January 2010

1/15/10 Who was that guy?

Tyler Colvin has never been in Utah. Imagine his surprise at hearing that someone posing as the Cubs outfielder tried to buy a truck there and left the dealership without paying.

According to a story in the Salt Lake Tribune, a 24-year-old Nevada man allegedly presented documents identifying himself as Colvin and signed the outfielder’s name to contractural papers at a car dealership in West Valley City on Tuesday. Matthew T. Van Meter was given the keys to a new Dodge pickup truck valued at $50,000, and, after agreeing to pay the next day, drove away from the lot.

Colvin has no connection to Van Meter and it’s uncertain as to what the connection is. Van Meter, who reportedly has an outstanding theft warrant in Tacoma, Wash., was being held in Salt Lake County jail.

Colvin, who was in Chicago to attend the 25th annual Cubs Convention, said Friday he had heard that the man did not have to present any ID to get the keys to the truck. His first thought when he heard the story was that he was a victim of identity theft. As for the Dodge, Colvin said for sure it wasn’t him.

“I like my truck,” he said.

— Carrie Muskat

1/15/10 Spring Training update

Mesa officials traditionally have a booth at the Cubs Convention to provide information for fans who want to go to Arizona for Spring Training. It’ll be interesting to see the response at this weekend’s event — and if the Naples, Fla., contingent stops by.

A decision on where the Cubs will move their Spring Training headquarters was expected next week, and it seems everyone is jumping into the prediction business. A USA Today writer posted a message on Twitter that “The Cubs likely will leave Mesa, AZ, for Naples, Fla., for Spring Training barring the state of AZ coming up with unforeseen money.”

Gary Price, partner in Fifth Avenue Advisors, which is working with Chicago-based Esmark, Inc., to bring the Cubs to Collier County, told the Naples Daily News on Thursday that he had not heard anything from the team.

“Nothing has happened,” Price told the newspaper on Thursday. “And I have no date for when anything is going to happen. Pretty soon they are going to get together but I don’t know when they are going to make a final decision or public announcement. We have delivered everything to them to make the decision but I don’t have any control or insight. [Team president Crane Kenney] hasn’t told me anything.”

Price said he feels the decision will come down to what the Ricketts family wants for the future of the Cubs.

“The beautiful thing is [each community] has equal strengths and equal hurdles,” Price said. “Each of us has strengths and significant hurdles to overcome but I believe the decision is going to be based on where the future is and at some point that’s what the family is going to have to figure out.”

The Florida group has released copies of 18 letters, including ones from Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, the Economic Development Council of Collier County, and the Collier County Hotel and Lodging Association supporting the Cubs’ move to Collier County. The letters have been delivered to the Cubs.

“I believe these letters are critical to our effort,” said Craig Bouchard, vice chairman of Esmark. “They are from very important business organizations as well as from [politicians] in our state. It was humbling to receive such a strong show of support.”

Once the Cubs pick a state, the winning group would have 120 days to secure funding.

Bouchard and others from Naples were expected to attend the sold out weekend Cubs Convention, which begins Friday at the Chicago Hilton.

— Carrie Muskat

1/14/10 Mark Grace checks in

Former Cubs first baseman Mark Grace says Mark McGwire wasn’t the only player taking steroids, but didn’t name names, including his former teammate Sammy Sosa.

In an interview on the Dan Patrick radio show, Grace said: “At the time, there was no drug testing for that kind of stuff. You knew it, but it was just common knowledge and you didn’t think twice about it. Mark [McGwire] wasn’t the only guy. Trust me.”

Why didn’t Grace take any PEDs?

“I like my sex life,” Grace said. “I want to be able to perform. It’s kind of funny, but it’s not. That stuff will tear you up as far as your manhood is concerned.”

He doesn’t accept McGwire’s comment that steroids didn’t help him hit home runs.

“That’s a baloney cop-out,” Grace said.

— Carrie Muskat

1/13/10 Meet the Ricketts

Laura Ricketts will finally get to go to the Cubs Convention. And, she’ll be front and center with her brothers during a “Meet the Owners” panel discussion on Saturday at the Chicago Hilton. The Ricketts family, which took control of the Cubs in late October, will answer fans questions in an hour-long session in the Grand Ballroom.

Laura was at the Cubs Caravan stop on Wednesday at Alexander Hamilton Elementary School. She said this weekend will be her first Cubs Convention. Despite being a long-time Cubs fan with her brothers Tom, Pete and Todd, she said they never could get tickets to the event in the past. It’s a lot easier when you’re the owner.

— Carrie Muskat


1/13/10 Lou on Big Mac

Lou Piniella says it was tough to watch Mark McGwire’s televised confession this week that he took steroids.

“I felt bad for him,” Piniella said Wednesday. “It was difficult doing what he did. It was probably something that needed to be done. America forgives and forgets. I don’t think there’s anybody out there who hasn’t done anything that they don’t feel sorry for. Look, I’m not one to judge … He probably feels better getting this off his chest. I just wish him well. He’s a classy guy.”

Should McGwire be in the Hall of Fame?

