Chat with Bruce Levine
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox reporter Bruce Levine stops by Tuesday to chat.
Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.
Send your questions now and join the chat Tuesday at 11 a.m. CT/noon ET!
Bruce Levine (12:06 PM)
Welcome Cubs and Sox fans. Cubs fans, no reason to be depressed. Things looking good for the future. Sox fans, hold off on the popping of champagne corks for now. Welcome to the chat
There's still a lot of baseball left to be played, but how big was that win yesterday against Detroit?
Bruce Levine (12:07 PM)
The win itself was important, but the one thing that has been missed is the quality baseball the Sox are playing. The bullpen has only allowed one run the past four games. The defense continues to be flawless, and Ventura continues to press all the right buttons. These are telltale signs of a team that is going to move on in the playoffs.
How do you like the chances of the Sox winning the division?
Bruce Levine (12:08 PM)
Compared to Detroit's I like it a lot. But the Tigers have the favorable schedule. After these three tough games with Oakland the rest of their schedule is with the Twins and Indians. The Sox have a very tough Rays and Angels teams left to play.
Sean (Round Lake)
Chances Rios wins Comeback Player of the Year? Peavy? Dunn? It has to go to someone on the Sox right?
Bruce Levine (12:09 PM)
I'd say right now it's certainly between Dunn and Rios. If you take away Dunn's batting average and the strikeouts, you have an MVP-type season. Rios' all-around play has been outstanding since the beginning of May. How about co-winners? That sounds good to me.
DC (Pacific Grove)
What's your understanding of the likelihood Garza fully returns to form with just rest?
Bruce Levine (12:11 PM)
Not quite sure how much damage has been done. Obviously Garza and the Cubs feel that he is going to be all right, but think back to May 2011 when he had forearm and elbow stiffness. That makes it two years in a row with some type of elbow problem. He's going to have to have a good spring training and be totally healthy before the Cubs decide either to keep him long term or trade him. He is a free agent after 2013.
Will we see a closer by committee role now with Reed's recent struggles, or does Reed still hold the job?
Bruce Levine (12:13 PM)
I think Reed will slowly go back to the one-inning role in the ninth. Ventura handled it well yesterday by having Myers and Thornton handle the heavy lifting until the last out. That allowed Reed to just get one out and a save and rebuild his confidence after the mess he got in over the weekend.
What is Sveum thinking not playing Vitters? You can't evaluate or develop a guy while he is sitting on the bench. Valbuena looks like he can be a nice player, might actually be a better player than Barney given consistent at bats, but he doesn't profile as a regular 3rd baseman. Do you have any insight on this?
Bruce Levine (12:15 PM)
There is some things about Vitters' game they are not in love with. I don't think they believe he is ready to handle 3B defensively. This might be a classic case of a guy coming up too early. If you notice, Jackson hasn't been doing very well either, with only a couple hits in his last 22 at-bats. The Cubs are looking at those players like they would in a minor league situation where the instruction they are getting before the game is more essential to their development than the actual function of them getting in a game and producing.
David (Va Beach)
Any followup on the Cubs/Dodgers/Dempster dustup? Are the teams on decent terms at this point?
Bruce Levine (12:16 PM)
It's my experience that when GMs have a difference of opinion that they are angry for a period of time and then they will be open to abnything that will help their team. In other words it can be personal for awhile, but ultimately it's about whether their players can help you when you need to make a trade.
Has the lack of silliness in the clubhouse allowed the Sox to legitimately compete again?
Bruce Levine (12:18 PM)
I don't think there was a lot of silliness in the clubhouse last year. It was more about Guillen and Kenny Williams jockeying for position. Ozzie is an outstanding baseball man, who has his hands full with an underachieving team in Miami. The reality is, Dunn, Rios and Peavy, guys who had terrible years, have come back and played well.
David (Va Beach)
Do you see the Cubs trading Jackson, Vitters, or possibly a few guys still in the minors, for young pitching? Like Randall Delgado, for instance, this offseason?
