January 2010

1/11/10 Maddux on McGwire

The Cubs hired 300-game winner Greg Maddux as a special assistant to the GM, and he’ll help this spring at both the Major League and Minor League levels. Maddux also will be asked to evaluate talent.

He was asked his reaction to Mark McGwire’s admission that he did take steroids:

“He’s going to be the hitting coach for the Cardinals, now, right?” Maddux said of McGwire. “Maybe he’s trying to clean up the past a little bit and move forward. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him as a player. He was one of the most intimidating hitters I’ve ever had to face. He was one of the toughest outs in the game back then.

“Like I’ve said in the past, there was always speculation that guys were on that stuff. You had to do what you can to pitch around it.”

— Carrie Muskat

1/10/10 Cubs Convention attendees

New Hall of Famer Andre Dawson and new center fielder Marlon Byrd will be among the players participating in the 25th annual Cubs Convention, which kicks off next Friday at the Chicago Hilton.

The new owners, the Ricketts family, plus Lou Piniella and his coaching staff also will attend the three-day event.

Dawson, elected into Cooperstown on Wednesday, will be joined by Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg.

Besides Byrd, the Cubs players currently on the roster scheduled to attend include Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Carlos Marmol, Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, Jeff Baker, and Geovany Soto. Others expected to attend include John Grabow, Tom Gorzelanny, Justin Berg, Jim Adduci, Esmailin Caridad, Andrew Cashner, Welington Castillo, Tyler Colvin, Sam Fuld, Jeff Gray, Angel Guzman, Koyie Hill, Micah Hoffpauir, Brett Jackson, Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Silva, and Randy Wells.

Former Cubs Glenn Beckert, Jody Davis, Bob Dernier, Randy Hundley, Jay Johnstone, Gary Matthews, Keith Moreland, Andy Pafko, Milt Pappas, Scott Sanderson, Lee Smith, Tim Stoddard, Rick Sutcliffe, and Steve Trout also are scheduled to take part.

General manager Jim Hendry and his staff plus broadcasters Ron Santo, Pat Hughes, Len Kasper, and Bob Brenly also will be at the convention, which is sold out.

— Carrie Muskat

1/9/10 Mesa update

Here’s information from a story in Saturday’s Arizona Republic:

Mesa leaders are drafting a bill to be introduced in the state legislature to finance a new Cubs Spring Training complex if the team decides to stay in Arizona. The Cubs are expected to announce this month if they will remain in Arizona or move their spring HQ to Florida.

The Arizona Republic reported that the bill would build on the present model used to finance new spring facilities in the state in the past decade by raising tourism-related fees. The Cubs are looking at sites in east Mesa.

There’s a reason Arizona and Florida are fighting for the Cubs. A study concluded the team is worth $52 million a year to Arizona in tourism revenue. The Cubs can opt out of their contract with Mesa this spring and leave as early as 2012 after paying $4.2 million.

“I’m confident we’re not going to whiff,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith told the newspaper.

He said Arizona cannot afford to lose the Cubs in the middle of the recession and building a new complex to keep the team is a good investment.

“If we lose the Cubs, it will only make the situation worse. We would lose tens of millions of dollars from the economy when we need it the most,” Smith said.

Although the bill’s details are still being negotiated, officials have discussed imposing a league-wide ticket surcharge and possibly increasing the rental car tax in Maricopa County, already among the highest in the nation.

The money would be funneled to Mesa through the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, which has financed new stadiums since 2001. All of its funding is committed for existing ballparks through 2031. Mesa is promised $8.2 million in 2020, far short of a new complex’s price tag.

“We need to come up with a solution that will take care of the Cubs without tapping into general fund money,” Smith said. The first priority would be financing the new Cubs facility, with any additional revenue paying for renovations at other Cactus League parks.

Mesa and most other Cactus League venues already impose a ticket surcharge to recoup some of their operating costs. The proposed league-wide surcharge would be in addition to city surcharges.

First, the Cubs have to pick Mesa over Naples. Then, the legislature has to approve the funding bill. Third, Smith said, Mesa voters would have to approve the expenditure of city revenues in November. A new complex would cost at least $80 million. The majority of the money would come from the Tourism and Sports Authority, but Smith said there also would be a “substantial” investment by private sources.

