January 2011

1/6 Cubs convention schedule

Want to ask Greg Maddux a question about his job with the Cubs? Maybe you’d like to talk to the Ricketts family? How about hearing Kerry Wood or Andrew Cashner discuss pitching? Or maybe you’d like to reminisce about Ron Santo? Those are some of the seminars scheduled for the 26th Cubs Convention, to be held Jan. 14-16 at the Hilton Chicago.

One of the best sessions may be Jan. 15 when Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins plus Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundley, Milt Pappas and Jose Cardenal share some of their favorite stories in “Remembering Ronnie.” The former Cubs will celebrate Santo, who died Dec. 3 at the age of 70.

The Jan. 15 schedule opens with the “Ricketts Family Forum,” giving Cubs fans a chance to ask ownership about their plans. Maddux, a special assistant to GM Jim Hendry, will join Hendry, assistant GM Randy Bush and manager Mike Quade in a “Meet Cubs Baseball Management” session.

Other seminars include:

* “Pitching Evolution:” Wood, Cashner, Randy Wells, Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija and new pitching coach Mark Riggins will explain the art of being a starting pitcher, set-up man and closer, the differences between the roles, and the pressures and rewards that come with each.

* “The Q Factor:” Quade and his coaching staff, including Riggins, Rudy Jaramillo, Lester Strode, Ivan DeJesus, Bob Dernier and Dave Keller, will discuss their techniques and philosophies heading into the 2011 season.

* “The Dominican Way of Life:” Aramis Ramirez, Starlin Castro, Carlos Pea and player development director Oneri Fleita will talk about their transition from the Dominican Republic to the United States. Fleita also will discuss how the organization scouts and develops international players to the U.S.

* “Down on the Farm:” Fleita and scouting director Tim Wilken will discuss future Cubs on Jan. 16. They will be preceded by a seminar featuring Tyler Colvin, James Russell, Darwin Barney and Scott Maine, who will talk about making the adjustment from the Minors to the big leagues. Both sessions will be completed in time to watch the Bears’ playoff game.

— Carrie Muskat

1/6 Big Z at Cubs convention

If you’re going to the Cubs Convention Jan. 14-16, you can help some orphaned children in Guatemala and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago. For the second straight year, Carlos Zambrano’s “Big Z Foundation” will have a booth at the convention. Anyone making a donation will receive a t-shirt. Fans also will be able to enter a raffle for souvenirs.

Zambrano has a personal motive. The father of three girls, the Cubs pitcher is in the process of adopting a boy from Guatemala. He has gone there each of the last two offseasons to work with a group called Hope of Life, or Esperanza de Vida, which is devoted to promoting educational, medical and spiritual development. During his recent visit, Zambrano not only toured a new hospital that’s part of Hope of Life’s efforts but also helped distribute rice, soup and bread to more than 300 people.

* Are you interested in going to the Cubs Convention? There are still rooms available at the Hilton Chicago. Ask for the Cubs Convention rate, and fans with room reservations can purchase weekend passes for $20 each (limit four per room). In addition, the Cubs are offering a special autographed item to everyone who books a room under the Cubs Convention rate. There will be one item per room while supplies last. Hotel reservations can be made by calling the Hilton Chicago at 312-922-4400.

— Carrie Muskat

1/6 Winter ball update

Cubs prospect Marwin Gonzalez had a big day Wednesday in Venezuela. He
drove in a run in Caracas’ 2-0 win over Zulia in the first game of a
doubleheader. In the night cap, Gonzalez went 3-for-4 with a triple and
four RBIs to complete the sweep as Caracas won, 14-4. Gonzalez hit a
three-run triple in the sixth and a RBI single in the seventh in the second game. Last season, Gonzalez batted .271 at Class A Daytona and .246 in 86 games at Double-A Tennessee.

Outfielder Brad Snyder hit a solo homer but it wasn’t enough as Escogido lost, 9-6, to Gigantes on Wednesday and dropped to 4-5 in the Dominican League playoffs. Starlin Castro was 1-for-4. Twins prospect Estarlin De Los Santos went 5-for-5 with a double and scored three runs for Gigantes.

— Carrie Muskat

1/5 Yankees claim Schlitter

Kerry Wood is now officially on the Cubs’ 40-man roster. Wood, who agreed to a one-year deal on Dec. 16, had yet to be added until Wednesday when the Yankees claimed Cubs pitcher Brian Schlitter off waivers. Schlitter, 25, was 0-1 with a 12.38 ERA in seven Major League relief appearances with the Cubs. He went 2-1 with 13 saves and a 3.15 ERA in 37 relief appearances with Triple-A Iowa. The right-hander, who was born in Oak Park, Ill., and went to Maine South High School,  was acquired from the Phillies in August 2008 in the Scott Eyre trade.

— Carrie Muskat

1/5 Palmeiro, Smith denied entry into Hall

Former Cubs Lee Smith and Rafael Palmeiro were both denied entry into the Hall of Fame. The Baseball Writers Association of America elected Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven on Wednesday, and they will be inducted July 24 into Cooperstown.

