Cubs say two goodbyes, but also a big hello
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Quite a week for the Cubs as they traded Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano while watching Junior Lake begin his career in comet-like fashion.
The Garza era didn't last that long — just 2½ seasons — but he made his mark. In 60 starts, he put up a solid 3.45 ERA and saved his best for last, winning his final five outings before the trade.
Garza has a unique personality — over-amped and loud every day other than the one on which he pitches. But his work habits are terrific, he is a vocal cheerleader in the dugout and his teammates love his competitive nature. Ultimately, the Cubs had to get what they could for someone of his caliber and it sure looks like they received some quality prospects in return.
Keep an eye on Lake:
Speaking of quality, Junior Lake had probably the best first week of a career that I've ever witnessed. His speed/power combo is one every team wants.
He is still learning and has a long way to go, but at least for now, he has dipped his toes into the middle of the "future Cubs' nucleus" conversation.
A classy player:
The trade of Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees represents the end of an era. I am not quite sure what to call it — the Tribune's Last Stand, Let's Go For It Era probably sums it up best even though that sounds a little clunky.
All the big names of that stretch — Lee, Ramirez, Zambrano, Wood, Dempster, Marmol, Fukudome, Piniella, Hendry et al — and now Soriano, are gone. And while many fans had been clamoring for Soriano to be jettisoned for quite some time, not one guy in that clubhouse was happy to see him go.
As I wrote earlier this season, he was the most-revered player on the team and I thought he handled his tenure here (that includes his relationship with the media and fans) with total class.
Mr. Brewer's burden:
Lastly, I am curious to see how the Ryan Braun suspension affects not just his team on the field, but the Milwaukee organization as a whole. He has been a lifelong Brewer and is signed through 2020. He is the face of the franchise. Before last year's suspension and subsequent successful appeal, that was a very good thing for Brewers' business. He helped the club become one of the best in the league in 2011 while winning the National League MVP Award.
But now, despite the fact that he still is in his prime (he doesn't turn 30 until November), that "Mr. Brewer" tag has to feel burdensome for all involved.
That could change once he returns next season, but we know that 1) he will be booed mercilessly on the road (even more than last year); 2) early on, there will be a media frenzy following him wherever the Brewers go, creating a distraction for his teammates; and 3) nobody knows how this ordeal will affect his performance.
This suspension impacts Braun and everything he has touched as a player and as a brand.
Today, more than ever before, organizations have a huge responsibility and vested interest in keeping their players (especially their superstars) clean.
The era of looking the other way or not getting as involved as possible in a player's life has to come to an end.
Yes, these are adults and you'd like to be able to trust that they will do the right thing. But when you hand them millions of dollars and lots of contractual security, you are linking your entire organization to that player's legacy, for better or worse.
• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]
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