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Talking Cubs Baseball With WGN Radio’s Jordan Bernfield

By bullpenbrian at 09.17.2012 Leave a comment.

BernfieldWGN

You may not recognize his face, but you’ll recognize his voice as a host of Cubs Central Postgame on WGN Radio. Jordan Bernfield is also a writer & podcaster for miCubs.com in addition to other broadcasting ventures.

I recently caught up with Jordan to talk about the on goings of the Cubs’ 2012 season, including everything from Kerry Wood’s early season retirement to how long before we’ll see a winner on the North Side.

What were your thoughts, feelings, on Kerry Wood’s early season retirement?

It really was time for Kerry Wood to move on, and to his credit, he knew it.  Too often players try to hang on and hurt themselves and their teams by sticking around too long.  He was wholly ineffective early in the year, and the way his career ended was appropriate with a strikeout against the White Sox.  But looking back on it, I find it unfortunate that he, in essence, upstaged the Cubs/White Sox series by choosing that first game to hang ‘em up.  And, it would be interesting to know how fans/media would have reacted had he given up a hit or run in his appearance, which seem so obviously staged. 

Kerry was beloved by Cubs fans, and certainly you can see why, but I found his career to be fairly disappointing.  Watching him come up in 1998 it appeared the Cubs had found a transcendent young pitcher who could lead them to great heights.  Unfortunately, his delivery and subsequent arm problems never allowed him to reach his true potential.  But, that game he pitched May 6, 1998, striking out 20 Houston Astros, was the greatest game I’ve ever seen pitched.  Moments like that are why he was so beloved despite his ups and downs with the Cubs.

How do you best explain the Ryan Dempster trade deadline situation? Where did this deal go wrong considering Atlanta?

Ryan Dempster’s biggest fault in that situation was that he intimated that he would accommodate the Cubs, which in turn left fans irate because they thought he’d bend over backwards to help them.  The bottom line is this: he didn’t have to help the Cubs, and he had every right to exercise his 10 and 5 rights the way he did. 

Now, did that end up hurting the Cubs?  Undoubtedly, yes.  Had he approved the trade to Atlanta, the Cubs end up with a top 40 prospect in Randall Delgado and it’s a phenomenal trade for a rebuilding organization starving for pitching. 

The way it ended up?  Those I’ve talked to, baseball people whom I trust, like the kids the Cubs got, (Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks).  Neither one is of Delgado quality, but considering Dempster tried to force a trade to the Dodgers until literally the final 15 minutes, the Cubs made out pretty well.  Dempster made it more of a PR nightmare than it needed to be, and consequently he left Chicago one of the more disliked former Cubs when for most of his tenure he was quite popular.

What concerns do you have with Starlin Castro’s new long-term deal?

The biggest concern I have with the contract is whether he’ll become the player that Cubs fans, and most importantly, baseball experts, expect him to be.  He’s committed 25 errors this year as I write this, and his defense, while improved, still leaves a lot to be desired.  The 500 hits he’s amassed before age 23, when you step back and look at it, put him in very elite company.  So certainly you can see why the Cubs would make a long term commitment.  This deal makes Castro cost controlled, buying out his potentially very expensive arbitration years and makes him affordable to trade, should they so desire. 

I wonder if Castro will ever become the elite player everyone thinks he’ll be. But if he remains what he is, which is a solid hitter, and improves his defense, he’ll still be one of the best players at his position not only in the National League but in baseball.  On a team with very little talent on the major league level currently, the team needs a player with his skill set.

Should Soriano win the Gold Glove Award this season?

I know Alfonso Soriano has only committed a single error this year, but he isn’t a brilliant defender.  He’s improved greatly, and he and Dave McKay deserve a ton of credit for his vast improvement in left field.  But I’d have a lot of trouble giving him the gold glove. 

There are other outfielders that may have committed more errors, but are far better overall defenders, so I’d lean in that direction. Plus, gold gloves are unfairly awarded anyway because they inexplicably always look at offense when making their decision, and often give them to those who have already won the award multiple times.

Should the Cubs trade Carlos Marmol this offseason?

Absolutely.  But can they?  That’s the bigger question.  He’s due $9.8 million dollars next season and that’s a big number for a closer who isn’t even close to elite anymore.  There was a time when Carlos Marmol was considered one of the best relievers in the game, but now?  Not even close. 

If the Cubs can find a trade partner who will absorb a portion of the contract and they can somehow swindle a young pitcher out of the deal, I’d drive Marmol to the airport myself, but I don’t see that happening.

Do you expect Brett Jackson & Josh Vitters to be on the Opening Day roster in 2013?

I think Brett Jackson may be on the opening day roster next year, but I see no way in which Josh Vitters is.  If the team doesn’t resign Ian Stewart, they can plug Luis Valbuena in at 3rd (assuming they don’t sign someone else), and Valbuena has done a solid job. 

Vitters looks completely lost at the plate and has a lot of adjustments to make before we could even consider him a reasonable major league option.  Jackson has the tools to be a good ballplayer, and most importantly, one that the new regime would like.  He has a very good approach at the plate, he runs well, defends well, and has a good arm.  But he absolutely cannot strike out as frequently as he does. 

A strikeout rate near 50% is completely unacceptable from an every day player.  If he can’t cut down on the strikeouts significantly, he’ll be back in the minors.  If he can, I see him as somewhat of a Drew Stubbs type player, which would be fine, but certainly not ideal.

How long before the Cubs field a team that finishes its season above .500 (not necessarily playoff contenders)?

I think the Cubs are probably at least two years away from having a .500 team.  Maybe 3 or more.  At this point, how many players on this roster are ones that you could see being part of a winning ball club?  Rizzo, Castro, probably Barney, Samardzija, and Garza (if he were here, but we all know he’s likely traded if not this off season then at next July’s deadline).  And even with them, how certain are you that all of those I listed are really part of it? (Rizzo and Castro are the most likely to be here.) 

The Cubs will need the prospects they’re developing to come along and hit. Guys like Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and a few from the truckload of pitchers they drafted this past June.  They’ll also need to add to the roster with some savvy free agent moves or trades.  Because as currently constructed, it seems unreasonable to expect a competitive team for at least a couple of years, unless significant moves are made.

It’s obviously been a trying season covering the Cubs, but what’s been the highlight for you?

This may seem like a copout answer, but it’s true.  The highlight for me this year is the evidence of a plan that makes sense.  The major league team, let’s face it, is awful.  But unlike previous years, I applaud the Cubs for sticking to their guns and truly letting the process play itself out. 

Will it work?  Who knows.  Hopefully it does.  If not, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will be gone in five years and Cubs fans will be teetering on giving up. But for now, the commitment to minor league development and truly building from the ground up excites me.  If this works, the Cubs will likely have a team that will compete year after year, and when have we ever been able to say that before?

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