Big day in Cubdom. It's draft day. Oh, yeah, then there's that whole Big Z aftermath thing. We'll see what comes of it today in Cincinnati. I don't expect general manager Jim Hendry to leave draft headquarters in Mesa to deal with the situation.
UPDATE: My ear-to-the-ground research indicates that field manager Mike Quade will handle/address the Z situation in Cincinnati later today and that no suspension for Big Z is in the cards. That's a good thing.
We'll get to the draft, the minor leagues and all that in a few minutes. I hope to be on the conference call with scouting director Tim Wilken tonight. And thanks again to all of you guys for making this blog rock the last week or so. We continue to do huge numbers.
As far as Z goes, he was mostly right. Like it or not. He was wrong in throwing teammate Carlos Marmol under the bus _somebody on Twitter pointed out that the bus had already hit and that Z was just pointing to the tire tracks _ but on all the rest of it, he was dead on. You're going to get some of the easy and predictable reactions in the media, like the Cubs should suspend Z.
Let's do a little amateur exercise here. What if it were, say, Ryan Dempster, who said what Z said yesterday, sans the Marmol diss? My guess is people would say, "Wow, here is a guy who is always trying to be funny, and now he's taking off on the team. Things must be really bad. Good for Demp."
Or how about Marlon Byrd? People would probably be saying, "This is why they brought Marlon here. He's a leader who plays the game right and isn't afraid to say what needs to be said. Good for Marlon."
I remember back in 2002, when the Cubs were lousy. They had already gotten Don Baylor fired as manager and were well on the way to getting interim boss Bruce Kimm shown the door. I went up to Kerry Wood in the Shea Stadium clubhouse and asked him about things. He mentioned that stuff had gotten out of hand. He cited shortstop Ricky Gutierrez, who played for the Cubs in 2000 and 2001. Kerry told me that if Ricky had seen some of the on-field and off-field stuff that went on that year, he would have been all over people. Kerry was clearly unhappy with the direction of the team, and he let it be known.
Maybe there was some selfish motivation to Z's rant yesterday. Instead of being 5-2, as he is now, he should at least be 7-2 with an ERA of 3.98. With that kind of record and a chance at double-digit wins by July, we'd be talking All-Star Game for Z. But I definitely think Z is ticked about the team, the way it plays the game and its place in the standings.
And despite his problems of last year (which started with the Cubs shunting him off to the bullpen), the guy's got some cachet around here. He outlasted both Wood and Mark Prior as starting pitchers. He's overcome some of anger-management issues and redefined himself as a guy who can get you out by thinking and finesse and also by the occasional power pitch sometimes.
For his career, Z is 121-76 with a 3.52 ERA and a WHIP of 1.31. He's been the Cubs' best pitcher of this day. Ten or so years ago, watching in spring training, I turned to somebody and said, "Wow, this guy's got better pure stuff than either Wood or Prior." And he did.
Yes, he frittered away a lead in Game 1 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins at Wrigley. But I also wonder how things would have turned out if Lou hadn't lifted him too early in Game 1 of the NLDS in 2007 at Arizona.
So yes, Z should apologize to Marmol, especially after supporting Marmol after last week's 6-run implosion by the closer. And that should be the end of it. Give Z the ball Friday in Philly and let's go from there.
And as far as his comments about the Cubs being a Triple-A team goes, let it be a case of, "if the shoe fits." Actually, I've likened this bunch to a first-year expansion team rather than a Triple-A team. You've got a lot of untested rookies and inexperienced players and a handful of veterans past their primes.
Basing on my emails and checking the other sites and blogs and places like Twitter, public support for Z seems at an all-time high. Can't wait for the Wrigley reaction next Wednesday, June 15, when Z toes the slab against the Brewers. Might sell a few tickets, which the Cubs could use.
TV analyst Bob Brenly, who said last year the Cubs were a 'dead-ass team' when Z went off in the Sox Park dugout, had this take on WSCR radio this morning:
"Big Z is just expressing what a lot of fans feel, what a lot of us broadcasters feel, and as usual, doesn't always choose his words properly, doesn't always choose his forum properly, but I applaud the emotions.
"This has been, once again, another dead-ass team. You've got some guys that look like they're just playing out the string, and we're only in the first (week) of June here, and we know from past experience that Carlos is not one of those guys that can sit by idly and keep his mouth shut and just let things continue to spiral downward. He's going to express his opinion, he's going to be emotional about it when he does it
"I don't view this as a suspendable offense or anything like that. I just think it's a guy who is frustrated with the way the season has gone, he's frustrated with the way his teammates have approach their daily business.
“I'm sure there are times when Carlos is just as guilty as anybody on that roster.
"For me, it's time. It's about time that somebody stood up and said, 'Enough is enough. I'm tired of watching this.'"
As far as the draft goes, I've seen all kinds of predictions and mock drafts. I have no idea how it will go because Tim Wilken is the Cubs' scouting director, and he's liable to have a kid in the middle of Wyoming targeted. So let's wait.
Before we get to the minor-league report, our old pal Ken Rosenthal weighs in on the Cubs. He says: “The worst thing about the Cubs? You can’t even blow them up.” Here’s a link:
Casey Coleman had a nice outing for Class AAA Iowa yesterday in a 9-8 win over Omaha. Casey did not get a decision as he worked 6 innings, giving up 1 hit and 2 runs, 1 earned. He walked two and struck out seven. Bryan LaHair hit his 15th homer. Marcos Mateo got the win, pitching 1.2 perfect innings of relief.
Class AA Tennessee got a walk-off RBI single from Brett Jackson to beat Jackson (the team) 6-5. Brett is on his way back after a finger injury. If Tyler Colvin continues to struggle at the plate, the Cubs might as well get Jackson up here and let him play every day in center until Byrd gets back.
"I was fortunate enough that the injury wasn't as serious as it could have been," Jackson told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "A couple of weeks down and I was excited to get back into uniform and back on the field. It's been relatively smooth."
Pitcher Dallas Beeler has joined the Smokies from Class A Peoria, getting a promotion after Trey McNutt went on the DL with injured ribs.
Class A Daytona snapped a rare three-game losing streak, beating Brevard County 10-4. Dae-Eun Rhee got the win, working 6 innings and giving up 3 hits and 3 earned runs while walking one and striking out five. Jake Opitz hit his fourth homer.
Peoria fell 6-2 to Great Lakes. Hayden Simpson, last year's No. 1 pick, worked 4.2 innings, giving up 3 hits and 3 runs, 2 earned. He walked one and struck out four.