The 2013 Cubs Convention wraps today, and I’ll be heading home later this afternoon. Yesterday was packed with panels, and there was a great deal of actual information shared with the fans. Here are the high points …
- From thing one at the Ricketts Family panel – the first of the day – you could tell that the message with respect to funding the Wrigley Field renovation had changed. The focus, instead of seeking public funding by way of the amusement tax on Cubs tickets, was clearly “just relax the restrictions on how we can run our business, and we’ll pay for the renovation ourselves.” This came up again during the Wrigley Renovation panel, obviously. The money quote from Tom Ricketts, perhaps, was that Wrigley Field “is not a museum.” What he meant is that it’s unfair for the city to expect the Cubs to maintain Wrigley as a museum for the good of the city if the city is going to tax the hell out of them and simultaneously tell them what they can or can’t do with the stadium … all while not providing any financial support. And he’s right – either Wrigley is a public thing for the good of the people (museum) and it should be supported by the people, or it’s part of a private business and should be permitted to be run that way.
- A great line from Tom about those restrictions, and the limitation on the Cubs’ having festivals on Sheffield Avenue (along right field): “You know, Sheffield is already closed on game days. We just want to actually do something with it.”
- Ricketts was asked the Sammy Sosa question, and when the slugger is going to be welcomed back into the Cubs family. He called the situation “awkward,” and suggested that it could eventually happen, but it will take time for things to settle down (he was referring specifically to the current PED issues). This will be discussed around here more this week.
- The goal for the new hotel across from Wrigley Field is to be about 175 rooms or so.
- Ricketts said the Cubs’ TV deals will be up for renewal “in a few years” (our understanding is that WGN expires after 2014, and CSN after 2019), and the revenue will probably improve at that point. He didn’t seem to stressed about the issue, though I think he was just playing it cool – the gap between the haves and the have-nots on the TV side is growing enormous.
- At various points through the day, the Cubs addressed the pending addition of Carlos Villanueva (who I noted was featured for 1.5 seconds in the Opening Ceremonies video) – Assistant GM Shiraz Rehman confirmed that it was just a matter of paperwork, and saying it should be done in the next few days; Dale Sveum later said it would be done “today,” but that didn’t happen. I continue to be of the mind that the Cubs were simply delaying the signing as long as possible to try and make a 40-man roster move, short of just having to try and dump a player. The 40-man is currently full, prior to Villanueva being added.
- Sveum could not seem to stop himself from going on and on about Alfonso Soriano’s gimpy knees. I couldn’t quite see, but I reckon Theo and Jed were kicking him under the table.
- When asked about Darwin Barney, Jed Hoyer was effusive beyond the normal GM-speak. When he said Barney was “a big part of the future,” it sounded genuine. Of course, everyone acknowledges he could stand to improve his on-base considerably (Jed mentioned that Barney’s ability to make contact so easily was actually a problem for him).
- Epstein said the Cubs will be taking the best available player they can sign in the Draft next year. Ideally it would be a college pitcher, but he noted that positional prospects at the top of the Draft tend to have a better track record than pitchers.
- The changes in Brett Jackson’s swing were touted by Sveum a number of times at various panels.
- When asked about the lack of depth in the outfield, Hoyer said he’d like to add another outfielder if the right opportunity presented itself. Nobody – other than the fans – seemed terribly confident that Tony Campana could or should be the fifth outfielder on the roster.
- Hoyer further confirmed that Anibal Sanchez/Edwin Jackson was an either/or situation, which is frustrating for me (if one was a fit, and the Cubs have the need, why wouldn’t both be a fit?). In addressing the leaked Sanchez signing news, which proved to be false, Hoyer said that he knew it was false when he saw it on Twitter, because he was talking to Jackson at the time, and he said he wouldn’t still have been talking to Jackson if Sanchez had been signed. In other words, sorry Edwin: you were very clearly the back-up plan for Sanchez. It took some dot-connecting to put that together, but I was still surprise Hoyer so plainly conceded that.
- Sveum talked about Ian Stewart like he was very clearly the starting third baseman.
- Coach Dave McKay, who spent a very long time with some very good Cardinals teams, says this Cubs club is the best prepared – in terms of data, video, scouting, etc. – he’s ever been a part of.
- The Cubs coaches feel like Welington Castillo has come a long, long way defensively.
- The “Triangle Building,” as noted two weeks ago, probably isn’t happening. Instead, that property will be used as an open air area for a variety of events/gatherings/community needs.
- Cubs Business President Crane Kenney said that the Cubs plan to “cut the ribbon” on the new Dominican facility in May (that is some seriously fast building), and on the new Spring Training park/facility in November. The dividends from these two projects will absolutely be tangible, if not felt for a few years.
I’m heading to the two remaining panels today, and I’ll be in my red BN shirt, for those of you still around who want to say hello.