“He’s hit a lot of home runs,” Piniella said. “Put it this way, if steroids were not an issue, he definitely would be a first-[ballot] selection in the Hall of Fame. How the [baseball] writers treat it, I think my opinion means very little. Is he a Hall of Famer? I would think down the road, he will be a Hall of Famer. People tend to forget, and rightfully so.”

— Carrie Muskat

1/13/10 Cubs non-roster invitees

The Cubs have invited 19 non-roster players to Spring Training camp, including 12 homegrown players who were either drafted or originally signed by the team. The last four No. 1 Draft picks also will be in camp in Mesa: Tyler Colvin, Josh Vitters, Andrew Cashner and Brett Jackson. Colvin is currently on the 40-man roster.

Pitchers: Cashner, J.R. Mathes, James Russell, Casey Coleman, Thomas Diamond, Jeff Kennard, and Vince Perkins.

Catchers: Robinson Chirinos, Steve Clevenger, Blake Lalli, and Chris Robinson

Infielders: Vitters, Darwin Barney, Matt Camp, Starlin Castro, Bryan LaHair, and Bobby Scales.

Outfielders: Jackson and Brad Snyder.

— Carrie Muskat

1/13/10 Ted Lilly update

Ted Lilly, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, has started throwing and could throw Friday while in Chicago for the Cubs’ annual fan fest. Lilly had the debridement done on Nov. 3, deciding to do so when pain in his shoulder did not go away. He was expected to miss the first month of the regular season. Athletic trainer Mark O’Neal was able to check on Lilly recently, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Wednesday he hoped to have Lilly test his arm while they were in town for the Cubs Convention.

The Convention is sold out, and kicks off Friday at the Chicago Hilton.

— Carrie Muskat

1/12/10 Naples, Fla., Spring Training update

Want to know more details about the Cubs’ possible move of their Spring Training facility to Florida? On Wednesday, the investor group leading the “Cubs to Florida” effort will meet with the editorial board of the Naples Daily News, and the session will be broadcast on the newspaper’s website.

The Cubs could make a decision as early as next week as to whether they will stay in Mesa, Ariz., or move to Florida.

Craig Bouchard, co-founder and vice chairman of Chicago-based Esmark Inc., and Gary Price, managing partner and principal of Naples-based Fifth Avenue Advisors, will take part in the meeting, scheduled for 1 p.m. CT. Also attending the session will be Craig Lyon, managing partner and principal with Fifth Avenue Advisors.

The investor group will review its proposal to bring the Cubs’ Spring Training complex to Collier County and present a detailed overview of the many local and state benefits its plan would offer.

The Cubs are the top prize in the Cactus League. A recent study showed they bring $52 million to the state of Arizona. Florida officials say out of town Red Sox fans directly spend $23.9 million into the Lee County economy in Spring Training.
Here are some details of the Florida group’s proposal regarding the Cubs:

* The facility will be leased and maintained by the Cubs under a 20- to 30-year contract. Private investors will build the Wrigley Village commercial district.

* The facility will consist of a 15,000-seat stadium, practice fields, Major and Minor League clubhouses and the Cubs baseball operations headquarters.

* Collier County taxpayers will not pay for the facility. Funding is proposed to come from private sources, fees paid by tourists, and state funds set aside for baseball.

* No county sales tax or ad valorem (property) tax is proposed to fund this project.

* Outside of Spring Training, the complex will host adult and Little League baseball and softball tournaments, concerts, art festivals and special events.

— Carrie Muskat

1/12/10 Sheets too pricey for Cubs

Reports that the Cubs are looking at Ben Sheets are accurate. However, the right-hander doesn’t fit in the team’s budget if the reported asking price is correct. Sheets is seeking $10-$12 million a year for two years. The Cubs already are close to $125 million committed for 2010, and expected to top at $140 million. And they’ve got eight arbitration eligible players to take care of plus they want to find a veteran right-handed reliever.

The Cubs will have a scout watching Sheets when he does workout in Arizona. But that’s due diligence. Yes, GM Jim Hendry did talk to Sheets’ agent, but Hendry talked to agents representing every free agent on the market.

The team feels it has enough starting pitchers to get through the first month while Ted Lilly recovers from arthroscopic surgery, which he had in early November.

— Carrie Muskat

1/11/10 Lessons learned

Ask any pitcher who was Greg Maddux’s teammate, and he will tell you how much he learned from being around the 300-game winner. Maddux likes to give credit to the many pitching coaches he’s had, including the Cubs’ Larry Rothschild.

“Larry actually taught me how to scout hitters in a way that I had never looked at in the past,” Maddux said Monday when he was named an assistant to the Cubs’ GM. “Mechanically, he was very simple and didn’t really change a whole lot [in Maddux’s delivery].”

Most of their discussion focused on hitters and how to set them up and finish them off. Could Maddux help hitters and their approach to pitchers?

“I think you can help hitters with how a pitcher is trying to get them out,” Maddux said. “As far as messing with their swings and stuff like that, I think there’s a few more people who should be talking to them than me. Every now and then a hitter will have questions about pitch selection and patterns and stuff like that. Maybe I could have an idea what that pitcher might throw in a certain spot.”

— Carrie Muskat