Cubs Convention Day Two: Lou Piniella, Crane Kenney and the Afternoon Sessions

The afternoon sessions on Saturday have been a little more relaxed in recent years … but not at the 25th Cubs Convention. After Lou Piniella and his coaching staff fielded more questions and revealed a couple of interesting tidbits, Crane Kenney and the Cubs Business Management dealt with a variety of topics …

Leaders of the Pack

Lou Piniella and his coaching staff (Alan Trammell, Larry Rothschild, Ivan DeJesus, Matt Sinatro, Lester Strode, Rudy Jaramillo and Mike Quade) discussed their players … and others for an hour in the Grand Ballroom with Bob Brenly.

Greg Maddux will bring a wealth of knowledge to the Cubs organization according to Piniella. Maddux was a great pitcher, a first ballot Hall of Famer. Piniella said Maddux will work with Jim Hendry and will be in big league camp when Spring Training begins. Piniella indicated Maddux would probably spend time in the Cubs minor league system working with players when the season begins.

Larry Rothschild added that Maddux does not think in the box, always throws out something new … out of the box. Maddux will also assist in evaluating players for possible trades during the season.

Piniella reinforced the fact he and his coaches know the fans have waited a long time to win a World Series. Piniella said he and his staff will do everything they can to win games this year. Piniella added, “We hurt after we lose games. We take this very seriously.”

Lou Piniella was asked about Ben Sheets, again. Piniella said the Cubs’ focus, pitching wise, is to add a veteran right-handed setup man. Piniella mentioned Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija and Andrew Cashner as possibilities for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Rudy Jaramillo discussed Alfonso Soriano. He said Soriano’s mechanics are off. They have to slow him down and remind him to stay closed longer which will allow him to recognize pitches earlier … especially a breaking ball. Piniella asked Rudy if he will be talking to Soriano in Spanish. Rudy said he loves “teaching in Spanish.”

The Cubs like Reed Johnson. They told him at the end of the year to go out and see what else might be available. The Cubs have not ruled bringing Johnson back, but it appears they would like to go in a different direction. Piniella called Johnson “a pro.”

Piniella was asked if he would have a different approach in the last year of his contract. Piniella said no … players play, managers manage and coaches coach. Piniella pointed out that games in April are just as important as ones in September.

Piniella’s focused on this year’s team, not on his own future with the Cubs.

The question about a possible successor was brought up to Piniella. Lou did a good job of dancing around the question. He said there are coaches on his staff that would do a good job.

Piniella added, “My situation will basically take care of itself at the end of the year.” Piniella then pointed out he would like to hear “Go Cubs Go” about 60 times this year.

Heath Bell is available according to Lou Piniella. He said the Padres want a lot of young talent in return. Piniella then caught himself and said he does not like talking about other team’s players.

When asked about playing high-priced veterans that are not producing over young players, Piniella said, “Players make money because they’ve had success.” He explained there is a fine line. A manager must have patience with players and not give up on them too quickly.

Later in the session, Lou was asked about sticking with Alfonso Soriano in the leadoff spot. Piniella appeared to get a little aggravated as he answered the question. Piniella said he had to give Soriano a chance to do what he was brought in to do. Piniella does not feel they took too long to move Soriano out of the leadoff spot. Piniella admitted that Soriano is a very hot and very cold hitter … and that is one thing Jaramillo has to do, get Soriano more consistent with his bat.

Jaramillo pointed out that Soriano’s struggles last year started with his knee injury. The lower body is the foundation for a hitter according to Jaramillo.

Toward the end Piniella said he thinks Hendry will sign another outfielder before long to add to the mix with Sam Fuld, Tyler Colvin and Micah Hoffpauir.

Meet Cubs Business Management

The Cubs’ business management session has been held on Sunday morning in recent years … but was moved to Saturday afternoon. Crane Kenney, Mark McGuire, Wally Hayward, Mike Lufrano and Carl Rice fielded questions from the audience in the Grand Ballroom.

Here are the highlights:

  • Crane Kenney cannot imagine a day Wrigley Field is not called Wrigley Field.
  • The Cubs have been putting a lot of resources into player development for the last five years.
  • The Cubs are not planning on adding PSL (Personal Seat License) anytime soon. They have discussed it.
  • The Ricketts have no interest, right now, in pursuing more night games. And no plans to ask if they can at this point.
  • The Cubs cannot add Friday or Saturday night games to their home schedule.
  • The players would like more night games.
  • The Cubs are exploring ways to add signage to Wrigley. The ivy will not be removed but they would like to add the revenue extra signage would provide.
  • Crane Kenney sees an All-Cubs channel in the future after the current contracts with WGN and Comcast expire.
  • The Cubs will announce their decision in the next few days on Florida or Arizona.
  • The Ricketts family has no intention of tearing down Wrigley Field.
  • A few years back, the Cubs bought back land around Wrigley that they will be able to use in the near future.
  • The Cubs are looking at partners to add WiFi technology to Wrigley Field to help provide real time info to the fans in attendance.
  • The Cubs are never going to touch the old scoreboard. If they add a jumbotron around the park, Kenney promised they would leave the “kiss cams, fireworks and mascots on the South Side.”

Crane Kenney has called the MLB front office and the Hall of Fame on a daily basis since Andre Dawson was elected to the hall. Kenney has spoken to Bud Selig but it is up to the hall as to which cap he will wear.

Kenney hopes the hall picks the right cap and he said the Ricketts family will make the final decision on whether or not to retire his number.

Plans for Wrigley 2014 will be released in the coming weeks and months. The Cubs are looking to have major improvements to Wrigley and the surrounding area completed by then. Those improvements include the Triangle Building and improving the team’s facilities.

The Ricketts family is committed to Wrigley Field and committed to the Wrigley 2014 celebration. Kenney pointed out that the Cubs will not play a single home game away from Wrigley … but the fans and players will have to deal with dust and construction.

The Cubs are working to get the 2014 All-Star game at Wrigley.

Crane Kenney was asked about Lou Piniella’s future. The Cubs feel like they have the best manager in baseball.

Kenney pointed out the Cubs have won the second most games in the National League over the last three years (Phillies top the list) … and have posted the most home wins in the NL over the last three years under Piniella.

Kenney said Piniella will have to sit down with Hendry toward the end of the season and decide his future with the team.

Crane Kenney ended by saying, “We all ended up with a great ownership group.”

The CCO attended Baseball in the Dominican on Saturday afternoon and will include those notes in the recap of Down on the Farm … with James Adduci, Andrew Cashner, Welington Castillo and Brett Jackson.

Bill Buckner

Recaps of the 2010 Cubs Convention

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon