The Chicago Cubs week that was and more Cubs stuff

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After a crazy Cubs week, full of news and groundbreaking signings like those of Trever Miller and Matt Tolbert combined with another eye-opening list of prospects from BA that no one has ever thought of before, it is hard just to catch one’s breath.

Can you sense the sarcasm? Good, because I am laying it on pretty thick.

And as I am typing this, word breaks across the wire that the Cubs landed themselves and 18-year-old Cuban prodigy. I am pretty sure that I had something to with that by typing the opening paragraph at the precise time I did. You are welcome.

And I digress, it has been rather quiet so new prospect lists are a good way to create conversation and discussion and debate. Who is the Cubs best prospect? I have no idea. That is as honest as I can be.

So, let’s shake it up with some ramblings on a Friday. And I sure hope this can create some good banter to get the Super weekend started.

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FINALLY: Thoughts on Santo’s Induction into Hall of Fame

 

(Courtesy of The Wrigley Blog)

For more than 30 years, Chicago Cubs fans and baseball fans alike have been wondering when the day would finally come that Ron Santo would get his just rewards for his 14-year career and be granted entrance into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Finally, almost a year to the day after he died in December 2010, Santo was elected to the Hall by the Veteran’s Committee. He received 15 of 16 votes, and as expected, reaction from around Cubdom was swift.

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New Era in Cubdom: Five Ideas for Theo Epstein

After weeks of speculation and several years of futility, a new era finally began in Chicago baseball on Tuesday as the Chicago Cubs named Theo Epstein their new President of Baseball Operations. He brings with him the obvious pedigree of winning two championships as GM of the Boston Red Sox, but perhaps more importantly, he has shown an ability to make moves that may not seem genius at face value but sell them to a rabid fanbase and end up making them work out in the end. This is a trait that he will need to bring with him to Chicago as he takes on the challenge of what will probably go down in history as the longest championship drought in American sports, but from what we’ve seen early on in his tenure, he seems to be up to the task. [Read more…]

Cubs Terminate GM Jim Hendry; What’s his Legacy Among Cub Nation?

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We knew this was coming, just a matter of when. The Chicago Cubs today officially fired General Manager Jim Hendry, naming Assistant GM Randy Bush as his interim successor. Owner Tom Ricketts issued a statement saying that the search for Hendry’s long-term replacement has already begun.

Hendry, 56, was named Vice President/General Manager on July 5, 2002 and departs as the third-longest tenured general manager in the National League. He is the GM in franchise history to oversee three post-season clubs (2003, 2007, 2008) and is the first Cubs general manager to lead the franchise to consecutive post-season berths.

Of course, that accomplishment is a little bit inflated given:

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The Chicago Cubs didn’t lose yesterday!!

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Hey, everybody, the Cubs didn’t lose yesterday! That is right. They didn’t lose yesterday. Man, what a great feeling.

Yep, that is what this season has become. I am happy because they couldn’t lose. That is awful. But we move forward because that is what Cubs fans do.

And what is the treat we get for moving forward? The Cubs get to play three straight games against the only team that is actually worse than them! Woo-hoo. Bring on Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez. What a weekend at Wrigley it will be!

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More From Mr. Cub, Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts, Sec. of State White on Cubs License Plates

Ernie Banks retired number

The Chicago Cubs unveiled a new license plate for the state of Illinois today! More on that here. Also, Mr. Cub Ernie Banks, owner Tom Ricketts, and Secretary of State Jesse White were on hand at Wrigley Field to unveil and discuss it.

Watch the two videos below to virtually join the press conference.

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New Cubs License Plate Unveiled by Ernie Banks, Jesse White, Tom Ricketts (Videos)

Before the formal press conference was even held and the design unveiled, the demand for Cubs license plates crashed the state’s system. 210 people had placed orders before the Chicago Cubs and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White had even unveiled the new Chicago Cubs permanent license plate. Money raised from the license plates will support public schools throughout the State of Illinois. Given the dire situation within our state’s finances, a hot-selling item to infuse more public funding is quite welcome right now.

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and Hall of Famer “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks joined Secretary White for the unveiling.

“For many years I played in the wonderful Chicago Cubs organization as a center fielder,” White said. “I feel a special bond and history with the team. I am not alone. The Chicago Cubs are a legendary franchise and boast of diehard fans throughout the country who will be excited to show their team spirit and support education with these plates.”

Twenty-five dollars from each license plate goes to the Professional Sports Teams Education Fund and is earmarked for the Common School Fund which supports public schools throughout the state of Illinois.

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Rambling about the Cubs Convention

The 26th annual Cubs Convention kicks off today. This will be my sixth convention, and it is always fun.

