Chicago Cubs: Melissa Isaacson

Cubs' future seems so far away

May, 20, 2012
5/20/12
7:11
PM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- It was another typical 2012 Wrigley Field crowd Sunday and a typical Chicago Cubs effort -- decent but with conspicuous bare patches.

While the Chicago White Sox headed south with some momentum following their three-game sweep in the first of two crosstown series, the Cubs had simply notched their sixth straight loss, their fans left with the same gnawing emptiness they are expected to tolerate for the unforeseeable future.

There are no real surprises here that in late-ish May, the Cubs are scraping the bottom of the National League Central with one of the worst records in baseball. We knew it was going to be this way, didn't we? But after being handled as easily as the White Sox made it look this weekend, you get the feeling that Cubs fans, still showing up in respectable if not sellout numbers, did not necessarily think it would feel quite this bad quite this soon.

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Hot Button: Is Wood a Top 50 Cub?

May, 18, 2012
5/18/12
7:53
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
Kerry WoodHarry How /Allsport Kerry Wood pitched in four playoffs as a Chicago Cub.
Kerry Wood is certainly a fan favorite. But is he one of the Top 50 Cubs of all time? Hot Button: Vote! »

Chicago baseball just might be fun in '12

April, 4, 2012
4/04/12
7:13
PM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Chicago's respective baseball seasons don't have to be dreary. Fascinating might be a stretch but interesting is a definite possibility.

April promises to be compelling merely for curiosity sake. Can the Cubs or White Sox stay competitive enough to give rise to actual optimism, false or otherwise? Or do they sink so quickly and so profoundly as to fulfill all of our worst expectations?

By the end of May, early June, Cubs fans can stay engaged as they begin clamoring for Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson, while Sox fans can officially give up on Adam Dunn and Alex Rios comebacks and start debating whether Paul Konerko's first mini-slump means he's over the hill.

July and August will bring trade deadlines and that annual fantasy known as hoping someone is dumb enough to take on Alfonso Soriano's contract. And by September, there are sure to be at least a handful of Sox fans who long for Ozzie Guillen's "fire."

See? It might even be fun.

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Anthony Rizzo can handle adversity

January, 14, 2012
1/14/12
11:13
PM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- In the future-value-over-past-performance philosophy of Theo Epstein, Anthony Rizzo would seem to fit the mold perfectly.

At 22, the future is as vast and as promising as it can be for a kid who went 3-for-7 in his first three big-league games, including a 400-foot triple to dead center in his first at-bat. But when the Cubs president of baseball operations acquired Rizzo from the San Diego Padres in a deal that included Cubs right-hander Andrew Cashner last week, he was also putting considerable faith in a young man whose past had already shown Epstein more than he needs to know.

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Timing isn't everything for Santo honor

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
3:15
PM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
That there are Chicago Cubs Fans Monday who were furious and heartbroken over the news that Ron Santo was voted into the Hall of Fame posthumously, only underscores the Santo phenomenon.

And he is a phenomenon, both in life and death.

The Santo Hall of Fame argument was always obscured by discussion over his statistics, both traditional and otherwise. It was and is about more than that, which is why his induction was up there with all the great Hall of Fame debates.

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Cubs have 'unflappable' new leader

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
4:22
PM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- No need to worry about the new Chicago Cubs manager being tough enough.

And that's not even a reference to the bone sticking out of his leg after his left fielder collided with him as they were going for a fly ball that day in 1988, forever altering his career.

Nor is it the Harley he rides or the tattoos he sports. He drives the pickup more often than not, and the tattoos are mostly a tribute to his father George, who passed away in 1992, and his wife Darlene.

"That was a mid-life crisis," said his buddy and former Pirates teammate John Wehner, who gave him hell about the tattoos when they started popping up. "It just hit early."

He found it funny, because Dale Sveum was the guy who was so old-school he wouldn't even sport a batting glove when he played; called the guys with the necklaces and fancy cleats and tats part of the "Digme tribe."

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Hoyer took unique path to Cubs GM

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
4:03
PM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- He was a bullet point in weeks of Theo Epstein stories; his hiring part of a dual-release issued on a Wednesday night after the 6 p.m. news and during a back-to-back rerun of "Glee."

The new general manager of the Cubs? The guy technically in charge of all player transactions and of assembling the coaching staff and roster that will ultimately determine everyone's fate?

We interrupt the Theo Show for the brief and anticlimactic announcement that Jed Hoyer has been added to Team Epstein as executive vice president/GM along with Jason McLeod as senior vice president/scouting and player development.

Understated, to be sure. But this was no small move.

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MacPhail: Theo faces more pressure

October, 24, 2011
10/24/11
11:20
AM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
At 41, Andy MacPhail was four years older than Theo Epstein when he came to Chicago to run the Cubs in the fall of 1994, but he too was every bit the baseball prodigy.

Like Epstein, MacPhail, a member of baseball's young elite, already had two World Series titles on his resume. MacPhail was also the last executive traded in baseball, arriving in Chicago in exchange for a Class A pitcher sent to Minnesota in compensation for the much-heralded hire by the Cubs.

"There were similarities," MacPhail agreed about him and Epstein, "but it was a different kettle of fish."

He was referring to the fact that when he left the Twins, he was on good terms with owner Carl Pohlad, happy in Minnesota, and left (he walked away from an offer of $4 million and part-ownership of the Twins) only after promising it would not be for the same job.

But there is something else, MacPhail said, that will be different for Epstein.

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Time for Cubs' changes may be now

July, 15, 2011
7/15/11
12:31
AM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- Detained by airport security for 40 minutes late Tuesday night before his return trip from the All-Star Game in Arizona, Cubs manager Mike Quade said he was tempted to tell them who he was as they whisked him away to a "concealed room."

