When the Cat's Away El Mouse Will Finally Play
After getting stood up at a mid-day press conference with a once angry pitcher in exile from the big leagues I went home after work to change into shorts and sandals and then headed back to the ballpark. Last night I pulled my first shift of the summer in the "Ryne Line," the nightly queue that forms in the stands to get a brief audience with the only HOF'er currently at work in baseball's minor leagues.
Since I was there alone I was left to pass the wait by watching the Oklahoma City Redhawks take BP before the grounds crew painted the infield a dark red and bright white. I couldn't help but eavesdrop on some of the conversations going on around me. One guy a few spots back remarked that he can't stand the Metrodome and doesn't plan on going to a Twins' game again until or unless they get an outdoor stadium. Good luck with that, pal!
Eventually I got the manager of the first place Iowa Cubs to sign a PCL ball and one of the cards they were passing out at the Wrigley Field turnstiles on the day in 2005, about a month after his induction at Cooperstown, when his #23 was retired and hoisted up the foul pole.
I don't know enough about big league baseball or Ryne Sandberg to know what kind of a manager he would be at that level. I do think he has grown into his role as a manager at this level.
His respect for the game, as much as the numbers he amassed playing it, are a good example for prospects rising through the system. But how would the attitudes expressed in his HOF speech play with a guy like Carlos Zambrano for instance? This morning's Des Moines Register quotes Sandberg as talking with Zambrano upon the latter's arrival in Des Moines earlier this week about the importance of demonstrating to the youngsters how a major leaguer goes about his business. He also reminded him that he was joining a team in first place. These comments almost sound like warnings from a parent to a child before they leave town for the weekend which Sandberg is doing , by the way, to attend this year's ceremonies at Cooperstown where his old teammate, Andre Dawson, joins the elite club. Zambrano is suppoed to pitch tonight, finally. We'll see how he behaves while his [anger] manager du jour is away.
I note that Ryno has not surprisingly broken out to a solid early lead in the Chicago Tribune's informal popularity poll about Piniella's eventual replacement. His selection would be a natural PR move. But more importantly, I think if he gets the job it will signal a sea change in organizational direction and philosophy. I don't think Sandberg is the man to take charge of the national league's highest paid team even though he was once, briefly, MLB's highest paid player when he signed a contract at something like $7 million per year as I recall. But if this next rebuilding cycle centers on homegrown talent then he might be the wise choice as well as the people's choice. With that in mind, Hendry's ability to bail wasted payroll from his sinking lifeboat between now and whenever his next new manager is hired may have a lot to say about who that turns out to be.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. If you watch Sam Fuld on a regular basis you'd want him on your side. Tuesday night he had two doubles in game one of a twinbill. In game two he homered before making spectacular catches for the first and third outs in the 7th and last inning to nail down the I-Cubs' sweep. His sidekick is Darwin Barney who is very near the PCL lead in both hits and at-bats and has nudged his BA just north of .300 again. Fuld is the much faster of the pair. The other night Barney stole 2nd when he, or Sandberg, picked a good off-speed pitch to run on, and got up and kept right on going to 3rd before another pitch was thrown when he noticed the 3rd baseman was playing back and the pitcher wasn't paying him any attention whatsoever. But then he was thrown out at home after tagging up on a fly ball to fairly deep CF. He wasn't dogging it and I can't believe he was winded after his dashes around the middle bases. I know they both project as bench players but a good bench is a good thing. My guess is that both of them are Sandberg's type of player and would have a spot on a roster he put together in Chicago next year...
Last night was a rematch of a bout five days ago between Jeff Samardzija and rehabbing Rich Harden. Our guy won again. Both had shaky innings when we scored four in the bottom of the 2nd and they got two back in the top of the 3rd. Both finished strong, retiring the last nine hitters they faced in their five-inning stints. In fact, Harden racked up nine strikeouts, striking out the side after Micah Hoffpauir blasted a two-run homer to dead center off of him in the bottom of the 3rd. But he appears really out of his groove with his changeup, like a golfer groping for a swing that he knows will repeat itself stroke after stroke. Not offering him arbitration last fall turned out to be a good decision after all. As for Samardzija, you know the speech. Power arm - he was in the mid to upper 90's throughout last night - poor command. He throws too many obvious balls; pitches that miss their spot so badly as to not even tempt a hitter to get himself out. Only as of just last night has he allowed as many hits as walks for the year, 38 of each in 58 innings of work.