Cubs prospect Josh Vitters drove in four runs, including three on his first homer, to help the Mesa Solar Sox beat Peoria Saguaros, 10-1, on Saturday in an Arizona Fall League game in Mesa. Vitters, who started at third, hit a three-run homer in a six-run fourth inning and added a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Cubs pitching prospect Kyle Smit picked up the win in relief, pitching two scoreless innings. The Solar Sox have Sunday off and resume play Monday against the Peoria Javelinas.
— Carrie Muskat
Invoices went out to Cubs season ticket holders on Friday, outlining the pricing system, which includes a new tier called the “Marquee” level. The 13 Marquee games include Opening Day, April 1, against the Pirates; June 17-19 vs. the Yankees; July 1-3 vs. the White Sox; July 16 vs. the Marlins; July 23 vs. the Astros; Aug. 6 vs. the Reds, Aug. 19-21 vs. the Cardinals.
The other levels of ticket pricing are Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze, and there are some differences between the bleachers and the other seats — what the Cubs call the “bowl” seats — as to what tier they are.
* The 17 Platinum bleacher dates include May 7-8 vs. the Reds; May 12 vs. the Cardinals; May 28-29 vs. the Pirates; May 30 vs. the Astros; June 16 vs. the Brewers; June 30 vs. the Giants; July 15 and July 17 vs. the Marlins; July 18-20 vs. the Phillies; July 22 and July 24 vs. the Astros; and Aug. 5 and Aug. 7 vs. the Reds.
* The 19 Gold bleacher dates include April 2-3 vs. the Pirates; April 22-24 vs. the Dodgers; May 6 vs. the Reds; May 10-11 vs. the Cardinals (both night games); May 13-15 vs. the Giants; May 26 vs. the Mets; May 27 vs. the Pirates; June 1 vs. the Astros; June 28-29 vs. the Giants; July 14 vs. the Marlins; Aug. 25 vs. the Braves; Sept. 3 vs. the Pirates.
* The 17 Silver bleacher dates include April 20 vs. the Padres; April 27 vs. the Rockies; May 24-25 vs. the Mets; May 31 vs. the Astros; June 13-15 vs. the Brewers (all night games); Aug. 8-10 vs. the Nationals; Sept. 2 and Sept. 4 vs. the Pirates; Sept. 16-18 vs. the Astros; and Sept. 21 vs. the Brewers.
* The 15 Bronze bleacher games include April 4-6 vs. the Diamondbacks; April 18-19 vs. the Padres; April 25-26 vs. the Rockies; Aug. 22-24 vs. the Braves; Sept. 5-7 vs. the Reds; and Sept. 19-20 vs the Brewers.
For the other remaining seats at Wrigley Field, the Marquee dates are the same as they are for the bleachers. But there are some differences in other series. For example, the ticket pricing for the three-game series vs. the Reds May 6-8 is Gold in the bowl, but the Saturday-Sunday games of that series, May 7-8, in the bleachers are Platinum.
* The 13 Platinum games for the seats excluding the bleachers include May 28-29 vs. the Pirates, May 30 vs. the Astros; July 14-15 and July 17 vs. the Marlins; July 18-20 vs. the Phillies; July 22 and July 24 vs. the Astros; and Aug. 5 and Aug. 7 vs. the Reds.
* The 31 Gold games in the bowl include April 2-3 vs. the Pirates; May 6-8 vs. the Reds; May 10-12 vs. the Cardinals; May 13-15 vs. the Giants; May 24-25 vs. the Mets; May 27 vs. the Pirates; May 31 vs. the Astros; June 13-16 vs. the Brewers; June 28-30 vs. the Giants; Aug. 8-10 vs. the Nationals; Aug. 22-24 vs. the Braves; Sept. 2-4 vs. the Pirates.
* The 13 Silver non-bleacher games include April 22-24 vs. the Dodgers; May 26 vs. the Mets; June 1 vs. the Astros; Aug. 25 vs. the Braves; Sept. 6 vs. the Reds; Sept. 16-18 vs. the Astros; Sept. 19-21 vs. the Brewers.
* The 11 Bronze bowl games include April 4-6 vs. the Diamondbacks; April 18-20 vs. the Padres; April 25-27 vs. the Rockies; Sept. 5 and Sept. 7 vs. the Reds.
What does this mean? According to the Cubs, 24 of the pricing categories held flat and 19 pricing categories in the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum categories will be reduced next year. There will be a 77 percent increase in tickets listed at $20 or less, and an average 8 percent decrease on the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum categories combined. Overall, the average ticket price will remain the same for 2011.
In case you were curious, the highest priced seats listed is an infield club box seat on Marquee dates at $112; the lowest is an upper deck reserved seat in the outfield for the 11 Bronze games for $8 each.
— Carrie Muskat
One of the reasons the Cubs wanted Josh Vitters to play in the Arizona Fall League was to make up for time he missed after breaking his hand when he was hit by a pitch in July. The Cubs also are testing him at first base. Vitters, who was a third baseman when the team selected him first in the 2007 Draft, started Wednesday night at first for the Mesa Solar Sox. Last year, playing third at Class A Daytona, he made five errors in 28 games, and at Double-A Tennessee, committed 13 in 63 games. Maybe the switch to first will help Vitters’ career.
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs pitcher Angel Guzman, who has undergone two surgeries on his right shoulder and Tommy John procedure on his elbow, started playing catch this week in Mesa, Ariz. It’s the first time he’s been allowed to throw since having a procedure on his shoulder in March. When he began the workout, Guzman didn’t hesitate for fear of pain in his shoulder.
“I’m not scared of throwing,” Guzman said. “I’ve been throwing a baseball my entire life.”
The only problem may be holding him back. After his session Monday, Guzman said he felt as if he could have thrown harder and longer.
“That’s my 15 minutes of happiness,” he said as he came off the field from the light session at Fitch Park.
In early March, Guzman, 28, was diagnosed with a significant tear in a ligament in his right shoulder. He had not thrown off the mound all spring after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. The right-hander was finally healthy in 2009, and appeared in a career high 55 games, compiling a 2.95 ERA. This season, he was projected to handle late inning relief for the Cubs. He remained optimistic.
“By [Spring Training], my goal is at least be throwing off the mound,” Guzman said.
— Carrie Muskat
Mesa Solar Sox manager Casey Kopitzke, who managed the Cubs’ Class A Peoria team, posted an 8-3 win on Tuesday over the Phoenix Desert Dogs and manager Don Mattingly in the Arizona Fall League opener. The Solar Sox, who have seven Cubs prospects on the roster, will face the Desert Dogs again Wednesday night at HoHoKam Park in Mesa (6:35 p.m. Arizona time).
The Cubs pitchers slated to go include Jake Muyco, a converted catcher; plus David Cales, Chris Carpenter and Kyle Smit, who was acquired from the Dodgers in the Ted Lilly-Ryan Theriot-Blake DeWitt deal. Also, third baseman Josh Vitters, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in 2007, may play. He missed most of the 2010 season because of a broken hand.
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has met with the four managerial candidates but there is no timetable for when the team will name its next skipper. Ricketts would not comment on the managerial search but a source confirmed he has interviewed each of the candidates.
The four include Mike Quade, Ryne Sandberg, Eric Wedge and Bob Melvin. Quade, who has spent 17 seasons managing in the Minor Leagues, compiled a 24-13 mark when he took over for Lou Piniella. Sandberg is coming off a season at Triple-A Iowa where he was named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year. It was his fourth season managing in the Cubs’ Minor League system.
Ricketts was in Mesa, Ariz., on Tuesday to campaign for Proposition 420, which will be on the general election ballot Nov. 2. The measure is designed to allow the city to spend up to $84 million for a new Spring Training stadium and practice facilities for the Cubs.
— Carrie Muskat
The Mesa Solar Sox opened the Arizona Fall League season on Tuesday against the Phoenix Desert Dogs. None of the Cubs’ prospects were in the Sox’s starting lineup but on Wednesday night at HoHoKam Park, expect to see pitchers Jake Muyco, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Smith and David Cales all get some innings. Third baseman Josh Vitters, who missed most of the season because of a broken hand, also was expected to be in the lineup. Former Cubs catcher Casey Kopitzke is the Solar Sox manager.
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs pitching prospect Chris Archer struck out 10 and threw six scoreless innings for Team USA to help beat Cuba, 4-1, Monday night in the Pan American Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico. Making his second start in the tournament, Archer gave up two hits and did not walk anyone. Archer was named the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year for 2010.
The U.S. team now is 9-0 in the tournment and has the No. 1 seed heading into Tuesday’s semifinal round, when it will play the Dominican Republic. Team USA beat the Dominican team, 8-3, last week.