"It was a full pat-down," Quade said. "[They asked] 'Are you sensitive in any areas?' "

Oh, where to begin? His team's lack of fundamentals? The whole Ryan Dempster thing? His job security?

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For Cubs, Sox, the defense never rests

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
10:14
PM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- I’m not sure what they’re doing for fun this weekend in New York and Ohio during the New York YankeesNew York Mets and Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds series. My guess is that playing meaningful baseball games passes adequately for entertainment.

Here in Chicago, where the weathermen had about as solid a performance on Friday as Randy Wells, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen chided the local media for being “boring”; Cubs manager Mike Quade actually bristled temporarily; and Carlos Zambrano and Juan Pierre demonstrated firsthand that playing in Chicago is the equivalent of suiting up against the lions in ancient Rome.

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Ryan Dempster & Mark BUehrleUS PresswireMany expect Mark Buehrle's team to win its division. Not so much with Ryan Dempster's Cubs.
It's prediction time at ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com, and while the White Sox drew more love from the expert prognosticators, the Cubs were not forgotten.

Three of 45 experts predicted the Cubs would win the NL Central, while 32 -- including ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla -- tabbed the Sox as the AL Central champs.

Click here to check out ESPN.com's experts, and click here to see ESPN Chicago's predictions.

ESPNChicago.com baseball predictions

March, 30, 2011
3/30/11
11:04
AM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
Ryan Dempster & Mark BUehrleUS PresswireRyan Dempster and Mark Buehrle are ready to open the season for the Cubs and White Sox.
As lines are being chalked and kegs wheeled into place for Opening Day, ESPNChicago.com breaks out its predictions for the 2011 season.

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Dempster pleased with four quick innings

March, 6, 2011
3/06/11
6:37
PM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
MESA, Ariz. -- Ryan Dempster said he accomplished what he wanted to in the Cubs’ 5-3 victory over the Dodgers on Sunday, getting out of his four-inning start with a minimum of work.

Dempster faced 15 batters, allowing one earned run on three hits with three strikeouts and no walks in the eventual 10-inning affair, which was sealed by a two-run walkoff homer by Cubs’ minor-league infielder DJ LeMahieu.

“I didn’t have a whole bunch of pitches, which is kind of what I’m trying to work to do,” Dempster said. “Get the pitch count down during innings, try to get them out in three pitches or less. It doesn’t always work that way but I’m trying.

“It was a good work day. It was fun out there.”

Marmol solid: Carlos Marmol has not allowed a run in three outings this spring. He threw one inning of hitless relief Sunday, walking one and striking out three.

“I feel very good, especially with my fastball,” said Marmol, before cracking, “I’m working on a slider, did you see?”

Asked if he felt content with his contract and the closer’s job settled, Marmol said it didn’t matter.

“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “I was ready for the regular season and I don’t worry about money or anything else.”

Pausing for effect, he added, “When am I going to get another contract, man?”

Byrd hot: Marlon Byrd doubled twice for the second day in a row and had his fourth multi-hit day in six games.

Byrd, 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, is now 8-of-15, which should move him up the list of Cactus League hitters, where he ranked sixth coming into the game.

Split-squad: In the other game, the Reds trounced the Cubs, 10-0. Losing pitcher Todd Wellemeyer threw two innings, allowing one earned run on three hits while striking out two and walking one.

Cubs duo aware of 'sophomore jinx'

March, 6, 2011
3/06/11
6:29
PM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
MESA, Ariz. -- Gordon Beckham doesn't pretend it wasn't scary. Any major league baseball player coming off a great rookie year would be lying if he said he didn't think about it.

From Mark Fidrych to Steve Sax to Joe Charboneau to Kerry Wood, the expression "Sophomore Jinx" has become almost a jinx in itself.

"When I didn't meet expectations, I kind of panicked," said Beckham of his struggles last season. "It was like 'Why am I not doing what I'm supposed to do?' "

Geovany Soto and Randy Wells place themselves in the sophomore slump club and any advice they might offer Cubs' teammates Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro, both coming off standout rookie seasons, is tempered by the fact that it's obviously not that easy.

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Quade knows challenge of Wrigley walls

March, 6, 2011
3/06/11
1:15
PM CT
Isaacson By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
MESA, Ariz. -- Talking about Alfonso Soriano's strong work ethic, his quick start at the plate this spring -- including going to the opposite field more often -- and his eagerness to improve, led to Cubs manager Mike Quade reminiscing Sunday about once coaching Soriano in outfield play.

It was the spring of Soriano’s second season with the Cubs, and it didn’t end well.

“We decided we were going to do some wall work and I ran him into the damn thing and he hurt his wrist,” Quade said. “You’re a young outfield coach for Lou [Piniella] and you’re going, ‘Oh man, I’m looking for work.’ He might miss a week and I might miss the rest of the year or years.”

Quade disputed the notion that Soriano is tentative at the warning track, but not that the ability to play the wall is vital.

“There are so many games decided at the wall,” he said. “Almost every night in every ballpark. As I taught outfield for years, I was never that conscious of the wall . . . and then with the unique shallow gaps at Wrigley and then the big well, there’s a lot of challenges I don’t think Sori had experienced before. Not [while] playing second base, not playing short as a young kid. The work was good [for him]. It just got carried away and I ran him into the wall.”

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jake Arrieta
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.53 167 156
OTHER LEADERS
BAS. Castro .292
HRA. Rizzo 32
RBIA. Rizzo 78
RA. Rizzo 89
OPSA. Rizzo .913
ERAT. Wood 5.03
SOJ. Arrieta 167