Kap's Corner

Baseball Archives

Cubs Moving Towards to Signing Kerry Wood

The Cubs, who have a major need for a veteran right handed reliever are moving towards finalizing a deal with free agent Kerry Wood. Wood, who spent the first 10 years of his major league career with the Cubs spent 2010 with the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees and compiled impressive numbers down the stretch for New York as the Yankees qualified for the post season.

Acquired by the Yankees at the trading deadline, Wood went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in 24 games. If he finalizes his deal with the Cubs, Wood should provide tremendous support to Cubs closer Carlos Marmol and along with left hander Sean Marshall will form a very formidable back end of the bullpen.

Wood has made Chicago his permanent home and told me just last week that whatever decision he made about where he would pitch in 2011 had to be a good fit for his family. Being able to stay home and his longtime relationship with Cubs general manager Jim Hendry are huge factors in the Cubs favor.

More to come....

A Slice of History

One of the things we love about baseball is its history.  Baseball dates back to the 19th century and the game was the gateway to America's love for professional sports.  Attached here are some box scores from some of the first baseball games in its storied history. 

These box scores and game stories date back to 1876, and involve the Chicago White Stockings, the first professional team in the Windy City.

Box Score 1

Box Score 2

Box Score 3

Box Score 4

Box Score 5

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Box Score 10


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Cubs Continue to Evaluate Brandon Webb

Baseball sources confirmed to me tonight that the Cubs continue to evaluate the medical reports on starting pitcher Brandon Webb who has been sidelined for the better part of the last two seasons with a shoulder injury. Webb, a former Cy Yound award winner with the Arizona Diamondbacks has serious interest in the Cubs and should his medicals check out he could find himself competing for a spot in the Cubs rotation next spring.

Also on the Cubs beat are rumors that the club is evaluating the cost of trading for Tampa Bay's Matt Garza. An excellent source in Tampa told me tonight that the Rays have not yet decided if they even want to move Garza who won 15 games in 2010 and appears to be heading into the prime of his career. Should he become available the price in terms of players going back would be large.

A Tribute To Ron Santo: Audio Edition Part II

There really is no way to upload every great moment of radio between Pat Hughes and Ron Santo, but here are some more gems we had in our archive. 

The Yogurt Machine:
Pat - Ron and yogurt.mp3

Ron's Lip:
Pat and Ron - Ron's Lip.mp3

Tom Cruise's Height Argument:
Pat and Ron - Tom Cruise's height.mp3

Shultzy:
Pat and Ron Hilarity 061510.mp3

Ronnie always made fun of himself:
Ron doesn't make sense.mp3

The Coffee Spillage:
Ron Spillage.mp3

The Praying Mantis:
Pat and Ron - Praying Mantis.MP3

And last, at least for this post, but certainly not least, some great Ron Santo highlights:
Ron Montage.mp3

Listening back to these just illustrates how much we'll all miss Ron Santo.  What a man he was.

A Tribute To Ron Santo: Audio Edition

Whether you were a Cubs fan or not, you had to love Ron Santo's passion for baseball.  And that passion shined through each and every day as the radio analyst for the Chicago Cubs.  There were so many hysterical moments each and every year with Ronnie, and the conversations between him and Pat Hughes were great.

Here are some of those great moments to listen back to, and enjoy.

Ron: Flossing and Cake


"They Oughta Shoot Him"


Kumbaya
KUMBAYA FULL.MP3

Ron yells at a fan in San Diego
ronny yells at fans.wav

Ron and Pat discuss his famous hair piece
ron's hairpiece segment.mp3


Ron's reactions were as good as any.  He embodied the Cubs fans' spirit every play.
ron mad reactions.WAV

There are countless other moments that exemplify Ron and the humor and entertainment he brought to the broadcast.  I would love to hear your favorite moments or post a clip if you have it of your favorite Ronnie moment.

Ron Santo Dies at 70

I just finished hosting a 3 1/2 hour tribute show to Ron Santo who died this morning from complications of bladder cancer at the age of 70. I was privileged to call Ron a close friend and a broadcasting colleague at WGN Radio for the past 16 seasons. Ron wore his emotions on his sleeve and he was as real as a person could get.

The toughness that he displayed while dealing with a myriad of health problems over the past decade never dampened his love for life and the sunny disposition with which he chose to live every single day. Ron was a tremendous role model for millions of diabetics and for countless others who looked to him for inspiration as they battled their own serious health problems.

Below are some photos of Ron from both his playing days and from his life at WGN Radio as the analyst on the Chicago Cubs radio network. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten. Ron, we love you.


Gallery sneak peek (21 images):

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Hendry Says Sandberg is Welcome Back In Iowa....

I just spoke with Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry and he assured me that Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is welcome to return to the organization as the manager at Class AAA Iowa. Sandberg, who was bypassed by Hendry for the managerial vacancy in favor of Mike Quade is reportedly "highly disappointed" that he was not given the Cubs job and yesterday indicated that he had been offered nothing by the Cubs going forward.

"He is certainly welcome to return to Iowa. We think he did a great job there. This was a very tough decision and one that I tossed and turned over. However, I love Ryne Sandberg and have tremendous respect for him," Hendry told me this morning.

In an interview with Dave Van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune, he said, "I haven't been offered anything," not long after the phone call came informing him of the decision. Not a coaching job on Quade's staff, not his old post at Triple-A Iowa, where he had just been voted Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year.

Asked if he would return to Iowa, Sandberg said on Tuesday, "I don't know. I'm hoping there's something else out there. I'm hoping to manage or coach at the big-league level.I'm just kind of digesting it right now and I have my agent getting feelers out.

This morning when I reached Sandberg at his home in Phoenix he told me "there was nothing offered to me yesterday. I was unaware that they wanted me back until I heard it from you. I guess it is an option. I'm going to take my time and see what is out there."

Quade Gets The Gig....Will Sandberg Leave the Organization?

The Cubs have removed the interim tag and have named Mike Quade their full time manager giving him a two year deal with a club option for 2013. So how did General Manager Jim Hendry arrive at this decision after interviewing several candidates over the past three months?

According to Ryne Sandberg who just appeared on multiple radio shows and spoke with the Chicago Tribune's Dave Van Dyck, he was informed by team chairman Tom Ricketts on Tuesday morning that the Cubs were going with Quade over him because, according to Sandberg, Ricketts said, "it was a tough decision" choosing Quade over him, but that "it was (general manager) Jim Hendry's call and he was going with his gut feeling."

"I told him I'm disappointed and that I appreciated the process and being involved," Sandberg said by phone. "That was the end of the conversation."

Sandberg was not "offered anything" by Ricketts, including the top job at Triple-A Iowa, where he was just named Pacific Coast League manager of the year. "I'm just kind of digesting it right now and I've got my agent getting feelers out," said Sandberg, who wears a Cubs cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Asked if he would return to Iowa, Sandberg said, "I don't know. I'm hoping there's something else out there. I'm hoping to manage or coach at the big-league level."

So now the question is why was Sandberg passed over and why wouldn't the Cubs wait to at least talk to Joe Girardi whose contract with the New York Yankees is up whenever the Yanks finish their postseason run? These are questions that will be asked at the press conference this afternoon to introduce Quade. The answers should be very telling.

Quade is a solid baseball man and a terrific guy. He grew up in the Chicago area and he understands the Cubs culture. He was well liked as a member of Lou Piniella's coaching staff and he impressed the current Cubs players when he was named the interim manager for the last six weeks of the 2010 season. However, whether or not he can take the Cubs where they haven't been for 102 years remains to be seen.

This much is for sure. General Manager Jim Hendry has made his final managerial hire for a long time because if this one doesn't work he probably won't be around to hire the next one. He needs to have a solid winter and he must show that the direction of the club is pointed upward because after a rough 2009 and a horrific 2010 he must get things turned around and it must happen relatively quickly. He turned the trick when he was named GM in 2002 and had his first team 5 outs from the World Series in 2003. He turned the trick again in 2007 after a terrible 2006 season winning back to back division titles and crafting a team that won a National League best 97 games in 2008. He had better be able to pull a rabbit out of his hat in 2011 or he may be looking for work. 

The Cubs Managerial Search

The Cubs managerial search is rolling along as GM Jim Hendry continues to his homework on several candidates both in-house and outside the organization. He has interviewed Eric Wedge (just named the manager of the Seattle Mariners), Don Wakamatsu, Bob Melvin, Ryne Sandberg, Mike Quade, and others and he has talked to several baseball types he knows around the game to hear their thoughts and opinions.

Before he makes a hire he had better look himself in the mirror and realize that the last two full time managers of this team were unwilling to hold players accountable despite coming in with reputations as locker room leaders. From the ridiculousness that derailed the 2004 Cubs to the antics of Carlos Zambrano this season no one has ever had the courage to lay down the law and be the tough guy that the Cubs have needed for far too long. That is squarely on the field manager and upper management who did absolutely nothing to control the players who let the broadcasters and the extraneous noise distract them in 2004 to Lou Piniella completely losing his team in 2010 as the season spiraled out of control. Set down a way to play and let no one operate outside the rules. Period, end of story. If a player misses a team flight because of his birthday then he doesn't pitch no matter who he is (think Big Z in 2009). If a player doesn't run hard out of the box then he is removed from the game and he sits. Whether he signed a 136 million dollar contract or is a minimum salaried rookie. Operate that way and you have a chance. Anything less and you will lose the respect of your team very quickly.
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Sexscapades in Sports

With Brett Favre in the news for allegedly sending X-rated photos of himself to former Jets game day hostess Jenn Sterger I have received  number of e-mails from people who want me to look back at the most famous sex scandals in sports history. You ask and I deliver. Here you go....

Some of the Most Famous Recent Sex Scandals in Sports

TIGER WOODS

The world's greatest golfer admitted to having several affairs with strippers and porn stars while married. He eventually entered rehab for sex addiction and his wife Elin divorced him and walked away with in excess of 100 million dollars.

BRETT FAVRE

This scandal is just developing and was broken by the website Deadspin who released voice mails and X-Rated pictures they claim are from Favre to former Jets employee Jenn Sterger. Now Deadspin claims there may be more women coming forward to say that Favre may have inappropriately pursued them.

KOBE BRYANT

Bryant was accused of sexual assault by a hotel employee while he was in Colorado to have knee surgery. He denied any wrongdoing claiming that the sex was consensual. The alleged victim refused to testify and the case was dropped. Bryant reportedly settled a civil claim out of court.
 
RICK PITINO

The University of Louisville basketball coach had sex with the wife of his equipment manager in a restaurant one evening and the whole sordid affair became extremely public when she tried to extort him and claimed rape. She also reportedly had an affair with her lawyer during her trial and that story was also broken by Deadspin. She was convicted in the summer of 2010 and is awaiting sentencing.

STEVE MCNAIR

Straight from his Wikipedia:

On July 4, 2009, McNair was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds, along with the body of a young woman named Sahel Kazemi, in a condominium rented by McNair, at 105 Lea Avenue in downtown Nashville.[McNair had been shot twice in the body and twice in the head, with only one of the shots coming from closer than three feet. Kazemi had a single gunshot wound to the head, which was proved to have been fired from a gun that was held to her temple. McNair was believed to have been asleep on the couch when the shooting occurred. The bodies were discovered by McNair's friends Wayne Neely and Robert Gaddy, who called 911. The Nashville police declared McNair's death a murder-suicide, with Kazemi as the perpetrator and McNair as the victim. The 9-mm gun used was found under Kazemi's body and later tests revealed "trace evidence of (gunpowder) residue on her left hand." Kazemi had a worsening financial situation and also suspected that McNair was in another extramarital relationship. McNair, who was married at the time, had been dating the 20-year-old Kazemi in the months prior to their deaths. On July 6, police stated that the gun found at the scene of the crime under Kazemi's body had been purchased by her after her release from jail on the DUI charge. Kazemi purchased the gun from a convicted murderer she met while looking for a buyer for her Kia..


