Results tagged ‘ Darwin Barney ’
Throughout the offseason, Cubs baseball president Theo Epstein repeatedly talked about growing the Cubs “core” of talented, young players—players the organization can count on for the long haul and who can help bring winning baseball back to Chicago. In the year-plus Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer have been with the team, that core has grown dramatically through savvy trades and smart draft picks.
“That core, at least in my mind, went from one player to half a dozen,” Epstein said shortly after the 2012 season ended. “If we can do that again in 2013, and we look up and we have close to a dozen players in our core, I’ll feel great about the overall health of the organization.”
At the major league level, the Cubs foundation now includes talented shortstop Starlin Castro, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson, and Gold Glove-winning second baseman Darwin Barney. Vine Line sat down with the some of this talented group at Spring Training to see what their expectations are for the coming season.
Think you know everything there is to know about the 2013 Cubs? Think again.
Did you know Edwin Jackson could have been a real estate agent, Anthony Rizzo feels a kinship with Justin Timberlake, and Dave Sappelt has a little crush on a cartoon character?
Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, Spring Training is a few weeks longer than usual this season. As the spring slate drags on, everyone needs to blow off some steam. After a rain-shortened workout Wednesday, even manager Dale Sveum said, “It’s not bad to have a little breather,” from time to time.
Vine Line had some fun with the team to dig up a few facts you won’t find on the back of a baseball card. Check back later this week for more in our Kicking Back video series.
A steady rain drowned out most of the final day of Cubs baseball at Fitch Park on Wednesday, but there was still a little news.
The Cubs announced the starters for the opening games of their Cactus League slate, which kicks off this weekend. Travis Wood will get the Saturday start against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe, and Jeff Samardzija will pitch the Sunday home opener against the San Francisco Giants. Carlos Villanueva will pitch Game 3 on Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Edwin Jackson will start on Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies.
Matt Garza’s debut has been pushed back due to a mild lat strain on his left side. It was announced Tuesday that he’ll likely be out about a week before resuming baseball activities.
Manager Dale Sveum also held his daily presser, despite the lack of on-field action. Here are Sveum’s best quotes from the day:
Then vs. Now
“We have a lot of the same guys in camp [from a year ago] that ended getting some time in the big leagues. But like I said yesterday, there’s just a whole different look in their eyes. Having that experience and going through some adversity with some of the young guys, it’s a whole lot different. There’s just so much more talent in camp this year than there was last year—and also depth. Guys that are very capable of pitching in the big leagues or guys that are on our radar getting really close to the big leagues. … There’s just more playable talent in camp this year.”
“Spring Training is what it is in any park. Here it’s a little bit unique because you have to move [from Fitch to HoHoKam]. Probably my first memory here is when I had to come over here 25 years ago and rehab my leg clear across from Peoria [in extended Spring Training]. We shared it with the Cubs at that time.”
Prospect Watch (Javy Baez, Jorge Soler, Junior Lake, etc.)
“We have so many split-squad games they’re going to get quite a few games in before being sent down. There are a lot of at-bats out there.”
“I’m very anxious [to see them]. Those are the guys you talk about that are on your radar in the minor league systems that have all those God-given tools—the speed, the arm, the power, hopefully the hitting ability, meaning OPS and those things. A lot of that stuff comes a little bit later in careers. But it’s pretty special talent and bat speed those guys have. You want to see it in person and at game speed.”
“We do have some personalities that are able to fill those [leadership] roles. I think [Anthony] Rizzo is one of those guys. I think [Darwin] Barney is ready to be that guy. Obviously Rizzo’s rookie year and Barney winning a Gold Glove—those kinds of things give you added ability to be a leader in the clubhouse because people look up to people like that. We have [Alfonso] Soriano, and [Jeff] Samardzija is going to take on that role, as well as [Matt] Garza and Edwin Jackson. So we have plenty of personalities that can do that.”
Building for the Future
“Going into this last year, you knew the plan we had, and we weren’t going to take any shortcuts to vary from it. Within a year, the whole organization has changed so dramatically for the good. You just get better players in the organization, and you create an atmosphere where people want to play here, and they want to come to this ballpark and work. That’s all you can do. That’s the transformation we’re trying to do all the time here. And it’s changed a ton in a year.”
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Baseball is finally back. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training this past weekend, and Cubs fans everywhere got a little more excited with the realization that the baseball season is almost here.
