Archive | October, 2009

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Cubs Coaching Staff A-OK with Ricketts Family

Posted on 31 October 2009 by Lou

Looks like we won’t have too much change this off-season with the Chicago Cubs coaching staff.  Jim Hendry will remain the Cubs General Manager; Lou Pinella will remain the Cubs Manager; and Matt Sinatro and Mike Quade will still be the Cubs base coaches… Even though Tom Ricketts joked during Friday’s news conference that his brother Todd would be the team’s new 1st base coach, it doesn’t appear that any rash coaching changes will be made before at least 1 full season has been played at Wrigley Field under the tutelage of the Ricketts Family.

Ricketts had this to say about the staff:  “You hire people you trust and give them the opportunity to make the decisions and hold them accountable.  I think we have the right people, the right manager.  Let them do their job.  If it doesn’t happen, then we think about it next year.”

That sigh of relief you heard on the north side was from GM Hendry.  As we have discussed before, Hendry has mortgaged the franchise for the foreseeable future with horrible free agent signings each of the last 3 seasons – see Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley.  Hendry has to be on a short leash, and he knows it.  If the team doesn’t produce in 2010, look for Hendry to be asked to leave next October.  I hope at least. But for now, it looks like everything will remain the same at Wrigley Field for 2010.  Let’s just hope the quality of play and win-loss record improves from 2009…

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Chicago Cubs Press Conference Today @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 30 October 2009 by Lou

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I know we have been reporting a lot about the completion of the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts Family, but the Cubs held a press conference at Wrigley Field today introducing the Ricketts Family as the new owners of the franchise.

The Ricketts family also released a statement to Cubs season ticket holders today – we’re still trying to get our hands on a copy of the letter, so we will post it to the blog as soon as we can redact certain information from the letter.

Tom Ricketts will lead the new ownership group as the Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Cubs franchise.  Ricketts emphasized the fact that his family is a family of Cubs fans and that they will maintain the integrity and tradition of Cubs baseball and Wrigley Field.  That being said, they are also committed to making sure that the Wrigley Field structure itself remains around for years and years to come, and in order to do that, there might be some changes that need to be made in order to reach that goal.  Ricketts mentioned nothing about raising ticket prices in 2010.  Given how bad the team performed during the 2009 schedule, it would be hard to imagine the Ricketts family raising prices.  But then again, I wasn’t the one shelling over $845 million bucks to become the new Cubs owner.  You gotta make your money back somehow…

Here are a few quotes that we have dug up from Tom Ricketts:

“It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to own the team, but it’s not the kind of thing that frequently comes true.  This is a dream come true, literally, for me and for the family, too.”

“I’ll be around [Wrigley Field].  I’ll be at almost all the games.  I’ll be with the fans more than the players… We only have a little time between now and Opening Day [2010], and we’ll do a few things to the stadium.  The real key is that we’ll spend all of next year planning the next five years, the changes we make to the stadium that bring it through to the next generation.  I think that will [involve] looking at all the options and trying to figure out what’s the best use of all the space, and both the space in the stadium and outside the stadium.”

“There are a lot of dollars committed to players for 2010, so a lot of the financial felxibility is limited for next year.  That said, there’s a great nucleus and great core team that’s coming back, and hopefully if Jim [Hendry] can find some of the right people to bring in and round out the team, we’ll have a great team next year.”

Let’s just hope they bring a championship to these loyal Cubs fans sooner rather than later…

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Cubs Ownership Timeline – Pretty Cool Information

Posted on 29 October 2009 by Lou

Check out this cool ownership timeline courtesy of the Chicago Cubs.  1905 – $105,000?  Unbelievable.  Now the Ricketts Family just paid $845 for the franchise, well more than the $660 million sale price for the Boston Red Sox franchise back in 2002… Enjoy!

1876: The Chicago White Stockings, owned by William A. Hulbert, become one of eight charter members of the National League. Hulbert is one of the founding fathers of the National League and its first president. The team would not be known as the Cubs until 1902.

April 1882: Former player, sporting goods tycoon and team president Albert Spalding takes over as owner of the Chicago team after Hulbert dies.

1902: James Hart was the club president since 1892, but takes over as majority owner in 1902 when Spalding steps down.

July 1905: Cincinnati Times-Star owner Charles Taft finances Charles Murphy’s purchase of the Cubs with a loan of $105,000. Murphy becomes team president.

February 1914: Taft buys the Cubs from Murphy. Murphy had invested $15,000 in the Cubs in 1905, and sells his share of stock for $503,500.

December 1915: Charles Weeghman, a team owner in the defunct Federal League, and nine others purchase a controlling interest in the Cubs from Taft for $500,000, and moves them to Weeghman Park (future site of Wrigley Field) at the corner of Clark and Addison. William Wrigley Jr. becomes a minority stockholder, purchasing a share for $50,000.

