November 2014

11/29 The holiday season

The Cubs are inviting fans to participate in a holiday toy drive to benefit children at Lawrence Hall Youth Services. Toys may be donated at the Cubs Store across from Wrigley Field from now until Thursday at 5:30 p.m. CT, when the Cubs will host a holiday celebration and tree lighting ceremony at the corner of Clark and Addison streets.

You can bring new, unwrapped toys to donate at the tree lighting event. The large tree, donated by Christy Webber Landscapes, will stand at the northwest corner of Clark and Addison to avoid conflict with the Wrigley Field renovation project.

Fergie Jenkins, Tom Ricketts and representatives from the organizations that benefited from the Cubs’ 100 Gifts of Service will attend the tree lighting. The 100 Gifts of Service represent a year-long program featuring Cubs players and associates engaging in community service in celebration of Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday season.

If you can’t attend the tree lighting ceremony, the Cubs Store will accept new, unwrapped toys as donations during its business hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. CT. Lawrence Hall Youth Services has compiled a wish list of desired toys, including action figures, board games, dolls, educational toys, puzzles, sporting equipment, stuffed animals, toy cars and more.

In addition to the toy drive, fans worldwide can offer a monetary donation to Cubs Charities to support the toy drive and other programs targeting improvements in health, fitness and education for those at risk. Tuesday is the global day dedicated to giving back. The Cubs will participate in the #GivingTuesday social media campaign, and requests fans share both the #GivingTuesday and #CubsCharities hashtags when encouraging donations online. Donations to Cubs Charities may be submitted online at

11/28 Strop OK after accident

Cubs officials say reliever Pedro Strop was “doing fine” after being involved in a two-vehicle accident in the Dominican Republic Thursday night. Initial reports were “very encouraging” regarding Strop, a Cubs official said Friday.

According to reports from the Dominican, the accident occurred in the San Cristobal province, west of the capital of Santo Domingo. Strop and a friend were in a car that crashed into a wall, and their vehicle and another vehicle involved were both destroyed.

The accident is the third involving a baseball player in the Dominican Republic in the last month. St. Louis Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras was killed in a car crash on Oct. 26, and Rangers prospect Ronald Guzman was uninjured in a fatal car crash earlier this week. In August, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro lost a relative and three friends in a fatal car accident in the Dominican.

— Carrie Muskat

11/27 Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and takes time to count their blessings. Right now, I’m thankful that I got the turkey in the oven without any problems. Enjoy the day, your family and football.

— Carrie Muskat

11/26 Dave Martinez update

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said they will talk to manager Joe Maddon about Dave Martinez, who announced on Tuesday that he was leaving the Rays after being eliminated from consideration for Tampa’s managerial opening. Martinez, 50, has spent the past seven seasons as Maddon’s bench coach. Hoyer and Theo Epstein are familiar with Martinez, having interviewed him for the Cubs managerial opening prior to the 2014 season. Martinez was a finalist, but Rick Renteria got the job, only to be dismissed Oct. 31 to make room for Maddon. The Cubs recently added Henry Blanco as a quality assurance coach.

Hoyer talked about Martinez during an interview on 87.7 FM The Game Wednesday.

— Carrie Muskat

11/26 Wrigley work delayed

The Wrigley Field bleachers may not be ready by Opening Day because of unseasonably cold weather and delays with related projects, but a contingency plan is in place for season ticket holders, a Cubs spokesman said Wednesday.

“It’s the nature of the construction business, being able to deal with timing issues and setbacks and delays,” said Julian Green, vice president of communications and community affairs. “[Delays] happen with any construction project. They’re compounded with restoring a 100-year old ballpark and trying to work within a 26-week timeframe, which as of Monday, is 19 weeks.

“This is an extremely challenging project given the environment that is the weather as well as the compressed timing we have,” Green said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”

The Cubs will have a better idea as to how long of a delay they expect before March 6 when single game tickets go on sale for the 2015 season, Green said. The Cubs are scheduled to open the season at Wrigley Field on April 5 with a nationally televised game against the Cardinals.

“We’ll make a decision well before [March 6] in terms of whether we’ll be able to have the bleachers ready,” Green said. “We’re still going to be playing a game April 5, Sunday night, at Wrigley Field, and that’s not going to change.”

Chicago has experienced frigid temperatures and some snow in mid November, which has created some work stoppages. Heavy wind on Monday also delayed the crews. There are other issues, Green said.

“There is ongoing work by the city of Chicago water department which is doing some work to install a new water main on Sheffield [street],” Green said. “Because of that ongoing work, which was supposed to be completed in early October, we’ve been delayed with some of the deep foundation and excavation work in the area of the bleachers.

“We’re still doing work out there but the speed in which we can move depends on the water crews finishing up that work,” he said.

It’s tough to predict Chicago weather, and this fall has been difficult with a record string of below freezing days.

“The first day of winter hasn’t even arrived yet — that’s Dec. 21,” Green said. “We expect some colder temperatures and snow. We don’t know what the winter may bring. All of that led us to put some contingency plans in place. We’re not throwing up the white towel yet. We need to put some plans in place to take care of our customers.”

Green would not give an exact number of bleacher season ticket holders affected, saying there are a few thousand people. They do have some options.

“If you’re a bleacher season ticket holder, we will be able to accommodate season ticket holders in the grandstands,” he said. “Given the attendance rates in April, or the past attendance rates in April, we have more than enough seats to accommodate season ticket holders who hold seats in the bleachers.