STEVE PHILLIPS ENTERS SEX REHAB

The former New York Mets General Manager entered a rehab center for sex addiction after he admitted to having an affair with a fellow ESPN employee. He was summarily fired from his high paying gig as a baseball analyst and has only recently begun to resurface in the baseball world.

KAREN OWEN AND HER DUKE THESIS

Well said by the Wall Street Journal: Karen Owen's now infamous PowerPoint "thesis" detailing the thirteen men she had relations with while an undergraduate student at Duke University has quickly become a social media cautionary tale.


Though Owen wrote her 42-page dossier, titled "An education beyond the classroom: excelling in the realm of horizontal academics" reportedly for a few select friends, nothing juicy stays a secret for long in today's Web world -- especially when said item is easily forward-able. After circulating amongst the Duke student body, the mock thesis went viral after it was published by several websites, including the Gawker-owned Jezebel and Deadspin.

Gallery sneak peek (22 images):

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An Honest Assessment of the Chicago Cubs

With the 2010 regular season now over it is time to turn our attention to 2011 and that means fixing all that is wrong with the Chicago Cubs as they ended the season in 5th place with a record of 75-87 and 16 games behind the division champion Cincinnati Reds.

What Went Right

The signing of Marlon Byrd was a solid decision as he was excellent defensively, was well liked in the clubhouse, and contributed a solid season offensively. Ryan Dempster was solid winning 15 games and throwing over 200 innings as well as providing tremendous leadership in the clubhouse. Carlos Marmol was excellent all season long saving 38 games and dominating like no other reliever in the game. He does have his occasional control problems but he should be an elite closer for many years to come. Sean Marshall settled into the setup role very well and has emerged as one of the better relievers in the National League. His emergence calmed a very shaky bullpen that struggled in April and May. Finally, shortstop Starlin Castro exploded on the scene when he was called up to the big leagues in early May. He was solid at the plate and showed flashes of brilliance defensively despite commiting 27 errors. He should be a fixture in the Cubs infield for many years to come. 


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Forbes on the Cubs: Least Efficient Team in Baseball

Forbes Magazine just released an article that ranks every major league team on what they received for their payroll expenditures. The news is not good for the Chicago Cubs who finished dead last in all of baseball, getting the least production for the obscene amount of money that they spent on player payroll in 2010.

Check it out....

Undercover Boss Comes to Wrigley Field

The Ricketts family are newcomers to the baseball world and despite the rough season the Cubs are having on the field it has been a learning experience for all involved in the family.  
I have learned that Todd Ricketts just completed nine days of shooting today on an episode of the popular CBS show "Undercover Boss" at Wrigley Field. Ricketts was in complete disguise including a beard and was not recognized by any Cubs employee as he performed a variety of jobs including hot dog vendor and security guard.

The family looked at this as a great way to learn the inner workings of the business from the ground floor up, despite the poor season. We hear that Ricketts really connected with his "fellow employees".

The show is being rushed into production because as one source who works closely with CBS told me: "Todd Ricketts was a natural and he made the show. It may be the best Undercover Boss we have ever done." It could air within a month. More to come.

Girardi To The Cubs? Harold Reynolds Says Yes

MLB Network Analyst Harold Reynolds told Dan Patrick on his radio show Monday he believes Yankees Manager Joe Girardi will be the next skipper of the Chicago Cubs. In the interview, Reynolds said Girardi has too many ties to the Windy City, and feels that will be enough to lure him back to the Friendly Confines.

I have been saying for a long time now that Girardi would be the best choice for the Cubs should he be available for Jim Hendry to bring into the fold.  Have a listen to the interview below.  We'll be discussing all week on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet and on The Cubs 10th Inning Postgame Show on WGN Radio 720.

 

**Breaking News** Cubs Close to Trading Derrek Lee

**Breaking News** The Cubs are close to trading first baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves, I have learned exclusively. The trade was first discussed on Sunday evening when the Braves called Cubs GM Jim Hendry and expressed interest after learning that one of their best offensive players, Chipper Jones was lost for the season with a knee injury.

As a 10-5 man (10 years in the major leagues and the last five with the same team) Lee has the right to reject a trade as he did when the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim tried to acquire him in late July. However, sources close to Lee tell us that he will approve a deal to Atlanta because the Braves are leading their division thus giving him a shot at winning another World Series ring. Lee was a member of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins who beat the New York Yankees in the Fall Classic.

The deal that would send Lee to the Braves has not yet been finalized but MLB sources characterize the trade as nearly done. One holdup has been Lee's balky back which has kept him sidelined the past couple of days. The trade is not expected to land the Cubs much in the way of talent because of Lee's subpar 2010 season but it will provide some salary relief as Lee makes 13 million dollars and the Braves are expected to assume most if not all of his remaining money.

Stay tuned and I will update as soon as I confirm that the trade has been completed. For all of the breaking news that I cover please follow me on Twitter @thekapman. Kap

A Look at the Trade of Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot

The Cubs started their overhaul of the roster for the 2011 season by trading pitcher Ted Lilly and 2nd baseman Ryan Theriot to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2nd baseman Blake DeWitt and two minor league pitchers.

The two minor leaguers the Cubs received were both drafted reasonably high but only one is projected by minor league talent evaluators as a probable big league arm. Brett Wallach, the son of former major league infielder Tim Wallach is a recent convert from position player and pitcher to full time pitcher and has, according to the scouts I spoke with a solid chance of pitching in the big leagues as a back of the rotation type or as a set up man. Kyle Smit was a touted prospect in 2006 when he was drafted in the 5th round but has not progressed as the Dodgers had hoped. Here are a couple of scouting reports on the two pitchers from the MLB Daily Dish:
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Fan wearing LeBron Heat jersey to Cleveland game escorted from ballpark

I've heard it all now. A fan was escorted from the New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians game tonight because he was wearing a LeBron James/Miami Heat jersey. Here is the story from MSNBC.

Gallery sneak peek (1 image):

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Andre Dawson Says the Cubs Should Go After Girardi

Recently inducted Hall of Famer Andre Dawson said this week that the Cubs should pass on Ryne Sandberg and should instead take a run at New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Here are the comments that Dawson made in an interview on WSCR in Chicago.

Please post your thoughts on the Cubs managerial position in the comments section. Thanks! 

Derrek Lee Says No Thank You to a Trade

The Cubs were approached recently by the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers regarding a potential trade for first baseman Derrek Lee. No names were discussed but the Cubs then went to Lee to see if he would waive his 10 and 5 rights which under Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement allow him to block a trade.

Lee informed Jim Hendry that he will not accept any trade and would like to wait until the season is over to decide on his future. His current Cubs contract expires at the end of this season.
Several reports have criticized Lee for his position but who are we to determine what is best for his future? He has the ability to block a trade and he exercised that right, plain and simple.

The Next Manager is a No Brainer Hire

With Lou Piniella's announcement last week that he is retiring as the manager of the Cubs the speculation has been in high gear as to who will replace him. From Ryne Sandberg to Bob Brenly to Bobby Valentine there has been no shortage of names tossed about.

I have looked at this decision for a while now knowing that Lou would not be returning to the Cubs and there is really only one name that should be on the Chicago Cubs shopping list. New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Girardi is so obvious that I am stunned to hear some people tout others over him. Girardi is a winner who has multiple World Series rings as a player and has won one as manager of the Yankees. He was also named Manager of the Year when he was with the Florida Marlins and took a team with a 14 million dollar payroll and nearly made the playoffs. He has had small payrolls, large payrolls and has handled both situations very well.


Gallery sneak peek (8 images):

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Lou Piniella To Retire

Cubs manager Lou Piniella will announce this afternoon that he is retiring at the end of the 2010 baseball season. I just spoke exclusively with Piniella and he did confirm that he is stepping down but he is very upset that the news leaked out before he had a chance to inform his team.

"Yes, it is true that I am retiring. I am 67 years old and it is time for me to move on to the next phase of my life and to spend more time with my family. However, I am very upset that the news leaked out before I had a chance to inform my team," Piniella told me.

Bill Madden of the NY Daily News learned of the impending announcement from Piniella's agent Alan Nero who told him the news in confidence. However, Madden did not keep the news quiet and thus the story broke, angering Piniella and his family.

Piniella will address the media at 4:15 from the interview room at Wrigley Field. I will have full coverage of the announcement both on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet at 5:30 and on the Tenth Inning Show immediately after tonight's Astros/Cubs game on WGN Radio.

What Keeps The Cubs From Winning?

We all know it has been 101 years and counting since the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series in 1908 and it isn't looking like this season will end the longest drought in sports history either. On Saturday I interviewed Cincinnati Reds star Scott Rolen who has played many games in the Friendly Confines and asked him why he thinks the Cubs don't win. What he told me might surprise you but give the man credit. He spoke from the heart and was extremely passionate in his comments.

DK: There is a lot of talk about leadership in a locker room. What is your take on the importance of leadership?

SCOTT ROLEN:
 
That word is thrown around a lot. It was thrown around a lot when I was in Philadelphia. Leadership means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The leadership aspect is a bunch of guys going out together and playing good baseball. When you're playing good baseball your winning baseball games then you have good leadership and you have good personnel. When you're going out and playing sloppy baseball and not winning ball games then we have bad leadership. I don't take it, I appreciate it. I take it as...a high regard and very complimentary. But we're trying to be professionals on and off the field trying to go out and play good baseball and stay on top of things and not let things get out of hand and have little brush fires along the way, just keep a nice clean clubhouse.

DK: We hear all the time about bringing in winning type players because they have won championships and they have "been there before". Do you agree?

SCOTT ROLEN:
 
Well, again I'm kind of a downplay guy, I think it's a little overblown. A winning player is a player that's on a team that won. That maybe didn't get a lot of at bats or get a lot of playing time. Whatever, there's something to it with individual guys, but it's individual personnel, case by case, there are special people in all sports that play the game that are infectious that have a way of putting people where they need to be. In the clubhouse keeping things loose, keeping things going in the right direction without a doubt. I do believe in that, but being a winning team and being a winning player, yeah I don't know.

DK: You have played a lot of games here at Wrigley Field during your career. Why do you think the Cubs haven't been able to win here?

SCOTT ROLEN:
 
I think I don't know is probably the politically correct answer. True answer? The facts or the truth? The facts? The facts as I see it, I think they have their hands full a little bit. I think they're limited in their facilities here, their batting cage, I think it limits their work. A little restricted obviously in the clubhouse and their weight room. A lot of facilities that other teams have. They play a different schedule than everybody in baseball. There's three things in my mind that are facts. I don't know if that's the truth because to me there's a difference between the facts and the truth. Well it's a night game now basically. You sleep in during the day, you play a lot of night games and you struggle with travel days and everyone struggles with day games. They're playing 50, 55, 60 whatever day games a year. It's a different schedule. So I know for us coming here playing four day games, we're beat. That's their season. That's what they're doing. It puts their backs against the wall a little bit. They have good players, they have good personnel, they know how to play baseball. They have a good organization, but you know honestly I think it's difficult for them. Like I said, when we're talking about facilities everyone talks about Wrigley Field. Great atmosphere we love coming here, the fans, batting practice, everything. Fantastic, the ivy the whole works. I'm in. There's a lot in the game today, there's a lot of beautiful facilities. That are geared towards working, towards perfecting you know your skill, towards video, you know a lot of things have changed in the game and I'm not sure what the other side looks like but you know batting cages and stuff, I think are a bit restricted. They have to work pretty hard, they've got their hands full. But great place to play, everyone loves playing here and good personel, good ball club, good players.