1919: Wrigley purchases enough shares to have complete control of the Cubs. He re-names Weeghman Park to Cubs Park. In 1926, Cubs Park becomes Wrigley Field. In 1932, Phillip K. Wrigley assumes control after his father’s death. In 1977, William Wrigley takes over the club after the death of his father.

June 16, 1981: The Wrigley Family ends its 65-year relationship with the team, selling the Cubs to Tribune Co. for $20.5 million.

December 2007: Real estate entrepreneur Sam Zell completes purchase of the Cubs’ parent organization, the Tribune Co.

April 2, 2007: Tribune Co. announces it has accepted a buyout offer from Zell in a deal valued at $8.2 billion, and plans to sell the Cubs. “I told the ballclub it’ll be business as usual,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said when the announcement was made prior to the season opener in Cincinnati. “It will not be a distraction.”

“It doesn’t make a difference to me,” Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee said of the news. “With the Tribune, I didn’t really know who the owner was. He wasn’t around. … As long as they’re committed to winning, that’s all we are concerned about.”

March 7, 2008: In a “state of the team” chat with beat writers in Mesa, Ariz., Cubs chairman Crane Kenney said the team was close to getting the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority to buy Wrigley Field and operate it. Kenney also said the team had been approached by at least three companies interested in purchasing naming rights. “We’re not going to leave resources that would go into the payroll and go into our restoration plans on the table to appease people who say, ‘I don’t think you should do it,'” Kenney said.

May 13, 2008: Zell rejects the ISFA plan to acquire Wrigley Field and says he will package the ballpark and Cubs together.

June 13, 2008: Nine potential buyers who were preapproved by MLB receive financial books on the Cubs. Interested buyers are believed to include a group headed by John Canning, chairman of private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC; Internet billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban; and the family of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. founder Joe Ricketts.

July 19, 2008: Tribune Co. receives at least seven bids to buy the Cubs. On Aug. 26, Zell says the company has narrowed the list to five. “We hope to have a deal to MLB by the end of the year,” Zell said.

Dec. 1, 2008: At least three groups submit offers to the Tribune Co. in the latest round of bidding. The three finalists include the Ricketts family; a partnership of private equity investors Marc Utay and Leo Hindery Jr.; and Chicago real estate executive Hersh Klaff.

Dec. 8, 2008: Tribune Co. files for bankruptcy protection to deal with $13 billion in debt. The Cubs are not included in the filing.

Jan. 14, 2009: At the owners meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz., Kenney says he hopes to have the sale completed by Opening Day 2009. “We’re anxious to get the season started and have a new owner in place,” Kenney said.

Jan. 22, 2009: The Tribune Co. selects the Ricketts family as the winning bidder to purchase the Cubs, with the price reported to be $900 million. That includes the team, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent share in Comcast SportsNet Chicago. “My family and I are Cubs fans,” Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “We share the goal of Cubs fans everywhere to win a World Series and build the consistent championship tradition that the fans deserve.”

Feb. 23, 2009: Tom Ricketts resigns from TD Ameritrade’s board after his family sells $403 million of its stock in the online brokerage to help finance its bid to buy the Cubs.

March 7, 2009: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig says he is not certain the sale can be completed by Opening Day 2009. “It’s moving forward,” Selig said.

June 18, 2009: The Tribune Co. reopens talks with another bidding group led by New York investor Marc Utay because of the slow pace of negotiations with the Ricketts family. Talks stalled when the two sides could not agree on some issues, including how to value the team’s broadcast rights.

July 6, 2009: Reports surface that the Tribune Co. has reportedly reached a deal with the Ricketts family. The news is premature, but Cubs players have some suggestions for the new owner. “What about an indoor swimming pool in here?” shortstop Ryan Theriot said.

Aug. 21, 2009: Tribune Co. signs a definitive agreement to sell 95 percent of the team, plus Wrigley Field and a share of Comcast SportsNet Chicago to the Ricketts family for $845 million. Tribune Co. will retain a 5 percent ownership interest.

Aug. 31, 2009: The judge presiding over Tribune Co.’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case approves an expedited process for court action surrounding the company’s sale of the team.

Sept. 24, 2009: A federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware approves the Tribune Co.’s sale of the Cubs, securing the first of a two-step approval process in bankruptcy court.

Oct. 6, 2009: Major League Baseball announces it unanimously approved the transfer of the Cubs to the Ricketts family following a conference call vote by the teams. “We’re extremely pleased that the sales process is drawing to a close,” Selig said, “and we are confident that the Ricketts family will be great owners and custodians of the Chicago Cubs. All of us at Major League Baseball are grateful to the Tribune Co. for their years of stewardship of this proud and historic franchise.”

