Day two of the 26th Annual Cubs Convention was filled with information and fond memories of Ron Santo. The Ricketts Family Forum led off the day and Jim Hendry, Mike Quade and Randy Bush answered question after question on the current team as well as the plans for the future.
Tom Ricketts announced the team will wear #10 patches to honor Ron Santo throughout the 2011 season. The Cubs tribute will also include a statue of Ron Santo set to be unveiled on August 10.
Here is the recap from Day Two …
The Ricketts’ Family Forum led off day two of the 26th Annual Cubs Convention. Len Kasper hosted the session. Before Kasper introduced the family, he brought up Friday’s Opening Ceremonies and the great reception Matt Garza and Carlos Pena received. Kasper admitted he was expecting a huge ovation for Kerry Wood but no one, including Kasper thought Wood would be welcomed home the way he was on Friday night.
Kasper introduced the family and added “Network Primetime Star” to Todd. The family received a warm reception from the half full Grand Ballroom.
Len Kasper led off by saying he feels the Cubs are fortunate to have the Ricketts as the owners of the Chicago Cubs.
Before opening up the floor for questions, Tom announced the Cubs will honor Ron Santo throughout the 2011 season. Every player and coach in uniform will wear #10 patches.
The Cubs will unveil a statue of Ron Santo on August 10. The Cubs face the Nationals on the Wednesday night in August.
The family has three goals according to Tom Ricketts … Win World Championship, Preserve Wrigley Field and to be good neighbors in the community.
The first goal, winning a world championship according to Ricketts starts with the organization. The Ricketts family believes organizations win championships.
Tom said the plan is to draft well and develop their talent. The Cubs have hired new scouts to add to the ones already in the system. Once they have the right players they have to develop them. He feels the communication is good throughout the system at the coaching level.
The Cubs facilities in Mesa will soon be improved, which will help in many ways. The Cubs will have world class training facilities in Mesa and have an agreement in place to keep the Cubs in Arizona for the next 30 to 50 years. The Cubs will soon announce their plans for upgrading the facilities in the Dominican Republic.
The Ricketts know that everyone loves Wrigley but the bottom line is that it is a 100-year old facility and it needs work. The family wants to save the field and has a lot of dialogue going to ensure the renovations happen.
As for in the community, the Cubs want to be better neighbors. Tom pointed out the nearly $1.3 million the Cubs gave out in 2010 as a part of Cubs Care. The team intends to ramp up those efforts in 2011 and the plan is for the Cubs to eventually be the number one team in baseball in giving back to the community.
Other than the obvious on the field issues, Tom Ricketts said it was a good first year as owners of the team.
The family is giving Jim Hendry every dollar they can and it is up to Hendry to decide how to allocate it. The big league team had one of the highest payrolls in all of baseball. Tom pointed out it is certainly not the money being spent on players that is the problem; the key is to spend the money on the right players.
The Cubs were not focused on Sabermetrics before the family took over. Ricketts said they have hired people that will help on the quantitative side. He added that the team is shifting in that direction but it takes time and he is making sure they are hiring the right people for the job.
The Ricketts were not confortable coming in when they bought the team and just cleaning house. Tom feels they made the right decision then and are glad they did not make changes from day one. When asked what mistakes he thought were made in Year One, Tom jokingly said that he was drawing a blank but many people could probably point out a lot of things that went wrong. He admitted that he thinks the family did the best they could in Year One.
Laura spoke up at that point and said she thinks the best decision she feels was made by the family was giving Mesa a chance.
The Cubs are discussing how to get the funding to make improvements to Wrigley behind the scenes. Tom feels if the discussions are kept quiet they will have a better chance of getting approved.
The walk-up music added last year was briefly discussed and from the description of the player given by Tom, it sounded like Marlon Byrd approached him about the change. Tom said even if you liked the song you could not hear it because of the bad sound system at Wrigley.