To get us back into gear, the February issue of Vine Line previewed the squad heading into Mesa, Ariz. We broke the team down into five categories—starting pitching, relief pitching, catchers, infielders and outfielders—to give fans a clearer picture of what to expect when the Cubs break camp and head to Chicago.
Below is a look at the infield. The February issue is on newsstands now, with single issues available by calling 800-618-8377. Or visit the Vine Line page on Cubs.com to subscribe to the magazine.
Darwin Barney had a breakout season in 2012 on the defensive side of the ball, winning a much-deserved Gold Glove, but his bat still leaves something to be desired. With a front office that highly values the ability to get on base, Barney’s sub-.300 OBP could be a cause for concern. While his glove alone makes him playable on an everyday basis, it will be interesting to see if he can improve enough offensively to help ease any doubts Theo Epstein and company may have about his future role.
Starlin Castro deserves credit for realizing that despite a solid batting average, he can still improve as an all-around hitter. Under the tutelage of new hitting coach James Rowson, who took over when Rudy Jaramillo was relieved of his duties on June 12, Castro was asked midseason to alter his aggressive style at the plate. He struggled at first, which explains why his batting average fell when Rowson took over. However, toward the end of the season, something seemed to click. Not only did his batting average rebound to a respectable .283, but he was also walking and hitting for more power. With a full offseason of training under his belt, expect an improved approach at the plate to lead to big things in 2013.
Anthony Rizzo hit 15 home runs in just 87 games after a midseason call-up. In his second season, he’ll be relied upon, along with Alfonso Soriano, to provide much of the power for the Cubs’ offense. Rizzo will likely slot back into the three hole, where the Cubs envision he’ll be a mainstay for the better part of the next decade. And his defense at first will also keep up the high standards set by his predecessors Derrek Lee and Mark Grace.
The biggest question mark is what will happen at third base. With a lack of options in the minors or via free agency, the Cubs decided to retain veteran Ian Stewart. It appears the team will enter Spring Training with Stewart battling Luis Valbuena for the bulk of the playing time. Though both left-handed hitters struggled with the bat last season, Stewart’s ceiling is much higher, as he provides plus defense and has shown in the past that he has solid power (25 home runs in 2009). If Stewart can prove his issues over the past few seasons were actually the result of a nagging wrist injury—which he finally had surgically repaired in July—it’s possible the Cubs may once again get solid production from the hot corner. Otherwise, look for Stewart, Valbuena or whomever else the Cubs may find, to serve as placeholders until one of the organization’s third-base prospects is ready to step in and assume the role on a long-term basis.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Ready to get the 2013 baseball season started? The Cubs campaign kicks off next weekend, Jan. 18-20, at the 28th Annual Cubs Convention, held for the first time at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in downtown Chicago. The event will feature more than 75 current, past and future Cubs players and coaches, and will offer more than 100 photo and autograph opportunities.
The Opening Ceremony begins on Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m., and will feature player and alumni introductions on a red carpet runway that will offer special VIP access to children 16 and under. Following the Opening Ceremony, guests will find some of their favorite Cubs throughout the hotel for an exciting Autograph Hunt Game. The evening will conclude with longtime Cubs Convention favorite Cubs Bingo, led by Wayne Messmer, as well as a live radio broadcast of WGN Sports Night.
Saturday’s program continues the gaming fun with the return of Cubs Jeopardy, which pits alumni pitchers Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith and Rick Sutcliffe against alumni position players Jose Cardenal, Jody Davis, Randy Hundley and Todd Walker. Cubs Family Feud makes its Cubs Convention debut Saturday afternoon, as Cubs alumni Bobby Dernier, Jon Lieber, Gary Matthews and Billy Williams take on current Cubs Michael Bowden, Shawn Camp, Brett Jackson and Ian Stewart.
Fans can meet many of the club’s offseason acquisitions—including pitchers Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Edwin Jackson; catcher Dioner Navarro; and outfielder Nate Schierholtz—at the Meet the New Cubs session hosted by new television analyst Jim Deshaies and play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper.
Additional Saturday sessions include:
- Ricketts Family Forum—Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts speak with Len Kasper and fans about their experience as team owners over the past three years.
- Meet Cubs Baseball Management—President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, Assistant General Manager Randy Bush, Assistant General Manager Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum speak about the club’s recent moves and what lies ahead for the 2013 season.
