Listach on First-Place Iowa Cubs

They're the hottest team in the Pacific Coast League, having recently staked claim to the league's best record. But Class AAA Iowa manager Pat Listach knows there is a lot of baseball left to be played.

"We've accomplished nothing yet," Listach said. "The season's not over. We've still got some more baseball to play. We've played well up to here."

The Iowa Cubs entered Saturday night's game at Oklahoma (a first-place team themselves) at 79-54, their nine-game lead over second-place Memphis all but insurmountable with just over a week remaining in the regular season.

The Cubs, like their parent club, have led their division for most all year. Come Sept. 1, some players from the Iowa team will be moving on to Chicago, while others will stay behind. Those players are playing for something else, Listach said.

One player that is certain to be in Chicago at some point in September is Micah Hoffpauir. Through 64 games at Iowa, Hoffpauir leads the club with a .371 average. He has been a run-producing machine with 23 home runs and 92 RBIs.

Listach said that Hoffpauir was "no doubt" his team's MVP this season.

"He's had a solid year," said Listach. "He's a pleasure to be around all year. To see him have the success that he's had with his first call-up to the big leagues, and to come back down here and not be upset and keep putting the numbers up, he's the captain of this team. He's a vocal leader. He leads by example. He's done great."

Listach noted that his club has been fortunate to play together most all season. Because the big league club has stayed healthy, it has kept the Iowa team in tact, he said.

"We don't have guys going up and down as much as usual, and the guys get to play a lot together," said Listach.

The only thing close to a team reshuffling of sorts came over a month ago when the Cubs traded three players with Iowa ties – pitcher Sean Gallagher, INF/OF Eric Patterson and OF Matt Murton – to the Oakland A's for pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin.

Listach said it was difficult to say goodbye to those players, but that it was part of the business.

"Obviously they were my players, but they were more than just that; they were friends of mine," said Listach. "I still stay in contact with all three of them. It was a new start for them. It's a different organization. You hate to see them go, but you're happy for them as well.

"What we got in return was absolutely huge. To have a guy like Rich Harden, you can't put a price tag on it. He's been invaluable to the Cubs, and I'm sure the A's are happy with what they got. It was a good trade on both ends."

Iowa entered Saturday with a magic number of two. Their record through 21 games in August was 13-8, which included seven wins in as many days against one team: New Orleans.

While the consensus first goal in the minor leagues is always to develop players first, Listach said that winning is equally important at the Triple-A level.

"It's not about development completely here; it's about winning. Guys want to win," said Listach. "They've all played, they've all done well. If I could put 12 guys on the field every day, I would. It's kind of a tough spot because they all deserve to play every day. We have a good group of guys here. They like to win and they play to win.

"You play winning baseball and they'll develop as well."

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