How to Start Rebuilding the Chicago Cubs

If the Cubs do not show signs of life heading into the all star break I fully believe that we will hear from Chairman Tom Ricketts on his and his family's thoughts about the team and their plans for cleaning up the mess. So with that in mind here is what I would advise them to do to prepare for a very tough meeting with the media and the July 31st trading deadline.

1) Management must let the fan base know how frustrated they are with the on field performance and also let them know that it will not be tolerated and that change is coming to the Cubs in a big way.

2) Identify those pieces that have trade value and can be moved. That means there are no untouchables on the roster. However, it would take a huge deal to pry some of the best youngsters away from the Cubs.

3) Be willing to eat significant dollars to clear out the dead wood on the roster so that a complete overhaul of the team can begin as soon as possible.

4) Show the paying customer how much this season has upset you. They are paying a tremendous amount of money to support your team and they also invest their heart in a team that has broken it more times than they care to remember. They have to know that you are as upset as they are or you could see further declines in attendance and support.

5) Lay out a plan for the future. The Cubs fans will buy a plan if it is spelled out to them in a clear and concise manner. There has never been a definitive plan to rebuild the team. It has always been about trying to upgrade and compete all at the same time. Unless you spend Yankee level money that plan has very little chance of succeeding.

6) Talk about playing with pride and fire. That is much more of an indictment on the players than it is on the manager. However, when you see players like Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez struggle day after day and they continue to remain in the 3-4 hole on the days that they are playing it is no wonder that it appears as if poor play is accepted. Lee and Ramirez have been awful all season long but never have we seen them dropped down to the 6-7-8 spots in the order.

When the White Sox were struggling in early June we heard Kenny Williams say that it would not be tolerated and that changes were coming if things didn't improve. He also said that "I'm tired of looking at this and so are our fans." By doing that he let everyone who buys a White Sox ticket know that he was as frustrated as they are and that it was unacceptable. We have not heard much of that from the North Side and that too is unacceptable.


Cubs Trying to Move Fukudome

Several baseball sources have confirmed to me that the Chicago Cubs have been extremely active in trying to move Kosuke Fukudome to open up regular playing time for rookie Tyler Colvin. Fukudome is owed approximately 8 million dollars for the remainder of this season and an additional 14 million for 2011.

My sources tell me that Cubs GM Jim Hendry has offered to pick up the bulk of the remaining dollars on the 2010 commitment and half of the money in 2011 but so far has found no takers for the under performing right fielder.

I have also been told that upper management is being extremely patient despite the poor performance of the Cubs so far in 2010. They will wait a few more weeks and evaluate the club's position at that time before they determine a course of action in advance of the July 31 trade deadline.

What Would You Do If You Were Tom Ricketts?

I host the Tenth Inning post game show on WGN Radio after most games and I am inundated with calls from fans who want to blame Lou Piniella for the poor play of many of the Cubs highly paid stars. So it got me to thinking. If you owned the Chicago Cubs what moves would you make? Not just in player personnel but in all aspects of running a major league baseball franchise from the team to the front office to the concessions to the marketing plan.

Put some thought into this and post your ideas in the comments section. I will take the best laid out plans to Tom Ricketts and hand your ideas to him. Be creative, think outside the box, and remember there are a ton of aspects that are included in owning a major league team that you probably haven't even considered. Where would you build the new spring training facility? Who would be your manager next season if Lou doesn't return? How much would your payroll be?

These are all interesting questions and questions that I want you to answer. Be thorough and have fun building a franchise but remember it is not as easy as it looks!

Go get em!

An Honest Assessment of the Cubs

With the Cubs currently sitting at 19-22 and 4 1/2 games off the pace in the NL Central it is time to evaluate the roster, the off season moves, and the decision making through the first 6 weeks of the season.

General Manager Jim Hendry did not have much payroll flexibility this past winter and he had a number of things he wanted to address as he tried to retool his baseball team after a disappointing 2009 season. Hendry needed to land a center fielder, he needed to move Milton Bradley, he needed to upgrade his bullpen, and he needed to help some of his best players return to their previous form after having sub par 09' campaigns.

Let's look at the Cubs moves and decisions since the end of the 2009 season and grade them accordingly:


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Cubs Will Sign Bobby Howry

As I reported earlier tonight on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet the Cubs will sign reliever Bobby Howry to a deal that will be announced sometime in the next 48 hours. Howry was released by the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this week and after clearing waivers the Cubs will only owe him the pro rated league minimum salary.

Howry spent the 2009 season with San Francisco where he appeared in 63 games with a 2-6 record and a 3.39 ERA. The Cubs are denying the signing but friends of Howry have confirmed that he and his wife have told them that they are indeed returning to Chicago.

An Open Letter From Tom Ricketts

I received this letter from several Cubs fans today so I decided to post it here on the blog so you could read it and decide to participate if you wanted to.

This is from Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts:


Are you a TRUE Cubs fan?

Date:
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Time:
12:00pm - 3:00pm
Location:
Chicago City Hall - Room 201-A
Street:
121 N. LaSalle St.

Description

If you're a true fan of the Cubbies then come on out and show the team your support.

Dear Friends,

You've probably been hearing about the Toyota sign we've proposed for the back of the left field bleachers at Wrigley Field. As fans and neighbors, we want you to know why this is important to the team and how it can help preserve the Friendly Confines.

As you know, Major League ballparks have historically relied on in-park signage to generate revenue. Legendary Fenway Park, older than Wrigley Field, has added significant signage throughout its outfield - and two World Series championships - in the last six years. Most other MLB teams also receive substantial public subsidies; we do not. In our case, we have asked for one sign in the outfield.

When we became owners, my family and I anticipated the need to spend tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars over the years ahead to preserve Wrigley Field. This past off-season, before we saw a single game as owners, we invested $10 million to shore up the infrastructure of the aging ballpark, renovate and expand its bathrooms, preserve our beloved scoreboard and replace some of the less attractive features of the park, like the concrete panels on the Addison street façade. As long-time Cubs fans, we know Wrigley Field is a special place and our hope is for future generations to share the wonderful experience of visiting the Friendly Confines.

In addition to the dollars invested in the park, we have maintained one of the highest payrolls in baseball and increased our budget for scouting and development - the key to future success. Winning a championship requires significant financial resources and we are currently reinvesting all profits - from the Toyota sign and otherwise - to make this happen.

Beyond the economics, there is an important principle at stake here. Wrigley Field has thrived for years as a privately-owned facility, albeit one where public interest is keen. We believe the park continues to be well-served by this principle which has guided its operation for nearly a century.

We have also been very respectful of the City's landmark designation and the process we have undertaken to win approval has been thorough. We've worked with the City and made adjustments, including modifying the location and design of the sign at the request of preservationists and City zoning officials. We've also worked with the rooftop businesses and in fact chose the proposed location because it least impacts those rooftop partners with whom we have long-term agreements. The landmark designation was never intended to put Wrigley Field in a time capsule. It's intended to allow flexibility and growth, within reason, to help the ballpark stay alive for the decades to come.

Finally, much of the opposition is rooted in commercial interests of one particular building and is designed to protect advertising currently on a rooftop across the street from Wrigley Field. Protecting the interests of one rooftop advertisement does not help preserve Wrigley Field or put together a championship team.

We would welcome your help and support for this sign. If you would like to lend your voice in support, please e-mail us at cubsfanfeedback@cubs.com.

I hope this information is helpful. Efforts like this are important as we continue to invest in our team and our 96-year-old ballpark. Improvements to Wrigley Field and modest changes throughout the years have kept the Friendly Confines alive while other stadiums have come and gone. Working together as we have allows us to remain viable and continue to flourish.

Thank you again for your help. And Go Cubs!

Sincerely,

Tom Ricketts
Chairman

The Latest on the Cubs, Zambrano, etc....

With the Cubs record now back to .500 at 13-13 and a 6 game road trip to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati up this week it's time to take a critical look at the team and some of the issues that they are facing in the fairly near future.

Before I go position by position I feel it necessary to address Phil Rogers "Morning Phil" column on the Chicago Tribune website today. Phil addresses the hot streak that Alfonso Soriano is currently in and says:

1. Forgive us, Alfonso. We should know better, but how quickly we all forget. When Bob Brenly, David Kaplan and seemingly everyone following the Cubs was treating Alfonso Soriano with something between contempt and ridicule for failing to run hard out of the batter's box on a blast to the wall April 20 at Citi Field in New York, they missed the bigger picture: Soriano was showing signs of become a dangerous hitter again.

Well, Phil you are showing an incredible lack of understanding of how the game is supposed to be played. Sure, Soriano is red hot and he is carrying the team but you have once again missed the much bigger picture. There is a right way to play the game and a wrong way to play the game and when Soriano doesn't hustle that is the wrong way to play the game and that my friend is an undeniable fact. You can defend his lack of hustle all you want but if it is no big deal then why was he pulled into Lou Piniella's office after that game in New York and talked to about the play? Are you telling me Phil that when he hustled a double into a triple the next night that it had nothing to do with the tongue lashing he received from his manager less than 24 hours earlier?

C'mon Phil, I know that you are smarter than that. Reading this it sure doesn't show it though.

Now, onto an assessment of the Cubs through the first month or so.

Starting Pitching

With Carlos Zambrano now in the bullpen as a set up man the rotation has stayed surprisingly solid through the first month. Carlos Silva has been solid and Tom Gorzelanny has been very capable in the #5 spot. Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells have been excellent and if not for the failings of the bullpen prior to Zambrano's arrival the Cubs record would be far better than 13-13. Ted Lilly has had one good start and one poor one so it is far too early to pass judgment on his long term prognosis this season. While the back end of the rotation has been a pleasant surprise you still cannot convince me that the rotation is better without Zambrano and I fully expect him to return to his role as a starter at some point this season. Unless of course the Cubs make a major trade that includes Big Z.

Bullpen

With 3 rookies on the opening day roster it is not hard to understand why the Cubs pen struggled so mightily in April. Combine that fact with the struggles of John Grabow and you can see why the record is what it is. Will Zambrano be the steadying influence that bullpen needs to vault the Cubs into contention? He can be if he is willing to commit himself to the role and if the Cubs rotation stays solid. If one of the 5 starters struggles then Zambrano will go back to the rotation and the hole in the set up role will again become a glaring weakness. Look for Jim Hendry to make a trade to shore this area up but with very little trade activity in the industry over the season's first 45-60 days it may be a while before deal gets done unless the Cubs GM is willing to significantly overpay.

