January 2010

1/21/10 Mesa delivers proposal

The Cubs board of directors received a proposal Thursday outlining the city of Mesa’s plans to keep the team there for Spring Training for the next 25 years.

Cubs officials had yet to review the memorandum of understanding (MOU), which details that the team and city will sign a 25-year agreement, build a 15,000-seat stadium as well as a state of the art year-round facility.

“The Cubs are interested in reading through Mesa’s proposal and having our board take it under review,” a team spokesman said Thursday.

The Mesa city council will vote on the MOU on Monday, and if approved, the team could announce as early as Wednesday that it has agreed to the terms. A group in Naples, Fla., also had been competing for the Cubs in hopes of luring the team to Florida, but such a move would be unlikely if the proposal is approved by both the city and team.

How important are the Cubs? A recent study showed they contribute $52 million to the state’s economy.

The proposal released Thursday by Mesa city manager Chris Brady, establishes a period for exclusive negotiations between the city of Mesa and the Cubs.

According to the MOU, the Cubs would acquire the land to handle the stadium, parking and public access roads. The site has not been officially identified, but was believed to be located in northeast Mesa off the Loop 202. The team would maintain and operate the stadium and ancillary facilities year-round and handle construction costs over the agreed amount of $84 million.

The city of Mesa will provide adequate land for the construction of the ancillary facilities and a Major League-dimensioned, shared-use four-diamond baseball complex. The city also would meet milestones related to passage of state legislation required to fund a portion of the construction of the facility and approval by Mesa voters.

In exchange for the exclusivity, the city would amend the current lease with the team and eliminate the penalty for early termination. The Cubs, who have trained at the current site in Mesa since 1979, had the ability to buyout of the contract after 2012.

— Carrie Muskat

1/21/10 Looking for some relief

There are reports that the Cubs are talking to reliever Kiko Calero, who posted an impressive 1.95 ERA last season in 67 games with the Marlins. Calero did have a torn rotator cuff that limited him in 2008 and ’09. With the Marlins, he struck out 69 over 60 innings. The Cubs have committed to Carlos Marmol as their closer but are looking for an experienced right-hander in the pen. According to reports, Calero wants a two-year deal, and the Cubs are balking because of his past shoulder problems.

— Carrie Muskat

1/19/10 Exchanging numbers

Ryan Theriot, Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall exchanged salary figures with the Cubs on Tuesday. Theriot and the Cubs are $800,000 apart. The shortstop, who made $500,000 last season, his third as a starter, is seeking $3.4 million while the Cubs offered $2.6 million.

Marmol, who made $575,000 last year and heads into the 2010 season as the team’s closer, is asking for $2.5 million. The Cubs offered him $1.75 million.

Marshall, who will be competing for a spot in the rotation or could be a swingman again, asked for $1.175 million while the Cubs offered $800,000. The left-hander made $450,000 last season.

The Cubs and Theriot, Marmol and Marshall can come to an agreement at any point before the actual hearing. Hearings will be held Feb. 1-21. Arbitrators listen to arguments from both sides about the player’s value and then pick either the player’s figure or the team’s figure.

— Carrie Muskat

1/19/10 Cubs sign five arb-eligible

The Cubs Tuesday signed five of their arbitration-eligible players: Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Koyie Hill, Angel Guzman and Tom Gorzelanny. The three other arb eligible players are Ryan Theriot, Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall. Tuesday was the deadline for players and teams to exchange figures. The Cubs have not gone to an arbitration hearing since 1993.

Baker signed for $975,000; Fontenot signed for $1 million; Hill $700,000; Guzman $825,000; and Gorzelanny $800,000.

The Cubs and Theriot, Marmol and Marshall can all continue to negotiate before the hearings, which are scheduled for Feb. 1-21.

— Carrie Muskat

1/17/10 Deadline for arb players

The Cubs could reach contract agreements with half of their eight arbitration-eligible players before the two sides exchange salary figures on Tuesday. The players who filed include Ryan Theriot, Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Koyie Hill, Carlos Marmol, Tom Gorzelanny, Angel Guzman, and Sean Marshall. A club official said he expected at least four of the players to have their deals done on Monday. Hearings will be held Feb. 1-21. The Cubs have not gone to arbitration since 1993.

— Carrie Muskat


1/17/10 Cubs Convention highlights

Some of the highlights of the weekend at the 25th annual fan fest:

* Watching the Ricketts family patiently and honestly answer questions on a variety of topics. They defended GM Jim Hendry, listened to someone offer his services as a mascot, and outlined plans to preserve Wrigley Field. They emphasized that they’re committed to the Cubs for the next 95 years, not five. Players who met the Ricketts for the first time came away impressed as well. “I hope next year everyone is as happy as they are today,” Laura Ricketts said.