“If there are bleacher season ticket holders who do not want to sit in the grandstand, we are considering a plan where we could either refund season ticket holders for the games they miss, or apply a credit for the 2016 season,” he said.

Green said the bleachers will be ready at some point in 2015; it’s just too soon to say when. The new video scoreboards and advertising signage will be installed by Opening Day, Green said.

— Carrie Muskat

11/25 Dave Martinez update

Dave Martinez did not make the final cut for the Rays’ vacated manager’s post. Now he has decided not to return in his role as the team’s bench coach. Martinez released the following statement Tuesday:

“I informed the Rays this week that I have chosen to move forward and consider other opportunities that may present themselves outside the organization,” Martinez said. “It was a hard decision that I think is best for myself and the Rays. I want to thank our fans for their overwhelming support. It has meant the world to my family and me. For the past nine years, the players and staff have been an extension of my family and the memories that we have all shared and the relationships that have been built will stay with me forever. I can’t thank them enough for all they have meant to me.”

Martinez, 50, has spent the past seven seasons as the Rays bench coach next to Joe Maddon, who was named the Cubs manager on Nov. 3. Martinez had one more year on his contract as the team’s bench coach. He was not one of the final three candidates for the Rays’ managerial opening.

The Cubs do not have an opening on their coaching staff, but with Maddon signing a five-year deal, he most likely would want someone on the staff he is familiar with. The Cubs recently added Henry Blanco to the staff as a quality assurance coach. Brandon Hyde was Rick Renteria’s bench coach this past season.

— Carrie Muskat

11/25 Jon Lester rumors

Jon Lester is still on the market, and the Cubs are still an active bidder. Lester planned on talking to at least two teams this week. So far, the free agent lefty has met with the Red Sox, Cubs, and Braves, and was reportedly going to meet with the Cardinals and Giants. According to Boston reporters, the big spending Red Sox are still a possibility for Lester.’s Ken Rosenthal reports the Red Sox and Cubs may pursue Cole Hamels if Lester is unavailable. However, the Phillies asking price for Hamels is high.

According to’s Jon Heyman, Lester could make a decision after Thanksgiving. The pitcher has said he isn’t looking for the biggest contract.

“When you get to a certain point, money can’t buy happiness,” Lester told on Sept. 30. “That’s not what makes me happy. That’s not what makes me tick.”

11/25 Dave Martinez rumors

Could Dave Martinez join Joe Maddon on the Cubs staff? According to’s Ken Rosenthal, the Rays will not stand in Martinez’s way if the Cubs or another team requests to interview him for a coaching job. Martinez is under contract with the Rays through next season. Martinez was a candidate for the Rays managerial opening but was told last Friday that he was not one of the final three candidates.

11/24 Authentic Wrigley Field items for sale

Cubs Authentics has introduced the Wrigley Field Collection for fans looking to collect unique items from the ballpark. Cubs Authentics is the Cubs’ official provider of game-used and authenticated memorabilia. The Wrigley Field Collection will feature authenticated items in limited quantities throughout the season, including bleacher seats, flags, scoreboard tiles, signage and celebrity guest memorabilia, plus items related to Wrigley Field’s restoration and expansion.

Wrigley Field Collection items are available for purchase or bidding at, beginning Monday with a limited number of Wrigley Field flags plus Budweiser Bleacher seats and aisle placards recently removed from the ballpark. Additional items, such as “W” flags flown over the ballpark after home wins and swatch items with authenticated infield dirt, will become available during the 2015 season and throughout the course of the restoration process.

In addition to memorabilia made available for sale to fans, the Cubs and Cubs Authentics continue to preserve historic elements of the ballpark and game-used gear for the team’s archives. Some items, such as bricks from Wrigley Field’s original bleacher construction, will be re-used in the restored Wrigley Field as possible. Others, such as unique signage or equipment used during noteworthy games, are stored securely in the Cubs Archives.

Cubs Authentics can be found at the following locations:

* The Cubs Store, 3620 N. Clark Street, across from Wrigley Field
* Online at
* Memorabilia also can be purchased over the phone at (773) 404-4753 or by emailing

11/22 Henry Blanco is back

Henry Blanco is back with the Cubs, joining manager Joe Maddon’s staff as a quality assurance coach. It might not be the only change. Blanco, 43, who played for the Cubs from 2005-08, was a coach on the Diamondbacks staff.

In December 2013, Blanco signed a Minor League League deal with the Diamondbacks, but was released on March 31 this year, ending a 16-year career as a player. He then joined Arizona manager Kirk Gibson’s staff as a coach.

Blanco replaces Jose Castro, who took a job on the Braves staff as an assitant hitting coach, and is the first add to Maddon’s staff with the Cubs. There could be more. Dave Martinez, who has been Maddon’s bench coach since 2008 with the Rays, was dropped on Friday from the list of candidates for the Tampa managerial opening. Martinez, 50, also is a former Cubs player — 1986-88 — and may be a valuable addition for Maddon in his switch to the National League.

The Cubs announced the coaching staff in early October, but that was before Maddon was named as manager. Rick Renteria was dismissed Oct. 31, and Maddon named the Cubs skipper three days later after he opted out of his contract with the Rays. Pitching coach Chris Bosio and hitting coach John Mallee were both expected on Maddon’s staff.

— Carrie Muskat