ORLANDO__The Cubs' skipper has gotten high marks for his preparedness, but the man's voluble frankness was also on display during his media availability today. While noting that, in light of Ron Santo's passing and the observances of it come on Thursday, there'd been a change in his own plans: he wasn't going to be able to make it to any Caribbean action to check out Starlin Castro's progress.
Quade also chuckled over getting a pitching coach cut from the same cloth he'd come from with last night's announcement that Mark Riggins, the organization's minor-league pitching coordinator, would be joining him in the Cubs' dugout next season. As Quade quipped, "This is a guy who learned his craft well, a meticulous detail guy, he knows our kids." That's going to be a particularly key consideration as Quade gears up to run his first big-league camp. He freely admitted that, when it comes to evaluating players' potential contributions for 2011, there's only so far you can go on information and scouting reports alone. Quade noted that he's spending his time in the Cubs' suite soaking up information from Jim Hendry and the scouting team.
With three years spent in the pitching coordinator gig, and 15 in the minors since his last spin as a Joe Torre's pitching coach with the Cardinals in 1995, he has his share of Quade-like slow time spent in the bus leagues. But the value of having a pitching coach already very familliar with Andrew Cashner's days as a starter in the minors figures to help as the club evaluates what to do with the prospect next year. As Quade noted, "He [Cashner] needs to get better, his breaking ball needs to come along."
While there's no certainty as to what the Cubs will be doing at first base, when asked Quade admitted there will be a camp fight at second base, stating, "There'll be a competition… left-handed, right-handed, I would say yes." That might skipper chatter to push Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker, while also telegraphing the obvious platoon possibilities that could turn an area of uncertainty into a strength.
So, it sounds like spring training is going to be interesting, but as Quade also observed as far as his ballclub, "They know what I'm all about."
So, Derek Jeter signed with the Yankees, which barely qualifies as a news item. I was slightly amused by reader Ken Roberts e-mailing me with a reminder of what I'd guessed at during my chat in October: "If I had a dart board… how about three years, $51 million, and of course that's with his staying in the Bronx." Which wasn't quite right, of course, so let's chuck any self-satisfied suggestions of clairvoyance, especially when the two parties deserve credit for their flexibility. Jeter gets a guaranteed $51 million over three years, spread out $15M/$16M/$17M, with a $3 million payout if he doesn't take up a player option for 2014. Voila, three years and $51 million, with money deferred built in.
The interesting thing about his fourth-year option is that he could get anywhere from $8 million to $17 million for 2014, depending on how he "performs"–not on the field, but in terms of perception. If he does well in MVP voting, wins a Silver Slugger or two or three, or even more Gold Gloves, or gets a post-season series MVP award at any point, the Captain stands to gain financially. So, wait, popularity equals cash? Suddenly those comparisons of sports celebrities to movie stars don't seem quite so facile.
I know I railed a bit about "setbacks" in terms of the awards, when we wound up with a very reasonable set of winners where the MVP and Cy Young Awards were concerned. But this is interesting because, instead of actual performance metrics–prohibited by CBA, those–the deal winds up with these kinds of odd proxies, essentially enlisting the opinion of every voter from two different sets of electors. On the one hand, the media will potentially be on the spot when it comes to honoring the most valuable players. On the other, so too are the game's managers and coaches when it comes to the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger. Not that I'd worry overmuch about the potential impropriety, but the Red Sox electors might now have a direct competitive incentive to vote a straight Jeter ticket for the next three years, because even the Yankees will notice a $9 million difference in their 2014 payroll, especially since managers and coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.
I'm not seriously worried about this, but the possibility's there, and the afternoon's been fairly pokey on the news front.