Ryne Sandberg, thoughts from a lifelong fan

Ryno Phillies PC
Ryne Sandberg was hired to manage the Phillies on Friday. The position is described as “interim”, however that is probably going to change to permanent during the offseason. The Phillies will keep their options open and see who is avaialable but Sandberg is a coaching star on the rise. After retirement from the game in 1997, Sandberg spent the next decade as a Cubs spring training instructor. In 2007, he decided it was time to take on his next endeavor in life and was named the manger of the Cubs class A affiliate, the Peoria Chiefs. While its a little heart breaking for me that Sandberg never got a chance to manage the team he played almost his entire career with, it was probably for the best as explained here.

cubs 80's
I spent my entire childhood looking up to guys like Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Shawon Dunston and Jody Davis. An entertaining group of players that just weren’t surrounded by enough guys to get the Cubs over the hump. I remember watching the 1987 season and seeing “Hawk” become the first MVP ever from a last place team. However, nobody ruled the 1980’s quite like Ryno. Atleast not in my eyes. Sandberg won 9 consecutive gold glove awards at second base from 1983-1991. He was a 10 time all star and put up the greatest fielding percentage ever among 2nd basemen(.989).

Despite the great numbers that Sandberg managed to put up throughout his career, he was basically a throw in from the Phillies in a 1982 trade with Ivan Dejesus going to Philadelphia. He was viewed as a fielding 2nd basemen with very little skills at the plate. He had shown himself to be in the minors a .260ish hitter with single digit home run power. Thank god for the baseball world that scouting reports and projections arent always right. Sandberg would go on to hit 282 career home runs, at the time it was the most in history by a 2nd basemen. The first time Cubs fans really knew what they had in Ryno came on June 23, 1984, the Ryne Sandberg game. He would go on to win the NL MVP award that season and lead the Cubs to postseason play for the first time in 39 years.

sandberg retires
Ryne Sandberg would retire from the game of baseball early in the 1994 season. I remember waking up that day, just 15 years old and the player that I had idolized since as long as I could remember watching the game was quitting. I was devastated. I remember thinking, how do you quit in the middle of a season? How do you quit after being given the largest contract in baseball just 2 years earlier? He was only 4 years removed from a 40 HR season and he was a notoriously slow starter. I didnt know what to think about this. I understand now that he had bigger things going on personally and he needed that break. He was quoted as saying “The reason I retired is simple: I lost the desire that got me ready to play on an everyday basis for so many years. Without it, I didn’t think I could perform at the same level I had in the past, and I didn’t want to play at a level less than what was expected of me by my teammates, coaches, ownership, and most of all, myself.” And that was it, he was done.

Only, Ryno couldn’t stay away. He came back for 2 more seasons in 1996 and 1997. The fans were happy to welcome him back, at least I was. He most certainly wasnt the same player as in years past but it was still Ryno and he could do no wrong. After the 1997 season he would retire from the game for good.

sandberg HOF
In 2005 Ryne Sandberg would be inducted in to the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. I was elated as were Cub fans and Chicagoans in general. I looked up the dates for the election, called my buddy and we made plans to be in attendance for the speech. Unfortunately I didnt make it there. I watched on TV with great joy as Sandberg gave one of the most stirring speeches ever given at a HOF ceremony.

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On August 28,2005, a day I will forever remember, I witnessed Sandbergs jersey retired at Wrigley Field. I sat in the right field bleachers, almost the identical spot I remember sitting in at my first Cubs game in 1985. I was in the second row, after waiting nearly 4 hours for the bleachers to be opened. I sat there and listened to the stories in awe, like a child again. Sandberg made his “final lap” around Wrigley Field and waved to everyone as he passed by, including a child-like me, who was really in my 20’s. Funny how sports can bring you back like that. Watching his flag rise along the right field foul pole just brought memories rushing back of Harry Caray and watching summertime day baseball with my grandmother and great grandmother. I dont even remember the final score from that day. I could look it up, but honestly it didn’t matter. The day could not be ruined, regardless.

Sandberg would choose to get back into baseball in 2007. This time as manager of the Peoria Chiefs, the Cubs Class A affiliate at the time. He would work his way up the ranks managing the Class AA Smokies and the Triple A Iowa Cubs. After winning manager of the year in the Pacific Coast League in 2010, the Cubs job opened up. The front office however decided to go with interim manager Mike Quade. This was not a popular decision among Cub fans nor Sandberg himself who would leave the Cubs organization and take the Triple A job with the Phillies organization, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. He spent the last year as the Phillies 3rd base coach before being promoted to manager.