- From Draft Day to the Big Leagues—Cubs minor league prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych discuss what it’s like to get drafted by the Chicago Cubs and advance through the minor leagues.
- Dale Sveum and the Coaching Staff—The Cubs manager, bench coach Jamie Quirk, hitting coach James Rowson, assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, bullpen boach Lester Strode, first base coach Dave McKay and third base coach David Bell speak with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies about what’s in store during the staff’s second year.
- For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care—A unique Q&A session where kids ask the questions to Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
- Renew Wrigley Field—Cubs executives discuss ideas to preserve and renew iconic Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, season ticket holders and the community.
- Not for Women Only—Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell, and Travis Wood discuss their personal sides and lives off the field.
- WGN Radio’s Sports Central—This live broadcast with WGN Radio’s Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski will feature segments with David DeJesus and Matt Garza; Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Brett Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Anthony Rizzo.
Sunday’s program features two panel sessions to close out the Convention:
- Down on the Farm—Senior Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer and Director of Player Development Brandon Hyde will be joined by Cubs farmhands Chris Rusin and Josh Vitters to give a breakdown of the Cubs minor league teams from Iowa down to Mesa. Hosted by Vine Line editor Gary Cohen and broadcaster Dave Otto.
- Stat Sundays—Broadcasters Jim Deshaies, Len Kasper and WGN’s Bob Vorwald offer insight into the statistics they analyze and feature during Stat Sundays throughout the season.
In addition to the sessions highlighted above, the Convention includes many new and returning activities throughout the weekend for fans:
Rookie of the Year Movie Night, presented by the Cubs Kids Club, makes its Cubs Convention debut. Fans can eat popcorn and relax with family and friends Saturday evening while watching the popular film, Rookie of the Year.
Walgreens Field is a new miniature turf diamond that gives kids a fun place to take practice batting, play pick-up wiffle ball games or participate in professional instructional clinics as part of the Baseball Interactive Zone. Cubs players and coaches will pair up with Illinois Baseball Academy instructors to conduct a series of training opportunities for fans of all ages throughout the weekend.
Comcast SportsNet Chicago is giving fans the chance to test their play-by-play broadcasting skills in a custom-built fantasy broadcasting booth. Guests will call a pre-recorded play in the booth, then download a recorded copy of their work for keeps.
MLB Network’s Strike Zone allows fans to test their arm speed and win prizes at an inflatable speed pitch.
The Sony PlayStation Gaming Zone gives attendees a chance to take a break from the action to play MLB 12 The Show at one of several Sony PS3 kiosks.
The LEGOLAND® Discovery Center returns with an area dedicated for families to exercise their creativity with the small building blocks.
American Girl’s Activity Area features activities inspired by American Girl dolls and the chance to win a new doll and book.
The Chicago Sun-Times Photo Kiosk lets fans have their picture taken for the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times with customizable headlines that make for a memorable souvenir.
Fans can learn about or contribute to the history of the Cubs franchise in collaboration with team archivists. Historical pieces of memorabilia will be on hand for viewing, and guests can receive professional tips on how to preserve their own valuable keepsakes. Attendees are invited to share their personal stories with a video crew, and they may be used in future promotions or publications.
Limited individual weekend passes for the 2013 Cubs Convention are still available for $60 per pass plus convenience fees. Visit www.cubs.com/convention or call 1-800-THE-CUBS. A percentage of the proceeds from the Cubs Convention benefits Chicago Cubs Charities. To date, Cubs Convention has raised approximately $4 million for Chicago Cubs Charities.
(Art by Jerry Neumann)
Kerry Wood has spent most of his adult life honing his craft as a major league pitcher. So excuse him if he’s not a world-class bartender.
On Jan. 18, you’ll get your chance to see him in action and critique his skills as he slings drinks at the second annual Woody’s Winter Warm-Up at Harry Caray’s Tavern on Navy Pier. Starting at 8:30 p.m., Wood will join former and current Cubs players, as well as local celebrities, behind the bar, where they will compete for tips with all proceeds benefitting the Wood Family Foundation. Wood said the event is a good time, and current players like Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija and James Russell are expected to attend.
“People want to give back and do it for a good cause,” Wood said. “Last year … people got really into it, and it was really cool.”