Laura Ricketts said they would like to bring back more of the old charm of Wrigley, while making it fan friendly at the same time. The goal is to preserve and enhance, the same way Boston did with Fenway Park.
The question was asked about the monetary level of commitment the family is making to build the system. Tom explained that every dollar goes into baseball operation from payroll to development. The Cubs have increased the non-payroll budget this year and added more scouts.
Ryne Sandberg’s departure from the organization was the next question asked and how could the family let that happen. Tom said that obviously Sandberg is a treasure of the organization and is always welcome here. Sandberg was not asked to leave; it was his decision to do so. Hendry decided to hire Mike Quade, Sandberg understood and felt it was in his best interest to move on. Tom said, “Our hope is he will be back in the future.”
The next question centered on Jim Hendry still being the Cubs general manager and why he still has a job with the team. Tom explained that when they came in a little more than a year ago they felt it would be unfair to judge him without knowing first-hand what was going on. Tom said he spent a lot of time learning the system over the last year. He has been asking question and going outside of the organization to find out how the Cubs stack up.
Tom Ricketts said over the last year his confidence has grown in Jim Hendry and the job he is doing.
The important part is to look at how the team structures contracts and spending money the right way.
Wrigley 2014 no longer looks like a possibility. The Cubs were planning to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Wrigley Field and were trying to get the All-Star game as well. The renovations to Wrigley have to be done first, plus 2014 is an American League year.
The Cubs will try to have the celebration in 2016 … the 100th Anniversary of the Cubs moving into Wrigley Field.
The Ricketts family wants to be open-minded about upgrades and changes to Wrigley Field without changing the game day experience. It did not sound like Wrigley will have features of the new parks … but he did not rule out a jumbotron. Tom visited several of the newer parks last season and did not like all of the noise in between innings.
Once the renovations begin they will be done in the off-season, like the Red Sox did with Fenway. It is more expensive to do them in the off-season but it will keep the Cubs from having to play their home games in a different park for a season.
Tom was asked about possible additions to the team before Spring Training begins.
Ricketts said that is up to Hendry but he thinks the team they currently have will be the one they start the spring and Opening Day with … but Hendry will have the ability to add players during the season if needed.
The honeymoon appears to be over between the fans and the Ricketts family … and in their defense, they know it. The Ricketts appear to realize it is all about winning games and building a winning tradition on the North Side of Chicago.
Meet Cubs Baseball Management
Jim Hendry, Randy Bush and Mike Quade discussed the Cubs in the second session of the day.
First up was the players dealt in the Matt Garza trade. Jim Hendry stressed the importance of valuing your own players the right way and which ones can be used in trades … and which ones cannot.
Mike Quade discussed the end of last season and brought up what he discussed with the players when he took over. Quade said it was important for the team to finish well and if the veterans didn’t come through he knew the team would continue to struggle.
Dave Kaplan asked Hendry about the statement Marlon Byrd made about the additions of Carlos Pena, Kerry Wood and Matt Garza. Byrd did not think those additions were possible at the end of the season. Hendry did not look at how challenging it was going to be to make the additions he felt the team needed. He leaned heavily on his scouts and said that both Pena and Garza were on the wish list when the off-season began … and Garza was a dream because they did not even know if he was available. As for Kerry Wood, that all just worked out.
As for who will hit leadoff for the Cubs in the upcoming season, Mike Quade said leadoff hitters are overrated … at least that is what you say when you don’t have a leadoff hitter. The main thing is to just get the top of the lineup on base and let the middle of the lineup drive them in.
The Cubs’ new skipper said he will drive home fundamentals and stress the importance of playing the game right from Spring Training through the season.
Alfonso Soriano’s contract and the decision by Larry Rothschild to leave the Cubs for the Yankees were next up for Jim Hendry.
