Ken Rosenthal of is reporting that Terry Francona and the Red Sox are expected to mutually part ways tomorrow, as the club forgoes the final two option years on his contract. Here's what Rosenthal had to say:

Terry Francona will meet with Red Sox management on Friday morning, and the expected resolution is that he no longer will be the team’s manager, major league sources say.
While Francona’s departure is not certain, it is the likely outcome, in part because he is pressing for a resolution, sources say. He would not be fired; the Red Sox would simply decline their club options on him for 2012 and ’13.
At that point, Francona would be free to pursue long-term contracts with other clubs. The White Sox’s position currently is open, and Francona managed five seasons in their minor-league system in the early 1990s.
The Cubs could be another possibility for Francona once they hire a new general manager and proceed with the expected dismissal of manager Mike Quade. Francona played for the Cubs in 1986.

Rosenthal immediately suggests that the White Sox job could be a landing place for Tito, but let's be honest. The only advantage the Sox have at landing Francona is that they have a GM in place, in Kenny Williams. If Williams acts quickly, they have a de facto free shot at him. If not? Well, you would imagine that Theo Epstein, Andrew Friedman, Ned Colletti or Josh Byrnes would be eager at interviewing the two-time World Series winner.

Plus, can you imagine the pedestal Francona would be on if he won with not only the Red Sox, but the Red Sox AND the Cubs? He'd be untouchable. Not saying that's what would happen if he came to Chicago, but it's what every manager, GM and player comes to Wrigley for. It's that egotistical shot at immortality that brought Dusty and Lou. Maybe the third time's a charm?

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The Boston Red Sox are tied for the AL Wild Card lead with two games to go, in a monumental collapse that's barred the Sox from winning back to back games since August 27. Coupled along with the Cubs GM needs, it appeared at least briefly that the Cubs had at somewhat of an outside, yet highly improbable, shot at Red Sox GM and wunderkind, Theo Epstein.

But according FOX's inside man, Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs' chances of landing Epstein are now all but gone. Here's what he had to say his column today:

If ever the Cubs had a chance to hire Theo Epstein as general manager, that chance probably is gone.

Oh, the Red Sox still might win the American League wild card, but Epstein cannot and will not run from his share of responsibility for the team’s historic flop.

Epstein, in the rare trying moments during his nine-year tenure, always has been accountable. It’s almost impossible to imagine him leaving his hometown team in a moment of epic failure — if indeed the season ends in such fashion.

“He would never be allowed back in the city of Boston,” one rival GM said Tuesday.

Rosenthal then went on to say that a source would deem it "shocking" if he left Boston, and offered Cubs fans a sign of hope from the team chasing Epstein's Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays:

Andrew Friedman, anyone?

Friedman, the Rays’ GM, might not want to leave Tampa Bay. He is close to owner Stuart Sternberg and team president Matt Silverman. The Rays, despite playing in the AL East, might be better than the Cubs for the next several years.

Still, if Friedman’s stock is high now, it will be even higher if the low-budget Rays make the playoffs for — get this — the third time in four seasons.

The Cubs at least must ask permission to talk with Friedman. His team, after all, is the one that keeps giving Epstein’s fits.
Epstein was a long shot anyways, and Friedman has long been the dream candidate in my opinion. It's just more than ironic that Friedman's stock is rising with his team, and passing Epstein in more ways than one.
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Most incredible home run ever hit at Wrigley?

Prettyyyyyy, prettyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, pretty good.

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Added Disqus Commenting System

Posted by Matt Clapp | 9/21/2011 03:38:00 AM

Gone is the crappy Blogger comment system, and in is the one from Disqus. It's much more user friendly and will hopefully get some good discussion going on here.

Welp, see ya later.

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It sure sounds like Aramis Ramirez has played his last game at Wrigley Field as a Cub.

Ramirez left tonight's game against the Brewers with a strained quad, which will likely keep him out of tomorrow's home finale. And it doesn't sound like he's expecting to be back on the team next year:

Ramirez left the game with a mild quad strain, and was asked if it was his last game here.

"Probably," he said. "There's a good chance. I'm a free agent and I don't know what's going to happen. But it looks like I'm going to hit the market."

The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez. He said he wants to return, but "we haven't heard anything" from the Cubs.

"I think we're ready to move on," he said.

It's been considered unlikely that Ramirez would be back for a number of reasons. For one, while he's by far the best hitter on the team, $16 million is a lot to pay a guy that will be 34 next June and has been arguably the worst defensive third baseman in all of baseball this season. The Cubs have the worst defense in baseball, so surely they'd like better defense coming from the hot corner.

Additionally, ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine recently said that Tom Ricketts wants the Cubs spending more on pitching than position players. And that certainly would be a good idea when you consider that the only good starting pitcher guaranteed to be in next year's rotation is Matt Garza. The Cubs need to find an ace(C.J. Wilson would be ideal), or at least a couple of #3 types in the near future to compete with the Brewers and Cardinals in the division.

And if the Cubs did choose to spend money on position players, they'd probably want to throw money at a Prince Fielder rather than an Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez wants a multi-year deal(even if the Cubs exercise the $16 million option, he can/would opt out). The Cubs, a team building for the future, aren't going to give him that when you consider he'll be in his upper 30s by the time the contract is up.

So, while Ramirez's run-producing bat in the middle of the order is sure to be missed next season, it's probably best for both sides to part ways, which Ramirez seems to understand as well.

Now, if Ramirez is indeed gone, who will replace him at third base? Well, they're not going to find anywhere close to a "replacement" at the position offensively. Josh Vitters, 22, can hit, but he's yet to develop enough patience to be considered an everyday starter at the big league level, at least in my opinion. And outside of Ramirez, there's not going to be any clearly attractive options in free agency.