Infield

The corner spots have been an issue offensively but Derrek Lee is showing signs of breaking out of his April slump and should be a solid force going forward. Ryan Theriot has been outstanding offensively hitting .348 and while he is not a Gold Glove shortstop he is more than solid at the position. Aramis Ramirez has been awful through the first month but based on his career numbers you have to believe that he will return to form as a very potent offensive threat. If he doesn't then the Cubs have major issues because his production is irreplaceable from the backups currently on the roster. Second base has been a pleasant surprise offensively as Mike Fontenot is hitting over .300 but can that continue for an entire season remains to be seen. The Cubs top prospect Starlin Castro is currently hitting .354 in Class AA but he is 5 for his last 35 at the plate so it appears he is in line for at least another few weeks of seasoning before he could make his major league debut. When he does look for Ryan Theriot to move over to 2nd base on an everyday basis.

Outfield

With all five outfielders on the roster deserving of playing time this is perhaps the toughest part of Lou Piniella's job. Alfonso Soriano. Marlon Byrd, and Kosuke Fukudome have all hit well but Tyler Colvin also is producing and has more than justified Piniella's faith in him when he put him on the opening day roster. Xavier Nady is a professional hitter and is not happy with his lack of playing time but with his surgically repaired elbow still an issue and the outfielders hitting well it has made opportunities for him to play scarce.

Catcher

A position of strength as Geovany Soto has rebounded from an awful 2009 and is a threat again at the plate. He is also throwing well and is a huge upgrade over the production the cubs received behind the plate in 2009. Koyie Hill is a very capable backup and has more than held his own when he gets an opportunity to play.

Summary

So, can the cubs make a run in the NL Central Division? Yes, if their rotation stays solid and the bullpen anchored by Zambrano and Carlos Marmol does its job consistently. Aramis Ramirez has to return to the form that he is capable of because without his bat in the lineup the Cubs have no chance to be solid enough offensively to compete for a playoff spot.

However, this is a station to station baseball team that does not have much team speed so when the wind blows in the Cubs are not very adept at manufacturing runs. They need to string together bunches of hits to score and that is not an easy proposition in the big leagues. I still have major questions about this team and while the past weekend was a solid step in the right direction let's not forget that they were playing the Arizona Diamondback and not the Philadelphia Phillies. Show us some excellent play against some of the better teams in the league and then maybe I'll start to believe.





The Cubs and White Sox Will Play for a Trophy

**Breaking News**

The Cubs and the White Sox have entered into a historic partnership today that will see the teams competing in inter league play, not only wins and losses but a new trophy called the BP Crosstown Cup.

Patterned along the lines of the various trophies that are staked in some of college football greatest rivalries, the Crosstown Cup will go to the team that wins the annual 6 game match-up between the two teams. What happens if each team wins 3 games you ask? Then the winner of the 6th game claims the trophy.

The Cup will be unveiled this season and should become a big part of the rivalry between the two great fan bases. The winning team will be presented the Crosstown Cup at the conclusion of the second series between the two teams, so there is a distinct possibility that a team could be awarded the trophy on the road in the other team's park.

Can you imagine the intensity of the moment if the Cubs were to celebrate with the trophy at US Cellular Field or the White Sox were to jump for joy with the Cup on the field at Wrigley? Those would be amazing moments to watch and will only intensify the already white-hot rivalry that runs generations deep.

In attendance at today's press conference in Millennium Park were Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, Manager Lou Piniella, Chief Marketing Officer Wally Hayward and players Marlon Byrd and Randy Wells. The White Sox were represented by Chief Marketing Officer Brooks Boyer and players A.J. Pierzynski and Gordon Beckham.   

Kap and Caller Chuck

If you haven't seen this video yet, you've got to check it out.  A loyal listener, Edwardo, made this video with the audio from the Cubs 10th Inning Postgame show which I was hosting on Monday night. 

I was drilling Alfonso Soriano on the show for the double he hit on Monday night against the Mets that should have been a triple.  Instead of hustling out of the batters box, as he should have, he was holding his bat high in the air, admiring what he thought was a homer.  So in ranting on this, I had to address it, and caller Chuck...well, let's just say didn't like it.

 

Send this to your friends, retweet it, post it on your facebook.  And thanks to Edwardo for the great work.  This is great!

-Kap

 

 

Carlos Zambrano Moves to the Bullpen

Lou Piniella has just informed us that he is making a major change to the Cubs pitching staff by moving Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen as a bridge to closer Carlos Marmol. Stunning news but when you stop and think about it you can see the rationale because Zambrano has a good stuff and if he is mentally into the move it could work.

A critical review of the Cubs and their slow start will be up later.... 

Zambrano Pounded on Opening Day....Can He Rebound?

After a train wreck of an Opening Day for the Cubs in Atlanta on Monday I decided to crunch the numbers for Carlos Zambrano to see if we can come to a conclusion on whether or not he has seen his best days and is in a downward spiral that he cannot reverse.

Zambrano was simply awful Monday as he was pounded by the Atlanta Braves giving up 8 earned runs in less than 2 innings of work. Can he rebound? Certainly. He is only 28 (he turns 29 in June) and he should be entering the prime of his career. However, his trends over the past season and a half are not very impressive.

Here are Carlos Zambrano's pitching numbers since the 2008 All Star Break:

Starts 41
Wins 13
Losses 11
ERA 4.63
BAA .248 (.246 with runners in scoring position)
22 HR Allowed
239 innings (avg of 5.8 per start)
4.3 BB per 9 innings

106 pitchers in Major League Baseball have made 30 or more starts over the same span of time. Here is where Carlos Zambrano ranks among those pitchers:

ERA:  79th
Innings pitched:   60th
BB per 9 innings:  100th
Wins:  65th
 
The good news....Big Z has slugged 7 HR's in that span which ranks him #1 among all of the pitchers on the list.No one else has more than 3.

So is Zambrano a staff ace? At this point in time there is no chance that he deserves to have that label attached to his name. His numbers bear out the argument that he is extremely overrated and grossly overpaid. But, for the Cubs to contend he has to be a major piece of the rotation. That though, may be easier said than done.

Weigh in with your comments because last summer when I was critical of Zambrano many of the comments were definitely supportive of him. I wonder how supportive many of those same people are now. I would think the evidence speaks for itself that the Cubs are not getting anywhere near their money's worth at this point in time. Here's hoping that changes.

Below are the many faces and emotions of Carlos Zambrano....

Gallery sneak peek (9 images):

View the gallery...

The Last Words I Hope to Ever Write About Milton Bradley

I had pretty much closed the book on the Cubs' worst signing of the last 20 years, and one of the worst in franchise history after Milton Bradley was traded away last December. However, I feel compelled to address the ridiculous garbage that spewed out of his mouth in an interview with ESPN's Colleen Dominguez at spring training. In the interview he basically blames everyone but himself for his awful 2009 performance, both on and off the field, even going so far as to wonder if Cubs personnel were sending him hate mail.

Let's go through his thoughts here and dissect how deranged this person really is.  Here is Bradley on if Chicago is a tough place to play if you are African-American: "Well, I mean unless you go out there and you're Superman -- you're Andre Dawson, you're Ernie Banks, you're in the Hall of Fame -- then it's going to be tough," Bradley said. "People are just the way they are".

Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard of Derrek Lee? Lee is well liked and respected and loves playing in Chicago. So much so that he stated a couple of weeks back when I interviewed him at spring training that he wants to retire as a Cub. Want a less successful player who is African-American and was well liked and loved playing here? What about Doug Glanville? He was a solid, but unspectacular player who had two tours of duty with the Cubs and now makes his home in the Chicago area.  

Fans want players who play hard, are reasonably successful, and represent the team positively. Milton did none of that. He made no effort to fit in with his teammates, he was distant with the media from day one, and he was a lousy baseball player. He claims that he was told he had to hit 30 home runs, but I can tell you that was never expected from him. The Cubs wanted him to get on base, drive in runs because he he would have opportunities hitting in the middle of the lineup, and they wanted him to play a decent right field. 

Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry met with the media on Wednesday in Mesa, AZ and here is what he had to say about Bradley's latest comments. Hendry has consistently taken the blame for the signing, repeatedly characterizing the acquisition as a complete and total mistake. However, after trading Bradley so he and the Cubs could get a fresh start, Bradley just can't keep his mouth shut. Hendry finally had enough of Bradley firing on the organization and met with the media in Mesa.

"We're all brought up in life to accept responsibility when we fail, and to judge people by how they act and how they carry themselves when things don't go well," Hendry said.

Bradley told ESPN some of the hate mail he received had no postage, suggesting it could've been sent in-house.

"Obviously, that couldn't be further from the truth," Hendry said. "I think maybe it's time Milton looks at himself in the mirror. It is what it is. He just didn't swing the bat. He didn't get the job done. His production, or lack of (production), was the only negative."

As for the hate mail that Bradley claims he received without a postmark, Hendry said people drop off mail at the front desk at Wrigley Field, which could explain why there was no postage on the alleged hate mail. He added that Bradley never mentioned the claim to anyone in the organization, and that the Cubs said the organization "couldn't have bent over backward any more than they did for the entire season, before (the suspension) in St. Louis."

Milton Bradley has no one to blame but himself for his poor performance in 2009. He was given the first multi-year contract of his career and he failed miserably. He was a sullen, moody person to deal with and never did anything, or made any attempt, to fit into the community or the locker room.

Could someone have said something racially motivated to him? Absolutely, however the rantings of a few lunatics were not the reason that Bradley had such a terrible experience in our city. He failed to produce on the field and continues to make excuses for his poor play. Milton Bradley, you need to look at yourself, not everyone else, when you try to figure out why the Cubs were so desperate to rid get rid of you.

Observations From Spring Training

With both the Cubs and White Sox hard at work in Spring Training, there are a few interesting story lines starting to develop for both teams. First, the Cubs had serious bullpen questions entering camp, and now with their top right handed setup man Angel Guzman experiencing discomfort in his pitching shoulder and being shut down, the questions are only bigger and potentially more serious.

If Guzman cannot be an effective bridge to closer Carlos Marmol, then the job falls to both John Grabow and rookie Esmailin Caridad. Grabow is an experienced arm who has shown the ability to get right handed hitters out, but is he a lock down guy who can be your #1 option in the 7th and 8th inning of a tight ballgame? That remains to be seen.

Caridad has a live arm, and Lou Piniella is very impressed with him. But can he handle the intense pressure and scrutiny that comes with that role? That also remains to be seen.

Piniella wants GM Jim Hendry to add a veteran arm but with very little payroll flexibility available who can he sign or acquire that can do the job reasonably well? In free agency there isn't much left other than John Smoltz, and he is over forty and well past his prime. Via the trade market, there isn't much available at this stage of the season, which means that one of the candidates competing for the #5 spot in the rotation may have to move to the bullpen. Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, or Tom Gorzelanny are all in the mix for the rotation but one of them could be the guy that Lou turns to in the bullpen.

In Sox camp, the big story so far is the fact that Ozzie Guillen has opened a Twitter account. GM Kenny Williams was not happy when he heard about it, but Guillen has assured his manager that his "tweets" will not involve the ball club, but instead focus on Ozzie's personal life. Hard to believe that we had a 14 minute media session with the Sox skipper yesterday, and 13 minutes and 20 seconds of it were spent on Twitter and the reality show that the Sox are participating for Major League Baseball.

Here are the latest photos from Cubs camp today. The White Sox have not begun full squad workouts yet. Those begin on Friday in Glendale, AZ.

Gallery sneak peek (16 images):

View the gallery...

The Signs of Spring

Here are some of the photos that I captured over the first two days at Cubs camp. The entire squad has reported and went through their first full day of workouts. As the snow falls and the cold weather blankets Chicago check out the blue skies in sunny Arizona. Enjoy! Kap


Gallery sneak peek (20 images):

View the gallery...