Bruce Levine (12:19 PM)
I believe the Cubs are open to anything to make their team better. I don't think Epstein and Hoyer would preclude any deal by saying someone is not available. Baseball GMs are in the listening business. Trading a talent like Jackson is another matter. Listening is part of the job.
Can you explain how the new draft salary slotting works and how it affects the White Sox drafts going forward? My understanding is that with the caps Jerry will allow more spending on young talent to bolster the farm system but Im not sure.
Bruce Levine (12:22 PM)
Each team has a maximum on their No. 1 pick and the overall amount of money they can spend. If they go over that amount they are subject to a 100 percent on the dollar tariff as well as possible loss of other draft picks. Teams for the most part will adhere to the cap, and that makes it an even playing field for all the teams. You can still sign free agents out of Latin America but the most you can give them is $2.9 million. Japan continues to be a free market and is excluded from any American taxes or loss of players.
ESPNChicago (12:23 PM)
Bruce has to break away for a quick radio hit on "Waddle & Silvy." He'll be right back so keep the questions coming.
David (Va Beach)
Chances Soriano is dealt over the offseason? And if so, would the Cubs seriously consider bringing Melky Cabrera in as a short term replacement, that could become a longterm one?
Bruce Levine (12:33 PM)
I don't see Melky in the Chicago Cub's plans. He doesn't go along with what they're trying to establish with their young players. Soriano is probably better off staying with the team than be traded, but that won't preclude the Cubs for taking offers. The reason I say he's better off staying is that Rizzo and Castro need some protection in the lineup.
GaryMoeller (Tampa, FL)
Do you think Robin Ventura is the difference between this year and last years Sox teams. The players are the same, and the performance is light years better. Does it indicate the players are happier playing for Robin? Thus leading to better on field performance.
Bruce Levine (12:35 PM)
That's one of those trap question for reporters. I don't blame Ozzie for Dunn, Rios and Peavy having bad seasons -- I just don't see how a manager causes seasoned veterans to play so poorly. That said, Robin's one-game-at-a-time approach certainly has worked for the White Sox this year.
Brian L (Chicago)
Bruce, remember when you said that D Wise would fall back down to hitting his career average of .225? Man were you wrong.
Bruce Levine (12:36 PM)
You're absolutely right. I was wrong on Wise. But I will say that I doubt he's the opening day CF next year. You can tell me I'm wrong again next April. And I'm happy I was wrong.
Jeff (Glen Ellyn)
What veteran pitchers do you see the cubs going after this off-season?
Bruce Levine (12:38 PM)
I look for them to sign a couple veteran starting pichers. Someone like Shaun Marcum makes sense to me. Or a rehabbing pitcher who is coming back from injury. The goal would be to have a productive starting rotation with the flexibility to trade some of those arms at the deadline for young talent -- the "Billy Beane method" of building an up-and-coming organization.
Considering how much fans and players outside of Chicago hate AJ, would the easiest comparison be the hate for Cutler? They both seem to rub everyone wrong but yet perform.
Bruce Levine (12:39 PM)
I'll just say that I like unique personalities in sports. It gives people like me something to write/talk about. It would be pretty boring if all of these guys were the same. PS - Stay out of White Sox business.
Ameed (Tinley Park)
Can the Sox bullpen carry them to a deep playoff run?
Bruce Levine (12:40 PM)
From the way it has looked over the last four games, I think it looks pretty good. The wildcard is whether Addison Reed regains his confidence and can pitch a clean ninth inning for them. They seem to be in a good frame of mind and pretty well rested.
I know it's early yet, especially with the playoffs looming, but how do you see the Sox's opening day starting rotation shaping up? Is Peavy back? Floyd? Right now, it seems the Sox have an abundance of lefties who can start.
Bruce Levine (12:42 PM)
Peavy has a $22M option for next season, so the White Sox will buy that out for $4M. As to whether they will offer him another contract is unknown at this point. Floyd has an option year left that the Sox may pick up and then decide whether to keep or trade him. He'll be one year away from free agency. I think the Sox's rotation will be a bit younger next year.