The Cubs were thrilled to have him when Soriano signed. Hendry explained that Soriano has dealt with injuries since signing with the Cubs and has not been able to give full effort. Hendry feels Soriano still has a lot left and can still hit 30 home runs a year. Hendry explained Soriano is well liked in the clubhouse and they feel he will be a productive player.
Hendry was asked why the Cubs did not receive any compensation from the Yankees for Rothschild. It was Hendry’s decision to let him go and feels it was a good move for Larry and his family.
It remains to be seen if the Cubs can fill corner infield needs with players in their system. The Cubs are not sure if Josh Vitters will be a first baseman or a third baseman at the big league level at this point. Vitters should be ready in the next year to year and a half. The Cubs realize the importance of developing position players … Randy Bush admitted it can be expensive on the open market to fill those needs it they cannot develop their own players.
Hendry thinks Greg Maddux enjoyed his first year in the organization. Maddux got involved in trade talks during the Winter Meetings and he helped Hendry analyze the minor league prospects.
Darwin Barney and Casey Coleman are over achievers according to Mike Quade. Barney is a good kid and is a utility player but he would like to me more. Quade pointed out that Coleman will not light up a radar gun but is very poised. Barney and Coleman will get good looks during Spring Training.
There was not one person in the organization that was not interested in Matt Garza according to Hendry. It was never a question of how bad they wanted Garza but could they do it. Hendry said he knew it would end up hurting to acquire Garza (in terms of players they would have to give up).
Mike Quade was asked about how he would line up his rotation. Quade has no idea but Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza will be the top three. Quade said whoever is pitching that day will be his “ace”. As for the starter on Opening Day, Quade indicated the pitcher’s history on Opening Day will also be figured into the decision.
Quade was asked about how he will handle Carlos Zambrano if he reverts back to his old ways. Quade said maybe he’s an idiot but he does not think they will see the ‘bad’ Z again. If it happens, they will deal with it then.
Quade said 2010 was just a miserable year and the team has to be better prepared and to play better as a team. Quade assured everyone that they will get a quality effort from his team on a daily basis and if not, he will not be happy. The Cubs are going to find ways to score runs and find ways to win close ballgames. Quade admitted he has to handle each player differently but stated that every player will be held accountable.
The Cubs look for players that can handle the second deck or playing in tough situations … like at Wrigley. Hendry thinks the Cubs have done a good job in free agency, for the most part and admitted making one mistake. Garza and Pena are high character guys that can play under tough conditions. Matt Garza is a winner, a gamer and wants to be in big ballgames according to Hendry. Garza told Hendry he wants to pitch the Cubs into the postseason.
Hendry was asked about Koyie Hill’s new contract. Hendry said $850,000 might sound like a lot but Hill does a lot of things that people cannot see from the stands. The Cubs do not agree that Hill’s spot could be filled by a player making the league minimum. Hill is big behind the scenes and had a lot do with the success of the young pitchers down the stretch. Hill also helps Geovany Soto. Quade added that he will take a little experience on the bench for a little more money any day.
Mike Quade expects Carlos Zambrano to pitch and perform the way he did at the end of the year … plus the Cubs need for him to perform well. Quade described Zambrano as being relatively calm when he returned and expects the same this year.
The Cubs have appeared to let players call the shots in recent years when it comes to injuries and not spending time on the DL. Hendry was called on, what many feel has been a problem. Hendry qualified his answer by saying Mark O’Neal is one of the best trainers in the league. Hendry applauds players, like Derrek Lee, that do not want to take days off. Some injuries might have a negative impact on a player’s performance and when they do, the team will step in. But just because someone struggles it does not mean they are hurt.
Ryan Theriot’s comments were the next topic of conversation. Quade said he takes what Theriot says with a large grain of salt … but admitted he may have it in the back of his head the first time the Cubs face the Cardinals this season.
As for all the day games at Wrigley that is what makes the Cubs special according to Quade. The day games should not be a disadvantage, the Cubs have to make it an advantage. Quade added they have to “make the toughness of Wrigley fuel us, not hurt us.”