Kerry Wood Says Riggleman Did Not Misuse Him

Last week, Nationals manager and former Cubs skipper Jim Riggleman made news when he questioned his own handling of then Cubs rookie Kerry Wood in 1998. Speaking to the Washington Post, Riggleman said, "I think if anything that I learned from it, having to do it over I probably would have pitched Kerry less.  At the time that we had Kerry, my recollection of any criticism I had was 'Why did you take him out of the game?' After the fact it's "Well, you pitched him too much."

I reached Wood (now the closer for the Cleveland Indians) this morning and asked him for his opinion on Riggleman's comments. He was very open and honest telling me that he did not feel that Riggleman overused him.

"Wow, I hadn't heard his comments and I really don't agree with that. Look, I had bad mechanics back then and it was very hard for me to try to correct them when what I was doing was working. I remember many times thinking that I wish Jim would leave me in the game because I still felt strong."

Wood also talked about his mindset as a rookie.

"Back then I was a young pitcher with great stuff and when you are young and talented it is very hard to understand why you should be making changes to what you are doing when you are successful doing it the way you are. So, no I don't blame Jim at all. I definitely do not think I was overused or mishandled."

Gallery sneak peek (7 images):

View the gallery...

Cubs Expect Mesa Deal to Get Done

Cubs president Crane Kenney joined me on Sports Central tonight and had this to say when I asked him about the "Cubs Tax" that has riled up all of the other owners in the Cactus League:

 

Crane Kenney: Yes, we're really confident. I met with the mayor of Mesa today and we talked a little bit about the so-called "Cubs" tax. The state representative who's the sponsor of the bill has got a meeting Friday with all of the teams to talk about the various funding mechanisms and from our perspective that's not our business. The state and the city will figure out how to finance this. We're supportive of any measure that helps us get a facility, a world class one, and we've been led to believe by everyone from John McCain who I had lunch with last week on down that this will get done and we're going to have a few bumps in the road like lots of legislation but we're pretty confident.

The Baseball Season is Back

The Cubs first full squad workout is underway, and everyone on the roster has reported on time.  It appears the club as a whole is in the best shape that we have seen in quite a while. Carlos Zambrano and Geovany Soto, are both much lighter, which has been reported for weeks now, and in the case of Soto he has lost more than 40 lbs.

Derrek Lee met the media this morning and told us that despite Lou Piniella's opinion that team chemistry was bad a year ago, he felt that injuries and poor play were much bigger reasons why the team struggled throughout much of 2009.

"Chemistry is the million dollar question,"  Lee said.  "I think that when you are winning your chemistry always seems to come together and when you are not it is always questioned. It can't hurt to always have a good bunch of guys in the clubhouse and guys having fun but I don't think that was our problem last year. I think we just didn't play good baseball and the injuries mounted up on us."

The Ricketts family has just entered the complex, and they are getting ready to meet with the entire team. Then they will have a session with all of the assembled media. I'll file later today after the first workout is over. Stay in touch with all of the happenings by following me on Twitter. I will be tweeting all week. You can find me @thekapman

Have a great day! Kap 

The Changes That are Coming to Wrigley Field and the Cubs

With the Ricketts family taking over ownership of the Chicago Cubs things are changing throughout the franchise with many of those changes occurring throughout the ball park. The Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan wrote about some of the changes earlier this week but there are many more that are currently underway. Here are some of the changes that are going on at the Friendly Confines:

Did you know that after taking control of the Chicago Cubs, the Ricketts family has doubled the benefits package for Cubs employees including their contribution into the 401K each employee has. In addition, the word employees is no longer used. Instead everyone is referred to as associates. Also, the vendors are receiving a raise in the commissions that they are paid.

The changes going on at Wrigley Field are costing nearly 10 million dollars and are just the start of a major renovation of the park over the next few years. After touring the ball park recently here are the changes that are currently going on at the Friendly Confines: 

1) Major remodeling of the main restrooms for men and women located behind home plate. The number of toilets will greatly increase and the women's restroom is being expanded significantly with one of the ramps that fans use to get to the grandstand being removed.And yes guys, the troughs are staying.

2) The number of TV's in the ball park are being expanded significantly and all of the television sets are being upgraded to flat panel TV's.

3) Sky box suites 1-6 (down the left field line) are being remodeled and turned into a mezzanine club with a naming rights sponsor tied to it (I hear a financial company will be putting their name on it). Seats will be sold on a season ticket basis.

4) The area underneath the right field bleachers will be turned into a party area with one way glass allowing the fans who are renting the area to watch players take batting practice in the existing batting cages.

5) The concrete panels on the outside of the ballpark at the right field entrance are being removed to allow more sunlight into that area of the park and to allow fans going up the ramps a view of downtown Chicago.

6) The food options at the concession stands are being greatly expanded and a "Cubs Hot Dog" is being created ala the famous "Dodger Dog" that is sold in Los Angeles.

7) The players will have a new weight training center that will occupy the area that formerly was the umpires quarters. The umps have been relocated to the first base side of the field. In addition, the Cubs old weight room which is located in the clubhouse is being turned into a players lounge and dining room. The Cubs have also hired a team nutritionist who will be in charge of upgrading the food served in the locker room and monitoring players nutrition both at home and when the team is on the road.

8) The family lounge for players wives and kids is being completely renovated as the old quarters were embarrassingly spartan.

9) The Ricketts family has stressed that they want to make the Cubs experience the best in sports. Much like Disney World being exceptionally clean that is what the Ricketts family is demanding Wrigley Field be kept like.

10) The Cubs will soon announce the hiring of a Chief Hospitality Officer or Director of Game Day Entertainment and that person's job will be to make sure that every aspect of a fan's experience is held to the highest standards of excellence. There will be uniformed "team ambassadors" who will be monitoring every part of the "Cubs Universe" on game day. Whether a fan takes the train, parks their car in a surrounding lot, rides their bicycle, or takes a bus to the area surrounding the stadium there will be Cubs ambassadors monitoring everything that a fan experiences and trouble shooting any problems that are brought to their attention.

11) More availability of autographs for kids who attend games at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are planning a regular, formal program for kids to obtain autographs.

12) Kids will be allowed to run the bases once a month (probably on a Sunday) in a program that is still being finalized.

13) The Ricketts have told their staff that they want Wrigley Field to be the most fan friendly place in all of sports. To that end there have been and will continue to be a series of season ticket holder luncheons designed to allow long time fans a chance to give the Cubs feedback on what needs to be improved off of the playing field.

14) There will be a customized "Wrigley Grass Seed" developed by Scott's that will be available in stores this summer.

More to come.

Tony LaRussa on McGwire, Managing the Cubs, and More....

St. Louis Cardinals Manager, Tony LaRussa, joined me yesterday on Chicago Tribune Live and
talked about the possibility of working for Jerry Reinsdorf again,
whether or not he would ever manage the Cubs, and if we could see Mark
McGwire on the Cardinals roster. The interview is transcribed below.

KAPLAN: Tony looking at your career, you had a good run with the White
Sox then you ended up leaving and going to Oakland. You're still very
very close to Jerry Reinsdorf. Could you see yourself at some point
maybe working for him in the front office when your managerial days are
over and you leave St. Louis?

LARUSSA: Well there's two answers to that. One is that I know that he is
pleased with his management team. I know that he really has a lot of
confidence, and he deserves to have that with Kenny Williams, and the
assistant, and the farm director, and all that stuff. I mean I would
never think about managing. I know he likes Ozzie as well. So I don't
ever think that is going to be an issue, because I think he's got his
team. But the other side to that is if I ever left the field and went
upstairs, which I hope to do sometime maybe soon, you know thirty-one,
thirty-two years is enough and at some point I'd like to work for an
owner that I like and that I respect as much as I do Jerry because I
want to be motivated to make him happy. I worked as a manager for Jerry,
I worked for Walter Haas, now in St. Louis its nice when you like the
people you work for because that helps motivate you.

KAPLAN: If you were a free agent and sitting on the market and the Cubs job
was open, would you say I can't go there because of my relationship with
Jerry, or the rivalry with the Cardinals? Or would you say I would listen because
I"m looking for a gig?

LARUSSA: Well I don't think the Cubs would consider me number one, but
number two you've got a double-headed whammy there. I have a lot of
friends and fans that I'm close to with the White Sox. And you know
the White Sox and Cubs, they don't mix. I've got friends and fans that I'm
close to in St. Louis and the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cubs don't
mix. So I think if there is one place that I don't fit just because of
my past it would be the Chicago Cubs.

KAPLAN: Mark McGwire you've been very very positive about. You said hey
this guy is going to be a very good hitting coach for me. Mark has come
out and addressed his issues. Did you think there would be the backlash
to it when you hired him? Or that didn't surprise you?

LARUSSA: No, I knew it was one of the things we had to face. Let me make
sure I correct one thing. I'm very loyal to our players over the years,
White Sox, A's, and Cardinals. If you give back to the team which you
should, I don't grease the squeaky wheel. I like to take care of the
guys who are really good teammates.  Mark was a great teammate. But when
it comes to putting a coach on the staff it has nothing to do with
loyalty, it has nothing to do with friendship. You know, we have too
much at stake. I think he has the qualities of a great hitting coach,
and that's why he was hired. And you knew at some point, number one he
couldn't just take the job and not be forthcoming about I did do
something or I didn't do something. And I think when he came out we were
really encouraged that he pulled out all the stops and admitted more
than anybody yet that he made mistakes. He apologized sincerely. I think
a great majority of his peers, past and present, a lot of fans and some
media  wanted him to move forward. So I don't think there's a whole lof
left that he hasnt talked about, that he needs to talk about. I just
think at some point now, especially with Mark or anybody else, if you
had a celebrity coach, or you name a great player... Frank Thomas was a
great player and if he became your hitting coach. It's not about the
coaches, its about the players. We keep the distractions to a minimum,
and its about getting the most of our players.

KAPLAN: You said a couple months ago that if you got to the playoffs, you
could see Mark possibly being on the roster. Do you still feel that way
going to spring training?

LARUSSA: That was really a fun remark because when Mark left, he left
with a bad back. One of the things people talk about, you hear people
say that he has really good character and he's a good teammate. But he
had a $30 million signed contract by the Cardinals that he walked away
from. That to me is character and integrity, because he knew his back was
broken and he couldn't play. Seven or eight years later he is in great
shape, and his back is good. So we were kidding that he looks so good. I
was watching him swing in the cage and he's whistling it. I said, "You
could still swing!" He said, "why don't we talk about you activating
me?" We were just messing around and our tongues were so much in our
cheeks that its hard for anybody to understand what we were saying. He's
not going to play, he's going to coach. Hopefully we have a postseason,
but he wont be a part of it.

The Best of the Decade in Chicago Sports

As the first decade in the 21st century comes to a close, let's take a moment to reminisce about the best and worst moments and athletes of the past ten years in Chicago Sports.

Best Team: 2005 Chicago White Sox

Only one Chicago team could call itself champions in the first decade of the 2000s, and that team plays at 35th and the Dan Ryan.  The White Sox magical run to a world championship in 2005 erased an 88-year drought of glory on the south side.  Everything went right for Ozzie Guillen's club that year, as his starting staff of Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia each won 14 or more games in the regular season, leading the club to a 99 win campaign.  Playing "Ozzie Ball", the Palehose used speed and timely hitting to scratch across runs with Scott Podsednik changing the team's offensive strategy.  The White Sox stormed through the playoffs, going 11-1 in October, which included a sweep of the then-defending champion Red Sox, and the Astros in the World Series.  Their bullpen was rock solid all year, as Bobby Jenks burst onto the scene as a bona fide closer, and earned the save on October 26, 2005 to earn the Sox a ring.

