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It’s not fair to compare Dale Sveum to Mike Quade–the Cubs newest manager hasn’t even coached a meaningful game yet.
But this year’s spring camp has a similar feel to last year’s. A new manager preaching accountability, fundamentals and playing the game the right way.
Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it Cubs fans?
As much as we want to believe this year is different, if for no other reason than Theo/Jed & Sveum, there’s no telling until the Cubs take the field one month from now. And even then we’re only expecting the Cubs to be marginally better than in 2011.
Sveum couldn’t be off to a better start. His leadership thus far is getting rave reviews from players and media alike. But the same was said for Quade 12 months ago.
Sweet Lou warned us not to get too “giddy.” We should have listened. Quade, it turned out, talked a better game than he managed. Here’s hoping it’s the opposite for the soft spoken Sveum.
Dale Sveum pictures Alfonso Soriano hitting in the cleanup spot. Really?
Seems hard to believe given the 36-year-old isn’t nearly the hitter he was five years ago when he joined the Cubs.
Even Mike Quade never hit Soriano above the fifth spot last season, instead using him primarily as a sixth & seventh hole hitter, which seems more in line for a guy who batted .244 with an on-base percentage of less than .300.
Of course, Quade had Aramis and Pena. Sveum has, well, Soriano, whose 26 home runs in 2011 tied Aramis for second most on the team and trailed only Carlos Pena’s 28 HR. Soriano’s 88 RBI was also second best, trailing A-Ram’s 93 RBI.
But with Ramirez and Pena having departed the North Side, Alfonso remains the Cubs most experienced power bat, which appears why Sveum will pencil him into the four hole.
The advantage of two additional playoff spots is two-fold for baseball and its fans.
1.) There’s exciting potential to make September baseball more meaningful for more teams.
2.) Teams with playoff worthy records won’t be slighted due to divisional circumstances.
At the start of Jerome Walton’s 30-game hitting streak on July 21, 1989, the Cubs trailed Montreal by 3.0 games and the Mets by a half game in the NL East Division.
Chicago went (8-2) over its next 10 games jumping New York in the standings and trimming Montreal’s lead to 2.0 games with Walton setting the pace from the leadoff position hitting .318 (14-for-44) over the stretch.
Although Jerome was hitting the ball to all fields, he was also showing a knack for beating out infield grounders, including a bunt single and two infield hits.
Walton finished the regular season reaching 18 times on bunt attempts and 30 times on infield hits, a huge contributing factor to his season ending .293 batting average–good for 7th best in the NL.
Here’s a handful of non-roster invites who could surprise in spring camp to make the Cubs Opening Day roster.
Jason Jaramillo: A solid spring would position the Racine, Wisc. native for the No.2 role behind Geovany Soto. Couple that with a poor spring from Soto, and the 29-year-old could open the season as the No.1 catcher. His left-handed bat, good defense and experience the past three seasons in Pittsburgh (119 games) makes him worth keeping an eye on.
Here’s a look at four non-roster invitees who could surprise in spring camp to make the Cubs Opening Day roster.
The young right-hander, 28, enters his prime years having spent the past few seasons in Chicago’s minor league system. His quite confidence and three quality pitches earned him a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2009 & 2010. But he’s seen limited action since suffering an elbow ailment in May of 2010–46 total innings pitched since.
The trade of OF Dave Martinez to Montreal the previous July left the Cubs without a true center fielder heading into spring training in 1989.
It didn’t take long for the dynamic speed of young prospect Jerome Walton to emerge from the competition. Walton’s terrific outfield range quickly caught the eye of Cubs manager, Don Zimmer, who settled on Walton as his Opening Day center fielder.
Despite committing an error on the first ball hit to him on Opening Day, Walton proved Zimmer’s decision wise over the long haul.
It was 46 games later before Walton made his second defensive miscue, and he booted just one more throughout his final 69 regular season games played.
The regularity at which Walton showed flashes of brilliance in center field made him of Gold Glove consideration.
Had it not been for a mid season injury that limited his season to 116 games, Walton may have earned more hardware than his Rookie of the Year Award.