Nonetheless, with the Convention about to kickoff, and the excuses about to come coursing out of “the Management’s” mouth, Cubs fans are ready for a festive weekend while saluting Ronny in many ways.

So, with all that said, let’s ramble on down the road.

By: Brian McCabe

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Cubs Owner Ricketts Rejected by State, Announces New Investment Plan

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Yesterday wasn’t very good to Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. Here’s what went down according to the Chicagoist:

Since announcing their proposal for modernizing Wrigley Field last week, the Ricketts family has been lambasted by the media and shot down by both the mayor and governor. The Tribune’s Phil Rogers seems to be the lone village idiot who thinks that the Cubs do deserve public funding to fix up Wrigley — justifying it by saying that the other teams in town got money to build their parks. Never mind that we’ve got record deficits and budget shortfalls, and we’re still taxing away to pay off the debt on those stadiums. A simple comparison of the Cubs’ and Yankees’ trophy cases can demonstrate that life’s not fair.

Ricketts plan to extort public funding from the city and state in order to augment his private financial bottom line failed, and he claims to have no plan B. Sure, and those drunken idiots in the bleachers not watching the game are “true baseball fans.”

Well Ricketts rebounded today and held a press conference highlighting the features of his new Wrigleyville investment plan. Here are some of the snippets of that post-presser released statement. I warn you it’s 99.999% corporatespeak and public relations propaganda:

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BREAKING! The Cubs sale is finally OVAH!

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By Paul Schmidt

The story that wouldn’t die seems to finally have died.

Well…sort of.

The Chicago Cubs have officially been sold to the Ricketts family, and primarily Tom Ricketts, self-professed die-hard Cubs fan who lived just a short, short walk from the stadium.  Ricketts and his family threw down the tidy sum of 800 million dollars — foldin’ money, really — to earn a 95 percent stake in the team.

This includes the team, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent stake in Comcast SportsNet, which owns the right to broadcast several Cubs’ games every season, as well as White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks games.

Here’s where things get a little hinky, though.  The Ricketts won’t be taking over until after the baseball season (October to November), because there still are several hurdles to making the deal.  With the Tribune Company still dealing with Chapter 11, the court must approve any major sale of assets, though that does seem like a formality at this point.

The Cubs must also come out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as the Tribune seems to believe that will leave the team’s “title” free and clear of any debt that the Tribune may have with it.

Finally, there is the small issue of MLB approving the sale, as well, and the owners approving the new Cubs ownership.  This is, truly, the only thing that I can think of that could hold the sale up, because even though there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the owners not to approve the Ricketts family, it wouldn’t be the first time that they completely and illogically say that someone isn’t fit to own a baseball team.

Still, it isn’t like this happens every day in sports, let alone in Cubs history.  It certainly does appear that we are just a few scant weeks away from having just the seventh owner in the 138 year history of Chicago Cubs professional baseball.

50% of 162 is…uhh…Where’s my Calculator?

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By Paul Schmidt

The halfway point of the baseball season has been reached for the Chicago Cubs.  Suffice it to say, things didn’t quite go as planned.  What has happened?  What will happen?  Let’s take a brief, brief look back (mainly because that’s all I can stomach) and then a glance at the future as we try to figure out where this team is going to take us in this wild and wooly 2009 season.

Offense
The bats, as we all know and has been well documented, have been silent. Everything that Jim Hendry did in this offseason backfired, much as I and many others feared it might. Hendry overcompensated for a lineup that didn’t feature enough left-handers and dealt away one of the teams’ biggest strengths last season – defense (which we will get to).

Alfonso Soriano has been an unbelievable disappointment at the plate.  Geovany Soto’s not been much better – but seems to be coming on ever so slightly after his positive marijuana test has come out. Mike Fontenot is proving why he isn’t an every-day player in the majors. Milton Bradley’s not hitting for power or average (but, in all sincerity, he is getting on base with an OBP of near .380 – exceedingly high for someone only hitting .245). Fukudome is coming back to earth after a torrid start again this spring, but at least is still drawing walks.

Derrek Lee has been absolutely raking, and is deserving of an All Star berth mainly because he’s had to carry this whole mess on his shoulders for the last six weeks.  Ryan Theriot also has been a nice sparkplug at the plate, and, thank goodness, has stopped running the bases with the reckless abandon of past seasons.

Pitching
The starters have been the anchor of the team.  Ted Lilly has been an unsung hero this season – and worthy of an All-Star bid. Randy Wells probably should be getting mentions as a Rookie of the Year candidate, as hard as that might be to believe. Carlos Zambrano has been his usual up and down self, and Ryan Dempster has had to deal with a lot of personal tragedy in his life this season, yet continues to take the ball every five days (until landing on the DL today

Presumably, he didn't break his toe after throwing this pitch...

