Cubs optimistic about second half of 2011
With young talent rising in system, future bright on North Side
CHICAGO -- It's been a little bleak at Wrigley Field lately. A 2-8 road trip through St. Louis, Cincinnati and Philadelphia didn't help. Cubs manager Mike Quade tries to walk around the trainer's room rather than through it because it's so overcrowded.
Kerry Wood joined the long list of players sidelined on Monday, but the Cubs got good news Tuesday when Reed Johnson was activated from the disabled list. The transaction wire has been busy.
But there's hope in the Cubs' clubhouse. And some spunk. Look at the T-shirts the players wore on Tuesday showing a goat with the universal "no" symbol over it. The message? Forget the goat, the curse, the losing record.
"We've got a ton of season left," Johnson said. "Teams have come back from deficits that bad, and if we could do that and if there was a team out there that could do it, I really truly believe it could be us.
"We've got way too much talent in our clubhouse on both sides of the ball, whether it's offensively or defensively, to really play better than the way we've been playing. Every single person in here knows we should be playing better, and we have the potential to play better."
Darwin Barney leads all Major League rookies in hits and batting average. Could the Cubs have another Rookie of the Year on the squad? Marlon Byrd will be back in early July, roaming center field at full speed. Wood, out with a blister, should be back in the bullpen at some point.
Cubs fans also get a chance to see the future. The team has dipped into the Minor Leagues for help, calling up DJ LeMahieu and Chris Carpenter from Double-A Tennessee. Tony Campana, who made his Major League debut near his hometown in Cincinnati, has tons of speed. Just watch him run. The future is now for these kids.
"You've got all that young energy," Quade said. "These kids are so happy to be here and to be competing and stuff, so there's reasons [to be positive]."
Barney and Starlin Castro have combined for the most hits by a middle-infield tandem in baseball. Sure, they'll make mistakes; it's part of the growing pains with young players.
The Cubs aren't only finding out what they have on the current roster, but they're also previewing a change in organizational philosophy that they hope will result in more home-grown talent.
Chairman Tom Ricketts has emphasized scouting and player development since taking over the team in October 2009. Ricketts joined general manager Jim Hendry and Cubs scouts during the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, and gave his blessing to sign a caliber of player that scouting director Tim Wilken hasn't had in years past.
"I thought Tom really had a good perspective of how good Tim Wilken and his staff are," Hendry said. "We took a lot of guys in the draft that we think are going to be future big league players."
Hopefully, Cubs fans can be patient. There are more kids coming.
"I think [the fans] have a great perspective of what we're going to try to do down the road," Hendry said. "Tom's going to own the team for a long time. The things that we see behind the scenes -- the commitment to scouting and development and the draft -- [will help]. There's obviously going to be additional money for the big league club. Payroll is going to come off this year. There will be other avenues to get better. I don't think the future is in anything but great shape."
But what about this season? It began with players wearing T-shirts inspired by late broadcaster Ron Santo called "PASS10N." Now, they're gunning for the goat.
"I'm not Dr. Phil, but do you want to embrace it, do you want to laugh at it, do you want to hide from it?" Quade said. "[Wood] and [Ryan Dempster], guys who have been around a long time, OK, they come up with a slogan. This is how we're going to do this.
"I've got news for you, when you take the field, nobody's thinking about the goat I don't care if you're wearing the T-shirt or not. I'm sure it makes interesting conversation around town."
And that attitude should result in some interesting games at Wrigley Field.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.