* Seeing the rousing ovation new Hall of Famer Andre Dawson received at the opening ceremonies. No matter what cap Dawson wears into Cooperstown, he’ll always be linked to the Cubs.

* A fan asked Lou if the relievers needed something other than metal folding chairs to sit on in the bullpen. “We’ll get ’em some lounge chairs and some pina coladas,” Piniella quipped.

* Good to know no plans for selling naming rights to Wrigley.

* Marlon Byrd was asked if he’ll do better than Milton Bradley did. “That’s the plan,” Byrd said. “My goal is to stay here longer than he did.”

* Seeing a slim and trim Geovany Soto, now 40 pounds lighter and looking more like a “jockey,” according to Lou.

* Watching fans stop by the Mesa, Ariz., booth to show their support. Byrd and Ted Lilly, who have trained in both Arizona and Florida, picked Arizona as their preferred Spring Training site.

* Brett Jackson, the 2009 No. 1 Draft pick, was attending his first Convention and commented on how “insance” Cubs fans are. He said the weekend had him so pumped, he wanted to start Spring Training this week, not one month from now.

* During the “Kids Only” session, someone asked Sam Fuld what goes through his head when he dives into a wall while trying to make a catch. “Absolutely nothing,” Fuld said. His goal is to one day be able to dunk a basketball.

* Mark your calendar: The 26th annual convention will be Jan. 14-16, 2011.

— Carrie Muskat

1/17/10 Dominican trip

Tom and Todd Ricketts were to visit the Cubs’ academy in the Dominican Republic this week. Player development director Oneri Fleita said he will travel with the two Ricketts brothers, part of the family ownership group that took control of the team in late October, on Monday. Todd Ricketts will attend at least one Winter League game. The team’s training facility is located near Boca Chica.

— Carrie Muskat

1/17/10 Wrigley & Cubs business

Wrigley Field will be 100 years old in 2014. “On the 100th anniversary, let’s have the ballpark ready for another 100 years,” team president Crane Kenney said Saturday during a business management seminar at the Cubs Convention. Kenney said they are looking at plans for the so-called Triangle building, proposed for the land west of Wrigley along Clark Street. It would house offices, restaurants, parking, possibly a Hall of Fame, and provide space for some of the player facilities. Kenney said fans can expect to see more construction at Wrigley over the next few years.

Other highlights from the session:

* There has been no talk about selling the naming rights. “I can’t imagine the day the ballpark is not called ‘Wrigley Field,'” Kenney said.

* There are no plans to do personal seat licenses (PSL) at Wrigley.

* There are no plans for Friday or Saturday night games. Those aren’t neighborhood friendly. The Cubs currently are allowed 30 night games at home. There are only 27 on the schedule to give national television a chance to pick a game for a night broadcast.

* The Cubs make twice as much broadcasting games on cable compared to games on WGN. There are talks about the team having its own network, but that’s a few years away.

* Kenney said they’ll leave the fireworks and the mascots to the team on the South Side. “We always come down on the side of tradition,” Kenney said. A show of hands showed fans favored installing a Jumbotron, but the Cubs are still discussing that.

* What about Wrigley hosting the 2014 All-Star Game? The Cubs have talked to MLB commissioner Bud Selig and Kenney said they are “hopeful.” However, MLB is alternating American League cities and National League cities, and an AL city would be up in 2014.

— Carrie Muskat

1/15/10 Welcome to the club

Andre Dawson received the loudest and longest ovation during opening ceremonies at the Cubs Convention on Friday at the Chicago Hilton. Dawson was recently elected into the baseball Hall of Fame, and even though it hasn’t been determined which cap he’ll wear in Cooperstown, the Cubs fans saluted him. Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg also are attending the Cubs Convention.

Jenkins was asked if he taught Dawson the secret Hall of Fame handshake.

“No,” Jenkins said, laughing. “I just asked him, ‘What took you so long?'”

— Carrie Muskat

1/15/10 Good guys

Carlos Zambrano spent part of his offseason in Guatemala with a church group to help people there. He has created the Big Z Foundation, and hopes to raise money for people in Guatemala and Haiti as well as those in the Chicago area in need.

* Folks attending the Cubs Convention at the Chicago Hilton can make a donation for earthquake-stricken Haiti. Both Cubs Care and the Ricketts family will match each donation with $1, so every $1 donation will become $3.

* Speaking of Haiti, Cubs strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss was in the Dominican Republic to see Alfonso Soriano when the earthquake struck and said he felt tremors.

* Cubs pitcher Randy Wells was named the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s “Rookie of the Year” for his fundraising efforts this offseason in which he raised nearly $100,000. Teammate Sam Fuld, who is diabetic, was a guest speaker at an event in St. Louis. Wells said he hopes to do another fundraiser for JDRF this year.

— Carrie Muskat