I wish Sandberg all the best in his managing opportunity in Philadelphia. I am not a Phillies fan but it will be really hard not to root for the guy I spent my life cheering for. He will make his first trip to Wrigley as manager later on this month. I look forward to that series and seeing the reception that the Cub faithful gives him. He might be wearing a Philly uniform, but we all know Ryno is a Cub for life. Best of luck to you Ryno, and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have you again here someday.

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Riley O’Toole shoots down transfer rumors

Illinois backup junior quarterback Riley O’Toole has shot down rumors he is considering leaving the University of Illinois.

“You hear people chirp from back home because everybody wants to see you succeed,” O’Toole said. “But all they see is the Saturday games where they don’t see me playing or playing a little bit here and there. They don’t see how much fun I’m having with my teammates and how great of a school this and how comfortable I feel here, being close to home, being close to my friends and my family.

O’Toole had 2 starts for the Illini last season when starter Nathan Scheelhaase was injured and has played 17 games over the past 2 seasons. He completed passes at a 68% rate with 7 touchdowns and 8 interceptions while amassing 834 yards.

The junior from Wheaton-Warrenville South is stuck behind the senior Scheelhaase for this season and has Oklahoma State transfer, sophomore Wes Lunt expected to be the starter next year. Despite the adversity O’Toole seems happy to be close to home and a member of the Illini.

“It’s more aspects to this school than just football. And I love the football aspect of it. Obviously there’s been a lot of talk about me transferring, but that’s just speculation. Not once have I thought about it. I love being here.”

Running With The Bulls In The States

Have you ever thought about running with the bulls? The price of a trip to Pamplona to high? Now you can run with the Bulls right here in Chicago!

The Great Bull Run has its inaugural run next month in Richmond, Virginia and will hit other cities before coming to the Chicago suburb of Stickney on July 12 of 2014. The cost is $35 and includes a rotten tomato fight, another Pamplona tradition.

The website adds however that, “this is the real deal” and that participants “accept the risk that you might be trampled, gored, rammed or tossed in the air by a bull.” Participants must pay an insurance fee and there will be a medical staff on site.

Animal rights advocates have called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate whether the organizers are properly licensed. “These events are a shameful example of cruelty for the sake of nothing more than entertainment and profit,” said Ann Chynoweth, senior director of The Humane Society of the United States’ End Animal Cruelty and Fighting campaign.

A-Rod most hated man in sports

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees is trying to handle the biogenesis scandal the best he can. During a press conference at U.S. Cellular Field on Monday Arod talked about the difficult things that he is going through during the fall out.

Rodriguez said things like, “this is the worst time of my life” and “I’m fighting for my life”. These 2 quotes outraged people in the news and on social media alike. People with family members who have cancer and are truly fighting for their life, none too happy.

Its been a long fall for Rodriguez who made his major league debut in 1994 at Fenway Park. After becoming just the 7th player to reach 600 career home runs, his career began to crumble. Injuries started piling up and whispers of illegal steroid use started creeping in.

Rodriguez admitted to taking PED’s in the past but when asked about his current use, he replied “we’ll have a forum to discuss all of that and we’ll talk about it then.” Rodriguez was suspended for the remainder of this season and all of the 2014 season.

A total of 211 games is the largest the league has ever handed out, outside of a lifetime ban. It is thought by major league baseball that Rodriguez conspired against the league to tamper with their investigation, hence the larger suspension. He is appealing the decision and awaits his hearing for a lighter sentence.

Who is the most valuable player in sports?

Lebron James has led the Miami Heat to two consecutive championships in the NBA. This is a difficult feat in sports to accomplish but its even harder in todays salary cap era. People have been discounting his skills due to the fact that he decided to play with 2 other supserstar level players, neither which have played at those levels since joining Lebron in Miami.

Miguel Cabrera went out last year and did the impossible. He won the american League triple crown! Cabrera was the first man to do so since Carl Yastrzemski accomplished this difficult feat in 1967. To make things even more impressive, hes on track to potentially do it again this year!

Calvin Johnson led the Lions with nearly 2000 yards receiveing, breaking the hall of fames own, jerry Rices record of 1,848 yards achieved in 1995. Johnson is a huge target that very few defenders in the league are able to stop, making him a man among boys.

