Saturday was full of questions for Baker and Hendry, a meeting of Cubs All Stars and pictures for the Cubs Faithful.
Day two of the Cubs convention got off to a quick start with an action packed Question and Answer session with Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry and Manager Dusty Baker. Corey Patterson’s name came up immediately, and Hendry addressed the situation by saying he felt this was the best thing for the Cubs and for Corey’s career. Another fan followed up with a comment regarding the Cubs Farm System’s inability to produce a position player. Hendry immediately mentioned both Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno as up and comers who will be competing for starting positions this year. He went on to say that you have to look at what the Farm system has helped us do as well. “We turned Hee-Seop Choi into Derrek Lee and Bobby Hill into Aramis Ramirez.” The next line of questioning focused on Todd Walker and the perception that he has fallen out of favor with Cubs brass. Both Hendry and Baker refuted that statement saying that he had not, but as they do every off-season, they were evaluating all positions. It was extremely clear that the Cubs Faithful loves “TW’s” and wants to see him playing everyday. At one point while Baker was addressing who would bat second, the crowd erupted by screaming “Walker” all at once.
The most heated moment of the session came when one ‘gentlemen’ used the microphone as his platform and told Jim Henry that Jacque Jones was the worst free agent pick up and that he was “really unhappy with you [Hendry]!” The man went on to voice his displeasure with the off-season and reiterate his point about Jones. Hendry simply replied by saying that Jones would prove him wrong. It is important to note that Baker really seems to like Jacque. Though he admitted not knowing too much about him, he did say that Jones would see more fastballs in the NL than the AL, and that Jones is a fastball hitter. Though it is the company line, I truly believe what Dusty said.
At the end of the session, a fan raised issue with the current payroll and complained about the Tribune Co. Hendry adamantly said that he has never failed with the Cubs because of money and that money is no excuse for losing. He pointed out that the Yankees have not won for five years and that the, never mind, it was about the other team in Chicago.
For what it is worth, Hendry said that no player is untouchable in trade talks and that the Cubs would be willing to move anyone if they thought it made the team better. Also of interest, and something I did not know, the Cubs led the National League in hits last year.
Later on in the morning Dusty and his staff hosted a similar session where basically the same questions were asked. Everyone was very interested in Kerry Wood’s progress and when he would be ready. Larry Rothschild, Cubs pitching coach, reiterated what Hendry had said earlier in the day and that is that as long as Kerry Wood pushes himself through the rehab and the Cubs have the patience to make the right decision, he felt everything would be ok. Kerry has been throwing off of level ground for about ten days and is feeling fine. The surgery was deemed a success.
The highlight of the day was the “All Star Panel.” In one room, at one table, sat Fergie Jenkins, Lee Smith, Rick Sutcliffe, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson. The men fielded questions from Wayne Messmer, from the audience and joked around with each other. It appears that “Ryno” and “Sut” love to tease one and other. At one point Sutcliffe was telling a story about the first pitch he threw at the very first night game ever, when he finished Sandberg jumped in and asked, “Hey Sut, where did the second pitch end up?” Sutcliffe sunk down in his chair with a smile and said, “I think it hit the firehouse.” The players had a great time talking, telling stories and laughing together. It seems as if they all have a genuine care and respect for their fellow teammates. I was downstairs in line for Fergie’s autograph before the All Star panel had started. I was about three feet away from Mr. Jenkins when Ernie Banks jumped on the small stage where Fergie was sitting. Jenkins jumped out of his chair, the two hugged and shook hands and were so very happy to see the other. It was a privilege to be that close to a moment like that, people are people, but hey, where else can you be that close to two Hall of Famers shaking hands? That was Day two….
Stay Classy Cubs fans