Oct. 12, 2009: Cubs file for bankruptcy to ensure that the team won’t be hit by claims from Tribune creditors.

Oct. 13, 2009: A U.S. bankruptcy judge rules Tribune Co. can proceed with the sale of the team. The Cubs’ bankruptcy filing was not the first for a Major League team. The Baltimore Orioles were sold in a bankruptcy auction in 1993 after owner Eli Jacobs filed for Chapter 11. The same happened to the Seattle Pilots after the 1969 season. The new owners moved the team to Milwaukee, and changed the name to the Brewers.

Oct. 27, 2009: The Ricketts family announces the sale is official, and they have taken a 95 percent controlling interest in the Cubs, Wrigley Field and 25 percent of Comcast SportsNet after a financial closing

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Cubs Convention Tickets Go On Sale November 4th

Posted on 28 October 2009 by Lou

Get your Cubs Convention tickets next week – the 1st one under the new Ricketts Family owners.  Tickets go on sale through at 10AM on Wednesday, November 4th.  Each Cubs Convention pass costs $60.00 plus applicable fees.  The Cubs Convention will be held from Friday January 15-17, 2010 at the Hilton Chicago on 720 South Michigan Avenue.  The hours are as follows: Friday January 15th from 3PM until 6PM; Saturday January 16th from 9AM until 12 midnight; and Sunday January 17th from 9AM until 1PM.  The Cubs Convention benefits the Cubs Care charity organization, which has been the beneficiary of almost $4 million from the Cubs Convention over the years.

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It’s Official – The Ricketts Family Owns the Chicago Cubs Franchise

Posted on 27 October 2009 by Lou

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It’s official – The Rickets Family’s purchase of the Chicago Cubs is finally done.  Hip Hip Hooray!

The Ricketts Family now owns a 95% stake in the Chicago Cubs franchise, Wrigley Field, and 25% of Comcast Sportsnet.  The deal was worth approximately $845 million.  The Tribune Co. will still retain a 5% interest in the Chicago Cubs franchise, and after applicable taxes and fees, will bring in approximately $745 million.

Joe Ricketts – the patriarch of the Ricketts Family – is the founder of TD Ameritrade, an Omaha, Nebraska based brokerage firm.  Tom Rickets, one of Joe’s sons, will serve as the Chicago Cubs new Board Chairman.  Rickets wrote in a statement release to the press that the Board “will go to work building the championship tradition that all Cubs fans so richly deserve.”

The Chicago Cubs have scheduled a Friday news conference at Wrigley Field announcing the closing of the sale to the Ricketts Family.  At last…

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Mesa, AZ to Naples, FL? Cubs Could be on Move

Posted on 26 October 2009 by Lou

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The Chicago Cubs could be making a spring training move from Mesa, Arizona to Naples, Florida.  Current Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney has acknowledged that the Cubs are pursuing opportunities to move the spring training facilities from Arizona to Florida.  And right now, Naples is on the top of the Cubs list.  The Cubs lease with the city of Mesa expires in 2016, but the club could leave early – in 2012 – if the Cubs pay $4.2 million to the city in Spring 2010.  That deadline is coming up.

We’ll keep an eye on this if anything develops over the next 6 months or so.  Florida would definitely be a closer destination for Chicago-area and east coast Cubs fans looking to catch a Cubs spring training game in warm winter weather…

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Koyie Hill – 2009 Report Card – B+

Posted on 24 October 2009 by Lou

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With a look at our 2nd catcher, here is our report on Koyie Hill.

2009 Stats – .237 batting average; .312 on-base percentage; 2 HR’s; 24 RBI’s; 26 runs scored; 27 walks; 78 K’s in 253 at-bats.

2008 Stats – N/A only 21 at-bats.

Grade: B+.  Overall, a solid effort from Hill even though a quick glance at his numbers might not indicate that. Hill filled in admirably for Geovany Soto who endured 2 stints on the DL in 2009.  Hill even set a club record by catching in 25 straight games for the Cubs – from July 7th through August 5th – until Soto could return to the Cubs lineup.  Hill was not a major force at the plate, but he did work well with each of the Cubs’ starting pitchers.  Hill calls a good game, he is good defensively and he is a workhouse, so he has a lot to offer a club as a back-up catcher.  Hill caught the Cubs through their best stretch of ball after the All-Star Break – when the Cubs won 14 of 19 games from July 16th through August 4th to stay right with the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.  After that – we all know what happened, but at least Hill was a bright spot for an otherwise disappointing 2009 club.  Hill will serve the Cubs well as a back-up catcher in 2010, but if they have to really on him the way they did in 2009, that will likely mean bad things for the Cubs.

