of the entire error-prone group, of course.

The Cubs, like it or not, may be headed for a rebuilding. That project should start with Piniella's dismissal.

The Sox are back (?)

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The White Sox have won seven of nine games behind improved pitching and some lively hitting from Carlos Quentin and others. Good signs of things to come? Maybe...

The Sox pitching staff was impressive against the Cubs over the weekend, but the Cubs have been pretty woeful of late. This week, they beat up Pittsburgh, but everybody does that (well, except for the Cubs).

More promising is that CQ has been pounding the ball recently, and while Gordon Beckham continues to disappoint and Mark Teahen is injured, it's Quentin's role in the line-up that is most significant for the Sox in taking more advantage of stellar seasons thus far from Alex Rios and Paul Konerko. If the meat of the line-up is getting on base and driving in runs, that should be enough for Sox pitchers like Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd, each of whom looked good in their last outing. And, amazingly, Freddy Garcia is still vexing everyone.

Unfortunately, Jake Peavy continues to be a source of stress, annoyance and disappointment. The dreaded "shoulder problems" issue has come up, for now only pushing back a start, but we'll see. Peavy actually has tried hard through a tough season to contribute to team unity and motivation, but the Sox need his arm, not his coaching abilities.

Meanwhile, a winning streak and some good vibes could go a long way toward mitigating the supposed tension between GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen. There have been almost daily reports about how the two don't need to get along to win, or that they actually do get along--whatever... Just win, baby.

Ups and downs up north

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Went to Wrigley today for this first time this season, and will have a post on that tomorrow...

For now, a look at the White Sox, still in Toronto (Still?), where a brilliant extra-inning win was followed by almost being no-hit, which was followed by John Danks and a crushing offensive effort shutting down the Blue Jays 11-1, which was followed tonight by, you guessed it, a 7-3 loss.

Will the real Chicago White Sox please stand up?

The 11-1 victory further showcased Andruw Jones, who had three hits and his third homerun of the year and is looking like a more frequent starter than anyone expected. Carlos Quentin also kept up his hot streak with a grand slam. The line-up delivered 15 hits overall. Danks didn't give up a hit until the fifth inning.

But, the bats took the night off tonight. It was nice that Donny Lucy got his first career homer, and Alexei "formerly the Cuban Missile" Ramirez hit his first homerun amid what has been another lackluster start for him. But, Jones, Quentin and Paul Konerko were hitless.

Splitting a four-game series in Toronto isn't a bad thing, but the next time the Sox have an 11-1 drubbing or an 8-7 extra-innings comeback, they need to bottle it.

Carlos vs. Carlos

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The Cubs-Sox spring training re-match was postponed today due to rain, and I decided to take another look at yesterday's Sox victory. After watching Carlos Quentin belt two homers and drive in five runs off Carlos Silva, I'm wondering this: Is that a sign of Quentin's return to prominence, or a sign that Silva is even worse than some of us thought?

My money right now is on Quentin to have a pretty decent year, possibly another 30+ homer year, though it all depends on whether he can keep that injury bug at bay. The more time he spends at DH (where he hit yesterday) the better.

Silva, on the other hand, is vying for the same bottom-of-the-rotation starter job he had with Minnesota (before Seattle bought into the idea he could be something better). Yet, Silva so far doesn't even look that good. I think he can be useful for the Cubs, though not as a starter--probably more like a long reliever.

In other news, I was surprised to see Lou Piniella say this early in the spring that Starlin Castro probably would start the season in Triple A. he was moved to say that after Andres Blanco hurt his ankle yesterday, though the statement probably comes as better news to Ryan Theriot, who not only lost his arbitration case, but has been living with the speculation that Castro is challenging him for starts at shortstop. I think the Cubs should let Castro earn a job to open the season if he puts up the numbers.

Jonesing for a comeback

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Which Andruw Jones did the White Sox sign? The one that hit 51 homers one year and has won 10 gold gloves, or the fat, immature over-paid disappointment of the last few years? Jones reported to spring training early and a few pounds lighter, so maybe we can get more hopeful that his bid for a comeback with the Sox is for real.

At the very least, the Sox need him to do deliver some right-handed punch as part of a two-headed (or at times perhaps three-headed) DH. If they can get a slick fielder with some rediscovered endurance, all the better, since questions surround outfielders Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin.

If everything goes right, maybe Jones could be the same sort of extremely pleasant surprise Carlos Quentin was two years ago, when the Sox weren't expecting much but instead got 36 homers.

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