The Cubs are going to have to prove the end of 2010 was not a fluke … and the Cubs new skipper knows the real work is about to begin.
Meet Cubs Business Management
The Meet Cubs Business Management session was half over by the time the second tribute to Ron Santo finished up. But there was plenty of info worth passing on.
Crane Kenney, Wally Hayward (Executive VP, Chief Sales and Marketing), Mike Lufrano (Senior VP of Community Affairs), Carl Rice (Senior Director of Facility Management and Information Technologies) and Colin Faulkner (VP of Ticket Sales and Services) fielded questions during the session.
A couple of early points … The Red Sox have over 67 signs inside of Fenway Park which generates revenue. In an online survey, 60 percent said they would be in favor of a jumbotron at Wrigley if it does not interfere with the centerfield scoreboard. AT & T spent $5 million in improvements to the wireless service at Wrigley Field.
Crane Kenney said the Cubs are not going to sell the naming right to Wrigley Field. The Cubs pay the highest entertainment taxes in the country … 12 percent to the city and county. The original proposal was to take some of the existing tax money to use on the renovations at Wrigley … not additional taxes. Kenney admitted the original plan was not well received. They are trying to find a solution that the city, county and state will be good with.
Kenney pointed out that the Red Sox do not pay any amusement taxes and use that money to pay for the renovations at Fenway … and St. Louis suspended their entertainment tax to pay for their new stadium.
The Cubs celebrated Ron Santo the player and the broadcaster on Saturday.
The first session, “On the Road with #10” featured Pat Hughes, Andy Masur, Cory Provus and Judd Sirott. The panel shared great memories and hilarious stories to the standing room only crowd.
Pat Hughes began the hour by saying, “Welcome to this session, it’s all about Ron Santo.” And it was. Pat began the hour by asking for a moment of silence for Santo then for the crowd to show their appreciation.
The entire room gave Ron Santo one more standing ovation.
Pat, Andy, Cory and Judd told about their first meeting with Santo and how much of an impact he had on each of their careers. Santo was described as a genuine person and Sirott pointed out that people do not realize how inspiring Ron was to people with diabetes.
Santo always had time for people and enjoyed every minute he had with his fans.
Pat said the Cubs were Santo’s drug, they made him go. The Cubs were his team.
The tribute to Ron Santo, the player, featured Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundley, Jose Cardenal and Milt Pappas.
Billy Williams described Santo’s death as a great loss and explained how great a friendship the two had since 1959. The two came through the system together and always hit either third or fourth in the Cubs’ lineup. Williams and Santo played the more games than any other teammates in Major League history.
Billy added that a lot of people listen to Cubs’ games because of Pat and Ron. Williams explained, “Because of you (the fans), he went past nine innings.”
Ernie Banks said he learned toughness, love and friendship from Ron Santo. Mr. Cub added later, “This team, the Cubs was his whole life.”
Milt Pappas, who is still very bitter about his near-perfect game and even called the umpire out, said, “Why that man is not in the Hall is unbelievable. The Hall should be putting people in, not keeping them out.”
Randy Hundley said he, and everyone on the panel, were very lucky to have had him as a friend. Hundley thinks he would have been a joy to see Ronnie walk across the stage and receive his plaque at the Hall of Fame.
Listening to all of the wonderful stories was just a reminder of how much Ron Santo meant to all of us and how much he will be missed. Thank you Ron!
While day two was informative, it was the stories, the laughter and remembering Ronnie that made it special.
Day three will be short and sweet with the final two sessions centered on the minor leagues and the young Cubs.
The highlights from Sports Central will be included in Day Three’s recap of the Down on the Farm and The 25 Club. Carlos Pena, Fernando Perez, Sean Marshall, Koyie Hill, Oneri Fleita and Tim Wilken spent time on the two-hour show with Dave Kaplan and Jim Memolo.