August 2009

8/22 Theriot update

Ryan Theriot did not start Saturday because of a bruised left knee suffered Friday night in the seventh inning. Theriot’s status was day to day. He has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games, batting .350 in that stretch. Aaron Miles started at shortstop in Theriot’s place.

— Carrie Muskat

8/22 Lou: "I plan on coming back"

Lou Piniella plans on coming back for the 2010 season with the Cubs, but says the final decision will be up to the Cubs’ new owners, the Ricketts family.

“I’m an employee of this organization, and I don’t make those decisions,” Piniella said Saturday. “Those decisions are made by ownership. I am signed through next year and I do plan on fulfilling my contract. But, that’s not to say I’ll be back because I don’t make those decisions.”

Piniella, who turns 66 on Friday, acknowledged this has been a difficult season, but said he’s not the only manager who has had a tough year.

“We had expectations here,” Piniella said. “So far, they haven’t been as fulfilled as we anticipated. There are other teams that have had similar problems.”

He is signed through next season, and has said the Cubs job will be his last one.

“[After this] I’m going to go home and enjoy my life,” he said. “But I’m still competitive, I still come to the ballpark and the losses hurt. If the losses didn’t hurt, then I’d know it would be time to leave. That’s the biggest telling sign for me. If we lost a ballgame like we did last night and it wasn’t painful, well, then I don’t belong in this business. I care, I want to see this thing go. But I am an employee, only an employee. Ownership, the front office, they make the decisions on whether managers stay or come back more than the manager does.”

Since he began managing in 1986 with the Yankees, Piniella has never been fired.

“There’s always a first time for anything,” Piniella said.

However, the last six years he has managed, including Tampa Bay, the ownership has been in transition. The Tribune Co. announced on Friday the Cubs had been sold to the Ricketts family.

Piniella doesn’t understand why there’s been speculation that he would leave the Cubs after the 2009 season.

“I’ve never once said anything that’s different,” he said.

— Carrie Muskat

8/22 Lineup

Alfonso Soriano, who was batting .116 in his last 11 games, was not in Saturday’s lineup. Instead, Sam Fuld started in left field. Here’s the order:

LF Fuld

RF Bradley

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

CF Fukudome

2B Baker

C Soto

SS Miles

P Lilly

— Carrie Muskat

8/21 Patience is a virtue

Alfonso Soriano entered Friday’s game with five hits in his last 41 at-bats for a .122 average. He’s worked in the cage, tried to hit more to right field. The Cubs have suggested Soriano switch to a lighter bat, but he’s resisted. Lou Piniella has only so much patience.

“Invariably, you have to start hitting at some point,” Piniella said.

What that means remains to be seen. At this point, the Cubs don’t have many options, except Sam Fuld, who started in center Friday, and Jake Fox, who has started two games in right and four in left.

— Carrie Muskat

8/21 Lineups

Sam Fuld was starting in center field Friday vs. the Dodgers. Here’s the lineup:

SS Theriot

RF Bradley

1B Lee

3B Ramirez

2B Baker

LF Soriano

C Soto

CF Fuld

P Wells

— Carrie Muskat

8/21 Crane Kenney on Cubs sale

Cubs chairman Crane Kenney on the sale of the team to the Ricketts family: “The Cubs are encouraged Tribune and the Ricketts family have reached agreement on the transaction and see this as a very positive step toward the ownership transition.”
The Ricketts family signed a definitive agreement with Tribune Co. to acquire a 95 percent interest in the Cubs, Wrigley Field and Tribune’s approximately 25 percent interest in Comcast SportsNet for $845 million. Tribune will retain a 5 percent ownership interest.
The sale still must go through bankruptcy court and also be approved by Major League Baseball owners, who have a November meeting scheduled for Chicago.
— Carrie Muskat 

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8/21 Cubs sale – update

The Ricketts family Friday signed a definitive agreement with Tribune Co. to acquire a 95 percent interest in the Cubs, Wrigley Field and Tribune’s approximately 25 percent interest in Comcast SportsNet (CSN) in a transaction valued at $845 million.