Sid the kid Crosby is arguably the most gifted player to don a pair of skates since Mario Lemieux. Unfortunately he has battled many injuries the past few years, preventing him from living up to the extremely high expectations. This year however, he has, accounting for 56 points in just 36 games played.

There you have it, Arguably the best player in each of the current 4 major sports. Who is your choice for the most valuable player to their team? Make sure you vote now and let the debating begin.

2013 Cubs Draft

Bryant

2013 Cubs Draft Headed by Kris Bryant

The Chicago Cubs front office, consisting of Jason McLeod, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein are said to be very happy with their draft haul.

In the first round the Cubs went with the best position player on the board in University of San Diego’s Kris Bryant.Bryant was an all world 3rd baseman for the Torreros leading the NCAA in homeruns with 31, thats ten more than the next closest hitter and only 73 out of 296 teams hit more home runs than him. My expectation for Bryant is that he get sent to rookie ball in Arizona, before spending the end of the summer in Kane County. My thought is he will start next season at double “A” ball, before getting a September call up and sticking with the team for good out of Spring Training in 2015.

The biggest need of the draft for the Cubs was pitching, and here in the second round the Cubs started to build depth at the much needed position by drafting Rob Zastryzny. Zastryzny is a 6’3″ left hander who went 2-9 during his senior year, due to 2.5 runs per game being scored in support of his 3.38 ERA. My thoughts are that Zastryzny will pitch a game or two in rookie ball and start next season at Low A Kane County. This choice may have been a reach but with the new slotting system value rules in place, the Cubs took a chance on a guy they feel will sign for under slot value. ETA:2017

The 3rd thru 10th rounds of the draft went as follows:

  • Jacob Hanneman is a 22 year old who is in his first season of college ball after completing a 2 year Mormon Mission. He will be behind in development, but has some very strong, raw tools. ETA:2018
  • Tyler Skulina is a big kid at 6’6″ 225 lbs. He went 11-3 with a 3.77 ERA his junior season, which was actually below preseason expectations. This probably makes him an under slot guy as well that projects as a 4th or 5th starter down the road. ETA:2017
  • Trey Masek is a high upside pitcher with good stuff that probably only fell this far because of the slotting value system. His durability is a concern due to his 6’1″ 185 lb. frame. However he is expected to move through the system quickly because of advanced command and an uncanny ability to miss bats. Could be a future closer and/or setup man. ETA:2016
  • Another huge right handed arm is 6th round pick, Scott Frazier. The 6’7″ 230 lb. right hander needs to master his command and control on the mound. Its not a question of ability as he shows good velocity on the heater. This will be an interesting, very high reward, project for minor league pitching coordinator, Derek Johnson. ETA:2018
  • David Garner is a smaller stature kid who may move right in to a bullpen position and fly through the minor league system. Garner and Masek could very well be closing the 8th and 9th innings by the end of this decade. ETA:2017
  • Sam Wilson is probably the most raw of any of the top ten players selected. He has very high upside with a plus fastball and good offspeed stuff. His journey to the majors may take a while longer than others. ETA:2020
  • Charcer Burks is the first high school player taken in the draft by the Cubs. He will probably get paid over slot after a run on under slot value. He is a smaller kid, top of the order type hitter with good speed and patience. Plays middle infield and 3rd base, but could possibly switch to center field or be a utility type player. ETA:2020
  • Zachary Godley is a big guy at 6’3 245 lbs. He lacks polish and refinement, but with his size and power could move to the bullpen and be a very projectable long term closer. He will be another under slot signing. ETA:2018

The way I view the draft is very interesting. It started with getting the best player available. After that, you seen a lot of high risk, high reward type players that for the most part will all sign under slot. This is huge because after the first 10 rounds all bonuses dont go against a teams allotted amount at 100,000 and under. This allows the Cubs the extra money to take a chance on higher impact, harder to sign guys after the 11th round. In round 12 they drafted and already signed Trevor Clifton, who signed for 3rd round slotted money.

This idea of thinking by the front office helps with overall signability on their 40 selections as well as staying within the guidelines set by Major League Baseball. All in all, it appears to have been a very good draft for the Chicago Cubs. After years of development problems, it looks like the front office is drafting and developing talent, and heading the franchise in the right direction. The Cubs already had 4 different players amongst baseballs top 100. With this draft and a huge international signing, the Cubs easily could have 6 of the top 100 at the beginning of next season.