GM Jim Hendry, Manager Lou Pinella and Cubs fans are looking forward to continued success for Koyie Hill in a Cubs uniform at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in April 2010 – we do too…

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Geovany Soto – 2009 Report Card – C-

Posted on 23 October 2009 by Lou

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Over the next month or so, we’re going to give our assessment of the performances of Cubs players at each position in 2009.  This weekend, we’re starting with the catchers.

First up – Geovany Soto

2009 Stats – .218 batting average; .321 on-base percentage; 11 HR’s; 47 RBI’s; 27 runs scored; 50 walks; 77 K’s in 331 at-bats.

2008 Stats – .285 batting average; .364 on-base percentage; 23 HR’s; 86 RBI’s; 66 runs scored; 62 walks; 121 K’s in 494 at-bats.  Awards – NL Rookie of the Year.

Grade: C-.  Overall, a major disappointment for Soto playing in only 102 games with 2 stints on the DL.  After his breakout 2008 year – including an All-Star Game nod – Soto looked lost the entire 2009 MLB season.  He was mentally off after testing for positive for some performance-enhancing drugs during the 2009 World Baseball Classic and he never got back on track.  You’d like to think that he will be able to get back on track during the 2010 MLB schedule, but until he shows it, the Cubs might just have an average catcher behind the plate who had a career year in 2008.  A major factor will be health – if he shows up to Spring Training in good shape, being able and ready to shoulder the load, that could be a good sign for the Cubs.  If not, it’s a good thing they have Koyie Hill.

GM Jim Hendry, Manager Lou Pinella and Cubs fans will be eager to see the 2008 Soto show up at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in April 2010 – we do too…

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Josh Vitters Off to Good Start in AFL…

Posted on 22 October 2009 by Lou

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Cubs fans can’t wait to get a look at Josh Vitters at Wrigley Field in the near future.  The 20-year old had a 2-run double in his 1st AFL game – a 5-4 win for the Mesa Solar Sox over the Scottsdale Scorpions.  After going 5-8 in his 1st 2 games, he came back down to earth in his 2 next games, going hitless in 7 at-bats.  Coming of a solid 2009 in which he hit .284 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI’s in work at both Class-A Peoria and Double-A Tennessee, Vitters is looking forward to continuing his season this fall.  “I don’t think the talent level is much different at all from the regular season… I just need to get used to facing pitchers I’ve never faced before… The Competition is definitely better [facing Double-A and Triple-A level players] but I’m trying to keep my game plan.”

Going into the 2007 draft, scouts dubbed Vitters the “Most Polished Hitter”, so it isn’t surprising to see Vitters succeeding so early in his minor league career.  An added bonus is that he is fielding well too – he has yet to commit an error thus far this fall.

The future sure looks bright for Vitters and the Cubs.  GM Jim Hendry would probably love to see Vitters make an impact at the Friendly Confines in the next few years…

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It’s Official – Cubs Sign Hitting Coach Rudy Jaramillo

Posted on 21 October 2009 by Lou

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Hip Hip Hooray – we can finally put the Cubs hitting coach story behind us.  The Cubs have agreed to terms with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.  The deal is for 3 years and $2.42 million, which will make Jaramillo the 2nd highest paid hitting coach in the major leagues behind the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach Dave Duncan.  Look out NL Central opponents – we can have a hitting coach gladiator war every time the Cubs and Cards play each other in 2010.

Jaramillo was the Texas Rangers hitting coach for 15 years.  He helped develop some great Rangers hitters during his tenure, and even worked with Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley while the 2 were Rangers players.  Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Pinella hope that bringing someone in from the outside with a different perspective of the Cubs players will help the Cubs offense regain its 2008 form rather than its 2009 form.  In 2008, the Cubs led the National League with 855 runs scored (2nd only to the Rangers in all of MLB).  But in 2009, the Cubs scored only 784 runs, good for only 10th best in the NL.  Not good – sure injuries and poor production from certain players – Bradley, Soriano, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot – were the primary reasons, but the lack of clutch hits and hits with runners in scoring position (just a .241 batting average – 2nd worst in all of MLB) is a huge concern going forward.  Hopefully Jaramillo can work out the kinks.

Jaramillo has a simple philosophy.  “I pride myself in situational hitting… It’s not like I’m trying to reinvent the swing.”  He puts an emphasis on finding a good rhythm, staying square on the ball, shifting weight and focusing on the arm release point of each pitcher.  Jaramillo knows there are physical and mental aspects of hitting and he will work with each player to make sure that they are prepared to go up there focused and ready during each at-bat.

It can’t get much worse than it was in 2009.  If the Cubs do start piling on the runs in 2009, Jaramillo is going to look like a genius.  Most likely, it won’t really be his credit to take in the long run.  The Cubs probably aren’t as good as they were in 2008 nor as bad as they were in 2009.  Somewhere in between should have the Cubs – and Cubs fans – smiling in 2010…

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