Saturday began with the extremely popular Meet Cubs Baseball Management with Jim Hendry, Randy Bush and Crane Kenney. Lou Piniella was absent from the session with the flu…the Cubs’ skipper has been fighting a viral infection all week.
The highlights from Saturday were numerous. From Jim Hendry in the morning session to Crane Kenney answering tough questions in “Who’s the Boss?” to Milton Bradley sticking around for nearly 30 minutes after “Welcome to Wrigley” to “The Magic of ’84” to Lou Brock to a packed room for “Making History” minus Geovany Soto.
Jim Hendry arrived a half an hour early to the morning session and worked the room. Hendry talked to many of the early risers and even posed for a few photos….as well as sign a few autographs. Crane Kenney and Randy Bush joined Hendry soon after but it was the Cubs GM that continued to talk with the attendees until it was time to begin.
The start was delayed around ten minutes as they waited for Lou Piniella. Piniella never showed, they began and announced Piniella was battling the flu.
Dave Eanet, from WGN Radio, asked Hendry about the ‘hot button issue of the off-season‘….all of the changes to the team. Hendry said after winning 97 games they did not have to change much and mentioned the improvement made since the team lost 96 games in 2006. Hendry explained they are going “to keep tinkering with the lineup until they knock the door down.”
Hendry believes the team’s heart was in the right place last October but the pressure got to them. Simply stated, he feels they cared too much.
Crane Kenney briefly discussed the sale of the team. He added he was going to get out of the prediction business. He feels the new owner will be in place by Opening Day. Bud Selig is ready and willing to expedite the change of ownership.
Kenney went on to discuss the increase of payroll despite the fact there has been a “For Sale” sign in Wrigley’s front yard for the last two seasons. The Cubs have long term plans for Wrigley and the surrounding areas they need a new owner in place to move forward on (Kenney went into further detail in the next session).
John Williams, from WGN Radio, asked about Mark DeRosa and Hendry reiterated what he said during Sports Central on Friday night. Hendry added that of the Cubs’ 13 position players on the 25-man roster, seven will either hit left handed or switch hit.
Dave Eanet asked Randy Bush about any guys on the Cubs’ radar for 2009. Bush began by saying how good a job that Lou Piniella has done with using the young guys from the system. He first mentioned Mitch Atkins and said Atkins is a strike thrower and is coming into his own. Bush also brought up Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo but did not go into specifics about either player.
Jeff Samardzija, however, was briefly discussed and while it will be up to Lou Piniella and Larry Rothschild on how he will be used, he has been told to report to Spring Training ready to start according to Randy Bush.
The inevitable Jake Peavy question was next and Hendry gave a similar answer as Friday night. He mentioned tampering rules and the fact he could not discuss. He did say they would certainly keep their eye out to add pitching.
A lady with a homemade Mark DeRosa protest t-shirt stepped to the microphone and asked about her favorite player. Hendry revealed he knew when he made the trade every girl in town would be upset. After the laughs ended, Hendry mentioned the three really good pitching prospects they received for DeRosa. Hendry said DeRosa will always be welcomed back.
Milton Bradley wants to be a Chicago Cub according to the panel. Ron Washington is extremely disappointed Bradley will no longer be a Ranger. Crane Kenney said he’s never seen a player “court us like Bradley did.” He chose Chicago and wants the pressure of being a Cub….he did not have a safety net.
Jim Hendry discussed how hard it is to win a division. He brought up the ’04 team and the fact he thought it was a great team when the season began. But by the end of May seven players were on the DL and they did not make the playoffs after posting more wins than the year before.
The Cubs are not satisfied any longer with just winning the division but will not take winning the division for granted.
Crane Kenney was asked about the Greek Unorthodox Priest and the blessing before game one of the NLDS. Kenney took full responsibility for what happened and said it was one of the dumbest decisions he’s made…..he then corrected himself and said at least top two or three. Kenney said the priest was a huge Cubs’ fan and wanted to give them a blessing for good health. He said, “We had good health, but the result made them sick.”
