Tom Ricketts backed up his All-Star first baseman during a luncheon in Elk Grove Village on Tuesday. The Cubs chairman believes his team will make the playoffs and win the National League Central Division Crown this season.
According to the report from Todd Wessell, Ricketts said “all of the stars are lined up for a successful season.” Ricketts pointed to Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro maturing last season to the emergence of the players from the system, having a true leadoff hitter in Dexter Fowler and the additions of Jon Lester and Jason Hammel to Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks, plus hiring the best manager in baseball as the reasons for his statement.
Ricketts said Kris Bryant would “likely begin the season in the team’s Triple-A farm team, but would soon be called up to the parent club.”
Tom Ricketts explained the team has not taken any short cuts over the last five years. An organization has to be built the right way in order to consistently play in October. And he is convinced everyone will be saying the ‘Cubs Win’ a lot more this year.
WGN-TV announced Wednesday Ch. 9 will televise Ernie Banks’ Memorial Service starting at 9:30am CST on Saturday morning. And WGN’s broadcast will also be available on WGNTV.com and CLTV.
The public visitation for Mr. Banks is Friday, Jan. 30 from 12:00 – 8:00pm CST at Fourth Presbyterian Church located at 126 East Chestnut Street (at North Michigan Avenue). The memorial service at Fourth Presbyterian Church begins at 10:00am CST on Saturday, Jan. 31, limited public seating will be available.
According to a report from Fred Mitchell, Sammy Sosa will not be attending Ernie Banks’ funeral. A friend of Sosa’s told the Tribune he does not want to be a distraction.
Sammy Sosa wanted a chance to visit with the Banks’ family and pay his respects. But with the uncertainty of a private meeting with the family, Sosa decided not to attend the public funeral.
Ernie Banks often referred to Sammy Sosa as “being like a son.”
According to Fred Mitchell, Ernie Banks was trying to arrange a reconciliation between Sosa and the Cubs.
According to Jon Heyman, the Mariners signed John Baker to a minor league contract that includes a non-roster invite to Spring Training. Baker gets a chance to compete for a job on the big league team.
John Baker made the Cubs 25-man roster with a solid spring a year ago and played in 68 games last season. Baker batted .192/.273/.231 with seven doubles and a .504 OPS. Baker picked up a win on the mound in the longest game in franchise history and provided one of the highlights in a transition season for the Cubs at the big league level.
Pace of Play – More Offense
Ken Rosenthal posted an idea that could help with pace of play and the lack of offense in the game … make relievers pitch to more than one batter. Rosenthal thinks MLB should require relief pitchers to face at least two batters if not three.
And according to Rosenthal, Theo Epstein threw out the idea during the GM Meetings in November. A formal proposal was not made at the time. On a side note, Epstein has mentioned his idea in a public forum since. Rosenthal said in his report that Tom Verducci brought up the idea last May.
The lack of pitching changes would reduce the time of games and chances are would increase run production at the same time.
News, Notes and Rumors
Major League Baseball and Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) announced a partnership Tuesday to build youth baseball in the U.S. and beyond.
Anthony Rizzo lost out to Felix Hernandez in round one of MLB Network’s Face of MLB contest. King Felix edged out Rizzo 54% to 46%.
Backstops shine with defensive prowess behind the plate according to Lyle Spencer.
Tom Tango has ideas about substitution rules.
Results of Mesa financial audit were released.
Ken Rosenthal talked to Commissioner Manfred … and posted a transcript of the entire interview.
High Heat Stats posted a couple of good ones Wednesday that are Cubs related. Juan Pierre has the lowest batting average in a season (2006) for a player that collected 200-plus hits. And since 1988, Sammy Sosa is the player that hit the most home runs on a 0-2 count. Sosa smacked 26 and Alfonso Soriano is second on the list with 24. Cubs’ minor leaguer and coach Manny Ramirez hit 20 dingers with a 0-2 count.
And last, but not least, former Cubs outfielder and announcer Joe Carter is back in baseball. Carter has been reunited with former teammate Dave Stewart in the Diamondbacks front office as a Special Assistant to Stewart.
This Day In Cubstory
2002 – Cubs signed free agent Bryan Ward
1999 – Cubs signed free agent Doug Creek
1997 – Cubs signed free agent Dave Clark
1968 – Kevin Roberson, born
1949 – Jim Tyrone, born
1931 – Hy Cohen, born
1919 – Bill Voiselle, born