January 2013

1/24 Cubs and Hairston

GM Jed Hoyer’s search for an extra outfielder may be over. According to FOXSports.com, the Cubs have reached agreement with Scott Hairston on a two-year contract. A right-handed hitter, Hairston, 32, was expected to platoon in right with Nate Schierholtz.

Hairston has to pass a physical before the deal can be finalized. The Cubs’ 40-man roster is full, and they must make a move to open a spot for Hairston as well as pitcher Carlos Villanueva, who has yet to be officially added to the team.

Hairston’s older brother, Jerry, played for the Cubs from 2005-06.

Hoyer has said the team wanted to add some outfield depth. Alfonso Soriano, 37, will start in left with David DeJesus, 33, in center. Schierholtz, who turns 29 on Feb. 15, is a career .270 hitter covering all or part of the last six seasons with the Giants and Phillies. Hairston batted .263 with 20 homers and 57 RBIs last season with the Mets. He has an .825 OPS against left-handed pitchers. The Cubs’ other backup outfielders heading into Spring Training include Dave Sappelt and Tony Campana.

— Carrie Muskat

1/23 Mayor reacts to Wrigley plan

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel supports the Cubs’ efforts to pay for renovations to Wrigley Field. During a news conference at Harold Washington College Wednesday, Emanuel was asked about the proposal, unveiled at the Cubs Convention.

“When I first started this discussion, the Cubs wanted $200 million in taxpayer dollars,” Emanuel told reporters. “I said, ‘No.’ Then they said, ‘We’d like $150 million taxpayer dollars,’ and I said, ‘No.’ Then they asked if they could have $100 million in taxpayer subsidies, and I said, ‘No.’ Then, they asked about $55 million in taxpayer subsidies. I said, ‘No.’ The good news is after 15 months, they’ve heard the word, ‘No.’

“So, we’re at a point where there will be no taxpayer subsidies for a private entity,” Emanuel said. “That said, Wrigley is important to the neighborhood and to the city — or at least a part of the city that likes to go there — and I want to ensure that it continues that kind of important role that it plays in the North Side, which is why I’m also pleased that they’re also putting a hotel up. So, I asked all the parties involved to finish this up.”

Will the city give the Cubs the go ahead to do what they want? Emanuel would only say: “We all have a stake in getting it done. It is not done until all the parts fall in place. There are other things that are necessary to do that. There are 1,200 jobs at stake in buliding and refurbishing Wrigley. But, I want to be clear, I said from the beginning and now it’s absolutely clear and underscored — there will be no taxpayer subsidy in the refurbishing of Wrigley. But, all the parties have a role to play to see it through to the end, and I intent to help do that.”

The Cubs are willing to pay $300 million in renovation plans, to be done over five offseasons, but want the city to let the team add more advertising signage, have more night games, and be able to close off Sheffield avenue on weekends.

— Carrie Muskat

1/23 Sweet deal with Kane County

Don’t know what to get your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day? The Kane County Cougars are offering a unique dining experience. A limited number of Valentine’s Day dinner packages are on sale for Feb. 14 for a 6:30 p.m. CT dinner in a private, candlelit suite at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark. Dinner will be prepared and served by the Cougars catering staff. Couples can choose between two dinner menu options, each of which includes a salad, entrée with side dishes, and dessert. Water and soda will be provided, while select beer varieties and wine are available for an additional cost. Couples will also receive a pair of ticket vouchers for a 2013 Cougars game.

You can reserve a suite for $65. The Cougars will accept a limited number of reservations, which can be made no later than 5 p.m. on Feb. 8. Call (630) 232-8811 for information and reservations.

— Carrie Muskat

1/19 Cubs renovations

There’s a photo gallery up on Cubs.com with illustrations of the proposed renovations. Here’s a link:


Hope that works.

1/19 Cubs notebook

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said the team may revisit the issue of whether to invite Sammy Sosa back. Sosa has not returned since he walked out after the 2004 season.