A four-time All-Star, this was Palmeiro’s first year on the Hall ballot and he received 64 votes, or 11 percent, which means he will remain on the next ballot. He has 3,020 hits and 569 home runs, numbers which were considered automatic entry into Cooperstown. Palmeiro is one of four 3,000-500 men in Major League history, joining Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Eddie Murray.

But Palmeiro tested positive for steroids, and even though he has insisted the results were an accident, that most likely hurt his status among voters. In March 2005, he testified at a congressional hearing that he never used steroids. In July that year, he got his 3,000th hit. Three weeks later, it was revealed that he had tested positive.

Palmeiro said the positive results were because of a tainted B-12 vitamin shot given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada when the two played for the Orioles. The first baseman ended the 2005 season with a 10-day suspension for violating MLB’s drug policy.

“I never played for the Hall of Fame,” Palmeiro said in an interview with SI.com at the end of December. “I only played to win and have fun. But, yes, now the Hall of Fame is important to me. Why wouldn’t I want to be there? It would mean more than anything to me. I hope they don’t hold me out for one mistake at the end of my career.”

This was Smith’s ninth year on the ballot, and he received 263 votes, or 45.3 percent. The big right-hander got 255 votes (47.3 percent) in 2010; 240 votes (44.5 percent) in 2009; 235 votes (43.3 percent) in 2008; 217 votes (39.8 percent) in 2007; 234 votes (45 percent) in 2006; 200 votes (38.8 percent) in 2005; 185 votes (36.6 percent) in 2004; and 210 votes (43.3 percent) in 2003.

When Smith retired, he was the all-time leader in saves (478) and games finished (802) in the Major Leagues. The lumbering right-hander now ranks third in both categories behind Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. Hoffman has 601 saves and finished 856 games; Rivera has 559 saves and finished 829 games. Hall of Fame voters have elected other relievers as Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006) and Goose Gossage (2008) have been enshrined. But Smith’s vote totals seem to have stalled. He will be back on next year’s ballot.

Smith pitched for the Cubs from 1980-87, and led the National League in ’83 with 29 saves. He topped that in ’84 with 33 saves.

— Carrie Muskat

1/5 Winter ball update

Brad Snyder was 1-for-4 and Starlin Castro was hitless in four at-bats in Escogido’s 3-1 loss to the Toros in the Dominican playoffs on Tuesday. Former Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon took the loss, giving up three runs over six innings. The Toros now are 6-2, Escogido is 4-4.

— Carrie Muskat

1/5 Garza to Cubs rumors

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday the Cubs were “close” to acquiring Rays right-hander Matt Garza. That was news to the Cubs. ESPN’s Buster Olney cited a well-placed source Wednesday morning as saying the Rays were more likely to deal Garza this summer. My Tampa sources say the same thing. The Rays are waiting for a team to blow them away with players in exchange. Are the Cubs interested in Garza? Yes. But the Cubs don’t want to give up some of their young talent. The Rays may change their mind around the trading deadline. The Cubs do have depth in the rotation with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny and Carlos Silva. Garza would definitely give the team a boost and help counter moves made this offseason by the Brewers.

— Carrie Muskat

1/4 Spring Training tickets

Need a baseball fix? Spring Training is not too far away, with the Cubs’ first game scheduled for Feb. 27 in Mesa, Ariz. Individual game tickets for all home games go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. CT on http://www.cubs.com or by calling 1-800-905-3315. The ticket box office at HoHoKam Park in Mesa will open for the sale of individual game tickets beginning Jan. 17 at 9 a.m. MST.

Season tickets at HoHoKam Park go on sale Wednesday at 9 a.m. MST, and group tickets go on sale Thursday at 9 a.m. MST at the HoHoKam box office, or by calling (480) 964-4467.

— Carrie Muskat 

1/4 Winter ball update

Outfielder Brad Snyder went 1-for-3 and scored a run and Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was hitless in four at-bats in Escogido’s 3-0 win over Estrellas Monday in the Dominican Winter League playoffs. Snyder scored on one of two errors by Estrellas in the fifth. Escogido is now 4-3 and will play the Toros (5-2) on Tuesday.

— Carrie Muskat

1/4 Cubs Convention update

Still trying to decide whether to go to the Cubs Convention? There are
still rooms available at the Hilton Chicago for the event, Jan. 14-16.
Staying at the host hotel is much easier than staying somewhere else in
Chicago — you might even bump into Sean Marshall or Kerry Wood in the
elevator. Plus, you get a weekend pass to the Convention for $20 each.
There is a limit of four passes per room. In addition, the Cubs are
offering a special autographed item to everyone who books a room under
the Cubs Convention rate. There will be one item per room while supplies
last.  Hotel reservations can be made by calling the Hilton Chicago at
(312) 922-4400.

Among the other players scheduled to attend are new first baseman Carlos
Pena, Carlos Zambrano Aramis Ramirez, Marlon Byrd, Carlos Marmol, Tyler
Colvin, Starlin Castro, Chris Archer, Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter and
DJ LeMahieu. Also, Cubs manager Mike Quade and his staff will be there
to answer questions.

— Carrie Muskat