Do the Cubs have an “ace?”

Twice  this morning, within the space of 15 minutes, I heard both Ryan Dempster and Jeff Samardzija described as “aces” by a certain Chicago sports anchor. He night as well have dragged his nails down a chalkboard or made that noise when the eraser is worn down on a pencil and you scratch the paper with the metal rim (ACK!) because I had pretty much that reaction. It’s not his fault, thought. Chicago has totally, utterly, and completely forgotten what an “ace” looks like. You’re probably expecting some in-depth analysis about a “true” ace versus a Cubs “ace,” but no. I just wanted to point that out that Cubs fans have absolutely no frame of reference for the word “ace” anymore.

The Golden Child. You won't be seeing him any time soon.

Hey, all you jerks that are trying to pressure Javy Baez into playing for the Cubs this year, IT’S NOT WORKING:

But the organization’s top prospect delivered a simple, concise reply to numerous inquiries about whether he’s in a hurry to reach the majors and help cure the Cubs’ lengthy woes.

“I’m still young and still learning how to play the game and going to take my time,” Baez said Monday.

From an offensive standpoint, there’s not much for Baez, 21, to accomplish this season at Triple-A Iowa. But Baez is wise enough to realize his defense likely will dictate how soon he joins the Cubs for what many believe will be an impressive major league career.

“This year I’m going to try to play better and work on my defense,” Baez said succinctly.

I saw a big debate about this online last night, which kind of made me scratch my head. Esptoyer has said, repeatedly, that Baez will start the year at Iowa, so all the “yeah, but WHAT IF he’s really really REALLY good in Spring Training?!?!” in the world isn’t going to change that. If he rakes at AAA, we might see him in June or July. But that’s a big “if.”

I was thinking about things I want, you know, in this world, last night. And in addition to a white chocolate fountain and endless bubble wrap, I’d like to hear a lot less from Jeff Samardzija, who I find somewhat tiring, and a lot more from Travis Wood, who I find delightful:

MESA, Ariz. — Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo were rewarded with long-term contracts last season, and Travis Wood experienced a breakout 2013 season that validated the first major trade of the Theo Epstein regime.

But Wood said he didn’t have much dialogue with his agent regarding an extension before agreeing to a one-year, $3.9 million contract last month.

“We’ll see what happens,” Wood said. “I would love to stay here, but right now we’ve got to get focused on the spring and get ready for the season.”

Wood, 27, posted career highs in innings (200) and starts (32) while being named to the National League All-Star team.

Let’s finish up the morning with some thoughts from Theo, who has seen huge strides in the overall health of the club, and doesn’t care how soon you want the team to start winning:

MLB.com: Where do you see the organization now as opposed to this time two years ago?

Epstein: I think we’ve made tremendous progress. … The prospects we have have gotten a lot of attention, and they’re moving up the ladder. They’re exciting, potential impact players. But just the general talent level, the organizational depth, is improving. We just went over all the (bullpen) arms we have in camp. There’s no comparison between the quality of the arms now (and in 2012), the candidates to make the team and the depth behind them in Iowa. The people we have in place in this organization — coaches, scouts — I believe are impact people. I believe in the processes we have in place. It takes time to turn an organization around. It takes time to build impact talent and the requisite depth, but it’s happening.

People in the organization really believe we’re on the verge of something special. We understand that we’re perceived otherwise, and that’s our fault. We’ve been a last-place club the last couple of years. We’re not protesting (the perception), but we have to earn our way into a point where we’re championship contenders on an annual basis, and we think we’re certainly moving in that direction.

Translation: Jim Hendry mucked this thing up worse than anyone could have ever imagined and we’re just now getting back to where the organization should have been all along.

MLB.com: What role will new manager Rick Renteria play?

Epstein: Ultimately to win, be the steward of a winning club, championship clubs. Obviously it’s a process. We really trust Ricky to connect with players as human beings, to be on their side, to be consistent, to hold them to high standards and ultimately to get the most out of them. He’s a great baseball guy, a great communicator. He’s fully invested in what we’re doing here. He believes in young players, that you can win with young players. I think he’s the right guy to create the environment we need at the big league level, to establish a winning culture.

Here’s my issue: “Rick” Renteria apparently goes by “Rick,” Rich,” and “Ricky.” Does it bother anyone else to have a manager who can’t decide on a name? I feel like “Richard” is one of those name where you make a decision, early on, to go with one of “Rich,” “Rick,” or “Dick” (no one ever picks “Dick”) and you stick with it. Kind of like Elizabeths are either in the “Liz” or the “Beth” camp. You can’t go back and forth! And I don’t know how this portends his coaching abilities.


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