“With Sammy, it’s awkward,” Ricketts said Saturday. “I think over time, there’ll be a good solution for all this stuff, but obviously I think you saw what happened to the Hall of Fame voting this year. I don’t know. It would be nice to put this chapter to rest and just welcome back all the guys who were from that era that people suspected of doing whatever.”

There has not been much communication between the Cubs and Sosa since he left.

* Cubs manager Dale Sveum and hitting coach James Rowson were happy Brett Jackson accepted the drastic changes they suggested to the young outfielder’s swing during a workout in November in Mesa, Ariz. Jackson was promoted to the big leagues Aug. 5 despite leading the Pacific Coast League with 158 strikeouts. He batted .175 in 44 games with the Cubs.

Sveum said it may benefit Jackson that he hit “rock bottom.” The outfielder, who was the Cubs’ first-round pick in 2009, has been hitting more this offseason than in the past. He was still expected to open at Triple-A Iowa.

* The Cubs have the second pick overall in the June First-Year Player Draft, and even though there is a need for more pitching in the organization, they could chose a position player. Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, said usually the best bets at the top of the Draft are position players.

“We will not neglect pitching in the Draft but we’ll take the best player available,” Epstein said.

* Tony Campana is very popular with Cubs fans. One fan asked Sveum why the speedy Campana couldn’t get a spot in the starting outfield. Sveum said Campana is fighting for one of the backup outfield spots, and that he has a hard time getting on base consistently. Expect Dave Sappelt to be one of the backup outfielders.

* Broadcaster Len Kasper said new assistant hitting coach Rob Deer was just like Adam Dunn in terms of high strikeouts, high on-base percentage. That was meant to be a complement. Deer said his philosophy as a hitting coach is: “Do as I say, not as I did.”

* Sveum said he wants coaches who aren’t afraid to say anything to the players. His philosophy? “Don’t ever think these guys know everything,” Sveum said.

* There are often unusual questions during Cubs Convention seminars and Saturday was no exception. One fan complained that the players weren’t paid enough to afford a haircut, and said Sveum looked as if he “sleeps on a park bench.” A youngster asked Epstein to promise he could get a Major League contract once he reaches 18. Epstein said yes.

A father from San Francisco asked Ricketts what he should tell his 8-year-old son, who is teased for wearing Cubs gear.

“I really believe we have the smartest guys in baseball building a championship team and it just takes time,” Ricketts said. “Your son’s 8; he’s got lots of time.”

— Carrie Muskat

1/19 Wrigley renovation plan revealed

The Cubs Saturday revealed a $300 million plan to restore Wrigley Field, which the Ricketts family is prepared to pay for. The plan will take five offseasons, and the Cubs will not have to play any of their games at another ballpark. The items on the long to do list include remodeling the home and visitor’s clubhouse, adding new batting cages that will be accessible in-game. The entire upper deck will have the wooden roof removed and new seating platforms will be installed. New concrete will be poured into the lower seating bowl. More restrooms will be added, more concessions stands, more restaurants. The landmark features will be not be changed.

The Cubs are working with architectural firms that have worked on Camden Yards, the Rose Bowl and Fenway Park. There will be a push to add some decorative touches that were on Wrigley Field when it was first built in 1914, such as ornamental metal work.

The Cubs asked fans about what they felt needed to be improved at Wrigley, what made it special, what was sacred, and responded via surveys. For example, 80 percent of fans surveyed said they liked the new LED scoreboard in right field. There are plans to add another in front of the left field bleachers. There also has been talk about adding a video scoreboard, but that has not been finalized.

Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said the current home clubhouse is 50 percent smaller than what most Major League teams, and they want to provide a first class setting.

The changes will begin after the 2013 season with the home clubhouse and lower left field area and the upper level in right. The changes will eventually reduce the seating capacity by 70 seats.

We’ll have drawings and more details later today on Cubs.com

— Carrie Muskat

1/19 Ricketts update on Wrigley renovations

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts says the team needs more flexibility in order to increase income sources and do the renovations it wants to do at Wrigley Field. At the Cubs Convention on Saturday, Ricketts said the team needs some relief from some of the restrictions placed on it by the city, including the landmark status.

