Cubs Notes: Rizzo Expectations, Final Standings, Gardenfired?

Anthony Rizzo capped off his amazing 2014 season going 3-for-4 with a home run, two runs scored, two RBI and one walk. The homer was his 32nd. Bottom line: Rizzo was really, really good this year.

But despite the great numbers, perhaps the most encouraging sign is his outlook on next season. His goal for the Cubs next year is “to be the NL Central champs, to win a division,” Rizzo said after Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Brewers.

Rizzo’s talent is real, and now it’s becoming apparent that his confidence is real as well.

The first baseman ended the season hitting .286/.386/.527. If the Cubs succeed next year, Rizzo most likely will be a main reason why.

Final standings

The Cubs finished last in the NL Central again this year. But it felt different didn’t it?

With Sunday’s victory, the Cubs avoided finishing with 90 losses for the first time since 2010. Their 73-89 record will give them the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Once again, they will be picking directly after the White Sox.

Because the Cubs have one of the top 11 picks, they will not have to forfeit their first-round pick if they sign a qualified free agent this off-season (they would, however, lose their second-round pick).

Will this be the last top-10 draft pick for the Cubs for the foreseeable future? Man, I hope so.

Twins fire Gardenhire

After spending 13 years as the Minnesota Twins manager, Ron Gardenhire was fired on Monday. The Twins finished this year with their fourth straight 90-loss season.

Theo Epstein has already stated that manager Rick Renteria will return in 2015. However, if the Cubs struggle next season, Gardenhire is the type of name I could see being floated as a replacement.

He has a long track record of success (the past four years notwithstanding), and has experience managing young teams. It could be enticing for the Cubs to see what Gardenhire would do in a big(er) market with free agents to place around the young kids.

Other notes

* Jon Lester is slated to pitch for the A’s aginst James Shields and the Royals in the AL Wildcard matchup on Tuesday. Should be a good watch for Cubs fans. Could one of those starters be pitching in Chicago next year? Both?

* A.J. Hinch, who the Cubs interviewed for their manager opening last off-season, on Monday was named the new manager of the Houston Astros. Should be interesting to see how Hinch handles the position and see if the Cubs missed out on anything by going with Rick Renteria instead. (I don’t think too many people — if any — were disappointed the Cubs didn’t go with Hinch at the time.) Hinch had a brief managing experience with Arizona, posting a 89-123 record.

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