Worst Team: 2000-2001 Chicago Bulls

After a historic run of six world championships in the previous decade with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, things went very bad and very fast for the Bulls after the nucleus of the team left the Windy City.  The team did have Elton Brand, who averaged 20 points per game, Ron Mercer, who could still contribute, and Ron Artest--who by his own admission--was drinking on the job.  The team went 15-67, bad enough for a miserable .183 winning percentage, and ranked dead last in the NBA in points per game (87.6).  Need any further proof this team was a disaster?  This team only had three players average double-digit scoring, and Ron Artest barely qualified in double-digits with just over 11 points per game.  Also, how about these names that contributed minutes to Tim Floyd's club that year:  Dragan Tarlac, Khalid El-Amin, Dalibor Bagaric, A.J. Guyton, Jake Voskuhl.  Need I say more?

Best Athlete: Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears

Say what you want about Urlacher's attitude, or problematic character at times.  It's no question this city could have embraced him far more than they did over this past decade.  But when it comes to the best athlete in Chicago sports over the last ten years, Urlacher takes the cake.  After being drafted in the first round out of New Mexico in 2000, Urlacher immediately emerged as a standout linebacker for the Bears and quickly vaulted to the top of the NFL.  He had more than 800 tackles in the decade, 37.5 sacks, and 17 interceptions.  He was one of the most feared defensive players in the league for the majority of the decade, and led his team to multiple playoff appearances including a Super Bowl berth in 2006.  Note: Honorable Mention goes to White Sox ace Mark Buehrle, for a consistent and successful decade.

Worst Athlete: Corey Patterson, Chicago Cubs

Corey Patterson had a three good months as a Chicago Cub.  That's it.  Otherwise, his career as a Cub could really only be described as a debacle.  The 3rd overall pick in the 1998 draft figured to solve the Cubs center field problem for the long haul.  All we read and heard about him coming up was that he had great speed, great power, and could be a five-tool superstar type player to anchor the Cubs outfield.  Instead, he was a free-swinging, undisciplined, stubborn liability for the Cubs for parts of five seasons.  Other than the 83 games in 2003 in which he hit .298 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs, he was detracting from the team's success.  (And funnily enough, when Patterson got hurt the Cubs acquired Kenny Lofton, who was a catalyst and a big reason why the Cubs nearly reached the world series that season.)  In 2004, he was a microcosm of the team's shortcomings, and his 2005 season was one of the worst statistical seasons put forth by an everyday player in history.  He's still toiling around baseball, last seen with the Brewers this past season.  The Cubs traded him to Baltimore before the 2006 year, and the Cubs have still not found a long term solution for center field.

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So Did The Cubs Shop Zambrano?

New York sources continue to insist to the Big Apple's news media that the Yankees took a run at Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano in the past week prior to re-acquiring Javier Vazquez from the Atlanta Braves. In fact, Friday's edition of the NY Daily News says that the Cubs did indeed discuss a deal and that the Cubs were willing to take back left hander Kei Igawa and the 12 million dollars left on his deal to try to make the financial aspects of a trade possible.

So is it true? Were the Cubs shopping Zambrano? Sources very close to the Yankees who would not speak on the record told me that there was really nothing in the way of negotiations with the Cubs regarding Big Z. One phone call was placed to see if Zambrano was available, and Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman was told that short of an overwhelming deal in terms of talent, and the Yanks assuming all of the remaining 53 million dollars on Zambrano's contract, the Cubs had no interest in trading their #1 starter.

So while there was a call made to gauge the Cubs interest, there really was nothing to the frenzy that hit the internet early this week regarding Zambrano and the Yankees. With Ted Lilly coming off of shoulder surgery, and Rich Harden now pitching for the Texas Rangers, the Cubs are very thin in the rotation. Trading Zambrano would be a foolish thing to do, unless the deal was a huge win for the Cubs. And with the Yankees payroll already at $200 million, there was no chance that they were assuming all of Big Z's contract.

Tonight on Radio and TV

Tonight at 5:30 on Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet we will be joined by White Sox GM Kenny Williams and his newest acquisition, outfielder Juan Pierre who was acquired in a trade this morning from the Los Angeles Dodgers for two minor league pitchers.

Tonight at 7:00 p.m. on Sports Central on WGN Radio we will have an in depth discussion about the Chicago Cubs with three well known bloggers including Andy Dolan of Desipio.com. We will take calls and look at the 2010 season and the remaining free agents that the Cubs might have interest in.

**Please note that new Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly will join me on Sports Central on Thursday evening.

The Cubs Payroll Evolution

In 2003, the Chicago Cubs payroll was $80 million. In 2004, coming off a run to the NLCS, the Cubs payroll escalated to $90 million. 2005 saw the team shave the number to 87 million, and not until 2008 did the player payroll crack the 100 million dollar mark. So how did the Cubs go from spending 99 million dollars in 2007, to roughly 145 million, which is where their payroll is estimated to reach in 2010? 

Several factors played into the scenario that now has the ball club among the top 3 spending teams in baseball. First, 2006 was an abysmal season that saw the Cubs finish 66-96, dead last in the NL Central. Consequently, attendance in the latter stages of the season plummeted, and fans stopped paying attention to the team by September.

Second, the White Sox reached the pinnacle of the sport, winning the 2005 World Series. Their success rekindled interest from their fan base, and saw legions of Chicago area youngsters wearing Sox hats and jerseys. Cubs management took notice of their half empty stadium in September of 2006 and decided that something drastic had to be done.

Drastic meant the firing of Andy MacPhail as team president and firing manager Dusty Baker. The club kept general manager Jim Hendry and gave him a blank check to try to right the ship.  The Cubs knew with the resurgent competition in town and the fact that the franchise would soon be up for sale that they needed to increase the franchise's value to appease both the fan base and drive up the value for a prospective buyer.
  
In November of '06, after reeling in Mark DeRosa on a 3 year 13 million dollar deal, the Cubs signed Alfonso Soriano to an 8-year, $136 million contract, which was unprecedented for the Cubs after years of avoiding the premium free agents. Hendry then went to the Winter Meetings in December of 2006 and signed Ted Lilly to a 4 year 40 million dollar deal. This all came after the Cubs re-signed Aramis Ramirez to a 75 million dollar deal, re-signed Kerry Wood, and added Lou Piniella as their new manager.

And do you really think Hendry, after sitting third on the depth chart behind MacPhail and Baker, was really acting alone?  No chance.  The company had as much to do with the team's free spending as he did. In fact, Hendry was given a mandate by management to spend freely, try to win,  and most importantly to management, to raise the franchise's value to aid the sale process.

That also meant that the contracts that were given out were to be back loaded as much as possible so that the new owner would pay much of the deals. However, the economy tanked, the credit markets dried up and the sale process took for longer than expected which made Hendry's job far tougher as he tried to navigate the deals that he had been asked to extend by his bosses.

Yet while the Cubs spent a tremendous amount to improve their team and improve their value, they added some enormous contracts of which the new owner would inherit the bulk. Consequently, the team has very little wiggle room to add marquee players now, or in the near future, since their payroll is tied up in players like Soriano, Zambrano, and Ramirez.  Had the Cubs had more financial flexibility a year ago, what's to say the team wouldn't have been interested in adding Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay at the trading deadline?

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The Truth About the Granderson Deal

I read Phil Rogers column in the Chicago Tribune yesterday and came away scratching my head at the premise that Phil is using-- that the Cubs should have traded for Curtis Granderson because the Yankees didn't need Granderson as badly as the Cubs. They already have Derek Jeter to be their leader and ambassador.

Phil, Granderson had a lousy 2009 season. He hit .183 against left-handed pitching. He had an on base percentage of .327, and he struck out 141 times. Yes, he is an outstanding defensive player and a wonderful human being. But the Cubs have to get better players in their clubhouse, not just better people.

The Cubs don't have the financial flexibility that the Yankees do, because the Yankees have $60 million more to spend on their payroll. The Cubs were interested in Granderson, yes, but not at the expense of trading a handful of their best prospects to acquire a guy who is a better person than he is a player.

The Yankees are planning on starting Granderson in center everyday, but he will not be their lead off man. The Yankees hitting instructors evaluated his swing by looking at tapes of his at-bats against left handed pitching in 2009, and compared it to his swing in previous seasons when he was much better against left handers. They now believe that they can correct what's wrong with his swing, and the tremendous talent that surrounds him in New York will make his transition to the World Champions that much easier.

He was much better against right handed pitchers in Detroit and in Yankee Stadium as a pull hitter with a short porch to right field he could have a much better season. It wasn't a fit for the Cubs given the price tag the Tigers set.  Phil, you don't trade a lot of your best young talent just to get a leader in your clubhouse. He has to fit as a player as well and the fit is much better in New York than it would have been in Chicago.

Yankees Covet Granderson, Cubs Won't Include Castro

The New York Yankees spent the better part of Monday at the Winter Meetings trying to acquire Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson, who is available because Detroit is looking to cut payroll. The proposed deal was a three team swap that also included the Arizona Diamondbacks. But as of Monday evening, it appears that the Yankees were having reservations about the amount of young talent that they would have to include in the swap to acquire Granderson.

The Cubs are on the fringe of the discussions, hoping to hang around and see if the price falls a bit, so they can take a run at acquiring the outstanding defender and Chicago native. However, the Tigers reportedly are asking for Cubs top prospect SS Starlin Castro and two more good players in exchange for Granderson, and the Cubs are balking at including Castro in just about any deal.

The Cubs are also hot on the heels of CF Mike Cameron, who played for Cubs manager Lou Piniella in Seattle. He's not only a great defender, but he is considered one of the best clubhouse leaders in baseball. Jim Hendry told me last week that he can make moves even if a trade or signing puts him over the payroll limit set by ownership, as long as he meets his budget number by Opening Day. That was not the case in 2005, when Hendry was forced to let Moises Alou leave via free agency, and to pass on several other moves, because he had not yet moved the contract of Sammy Sosa. 

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The Weekend in Sports

It was an interesting past week in the sports world with the Tiger Woods scandal hitting new levels each and every day. Not a day went by that we didn't hear about another woman who was allegedly sleeping with the Tiger. Who knows where this whole sordid mess is headed. Here is the latest information on a deal that Tiger reportedly made to keep a story about an affair from being published.

In addition, the lurid details about his sex life are now surfacing which has turned the intensely private Woods into a late night talk show punch line. And with the count of women coming forward now at six who knows when this story will leave the news and allow Tiger and his wife some time to work on repairing their relationship.

Then you had the Bears who were coming off of an embarrassing blowout loss to the Vikings. Well, on Sunday the beloved Bear finally put a game into the win column by beating the completely inept St. Louis Rams 17-9 at Soldier Field.

The Bulls finally won a game after they beat the Detroit Pistons at the United Center earlier in the week. However, they were drilled both Friday and Saturday by the Cavaliers and Raptors respectively with the latter winning by 30+ at the United Center.

The Blackhawks won 2 of 3 this week with an 11 round shootout deciding a tough win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday evening before the Hawks lost to Nashville on Friday night at the United Center. However, the Hawks bounced back quickly beating the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in OT on Saturday evening.

Baseball now grabs center stage with the Winter Meetings officially underway in Indianapolis. Both the Cubs and the White Sox are expected to be very active participants with the Cubs hoping to move Milton Bradley while the Sox are considering dealing closer Bobby Jenks.

