This place is packed. I don’t just mean the room in which the baseball operations panel is about to take place, but the entire Convention. Clearly a “sell out” means a lot more people than in recent years, and I’d say this is definitely the limit.
Speaking of this room, however … absolutely packed. Not only is it standing room only, it’s barely even that – I couldn’t find a place to stand. Thankfully my buddy Jim found a seat, and then graciously gave it to me so I could type. Not sure where he wound up.
The baseball operations panel is about to get underway, and I’ll keep this updated – cell phone data reception permitting – with any interesting/useful bits that the front office throws out there.
- Epstein leads off by reiterating that it’s an exciting time, and, even if the team is young and maybe some temperance is due, it’s OK to be excited. The players are “giddy.”
- Adding to the Joe Maddon RV story, Epstein says he and Jed Hoyer realized they should bring something for their visit, stopped at a Publix across the street from the RV park to pick up some wine. He almost picked out red wine vinegar.
- Lots of praise for Maddon. We’re 25 minutes in and there hasn’t been a ton of conversation about, well, baseball just yet.
- And lots of praise for the coaching staff, as well. I know this isn’t very detailed, but there hasn’t been much in the way of interesting particulars (that you aren’t already aware of, anyway).
- Jon Lester told Epstein and Hoyer as they were courting that, “They’re gonna burn this city down again when we win it all.” Great line.
- And lots of praise for Lester. He’s great, Maddon’s great, coaching staff is great.
- No fan questions yet, by the way, with 25 minutes left. I sense a little frustration among the fans, as the moderator tells them they can line up with questions … which will be taken in a few minutes.
- David Ross is a great leader, and Cubs had to take the opportunity to add him, even if it created an excess in catchers. The Cubs have been contacted about Welington Castillo, but haven’t heard anything compelling yet. They’re comfortable keeping three catchers if it comes to that.
- Epstein is asked about Kris Bryant opening with the big club, and he says what you’d expect: depends on when he’s ready, when the team is ready, what the roster situation is, etc.
- Shiraz Rehman was talking about Cubs pitching prospects, and sounded fairly high on Jen-Ho Tseng, specifically.
The Internet here is a nightmare, so I’m just combining the Maddon/coaching panel here. I may or may not actually be able to provide updates. It took me 20 minutes to get this up.
As expected, Maddon was fantastic, but also popular. The room was so packed I had no internet whatsoever. Sorry. Just assume he said some colorful, thoughtful things, but didn’t give anything away.
Now for the Business ops panel …
- Crane Kenney started off by saying the Cubs now have the largest season ticket holder base that they’ve ever had.
- Sad trombone. The bleachers will not be ready for Opening Day. Worse, the target for left field is early May, and the target for right field is late May. I know, big picture. Still, bums me out.
- The left field video board will be operational for Opening Day. The right field board will be in May.
- Cubs are trying to get local ABC/WGN affiliates in Cubs blackout region to carry games. Where a side deal can’t be reached, Cubs are going to push MLB to lift blackout restrictions on MLB.tv for those games in those areas. That’s a fairly big deal of Cubs can pull it off.
- The Cubs showed off a little of what the video boards will look like in action, and they’re genuinely good. They also said the focus is going to be stats, replays, Cubs stories, and scores/stats from around the league. There will, of course, also be ads, some of which will be sponsoring the content between innings (for example, the Cubs showed a Budweiser-sponsored short video of all 20 strikeouts from Kerry Wood’s 20K game).