“Right now we’re looking at other alternatives and not looking at the amusement tax [as a revenue source],” Ricketts said. “We’re trying to find other ways to help us advance the renovations and move forward.”

The Ricketts family feels it could take care of the renovations on its own if restrictions were removed.

“Let us go about doing our business and we’ll take care of ourselves,” Ricketts said. “We want to get the project rolling. It’s a big econ developmebt for the city, it’s a lot of jobs, it’s something everyone should have an incentive to get done.”

Specific changes to the ballpark were to be discussed at a later session.

— Carrie Muskat

1/18 Samardzija on Te’o and Notre Dame

Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who was an All-America wide receiver at Notre Dame before committing to baseball, has watched the recent coverage of Manti Te’o in disbelief.
Te’o, a Notre Dame linebacker and Heismann Trophy runner-up, is reportedly a victim of a complex hoax in which he was duped into believing he had a girlfriend who died of leukemia in September. On Friday, Samardzija said all the speculation about Te’o’s possible involvement and what he knew has resulted in conflicting opinions.

“Some people want to believe him, some people don’t,” Samardzija said. “It’s really arbitrary. I don’t really have an opinion on it until enough information comes out and you can say who was right and who was wrong.

Samardzija, who was in Miami for Notre Dame’s BCS championship game against Alabama but did not attend the actual game, said he recognizes that all the speculation is driving the media frenzy.

“You have to assume he made a bad decision and he learned from it,” Samardzija said of Te’o. “You just hope it’s not the other side of the coin.”

Te’o has yet to comment on the hoax outside of a prepared statement released by his agents.

“Everybody’s more shocked at the coverage it’s getting, to tell you the truth,” Samardzija said. “Again, it’s Notre Dame and you understand that when you go to Notre Dame, you take on a different role of being under the spotlight. If things do go great, it’s a great place to be at and you get tons of accolades for it. You get all the front page articles, you get [featured in] Sports Illustrated, you get [on] ESPN.

“But if something doesn’t go well, you pay for that, too,” he said. “You need to understand when you go to that school, you have to be a responsible grown up and an adult and make the right decisions.”

— Carrie Muskat

1/18 Samardzija wants to earn Opening Day start

It wasn’t that long ago that Jeff Samardzija’s future as a Major League pitcher was in doubt. Now, he could be the Cubs Opening Day starter.

“That would be a 180 for sure,” Samardzija said Friday at the Cubs Convention. “To go from maybe wondering if you were ever going to put a Cubs jersey on again two years ago at the convention to maybe being the Opening Day starter — it means a lot to me.

“I’m not a selfish guy, that’s not what I’m out for, but I have goals and things I want to shoot for and things that are important for me,” he said. “If we’re a better team if I pitch second or third behind a lefty, then so be it. It doesn’t mean you don’t have it in the back of your mind that you don’t strive for something like that.”

He hasn’t talked to Dale Sveum about the April 1 assignment against the Pirates.

“I figure we’ll wait until we get in uniform before we start talking about that,” Samardzija said, laughing. “I’m looking at having a strong Spring Training, a really strong Spring Training. I think it’s a way to bridge the work you did in the offseason to the regular season. I’m taking it seriously. I realy want to perform well in Spring Training and state my case on the field. You want to earn that spot for sure.”

— Carrie Muskat

1/18 Stewart feels 100 percent

Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart said his left wrist is 100 percent healthy after surgery last July, and he’s been hitting this offseason with Hall of Famer Rod Carew in California. Stewart spends two weeks at a time in California with Carew, then goes home for two weeks to be with his family. He’ll make his third trip to California on Monday.

Stewart had a bone removed from his wrist and admitted it took a few sessions before he could turn it loose.

“The last time I was truly healthy was 2010, and even then I missed the last month with an oblique injury,” he said. “I did well that year, and the last few years has been a lingering wrist issue and I really believe I got it taken care of.”

— Carrie Muskat