So who makes our week in pictures? Check em' out because we have the stars of the week and the women who are reportedly chasing a Tiger.

Enjoy and get ready for our updates of the Winter Meetings which are in high gear through Thursday and where we have a ton of great sources. Also, please make sure you tune into Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and Sports Central on WGN Radio at 7 p.m. Have a great week! Kap

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Vote for the Best in Chicago Sports

There is no better city in America for sports than Chicago and with the end of the year fast approaching it is time to ask for your help to vote for the best in Chicago sports in 2009.

Each year on Chicago Tribune Live we award The Kappy's to honor excellence among Chicago athletes. Click here to vote now! Your help is greatly appreciated!

Jake Fox and Aaron Miles to Oakland for 3 Prospects

The Cubs have traded Jake Fox and Aaron Miles to the Oakland A's for three prospects. More to come. 

The Hottest Baseball Wives and Girlfriends - Part Two

Here is Part Two of our post on the hottest baseball wives and girlfriends. There were so many candidates that we had to separate them into two posts because all of the pictures wouldn't fit into one!

Enjoy!

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Cubs Choose Not to Offer Arbitration to Harden

Tonight is the deadline for clubs to offer salary arbitration to their free agents. And for the Cubs, that means they have decisions to make on a handful of players, including starting pitcher Rich Harden and closer Kevin Gregg.

I have learned that the Cubs have informed Harden and Gregg as well as outfielder Reed Johnson that they will not be offered salary arbitration meaning that if those players sign with another club the Cubs will get no draft pick compensation.
Rich Harden.jpg

The Cubs have elected not to offer salary arbitration to starting pitcher Rich Harden whose injury history made it likely he would have accepted it putting the Cubs on the hook for a big salary.


The Cubs had an opportunity to trade both Harden and Gregg to the Minnesota Twins at the end of August but felt that being only 5 games back in the Wild Card race they did not want to wave the white flag of surrender. That was a tactical mistake because now the Cubs will lose both guys for nothing when they could have had a couple of prospects from the Twins.
Their competitiveness to stay in the race was admirable but misguided because the Chicago Cubs had no chance of contending in September of 2009.
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Who Would You Put On A Chicago Sports Mt. Rushmore?

A great topic of debate is who are the best athletes in Chicago Sports history. But how do you ask that question? Is it the best athlete? Or is it the most individually dominant in terms of statistics? Or perhaps you ask is it the guy who has won the most championships?

So here is how I have decided to ask the question. If you had to carve a Mt. Rushmore of Chicago sports who would be the four men who would have their likenesses carved into your tribute to their greatness?

Below I have pictures of the players that I have nominated. Am I missing someone? Please post a comment with your nominees and your thoughts. Soon I will have a competition to crown the winners based on your voting. However, I have to make sure that the ballot is correctly done. And for that I need your help. So please weigh in. Thanks, Kap

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A Look at Curtis Granderson

After a nice break on the beach in Maui it's time to get back to work covering all of the happenings in the Chicago sports world. So let's start with the Cubs, who are still trying to unload Milton Bradley after talking with a number of teams at the recently completed GM meetings.

The latest I am hearing has the Cubs and the Rangers seriously discussing a trade that would send the disgruntled outfielder back to the the team that he starred for before signing with the Cubs last winter. However, read this nugget in Rangers' beat writer Evan Grant's blog regarding a possible Bradley return to Texas, and you'll see just how tough it may be for the Cubs to move him.

As for the Tigers willingness to trade center fielder Curtis Granderson, things are starting to heat up, as they explore several different options in both the AL and NL.
curtis-granderson.jpg

Detroit Tigers CF Curtis Granderson would be a huge upgrade for the Cubs outfield defense.

The Cubs are definitely on the Tigers radar, since they fit several of the requirements Detroit has in any Granderson deal. First, they have a handful of excellent prospects that are nearly major league ready and they would be the key to any deal. Also, the Cubs don't play in the AL and definitely don't play in the AL Central. That could make this deal more likely, since Detroit is very reluctant to trade him within their league and even more so in their division. If you were Jim Hendry, would you trade rising shortstop prospect Starlin Castro in a package to land Granderson?
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A Look at Zambrano and Lackey

It's amazing to see the reaction anytime I write about Carlos Zambrano and his performance as the ace of the Cubs rotation. If I point out anything negative about Big Z his supporters come rushing to his defense. If I say something nice about "Z" those who don't like him become very vocal.

Yesterday, I talked about free agent starter John Lackey of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and his credentials which should earn him a huge contract this winter. I immediately heard from the Zambrano fan club who think that if I point out Z's shortcomings I must have a vendetta against him.

Look, I am not a Zambrano fan because he is lazy and he doesn't get the most out of his abilities. However, I agree that he is a tremendously talented guy who should be a staff ace if he could ever learn to control his emotions and would report to spring training in shape and would work hard enough during the season to stay that way.

Let's compare the statistics in a handful of key categories between Zambrano and Lackey since Z signed his 91.5 million dollar extension on August 17, 2007. The rankings are for all starting pitchers who are regular members of a rotation in either league.

                              Zambrano                                                Lackey
Innings pitched          406.1 (47th)                                              402.1 (52nd)       
Strikeouts                 320 (T-38th)                                              322 (T-37th)
Complete Games       2  (T-39th)                                                5 (T-8th)
K/BB Ratio                1.84 (115th)                                              3.35 (23rd)
Baserunners/9 IP        12.49 (85th)                                             11.57 (37th)

So in the categories of innings pitched and strikeouts the two pitchers are just about even but in the all important stats of strikeouts to walks and base runners per 9 innings pitched Lackey is far superior. Does that mean he is worth 12-15 million dollars a year? Probably not, but he will probably sign a deal somewhere in that range. Is he a true #1 starter? Again, probably not but his big game experience and tenacity does intrigue a number of teams and that should create a solid market for his services.

Some Ideas for the Cubs

The Cubs are starting to see the fruits of their labor to improve their farm system, as a handful of top flight prospects are nearly ready to play at the major league level. SS Starlin Castro is probably the closest position player to the big leagues, with 3B Josh Vitters not far behind, especially offensively.

So with Castro on the fast track to the Cubs everyday lineup, incumbent shortstop Ryan Theriot will be moved to 2nd base when Castro arrives. If Castro is being penciled into the starting lineup for Opening Day 2011, or perhaps sooner, why not move Theriot to 2nd base now? Rather than have two middle infielders in new surroundings when the 2011 season begins, why not let Theriot play there in 2010 and sign a veteran shortstop to a one year deal until Castro is ready?

What about a one year contract for Orlando Cabrera, who played very well for the Minnesota Twins down the stretch? The former White Sox has had a solid big league career for the past 12 seasons. He is excellent defensively, hits for average, runs fairly well and would not cost a ton of money to sign. Cabrera plays nearly every day, and brings a ton of postseason experience.

That would allow Theriot to play 2nd base, where he would be a better fit, and it would allow him time to get comfortable with the position before he has to help Castro with his transition to the big leagues in late 2010 or at the start of 2011.

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Ted Lilly Has Shoulder Surgery

The Cubs have announced today that Ted Lilly had shoulder surgery yesterday afternoon and probably will not start the season in the Cubs rotation. Here is the press release that the Cubs issued today:

TED LILLY UNDERGOES LEFT SHOULDER ARTHROSCOPY AND DEBRIDEMENT

CHICAGO - Ted Lilly yesterday afternoon underwent a left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement performed by noted orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles.  During the surgery, Dr. Yocum found no major damage to Lilly's shoulder and the procedure consisted of a washout and clean up of the shoulder.  The procedure took approximately one hour to complete. 

Lilly will immediately begin an aggressive range of motion and strengthening program.  After the first of the year, Lilly will be re-evaluated and the club will establish a timetable for him to begin his throwing program in preparation for the 2010 season.  Typically, recovery time for a procedure such as this would place Lilly's return to the Cubs rotation within the month of April. 

"We are pleased that Ted's surgery was a success and are eager to see him begin his rehabilitation program," said Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry.  "After Ted's re-evaluation following the first of the year, a determination will be made as to when he will begin his throwing program.  At this point in time, it is too early to precisely project Ted's return to the Cubs rotation; most estimates would place that return within the month of April.

"At the conclusion of the 2009 season, Cubs team doctors prescribed a conservative approach to managing Ted's shoulder in preparation for the 2010 season and, following a second opinion, Dr. Yocum agreed," Hendry continued.  "At the end of last week, Ted decided that undergoing a surgical procedure was the course of action he wanted to pursue, a decision the club supported.  We're glad the surgery did not reveal any major damage to Ted's shoulder and look forward to his return to our rotation."

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Cards Hire McGwire: What A Joke

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Courtesy: Getty Images. Say hello to the Cardinals new hitting coach, former slugger and steroid user Mark McGwire.

When Cardinals manager Tony La Russa sat at the podium last week trying to defend the merits of hiring new hitting coach Mark McGwire, I sat there shaking my head.  How could an organization as well run as the St. Louis Cardinals really defend this move?

McGwire hit 583 lifetime home runs, which currently ranks eighth on the all-time list.  That is, of course, if you forget the fact the man was built like Hulk Hogan and was pumped up on steroids for likely his entire career.

It was androstenedione, the over-the-counter supplement that McGwire swore was natural, which he admitted to taking in 1998 when he swatted 70 home runs for the Cards, at the time the single season record.  (A hopped up Barry Bonds would hit 73 in 2001 to set the current modern day mark.)  Granted, it was legal within Major League Baseball to take the stuff, but unofficially andro is a steroid yet is classified as a "dietary supplement" by the FDA.

Then it was his hilarious performance in front of Congress as the Federal Government questioned McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, and Rafael Palmeiro about their steroid use.  Never mind the fact that in that hearing, Sosa forgot how to speak English and Palmeiro wagged his finger at the Senators before him and swore that he never took steroids.  McGwire sat there red in the face and sweating bullets before he could muster out a lawyer written statement about how he wasn't there to talk about the past and that "steroids is bad".

Finally, it was his brother Jay willingly tarnishing Mark's reputation even further, detailing his brother's use of the steroid Deca-durabolin publicly and validating all the accusations made by Jose Canseco in his tell-all book, Juiced

This is the guy the Cardinals want as their new hitting coach?  A guaranteed sideshow in the arch city for the entire 2010 campaign?  
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It's Official....The Ricketts Take Control

After a 30 month period filled with ups and downs it is finally official. The Ricketts family has taken control of the storied Chicago Cubs franchise, Wrigley Field, and a stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Here is the press release issued by the Ricketts family through their spokesman Dennis Culloton just minutes ago....

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 (CHICAGO) -- The Ricketts family says it's official; the family has taken a 95 percent controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field and 25 percent of Comcast Sportsnet after a financial closing today.

The closing on the deal, valued at $845 million, completes a more than two year effort that started when Tribune Company put the team, stadium and broadcast interest up for bid.  Family members Pete, Tom, Laura and Todd Ricketts will now assume control of the team, forming a board of directors. Tribune Company will retain a five percent interest in the enterprise and also have a seat on the board. 

Tom Ricketts, 44, will serve as board chairman and issued the following statement:

"My family and I are thrilled that this day has finally come and we thank Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball owners for approving our ownership.  Now we will go to work building the championship tradition that all Cubs fans so richly deserve. 