Ryan Dempster is “a gamer” according to Jim Hendry. He talked fondly about Dempster and his leadership. He even added Dempster is his number one recruiter in the off-season. He calls Hendry frequently to see what he can do, what players he can call and what is going on. Hendry described him as a “ten human being” and the “real deal.”
The panel feels the roster has real good balance. Piniella likes using the whole bench and likes players with versatility. Hendry thinks there is a lot of depth in the pen and there will be interesting competition in Arizona.
Rich Hill was asked about and Hendry was quite blunt. He said it is really unfortunate what has happened to Hill. He mentioned the command and control issues Hill had early on in his career. He said Hill has lost complete command of the strike zone. He is in a real tough spot. He is out of options and the Cubs are in the “earn it business.” Hendry went on to say maybe a change of scenery would help him but if he doesn’t throw strikes he won’t be in the majors.
The Kevin Gregg for Jose Ceda trade was asked about. Ceda has a good arm and is a good young man but the Cubs feel he is a couple of years away from pitching in the 8th and 9th innings.
The Cubs are on a mission according to Hendry and he even used the phrase “emergency status“….the Cubs are in win now mode.
The Cubs will make a change to Wrigley this off-season. They are going to add the “Friendly Confines Café” beyond right field. They are planning on enlarging the area and making a beer garden type atmosphere.
The Kerry Wood question was asked and Hendry replied with basically the same answer as Friday night. He mentioned the three-year deal and Wood missing 62% of the games the last four seasons. Hendry then added the Cubs never discussed a one-year deal with Kerry Wood. Hendry explained he always wanted him back and many years it did not make Hendry look to smart by doing everything he could to try to keep him.
Who’s the Boss?
Len Kasper hosted the one-hour session with Crane Kenney and began by saying those looking for Alyssa Milano might be disappointed. Kenney explained he had nothing planned for the session and wanted the session to be similar to the Season Ticket Holder Luncheons he hosts from time to time.
Crane Kenney touched on many of the same subjects from the Meet Cubs Baseball Management session. He said their three titles in the last six years is not enough to satisfy any of them. He talked about the heartbreak many felt at the end of the season and the fact many people have told him they can’t do it any more (referring to follow the Cubs). Kenney’s response….”For all of those that did not jump ship, we are going to have a helluva party soon.”
Kenney mentioned a conversation he had with Reed Johnson after he arrived from Las Vegas for his first Cubs Convention. Johnson mentioned the plane had several fans flying in from Vegas for the convention and Johnson was shocked. Kenney said he told Reed, “You can’t understand this Cubs thing, you just have to enjoy it.”
The plans for the Triangle Building were discussed. Kenney revealed the Cubs are planning a Wrigley 2014 Celebration. He said the goal with the Triangle Building is to take pressure off of Wrigley. The Cubs’ offices would be moved. Players would have a new weight room and training facilities (for those that have ever been in the Cubs’ clubhouse, it is very small and way below modern standards). Kenney went on to explain the building would have offices, restaurants, restrooms, parking and a new Stadium Club….the building should be finished by 2012 or 2013.
The other improvements to Wrigley were brought up. Kenney said the goal is not to play a season somewhere else. He thinks some of the columns holding up the upper deck could be removed, thanks to modern technology, without the Cubs having to relocate for a year.
Kenney talked about the “L” flag and the fact he is a traditionalist. The Cubs will keep flying the “L” flag but Kenney emphatically stated, “The Loveable Loser thing bugs the hell out of me.” The Cubs want to turn things around culturally where they are never known as the Loveable Losers again.
The Cubs would like the flexibility to add Friday and Saturday night games to their schedule. Right now they cannot play night games on those two days and Kenney said he would like to figure out a way to do so.