Therefore, the Cubs will surely explore the trade market for a solution, and will probably just find a guy that can be a decent short-term option. That will allow them to evaluate Vitters or other prospects for another season, and perhaps a more attractive option will present itself on the free agency/trade market next offseason than what they'll find this offseason.

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Cubs 2012 Schedule was Released, and We're Guaranteeing They'll Play in October

Posted by Michael Castillo | 9/15/2011 02:40:00 AM

The powers that be announced the Cubs schedule for next season on Wednesday, finally giving us something to look forward to. The immediate good news for 2012, is that the Cubs will in fact play in October, as they conclude the season with a three game set against division rival Houston. 

As for Opening Day, the Cubs will begin the campaign at Wrigley, hosting the Nationals on April 5, before Milwaukee comes in for an early season four-game series just four days later. April could be the most difficult month for the Cubs, as while they'll only have 10 road games, they include trips to St. Louis, Miami and Philadelphia. 

The trip to Miami should be interesting, considering the Cubs no longer have to play at Joe Robbie, where they seemingly struggled every year. Instead, they'll be the third opponent to play the Miami Marlins under the retractable roof, where oddly enough, the Cardinals will open the ballpark(right) with a one-off game on Opening Night.

The Cubs will play indoors plenty, 25 games total, as they will travel to Arizona twice, in the annual scheduling quirk that gives NL teams two road series against one non-divisional opponent. The Twins are also on the schedule, where for the first time ever, the Cubs get to play at the beautiful Target Field, beginning Friday, June 8. That series ends the season's toughest road trip, a 10-gamer that goes from San Francisco to Milwaukee, before ending in Minneapolis.

Rounding out June's Interleague slate is the annual road series on the South Side, and one of the most exciting, yet daunting home-stands in recent memory, when both the Tigers and Red Sox come to Wrigley in mid-July. It'll be the Red Sox' second trip to Friendly Confines during Interleague play, and the last time the Tigers were on the North Side, they spoiled Mark Prior's mid-season debut in 2006, knocking him around for eight runs. 

The Cubs-Cards series will be spread out next season, with home-and-homes in April and July, a quick two-game set at Busch Stadium in May, and a three-game series at Wrigley in late September. As for the Sox, they come to Wrigley on May 18, before hosting the Cubs in a midweek series exact a month later. Lastly, the Cubs will face the Brewers 17 times, and none of those will be in September.

Here's the notable series on the docket for the Cubs in 2012:

vs. Washington, April 5-8
vs. Milwaukee, April 9-12
at. St. Louis, April 13-15
at. Miami, April 17-19
vs. St. Louis, April 23-25
at Philadelphia, April 27-30
vs. Atlanta, May 7-9
at Milwaukee, May11-13
at St. Louis, May 14-15
vs. Philadelphia, May 16-17
vs. White Sox, May 18-20
at San Francisco, June 1-4
at Milwaukee, June 5-7
at Minnesota, June 8-10
vs. Detroit, June 12-14
vs. Boston, June 15-17
at White Sox, June 18-20
vs. New York Mets, June 25-27
at Atlanta, July 2-4
at New York Mets, July 6-8
vs. All-Star Game in Kansas City, July 10
vs. Arizona, July 13-15
at St. Louis, July 20-23
vs. St. Louis, July 27-29
at Los Angeles, August 3-5
at San Diego, August 6-8
at Milwaukee, August 20-22
vs. Milwaukee, August 27-30
vs. San Francisco, August 31-September 2
vs. St. Louis, September 21-23
at Arizona, September 28-30
vs. Houston, October 1-3
For the rest, click here.

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Say what you want about the Cubs not producing offensively,but the bottom line is that looking at what are now near season totals, most ofthe Cubs' big hitters are exactly where you'd project them to be at thebeginning of the year.

Aramis Ramirez started off slow as he did a year ago, but should finish right about the 27-home run/100-RBI mark, a stat line thateveryone would have taken at Opening Day if asked. Not to mention that from June through August, Ramirez was one of the best hitters in the game, slugging .585 and posting a .939 OPS in 80 games over those three months. Double those stats and Ramirez would have projected to having a 45-home run, 130-RBI season.You know that "career year" that's always alluded Aramis? That three-month stretch was it. So he can't possibly be to blame for the Cubs' poor record, especially considering that much of that production was done in the midst of trade talks and constant heckling from the Chicago media.

The kid to his right, Starlin Castro, fits the same bill and should finish at right about 10 homers and 65 RBIs, which was what just about everyone expected from the 21-year old. The best part about Castro's season, however, has been his peripherals. While Starlin's patience at the plate has been in line with the Pattersons, Pies, and Hoffpauirs of the world, his average and slugging have been as good or better than last year, every step of the way this season. As for his on-base percentage, that will improve with time, and once it goes up, so will everything else, considering the kid is hitting at a.306 clip as it is.

Moving around the horn, Carlos Pena has been everything the Cubs had hoped for, based on his skill-set and statistics from a year ago. He's had stretches this season where no one in the league has slugged better, and Hendry would have done backflips in February had you told him Pena would finish with 30 homers and hit .230. Has his RISP numbers been disappointing? Sure, and that's reflected in his run production, but it's Carlos Pena. We all knew going into this season that he wasn't going to put up Pujols or Fielder numbers. Now, if the Cubs can't grab one of those two guys, Pena's more that shown he'sworthy of sticking around.

Lastly, let's look at Alfonso Soriano, who should finishwith roughly 25 homers and 80 RBI. Anyone with any knowledge of Soriano's legs, ability, and pressure would take that production any day in the end. That's who Soriano is and exactly what we should expect from him at his age, with his now limited ability.

Now...if only Geovany Soto was one of these"expectation" guys, but we can save that analysis for another day.

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