It's fitting that this closing takes place during World Series week. Out of respect for the Fall Classic, and at the league's request, we will wait to introduce ourselves to the media and fans until this Friday, a travel day in the series between the Phillies and the Yankees."

The news conference will take place at Wrigley Field at 11 a.m. Friday, October 30th.

More to come later in the day when we discuss this on Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 on Comcast SportsNet and tonight at 7:00 on Sports Central on WGN Radio.

No Chance the Cubs Spend the Spring in Florida

There are reports surfacing tonight that the Cubs have spoken with the city of Naples, FL about a possible move there as a new spring training home. Yes, the Cubs have met with Naples officials and they have toured the city as they consider all of their options for spring training.

However, there is virtually no chance that the Cubs will leave Arizona and the Cactus League for Florida and the Grapefruit League. The travel in Florida is much tougher with some of the cities much farther apart than the large group of teams that calls the Phoenix area home.

This is called negotiating folks, and as the Cubs look around it drives up the offers from the city of Mesa. And it will, in the end, make the deal that the Cubs agree to that much more lucrative. Look for the Cubs to develop a sort of "Disneyland" for spring training baseball in Arizona, with a hotel and restaurant complex located near the playing field and workout facilities at which the team will train.

When it is all finished, it will be a cash cow for the Cubs, who remain the #1 drawing team in the Cactus League. The new stadium will be larger than Ho Ho Kam, and it will be loaded with amenities that the Cubs currently don't have.

Yes, Naples would love to have the Cubs, but I just don't see it happening no matter what they offer. The Cubs and Arizona are a good match, and when Mesa finishes their proposal I see the Cubs staying right there.

Chicago Sports Needs Some Personalities

While I consider Rick Morrissey a colleague and a friend, we usually disagree on most of the topics we discuss in the sports world. However, his column this morning in the Chicago Tribune was outstanding. For a world class city with the best sports fans in the world, we sure don't have much in the way of colorful personalities who are compelling enough for even the casual fan to pay attention. How big would Chad Ochocinco be on the national stage if he played in Chicago or New York? He would be a mega star.

Outside of Ozzie Guillen, name me one guy who you think really keeps it interesting, and is engaging not only with the media, but in the way he acts on the playing field. Let's examine the coaches and managers first, then we'll look at the players who call Chicago home.

Managers and Coaches

Ozzie Guillen

He may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I find him so entertaining to watch and to cover that he would probably the guy I'd hire if I owned a baseball team. Ozzie is honest to a fault, and he says what most fans are thinking even if his players don't like his frankness. His personality keeps the White Sox in the headlines even when his team may not be great. Plus, he has a World Series ring on his hand. So those who don't like him can't really argue much, because he accomplished something that no one else has done in this city in a very long time.
 
Lou Piniella

When Lou was hired by the Cubs, many fans and members of the media (myself included) expected a Mike Ditka-like presence in the Cubs dugout based on what we had seen of Sweet Lou during his time as the manager of the Seattle Mariners. However, with rare exception, we have seen a much more mellow Piniella, especially in 2009 when his lack of public anger frustrated many fans. When he shows his emotion, he is a colorful "Chicago type" personality. And that is what he needs to show in 2010.
 
Lovie Smith

While he may know his football, he is one of the most boring personalities we have seen on the Chicago sports scene in a long time. Smith is steady and unspectacular, but his lack of charisma drives fans who remember the days of Mike Ditka crazy, when every news conference and media moment was must-see TV. Smith is true to himself, but I believe that sometimes management forgets that professional sports are entertainment and you need to keep people watching even when you aren't going to the playoffs.

Joel Quenneville


Coach Q is very intense, and will flash a glimpse of his fiery personality from time to time behind the bench. But he does not usually show that side of himself away from game action. His news conferences are calm and informative, but he doesn't do much to garner attention.
 
Vinny Del Negro

Another of the modern day coaches who does not ever say anything to stir the pot. Del Negro is polished and concise in his comments, but like most of his Chicago counterparts he is not must-watch TV when he addresses the media.
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Programming Note....Jim Hendry on Sports Central

Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry will join me tonight on Sports Central at 7:35 for an extended discussion. Hendry has always been very generous with his time and he has agreed to discuss this past season and the upcoming off season.

Please post any questions that you have as a comment  here on the blog. One request, please keep the questions to current issues with the team. Hendry is not allowed by baseball rules to discuss players on other teams. Also, please keep it clean. I know that Cubs fans are frustrated by the 2009 season but please ask solid questions. Inappropriate comments will be removed. 

Also, please note that new Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo will join me at 7:10.

Expect Jaramillo To Be Named Shortly

Expect the Cubs to put the money where their mouth is by making former Texas Rangers coach Rudy Jaramillo the highest paid hitting coach in baseball history sometime in the next couple of days. He is expected to sign a multi-year deal for approximately $800,000 dollars. They reportedly beat out a handful of other clubs who were also offering big money and a multi year deal. However, he sees the Cubs as a golden opportunity to turn around a talented team and help to get them back to the postseason. New owner Tom Ricketts approved the increase in payroll to land the talented teacher as the Cubs try to get back to the level of run production that helped fuel their 97 win team in 2008.

He is widely considered the best hitting coach in baseball but he will have his hands full trying to turn around a group of hitters who struggled in 2009. His first project is expected to be 2008 NL Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto who had a terrible season in 2009 slumping mightily in both batting average and in the power department.

More to come....

The Cubs Are Closing in on Rudy Jaramillo

Ask most major league baseball executives who the best hitting coach in the game is and most will tell you the name of Rudy Jaramillo [ha-dah-MEE-yoh], who for the last 15 years has been the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers. Jaramillo turned down a one year contract from the Rangers last week, and he's in hot demand among the rest of baseball because he is highly successful in helping his hitters make dramatic improvement.

So if he is so good, you are probably wondering how Texas could let him get away. Here is the latest on the situation, and after you read it you will understand why he is looking to test free agency and to sign a contract with some solid job security. GM Jim Hendry has been super aggressive since Jaramillo made it known that he would be leaving the Rangers and most baseball executives expect Jaramillo to choose the Cubs. Look for the Cubs to land him and to sign him to a multi-year deal worth at least $750,000 per season, which would make him the highest paid hitting coach in the game.

More Cubs Notes....

The Arizona Fall League has begun, and in talking with several scouts and media types who are there watching the games, the two most impressive hitters so far have been Josh Vitters and Starlin Castro of the Cubs. Vitters timetable for reaching the big leagues could be as
Starlin Castro.jpg

Shortstop Starlin Castro is one of the brightest stars in the Cubs improving farm system.

quick as next September and he will be the Cubs starting third baseman should Aramis Ramirez exercise the opt out clause in his contract after the 2010 season. Castro is just 19 years of age and while he is young for the level he is playing at he could be in the Cubs Opening Day lineup as soon as 2011.




Cubs Bankruptcy is Approved

A Delaware judge has approved the Cubs sale from Tribune Company to the Ricketts family paving the way for the sale to close late next week and for the family to take control of the franchise.

Here are the details  of the announcement on the bankruptcy approval by Judge Kevin Carey who is handling the entire Tribune case. Tune into Chicago Tribune Live at 5:30 on Comcast SportsNet and Sports Central on WGN Radio at 7:00 p.m.for more on the process and when the deal should close and what moves could be made first by the new ownership group.

Random Thoughts From the Chicago Sports Scene

Once in a awhile I like to look at some of the happenings in the sports world rather than just concentrating a blog post on just one sport. So here are some thoughts and questions that I have been observing and wondering about for a while.

Did you know that the over/under total of wins for the Bears in Las Vegas when the season began was 8 1/2? You have to think that the large numbers of Chicagoans who travel to Vegas must have put some serious money down on the over. The Bears look pretty solid and with Jay Cutler at the controls it would take a real collapse to not win at least 9 games.

The total bet in Vegas that has the casinos very happy is the number that they posted on the Broncos of 6 1/2 after seeing huge money come in on the under with the total posted at 7 1/2. The casinos adjusted their number out of concern that they could lose a ton on the under. Several "wiseguys" continued to pound the under and the casinos could make a fortune with the Broncos already 4-0.
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Take That Cardinal Fans

So, I am watching the Cardinals/Dodgers NLDS game 2 on Thursday night and with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the ninth inning I said to my wife and kids that the Cardinals were in great shape heading to St. Louis even in the series at 1-1.

Then James Loney hit a line drive to left and in comes Matt Holliday to boot the ball and give the Dodgers life. Two walk and two hits later the Dodgers were celebrating a most improbable 3-2 win and the Cardinals were leaving the field in complete disbelief. Well, take that Cardinal Nation. You are considered the best fan base in the game and while I respect your passion for your team, your arrogance makes me sick.

I find great irony that Cardinal fans, the same fans that buy Cubs jerseys with Bartman on the back today wake up to the reality that your team is in huge trouble. You have trotted out two Cy Young candidates in Games 1+2 and you lost both games. Then I look at the headline in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch and it says "These Cards are playing like Cubs" and that made me laugh hysterically because they are now dealing with the hell that we have lived with as Cubs fans since the day we acknowledged our fandom.

Here is a replay of the 9th inning from MLB.com  and it includes the Hall of Fame Dodgers announcer Vin Scully on it. What a great moment for Cubs fans to savor because there is no fan base that I would rather see this happen to than the Cardinals, who take great pleasure in seeing the Cubs suffer. They have had tremendous success in St. Louis but that is not enough for them. They wish their city was a world class city like Chicago but that will never happen. Instead, they cling to their pathetic jealousy of the Cubs and their great fans.

Well, welcome to what we Cubs fans have lived with for a long time. Being the butt of everyone's joke. Perhaps you will reget those Bartman jerseys.  My son and I will be wearing our Matt Holliday jerseys. Or should we wear a Ryan Franklin jersey? As your closer proceeded to gag the rest of the 9th inning away despite having multiple chances to get the final out.

Now here's hoping that the Dodgers can finish the job on Saturday.

 

A Baseball Discussion with Bill James

Tonight on Sports Central on WGN Radio I spoke with Baseball Statistician Bill James, a.k.a. the guru of Sabermetrics.  We went through a number of different topics including his thoughts on the value of Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano, and the less traditional statistics used by James and his staff when evaluating talent for the Boston Red Sox.  Check this out below.  Many of you stat guys will be interested by James' philosophy on desirable players.

Kap Interviews Bill James.mp3  

Let's Clear Up a Few Misconceptions About the 09' Cubs

Now that the 2009 season has come to an end for the Chicago Cubs it is time to take a critical look at the team and dispel a few ideas that some in town seem to believe as gospel. First, as much as the signing of Milton Bradley was a bad idea it was not the reason the 2009 Cubs finished where they did. Repeat after me, Milton Bradley was not the reason this team is not in the playoffs.

Bradley was certainly a problem in the clubhouse and his productivity was not great but there were several other problems that helped derail the season. The fact that the entire starting outfield combined for 43 HR's and 99 RBI's was certainly one reason that the run production was down dramatically from 2008. Add in the fact that Geovany Soto had a brutal year and that Aramis Ramirez only played in 82 games and you have two more huge components of the 2008 offense that did not perform at the same level.
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You Gotta Watch This!

Mike Blowers played 11 seasons in the majors, but he never had a day like this. Sunday, Blowers -- who now does color broadcasting for the Seattle Mariners-- made one of the most unbelievable predictions we'll ever see. The sheer accuracy of how he laid the situation out is simply mind-boggling. This is courtesy of MLB Fanhouse.

 

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