At the inaugural mixer in 2012, the Grammy-nominated band Plain White T’s performed. They even got a little help from former Cub Randy Wells and baseball president Theo Epstein on a few songs. The event raised more than $85,000, thanks to about 30 current and former players, who pitched in behind the bar or simply enjoyed the evening.
But don’t count on Wood to make you the best Old-Fashioned or dirty martini of your life, as he admits this probably won’t be a new career path.
“I’m really good at taking the tops of beers off with the opener,” Wood joked. “I pour a mean glass of wine, but I’m not a mixologist.”
Tickets are on sale now and in limited supply. For more information, visit woodfamilyfoundation.org.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Cubs manager Dale Sveum met with the media today at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and shared a number of interesting tidbits in his first full availability in several months. No topic—from starting pitching, to the back end of the bullpen, to offseason work, to offensive needs—was off limits. We’ll cover them all in a few posts this week.
• While Sveum said he appreciated the front office’s praise of the job he did this season, he also said his staff holds the entire clubhouse, including themselves, accountable. He echoed recent comments by Theo Epstein that clubhouse character and reputation matters around the league.
“We have to be better and do a better job. We knew going in we were changing the culture of an organization, changing the culture of the 25 guys on the baseball field every day. I think we accomplished a lot of things like that. To get the people that come to this organization, the kids that come up, very comfortable knowing that myself and my staff are guys that are going to hold guys accountable—and to get character-type, good players in the organization—it makes a big difference when free agents can find out that a manager and staff are doing the right things.”
• Brett Jackson and Darwin Barney were among the Cubs players who recently got targeted work with the coaching staff in Arizona.
“It’s obviously not a major league pitcher out there, but [Jackson] made huge strides in his batting practice. [He] completely overhauled his swing, changed a lot of things. It was a completely different swing. Using his hands much, much more, staying behind the ball—a lot of things that are definitely going to help going into the season. I think he has a good base to work with going the rest of winter into Spring Training to understand the art of hitting, so to speak, that sometimes gets lost or taught the wrong way.”
Sveum offered praise for Barney’s glove work and said the second baseman didn’t need to make any major swing changes.
“He didn’t have to make huge, drastic swing changes or anything like that. A few things we brought up—with him, it’s more about driving the ball. I think his on-base percentage is going to gradually get better just with experience. We all know the glove he has, the Gold Glove, but we have to get that OPS up, and he realizes that. He’s capable of both.”
Rawlings has officially confirmed what Cubs fans have known all year: Darwin Barney’s glove is golden.
On Tuesday, Barney was named the NL’s best second baseman, earning his first Gold Glove Award in just his second season at the position. He beat out fellow finalists Brandon Phillips of the Reds and Aaron Hill of the Diamondbacks. Barney had the top fielding percentage in the league, at .997, while both Phillips and Hill had a .992 mark.
So how did Barney manage to unseat three-time winner Phillips and tie the major league single-season record for errorless games at 141? Hard work—and penty of it.
“[His work ethic] is as good as it gets,” said Dave McKay, the Cubs’ first base and outfield coach. “He’s out there every day. He’s out there right now working on it. He wants to be good. He wants to win a Gold Glove, and he wants it bad. He doesn’t take a day off.”
In the final days of the 2012 season, Vine Line sat down with Barney to talk about his defensive prowess, his relationship with mentor and former coach Ryne Sandberg, and his consuming drive to get better.
The following is an excerpt from the November issue of Vine Line, on sale now at Chicago-area retailers.
Good as Gold
When Darwin Barney came to Spring Training in 2011, he was expected to be a utility player. By the end of 2012, he was a Gold Glove-winning second baseman and a cornerstone of the Cubs’ future.
April 18, 2012, was a rough day for the Cubs.
It was the second game of a three-game road trip to the Marlins’ ultra-modern, “only-in-Miami” new ballpark. Starter Matt Garza struggled through five innings, while his mound opponent and former Chicago compatriot Mark Buehrle cruised through eight, surrendering one run. The Cubs managed just six hits in a 9-1 loss … and starting second baseman Darwin Barney didn’t make an error.
It was an altogether forgettable evening of baseball, except for one thing. This game touched off one of the best defensive runs in baseball history.
It would be more than five months—141 games—before Barney made another miscue in the field. During that nearly season-long stretch, the diminutive second baseman made all the plays (including a surprising number of spectacular ones), piled up records, and bypassed former coach and Cubs legend—and perhaps the best second baseman of all time—Ryne Sandberg.