The U.S. squad also has qualified for the 2011 Pan American Games, tentatively scheduled for Guadalajara, Mexico, next October, as well as the 2011 IBAF Baseball World Cup.
— Carrie Muskat
There will be four new covered batting cages next to the existing cages at the Cubs’ facility at Fitch Park by Spring Training. I’m told they will be completed by Dec. 15. Crews were working on the site while the Cubs Instructional League is underway.
* Mike Parisi, whose season ended in early May because of a bone chip in his right elbow, was throwing off the mound on Monday at Fitch Park. The right-handed pitcher is hoping he can be back in the Cubs’ camp this spring to compete for a job.
* Bobby Dernier, who joined the Cubs as the first base coach when Mike Quade was named manager, was back at Fitch Park Monday to work with players on base running during the Instructional League.
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts sent a letter to season ticket holders this past week. Here’s a copy:
“It has been an incredible year for my family in our first season as stewards of the Chicago Cubs. Of all the new experiences, none was more enjoyable than the opportunity to meet and spend time with you—our season ticket holders.
“We met many of you during our game day walks through Wrigley Field. Over the course of those games, you welcomed me and my family, you shared your thoughts and suggestions on improving the team and the ballpark, we celebrated some wins and, unfortunately, suffered too many losses.
“One of the highlights of the year was our first ever season ticket holder ‘open house’ on July 8th. On that day alone I met more than 2100 of you, as we spent a day together in the greatest ballpark on earth. (For all who have inquired—yes, we are going to host that event again and in fact we will double up with a night session as well).
“As our most highly valued customers, your opinions are invaluable as we move our organization forward. In fact, you will soon be contacted to participate in a quality assurance survey as we consider amenity upgrades and look to identify ways to improve your experience at Wrigley Field.
“On behalf of my entire family, thank you for your warm welcome and your incredible support of the Cubs organization. You are truly our partners and we respect your contribution and insights.”
“The 2010 season was a disappointment for all at the major league level–for my family, for the organization, for the players and for the fans. The team showed signs of its potential the last quarter of the season, but the 75-87 record fell well short of our goals. My family is committed to winning a World Series and though it may not be entirely evident from this year’s performance, there are encouraging signs.
“The 2010 highlights revolved around our home grown talent. Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner developed into budding stars, with Castro and Colvin in the NL Rookie of the Year discussion. That young group was enhanced by the August promotion of Casey Coleman, who went 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his last four starts. All need to take the next step in 2011, but we are very encouraged to have a group of young, home grown players emerge as regulars in 2010.
“We also have to recognize the superb job done by another one of our own–Mike Quade. During the final 37 games, the team played at a .649 clip (24-13), the second best record in the Majors over that time frame. Making this even more significant, we played largely against teams fighting for playoff berths.
“It is my strong belief that, in the end, it is organizations with strong farm systems that win championships and I am convinced that our organization is making progress.
“Our success in producing talent from within our system can be attributed to a number of factors, including a commitment of financial resources. We believe we have one of the best scouting directors in baseball in Tim Wilken (now 4 years in place) and with a strong farm director in Oneri Fleita and a very productive international effort, we are making progress in what had been a weak spot in the organization.
“Our farm clubs performed very well in 2010, playing to a collective 374-316 record, with first place finishes at both the Triple-A level in Iowa (tied) and Double-A level in Tennessee. The overall .542 winning percentage was second among all major league organizations and our 374 wins were the most for the Cubs organization in 15 years. As I said at our opening press conference about a year ago, we are committed to winning the right way—with our farm system. We believe we are on the right track.”
“We are early in the process of building the club for 2011. The first order of business is hiring our manager. Jim Hendry has identified a strong group of candidates and we are currently completing our interviews. This is a critical decision and I am confident we will find the right person to lead the club.
“The strength of our team in 2010 was our starting pitching, as we led the National League with 96 quality starts. We expect that to continue. We are excited to see the continued development of our young players and the strong bullpen work anchored by Carlos Marmol (38 saves and a reliever-franchise record 138 strikeouts) and Sean Marshall (2.65 ERA, 22 holds).
“Going forward, we recognize the need to recommit to fundamentals. We need to stabilize our defense and cut down on errors. We need to improve our offense and become more efficient in both moving runners and hitting with players in scoring position. It is too early to determine whether this will be addressed with internal moves, trades or through free agent acquisitions. But we know we must improve in these areas.