Hack Wilson IV (Boulder, CO)
Hi, Bruce. Third base for the Cubs looks like it could use a one- or two-year temporary solution. Is there any hope that Ian Stewart's latest surgery is going to solve his problem? Will he be kept and offered arbitration? Seems like something must be done to prove that our trade of Colvin and LeMa... LeMay... LeMayWho may not prove a total bust for us. Or will the Cubs simply move on, and grab someone like Youkilis?
Bruce Levine (12:43 PM)
My perception is that they'll move on from Stewart. The coaching staff wasn't thrilled with some of his work habits. Some trades work out, some don't.
Jeff (Glen Ellyn)
What coaches do you see coming back to the cubs next season?
Bruce Levine (12:44 PM)
I don't see any reason why they won't all come back. They're pretty happy with the whole group. Their strength has been with the teaching element. The Cubs defense and base-running has improved dramatically over the past few years.
David (Va Beach)
Does Brett Jackson go into next season as Opening Day CF and if so, will they bring in a capable 4th OFer, or do you think Sappelt IS that guy?
Bruce Levine (12:46 PM)
I believe they like Sappelt as a 4th or 5th outfielder. Jackson's and Vitters' ascension to the 25-man roster will depend on what the coaches, Epstein and Hoyer see in spring training. The swing-and-miss factor for Jackson has to be solved. Unless you're Adam Dunn, you can't strike out every other at-bat.
John B. (Hoffman Estates)
Is there a chance that Youkilis returns to the Sox next year since 3B has been such an issue?
Bruce Levine (12:48 PM)
I guess that depends on what Youkilis is expecting as a free agent. If he's willing to accept a couple year deal (maybe two with an option) they might bring him back. He probably realizes that Sox trainers Herm Schneider and Brian Ball have helped keep him on the field because of their expertise. That is not a small issue for a player who's had as many small injuries as Youkilis has had.
Which matchup is best for the Sox in the postseason?
Bruce Levine (12:50 PM)
Not sure it matters at this point. The Yankees are the team they'd most likely face and the left-handed starters would negate Swisher and Granderson's power. And if Texiera comes back, who has more power left-handed than right. I think the Sox can handle the Yankees.
Does Veal make the postseason roster?
Bruce Levine (12:51 PM)
Excellent question. I was just thinking about that on my flight to KC -- whether or not they could have the luxury of a left-handed specialist on the roster. As effective as he's been lately, my guess is yes.
Marc Trotter (Ruston, Louisiana)
Regardless of how the season ends, do the White Sox start "Rebuilding Process" next year?
Bruce Levine (12:52 PM)
My guess is yes. They have a lot of good young pitching already there, but I wouldn't say that they won't go out and sign a veteran pitcher or two since Dunn has two years left and Konerko has one.
over these last 16, how many do you think the Sox need to win to take the division?
Bruce Levine (12:54 PM)
I think we figured out that if the White Sox play .500 ball, Detroit has to go 11-5 to tie. If the Sox can go 9-7 they're probably in great shape. It doesn't sound like a lot of wins, but it would be tough for the Tigers to go 12-4. One more but... Detroit has an easier schedule.
How many more losing seasons before the Cubs aren't lovable losers?
Bruce Levine (12:57 PM)
I think season ticket holders are already over the "loveable losers" bit and question whether the ticket prices are worth the product at this point. The rest of the fan base is another matter -- with the likes of StubHub, they can still get good tickets at a lower cost. It's a buyer's market.
Roger (Gulf Shores)
The Sox have struggled recently driving in runs with RISP. Any chance Robin mixes up the lineup a little? I'd like to see Dunn and Rios switch spots in the order.
Bruce Levine (12:58 PM)
I doubt that you'll see that. Robin is the type of manager who likes to have the same guys hitting in the same positions. Proof of that is he had Wise batting in Dunn's spot while he was out rather than move Rios up in the order. I think you'll see some mixing and matching in LF and CF with Wise, De Aza and Viciedo. You may see those rotating a bit depending on lefty-righty matchups.
Bruce Levine (12:59 PM)
Keep up with all the Cubs and Sox news by following me @ESPNBruceLevine and visiting the Cubs and Sox blogs on ESPNChicago.com. Talk to you next week!