“I’ve been around a long time, and he’s been as good as I’ve ever seen,” said manager Dale Sveum. “[Barney] has put together arguably one of the best defensive second base years in the history of the game. I mean, he’s passed a lot of people. And when you’re basically passing one of the best—if not the best (Ryne Sandberg)—it’s one heck of an accomplishment you can hang your hat on for the rest of your life.”
There are more obvious kinds of excellence. Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown practically begs for plaudits and superlatives—it necessitates hits, home runs, fireworks and its own SportsCenter playlist. Barney’s is a low-key, under-the-radar, grind-it-out kind of excellence.
An errorless game is nothing to get excited about. Major league ballplayers aren’t supposed to make errors. But given the physical and mental grind of 162 games, they all know how difficult it is to put together an extended errorless streak.
“If I had a 20-game streak, I was pleased with myself,” said former Cubs third base and infield coach Pat Listach, who played six seasons in the majors and was integral to Barney’s defensive improvement over the last two years. “This guy has got over 100. Just knowing how hard it is to do every day, day in and day out, made it more impressive every day.”
To a man, every player and coach immediately mentions Barney’s tireless work ethic and consuming drive to get better. He consistently receives the highest compliment a player can give to any other major leaguer: “He’s a baseball player.” And over the course of the 2012 season, Barney fashioned himself into perhaps the preeminent defensive second sacker in the game.
“His work ethic is off the charts,” Listach said. “He knows this is a game you can only play for a certain number of years, and he wants to be the best at it while he’s got that window open. He’s like the old-school baseball players. When us coaches leave after we’re done dissecting the game, he’s still there. He’s in the weight room, or he’s in the video room. He’s trying to make himself better every day.”
Given the way Barney handles the keystone, it would be easy to believe he’s spent his entire life mastering the position. But in reality, 2012 was only Barney’s second year at second base. He’d grown up and played his entire career as a shortstop, including at Oregon State University, where he said he really started to focus on his defensive play.
“We had a coach, Marty Lees, who’s now at Oklahoma State,” Barney said. “Every ground ball I took my freshman year, I felt like he had something to say. And I was so frustrated because [it was] every single ground ball. And we took a lot of ground balls.”
When Barney made his debut as the Cubs’ starting second baseman on Opening Day 2011, it was just the 24th game he had played the position as a professional. Although he thought the transition would be easy, he said he was often uncomfortable in the field, especially turning the double play. He ultimately finished the 2011 season with 12 errors and a .981 fielding percentage—a decent defensive season for a guy adjusting to a new position—but Barney was far from satisfied.
“I just took a lot of pride in the work that I did,” Barney said. “I was always conscious about my habits and my practice efforts and getting to work every single day. A lot of times when you’re tired, you take your defense off and take less ground balls. For me, I take less swings. I make sure I get my work in on defense and stay solid out there.”
By almost any measure—advanced metrics, errors, fielding percentage or just the eye test—Barney’s 2012 was one of the best defensive seasons for a second baseman in the history of the game. In 156 games, Barney made only three errors—one of which came at shortstop—and amassed a .997 fielding percentage at second base. Baseball-Reference had Barney tied with Brendan Ryan of the Mariners for the best defensive wins above replacement (3.6) mark in the major leagues in 2012.
“This is my 11th full year doing big league games, and this is the best defensive year by an individual player I’ve witnessed,” said Cubs television broadcaster Len Kasper. “I think we’ve come a long way with defensive statistics and how to look at defense. The bottom line is: Forget about the errors and fielding percentage. It’s about balls hit in your area and turning them into outs. It’s been borne out in the statistics that every ball hit in his area turns into an out.”
But Barney is not spending the offseason resting on his defensive laurels. Despite his superlative campaign, he still wants to get better around the bag turning double plays. He plans to work on his speed and flexibility to improve his range. And he wants to continue to refine his routine so he’s ready to play every day. And for people who know Barney, none of this comes as a surprise.
“A lot of times, players have a tendency to work on the things they do well,” said Dave McKay, the Cubs’ first base and outfield coach. “Darwin works on everything. He works on his backhand, he works on his feeds, ground balls hit up the middle, ground balls hit to his left. He works on them all because he wants to be that guy—he wants to be the Gold Glove second baseman. I think once he gets it, he’s going to get it forever.”