“Given that we had the highest payroll in the NL in 2010, I get a lot of questions about our payroll commitment for 2011. As I said earlier, we are still working on our 2011 baseball plan, so it is hard to be too specific at this time. What I can tell you is that our overall baseball budget (scouting, player development and payroll) will be about the same in 2011 as it was in 2010. Continued long term success will come through superior scouting and player development, and we are committed to improving that facet of the organization. As a result, this likely means a shift of some of our resources from the major league payroll toward scouting and player development, but we are still very much in the evaluation phase.”
2011 Ticket Pricing
“The other question I get regularly concerns our ticket pricing for 2011 and beyond. Overall, our average ticket price will be flat in 2011 compared to 2010. Before going into greater detail on that topic, let me provide some background.
“My family is committed to providing ticket pricing that allows families to enjoy Cubs baseball. In so many ways, our children represent the next generation in the Cubs family. We want to invest in providing families with opportunities to experience Wrigley Field, including such things as running the bases, which will be continued in 2011.
“To this end, we will continue the policy of keeping many of our tickets in the sub $10 range–in fact, we will offer a substantial increase in sub-$10 tickets next year compared to 2010.
“In addition, we are increasing the number of bronze games (our lowest ticket pricing tier) from 6 games in 2010 to 15 games in the bleachers and 11 games in the grandstand in 2011. As a result, there will be 77% more tickets priced at $20 or less in 2011 than there were in 2010. Stated differently, a total of more than 550,000 tickets will be available for $20 or less next year.
“Again, our average ticket price next year will be essentially flat compared to 2010 (actually it is fractionally down vs. 2010). This does not mean all ticket prices will be the same as last year however, as pricing was adjusted based on location and our schedule. A little background might be helpful.
“To set our pricing in 2011, we examined approximately 5 million transactions from our primary and secondary ticket markets from 2005 through 2010. Our goal was to keep our average ticket price flat overall but improve the alignment of pricing for games and seating sections with actual demand. The result is a market-based ticket model that reflects our fans’ buying patterns.
“The highlights include: (1) reducing the average ticket price for all gold, silver and bronze games, (2) separating the bleachers and grandstands in the pricing tiers, as the buying patterns vary significantly for each area, and (3) adding a new fifth tier of pricing (Marquee Tier) for our high
est demand games.
“Cutting through it all, the net result for our season ticket holders is that some will see a slight (in all cases, less than 3%) increase, others will see a reduction as much as 6% and some will see virtually no change at all.
“Other changes in 2011 include new season ticket holder benefits. Over the years, we have added significant benefits to being a Cubs season ticket holder, such as a dedicated area within our website, early access to Spring Training tickets and other special events (such as the very popular Dave Matthews concerts and Allstate Wrigleyville Classic football game coming in November), and last year’s open house.
“For 2011, there are a number of new benefits that I think you will find interesting. Among them is exclusive access to our players, coaches, manager, front office and ownership through Cubs Insider Webcasts that will occur throughout the year. In addition to updates on everything happening inside the ballclub, these webcasts will provide you the opportunity to ask questions on topics of your choice. A Season Ticket Holder Benefit page follows this letter and you should ask your Cubs representative about any of the items listed there.”
Wrigley Field Renovations
“Like you, we love Wrigley Field and are committed to winning a championship at the Friendly Confines. We all need to recognize, however, that our wonderful Wrigley Field is fast approaching 100 years of age and is in need of substantial improvements. We committed over $10 million to that effort last year, largely to improve restrooms, add new food options, recast concrete, upgrade steel and other general maintenance. We will continue this effort in 2011 but again the focus will be more tactical than strategic.
“We spent much of the 2010 season assembling a team of renowned architects, engineers, designers and project managers to develop a master plan for a more significant Wrigley Field overhaul and Triangle Building development. Our planning will continue in 2011 and your involvement through the quality assurance surveys mentioned earlier is very important. We look forward to completing the analysis phase and getting underway with the construction and occupation phase.”
“Thank you again for your incredible support of Cubs baseball and the Ricketts family. We have spent our adult lives sitting next to you cheering for our team. We now have the responsibility to improve not only the play on the field but also to protect and save our summer home, Wrigley Field. With your help we will accomplish both.”