The Ricketts family will have management control of the joint venture as its 95 percent owner. Tribune will retain a five-percent ownership interest.

“Our family is thrilled to have reached an agreement to acquire a controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs, one of the most storied franchises in sports,” said Joe Ricketts, in a statement released by the Tribune Co. “The Cubs have the greatest fans in the world, and we count our family among them. We look forward to closing the transaction so that we can begin leading the Cubs to a World Series title.”

The Ricketts family reached the agreement with Tribune after a thorough bid process that began more than two years ago. Tribune intends to proceed to a final transaction close without soliciting further bids from other parties.

“This joint venture will provide dedicated, local family ownership and management for the team,” Tribune Chairman Sam Zell said. “The Ricketts family will be a great steward of the franchise. They have a strong respect for the team, for the fans and for what the Cubs mean to the City of Chicago.”

Final closing of the agreement is dependent upon approval by Major League Baseball owners and bankruptcy court approvals. As part of the court’s approval process, the entity holding most of the assets of the Cubs franchise will voluntarily file for Chapter 11 protection so that the franchise can emerge free and clear of Tribune Co.’s financial obligations. All obligations specific to the Cubs franchise — player contracts and agreements with sponsors, broadcasters, advertisers, suppliers and ticket holders — are not expected to be impacted by the court approval process, and there should be no interruption of team operations. The court is expected to rule on approval of the transaction early in the fourth quarter of 2009.

— Carrie Muskat


8/20 Milton & Muppets

Milton Bradley didn’t want to talk after Wednesday’s game, so there’s no telling what was going on between the Cubs outfielder and the fan at PETCO Park who was razzing him during the game.

After Bradley homered, he then made a “talking” sign with his hand as he headed back to the dugout. Lou Piniella called it a “Muppet conversation.”

“You can have a little fun once in a while,” Piniella said, “but you would prefer they concentrate on the game at hand.”

Did Piniella ever have those kind of run-ins with fans?

“On rare occasions, but I had fun with it,” Piniella said. “[Bradley] was having fun with him, more than anything else.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/20 Zambrano update

Carlos Zambrano struck out five over five scoreless innings in a rehab start Thursday for Class A Peoria. Zambrano, pitching for the first time since Aug. 1, gave up four hits and did not walk a batter. He threw 76 pitches, 45 for strikes. He retired the first five batters he faced, then gave up a single in the second. In the fourth, he needed just nine pitches to retire the side, all on fly ball outs. He got in a little trouble in the fifth. The first two Clinton batters grounded out, but the next one singled, then stole second and advanced on a wild pitch. Zambrano struck out the next batter to end the inning and his evening.

He had been sidelined with back spasms, and if Zambrano comes out of this start OK, he will start Tuesday when the Cubs open a three-game series against the Nationals at Wrigley Field. Also, Big Z tuned up by hitting six home runs during batting practice in Peoria.

— Carrie Muskat 

8/20 Bad memories

The tunnel from the visitor’s dugout to the clubhouse was passable and dry on Thursday. The last time the Cubs were at Dodger Stadium was Game 3 of the National League Division Series last October, and someone had busted a water pipe which caused the dugout to flood.

“I forgot that,” Lou Piniella said.

Remember the lineup? It was LF Soriano, 2B Fontenot, 1B Lee, 3B Ramirez, C Soto, CF Edmonds, RF DeRosa, SS Theriot and P Harden. Only Soriano, Lee, Ramirez and Theriot were in Thursday’s lineup for the series opener against the Dodgers.

“We’d like to be in a similar position this year,” Piniella said. “I’m not talking about being down 0-2 in the playoffs, but a chance to be here in the playoffs, or be anywhere. Last year was last year.”

Has he forgotten the series?

“It took me awhile, it really did,” Piniella said. “But it’s forgotten. We have another challenge ahead of us here in the next six weeks. Maybe we can get hot and put together a little win streak.”

— Carrie Muskat