As the New Year approaches, the next two days figures to be filled with ‘Year in Review’ reports throughout the game and looking back at what went right or wrong over the last 12 months. The Cubs had a rough year, one that most saw coming but there was more than just a few positives for the organization in Twenty-Twelve.
Jeff Samardzija had a good season and was arguably the biggest surprise on a team that had a miserable year at the big league level. Starlin Castro showed improvement as the season wore on and the Cubs appear to have found a first baseman in Anthony Rizzo. Alfonso Soriano put together his best all-around season in a Cubs’ uniform and Carlos Marmol listened to his pitching coach and started throwing his fastball again. With Geovany Soto no longer with the team, Welington Castillo took hold of the catcher’s job and will begin the 2013 campaign as the Cubs’ starting backstop … and Darwin Barney was pure gold at second base.
Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod added talent to the Cubs system and implemented the ‘Cubs Way’ throughout the organization.
Twenty-Twelve was a forgettable and memorable season all wrapped up in one for the Chicago Cubs.
The 28th Annual Cubs Convention is in less than three weeks and Wally Hayward joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner to discuss the upcoming event during Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) on Saturday morning.
The Cubs are excited about the venue change from the Chicago Hilton to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers and it appears the Cubs have changed things up for this year’s gathering. The change in venue gave the Cubs a way to look back at previous conventions to see what worked and what did not. The Cubs are planning more interactive activities for families and kids and it sounds like the players will be more accessible than in recent years.
One of the changes that Wally Hayward discussed is there will be a new, larger opening ceremony. The fans will be closer and the players will be introduced in a runway type setting, instead of above the large crowd on the balcony at the Chicago Hilton. Hayward mentioned current and former players will be in attendance as well as the coaching staff and front office.
Hayward added the players he has spoken to are excited about coming to Chicago for the convention. Current players such as Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Alfonso Soriano, Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, James Russell, Tony Campana, Welington Castillo, David DeJesus, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and Kyuji Fujikawa are expected to attend as well as the top 10 prospects in the Cubs’ system … which is a nice and welcomed change from previous years. Over the last six conventions there have been a handful of minor league players in attendance, but not the prospects that are considered to be the ten best in the organization.
The Cubs have a ‘Family Feud’ game planned with the players, Jeopardy, Bingo Night and an Autograph Hunt with the players involved in the game. There will also be a replica of the Cubs’ TV booth set up with video of two games. Fans can call the action, and then post their play-by-play call on YouTube or on Facebook.
It will be a busy weekend, along with the convention (January 18 – January 20), Kerry Wood’s annual charity event is scheduled for Saturday night (January 19) and Kim and David DeJesus’ ‘Strike-A-Pose’ Fashion Show to benefit ALS research is on Thursday night before the convention. ‘Rookie of the Year’ will also be shown on Saturday night at the convention on the big screen.
As for changes this off-season to Wrigley Field, Wally Hayward said the Cubs were not planning on adding a LED board, similar to the one in right field, to left field this off-season. The Cubs are doing smaller projects and upkeep on the park … for the third straight off-season, the Ricketts family is spending around $10 million on necessary maintenance to the 99-year old park. The Cubs are still working on the larger renovation plans.
News and Notes
Final rosters for the upcoming World Baseball Classic should be announced shortly after the New Year. A couple of players from the Cubs’ system are on the preliminary rosters: Sheldon McDonald (Team Canada) and Yao-Lin Wang (Team Chinese Taipei). Kyuji Fujikawa is not expected to participate in the WBC this time around and reportedly both Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are undecided on whether or not they will play in the tournament.
The Cubs have not been connected to Cubs free agents Dariel Alvarez and Aledmys Diaz yet this off-season but do not be surprised if that changes in the near future. Alvarez and Diaz were both declared free agents earlier this month and are scheduled to work out for scouts on January 5. Due to age and service time, both players are not subject to the international spending cap. Under the new CBA, Cuban players who are at least 23 years old and have played at least three seasons in the Cuban professional league are not subject to the spending restrictions.
Dariel Alvarez, the 24-year old outfielder, can play all three outfield positions and has impressed scouts with his above-average arm. Aledmys Diaz turns 23 on January 8 and will not sign before then. Diaz plays shortstop and is considered closer to big league ready than Alvarez. Diaz reportedly hits for power and average.
The Nationals are targeting lefty reliever J.P. Howell according to a report from Hardball Talk. The report, citing MASNSports.com as it’s source, indicated that Howell remains the Nationals top choice after losing out on Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Burnett and Mike Gonzalez. The Cubs have been linked to Howell in recent weeks.