— Carrie Muskat

1/9/10 The Hawk's in town

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1/8/10 New HOF Dawson to sign

New Hall of Famer Andre Dawson will sign autographs and greet fans Saturday at the “Field of Dreams” store at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill. Dawson, elected on Wednesday to Cooperstown, will appear from 2-4 p.m. CT Saturday. The appearance is limited to 200 fans who submit a reservation by calling the store in advance.

Dawson, who won the NL MVP in 1987, his first year with the Cubs, will attend the Cubs Convention next weekend at the Hilton Chicago.

— Carrie Muskat

1/8/10 Winter ball update

Brad Snyder went 3-for-5 with two home runs and six RBIs for Mexicali, but it wasn’t enough as the Mexican Winter League team lost, 14-9, to Obregon and was eliminated in the playoffs. Snyder, expected in the Cubs’ camp this spring as a non-roster invitee, hit a two-run shot in the second inning and a grand slam in the third. Erubiel Durazo homered and drove in three runs to power Obregon, which won the series, 4-1. Shortstop Matt Camp, another Cubs prospect, went 1-for-5 for Mexicali in the game.

In Venezuela, Robinson Chirinos had one hit in Magallanes’ 9-4 loss to Margarita in the Winter League playoffs. Chirinos was batting .304 in the playoffs; the catcher hit .366 in the Venezuelan team’s regular season.

— Carrie Muskat

1/7/10 Piniella to be honored

Lou Piniella will be among those receiving the Thurman Munson Award on Feb. 2 at the 30th annual benefit dinner to remember the Yankees catcher. Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain and former Mets outfielder Darryl Strawberry also will be honored at the event, which raises money to benefit AHRC-New York City Foundation. Piniella, a previous Munson recipient, will receive the “Legend Award” for his long and meritorious service to baseball.

— Carrie Muskat

1/7/10 Len & Bob Bash

Tickets are still available for the Jan. 14 “Len & Bob Bash,” presented by Bud Light, at the House of Blues in Chicago. This year’s concert will feature performances by G. Love & Special Sauce and The Baseball Project. And Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, the Cubs’ television broadcasters, also will get on stage and perform.

G. Love & Special Sauce is known for a unique blues sound while mixing in classic R&B music. The Baseball Project is composed of avid baseball fans Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, Linda Pitmon and Steve Wynn. Each song is related to the sport, including “Jackie’s Lament” about Jackie Robinson and “Harvey Haddix,” which names 17 of the 18 pitchers in baseball history to throw a perfect game.

Tickets are on sale at the House of Blues and on-line at their website. Advanced tickets are $27.50; they’re $30 the day of the show. It’s a great cause and great fun.

Proceeds will benefit Cubs Charities. Since 2006, the Len & Bob Bash has raised more than $107,000 for Cubs Charities.

— Carrie Muskat

1/7/10 Tip of the cap

Andre Dawson put on a cap at an introductory news conference today in New York, but it wasn’t a Cubs cap or Expos cap. It was a Hall of Fame cap. At the news conference to announce the Hall’s latest member, Dawson said he didn’t know which team he would represent. He has hinted he’d prefer the Cubs, where he won the NL MVP in 1987. Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said Thursday they had not had a chance to talk about the cap selection.

— Carrie Muskat

1/6/10 The Hawk & Sammy

One of my favorite Andre Dawson stories involved him and Sammy Sosa. The Cubs were in Montreal, and Dawson told Sosa, then in his first season with the team, to go see a tailor he knew and pick out a couple suits. The Hawk would pick up the tab, a ritual that continues today on most Major League teams in which veteran players take care of rookies. I’ll let Dawson tell the story:

“I go there and I have a $2,000 bill,” Dawson said. “I asked Sammy, ‘What happened?’ And he said, “Well, I pick the suit but I pick the one I like.”

“I said, ‘For $2,000, you could get three or four suits.’ And he said, “No. Silk. Very, very nice. I like it.”

— Carrie Muskat