Presumably, he didn't break his toe after throwing this pitch...

with a mysterious broken toe).  Only Rich Harden has been completely inconsistent, as no one seems to know which pitcher is going to hit the mound on any given day.

The bullpen has spent much of the season looking sketchy, but might have turned a corner. Kevin Gregg – Known to Chicago Comcast On-Demand subscribers as the Pout-Pout Fish – has thrown very well over the past couple of weeks.  Carlos Marmol seems to – THANK GOD – have turned a corner and should again be considered as a possible closer. With Angel Guzman headed back into the mix as the 7th or 8th inning guy, the bullpen, once thought to be a weakness, could become a big strength.

Defense
Or lack thereof. With Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano on the corners, the outfield struggles to be adequate. Ryan Theriot is generally viewed, in MLB circles, as a picture-perfect example of how NOT to play shortstop. The bench is devoid of anyone who can come in and be a marked improvement defensively, save for Andres Blanco, who unfortunately can’t hit or bunt. One thing saving both Jake Fox and Micah Hoffpauir in this area is that when the starting OF is as bad defensively as it is, really, there’s no reason to criticize their defense.

To put things in perspective, in the second three-game series against the White Sox, Alfonso Soriano lost a pop fly in the sun and played an out into a hit on three consecutive days…and this received virtually no mention because Milton Bradley’s unfortunate “counting” incident was so very bad. That’s an awful defensive outfield.

The Second Half
Here’s five big subplots to the rest of the season for Cubs fans to be watching:
1)  Off days. The Cubs, as mentioned earlier, just hit the midway point of the season at 81 games, and were the last team in all of baseball to hit that barrier. They have four games played less than the division-leading Cardinals, and obviously that gap has to be made up prior to the end of the year, which means the Cubs will have four less off days due to, mostly, inclement weather at the beginning of the year. How Lou Piniella manages the roster and gets everyone enough rest as the season goes along will be a big part of how far the Cubs can go this season

2) Injuries. The boys in blue received a big boost Monday in getting Aramis Ramirez, Angel Guzman and Reed Johnson back from injury, but then lost Ryan Dempster to the DL with a broken toe on Tuesday, with no immediate timetable for his return. If injuries continue to mount, with so few off days, the Cubs will be in real trouble trying to field an adequate roster.

3) The rotation. This goes hand-in-hand with the last item, with Dempster headed to the DL. From an immediate standpoint, Carlos Zambrano moves up one day to make the start on Tuesday, and then Kevin Hart, only sent to the

Oh...Kevin Hart looks dejected...let's hope that isn't a sign.

Oh...Kevin Hart looks dejected...let's hope that isn't a sign.

minors yesterday, will make his first major league start on Wednesday. Hart, barring a miracle, can’t be a permanent solution in that role, and Sean Marshall has to stay in the bullpen as the only lefty out there, so it leaves questions of who fills that spot in the rotation should Dempster miss any length of time – which, if the toe broken is his big toe on his plant foot, could actually happen. Watch Hart’s Wednesday start closely, and possibly pray a little that he looks like Cy Young.

4) The ownership. Just as soon as it looked like things might get resolved on Monday, things got way less clear on Tuesday. It looked as though Tom Ricketts’ bid was going forward on Monday, but Tuesday it became public that though the Ricketts deal seemed to be agreed to in principal, the Tribune continued to negotiate with the group led by equity investor Marc Utay and reached an agreement for more money overall – but less cash up front. While the particulars of how and why are relevant to the sale of the team, only one thing is important to the fans at this point – it doesn’t look like the sale will be completed in time before the trade deadline, as had been previously speculated upon. With that being the case, it goes from being extremely difficult for Jim Hendry to get a trade together to being near impossible for him.

5) The team to beat. Who is that team, to be more specific.  Is it the Cardinals, with their solid rotation and best player on earth, Albert Pujols?  Is it the Brewers with their other-worldly offense and a pitching staff that ranges from Yovani Gallardo (awesome) to…Seth freaking McClung (to quote the Hebrew Hammer, oy vais). Could it be the up-and-coming (and getting healthier themselves) Reds?

Perhaps any of those teams could pull the division off…but I imagine that it will be the Cubs themselves as the team to beat.  I mean that in one of two ways, though – Maybe they will distance themselves from the pack and become the team to beat.

Or perhaps they will be the team that beats themselves.

With 81 down and 81 to go, we’re closer, rather than further, from the answer.