Crane Kenney was asked about the job Lou Piniella did in October. He responded with there is one person that has questioned the manager and it was the manager. Kenney explained he feels they have the right manager in place and asked those in attendance if they thought the previous manager would have been able to turn around the 2007 season the way Piniella did. Kenney said Piniella is a 65-year old man that does not need this job….he wants this job.
Lou Piniella, Jim Hendry and Crane Kenney are all for a seven-game series in the divisional round of the playoffs. He explained he does not talk about his view publicly because it could be seen as an excuse for the last two years. Kenney does think it is “nuts” that the All-Star Game determines home field in the World Series.
The Magic of 1984
Bobby Dernier, Steve Trout, Jody Davis, Ryne Sandberg, Scott Sanderson, Tim Stoddard and a late Lee Smith discussed the magical summer of 1984 for an hour on Saturday afternoon. Keith Moreland and Leon Durham were not present but the other seven shared several stories from the season that put the Chicago Cubs back on the map.
The stories were priceless and a lot of respect still remains twenty-five years later for Gary Matthews. “Bobby D” described the ’84 Cubs lineup as seven monsters and Larry Bowa. Dernier said the team played with a fun factor the entire summer.
Bobby Dernier revealed that Don Zimmer was more of the manager of the ’84 team than Jim Frey. Dernier explained that all Frey did was put the right names in the right order. Ryne Sandberg explained later that he and Dernier had their own hit and run signs. ‘The Daily Double‘ had a lot of fun that summer.
Of course the Sandberg Game was discussed and so were other memories from that year. It was truly a privilege to sit back and listen to a group of guys discuss a wonderful summer and reminisce right along with them.
The ’84 Cubs was the first team since 1945 (39 years) to reach the post-season. Regardless of the ending, without that team the Cubs, the way the Faithful know it today, would not exist and events like the Cubs Convention possibly would have never happened.
To this writer’s surprise, the former Cub and Hall of Famer Lou Brock was in attendance Saturday in the vendor area of the Convention. Mr. Brock took the time to speak with me and to say it was an honor for this lifelong fan of the game would be an understatement.
Miscellaneous Notes from Day Two
- Kevin Gregg will be happy to hear “Go Cubs Go” at the end of the game in the right uniform.
- Milton Bradley was rushed by a majority of the crowd in attendance of the “Welcome to Wrigley” session. To Bradley’s credit he signed for everyone in line and remained for nearly thirty minutes after the session ended. He left to a loud applause from those gathering for the celebration of the ’84 team.
- The Cubs just passed the 100,000 mark on their season ticket waiting list.
- Carrie Muskat was crushed when they traded Mark DeRosa. The Cubs beat writer said DeRosa was great and easy to work with.
- Cubs.com is routinely in the top three in traffic received. Depending on the day, the Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox exchange the top spot of official team sites.
- Jody Davis still has the ball from the last out recorded in Pittsburgh that won the 1984 National League Eastern Division Title.
- Could Milton Bradley hit leadoff for the Cubs in 2009? Len Kasper mentioned Bradley’s OBP would be appealing to him on Friday night…stay tuned.
- The Iowa Cubs will play in the second installment of the ‘Road to Wrigley’ on August 9th at Wrigley Field against the Las Vegas 51s (the Dodgers Triple-A team).
- Geovany Soto was absent from “Making History” with Carlos Zambrano and Larry Rothschild. The NL Rookie of the Year was scheduled to attend the convention.
- The CCO ran into Jim McArdle, the former editor of the VineLine on Saturday. His book, “Living the Dream” about the 2008 season is scheduled for release in April. Go to www.triumphbooks.com to pre-order a copy.
- And finally….Brad and the Heckler crew made several chuckle as they made their way through the vendor area. For those unfamiliar with the Heckler and need a laugh….check out www.theheckler.com
More from the 2009 Cubs Convention:
- Day One – A Beautiful Day for a Convention