Cubs in no hurry to start purging salary
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org June 24, 2011 11:22PM
Carlos Pena is congratulated by Kosuke Fukudome after scoring a run Friday. | G. Newman Lowrance~Getty images
Updated: September 29, 2011 12:44AM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This is why the Cubs say they’re not ready to bail on 2011 and start focusing on 2012.
Well, maybe not specifically this free-for-all, 6-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals that featured so much “aggressive” baserunning that four Cubs were thrown out by outfielders and two more were caught stealing, including one after oversliding second on a 2-6-5-6 play. The Cubs had five hits in the seventh without so much as an RBI.
“Is that a game or a novel?” manager Mike Quade said after the Cubs blew an early lead before winning with two runs in the ninth, with the help of a favorable call on Tony Campana’s popped-up leadoff bunt and with the go-ahead run scoring on an error.
Anyway, they won. And although they haven’t done much of that lately — even Friday couldn’t cut into their seven-game deficit on the fourth-place Pittsburgh Pirates — the front office plans to give it at least a few more weeks before deciding this season can’t be salvaged.
In other words, don’t believe all the hype surrounding the front-office meetings next week involving top scouts and baseball brass.
“It’s not as complicated as people would think,” general manager Jim Hendry said. “You want to get healthy. You want Marlon [Byrd] to come back [from the disabled list], and [Darwin] Barney, and let Mike manage a club that looks a little more like the one we broke camp with, and see how we play for a while.”
Despite losing seven of their last eight series, the Cubs have played better over the last 10 days, Hendry said, citing a close loss to the New York Yankees and a crosstown series that swung each day on one or two plays.
“Close doesn’t count,” he said. “But the effort’s there. We played the game better. And we’ve played better defense.”
While Friday’s game wasn’t pretty, at least it was a win, the bottom line that has been missing throughout the season.
“Wins and losses — I know it’s frustrating sometimes because you want to pile them up,” said Friday’s starter, Ryan Dempster. “But if we keep playing the way we’re playing, were going to win a lot of games and we’re not going to know how to play any other way.”
For now, at least no dramatic sell-off attempt by the team is in the works. And sources say even if the Cubs become sellers next month, they have no intention of moving players they believe can help them next year, indicating they don’t have a multiyear, all-youth rebuilding project anywhere in the contingency plans.
Hendry wouldn’t address specific players or possible courses of action as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
“It’s no different than I would tell you a month ago,” he said. “My main objective would be to see how we do by the end of July and also make logical decisions that help the ballclub for next year, too.”
Hendry also gave another strong nod of support for Quade, who continues to be criticized more and more each week.
“Look, he’s still in a tough spot,” Hendry said. “[Byrd and Barney] are two guys you miss still that you can’t quite make it look perfect every night, one through nine, how you might want to line it up. But guys are playing hard and getting better.”
And believe it or not, one of those guys is Starlin Castro, the club’s best hitter all season.
He’s on a 17-for-33 tear that included three more hits Friday, giving him 102 for the season with six games left before the halfway mark of the season.
He’s the third player in Cubs history to reach 100 hits before the end of June (Eric Young in 2000, Derrek Lee in 2005).