Baseball works toward another labor truce

409153.jpg

Baseball works toward another labor truce

Friday, March 11, 2011Posted: 3:45 PM Updated: 6:26 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. While negotiations between the NFL and its players union unravel in Washington, baseball is approaching 16 years of uninterrupted labor peace.

Since wiping out the 1994 World Series, there has been a thaw in the cold war between owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association. There is optimism on both sides that a new labor deal will be reached amicably before years end, without any of the work stoppages that previously defined their relationship.

Cubs catcher Koyie Hill, the teams lead union representative, doesnt see any red flags at this point. MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner has essentially said the same thing on his spring-training tour, which will bring him to Cubs camp later this month.

There havent been any major concerns about not being able to work together, Hill said Friday. Everythings been pretty professional. (I) havent seen anything that would be alarming. That doesnt mean we dont need to sit down and get (it done). But were not going at it lackadaisical.

The NFL negotiations have focused on major structural issues with the collective bargaining agreement. Baseball talks figure to be more on the perimeter, figuring out how to regulate the amateur draft and the international market.

In the run-up to the Super Bowl, news coverage slanted toward labor conflict, and speculation about how long the NFL might go dark. It drew attention away from the Green Bay Packers, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the sports biggest day.

Though the current agreement wont expire until Dec. 11, its a good guess that the keepers of the game wouldnt want to play the World Series against that backdrop.

One thing we all underestimated is how badly it hurt us, commissioner Bud Selig said last week at HoHoKam Park. Every two, three years, its all fans are reading about.

The thing about labor peace (is its) in everybodys interest. Player salaries have gone up, revenues have gone up and the sports popularity is at an all-time high. So when you look back on it, there are a lot of lessons to be learned. And I think we have.

Thinking of home

Kosuke Fukudome stood in the clubhouse Friday morning and tilted his head up toward the big-screen TV, watching CNNs coverage of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan.

Through a translator, Fukudome said that he contacted his brother back home in Japan and was optimistic that his extended family remained safe.

The games become international, manager Mike Quade said. All of a sudden these things happen around the world in the Dominican Republic, Japan, wherever and you get to the ballpark and the first thing youre asking is: Are your people ok?

Etc.

Ryan Dempster threw five scoreless innings during Fridays 4-3 win over the White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Jeff Samardzija gave up all three runs in the ninth, raising his ERA to 8.44. John Grabow, who is monitoring a sore left shoulder, is hoping to pitch in a game before Wednesdays off-day. Its getting better, Mike Quade said. Its time to get him back out there. The Cubs optioned relievers Esmailin Caridad and John Gaub to Triple-A Iowa on Friday, cutting their spring roster to 58 players.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon misses his chance to guest-star in ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

Cubs manager Joe Maddon misses his chance to guest-star in ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’

MESA, Ariz. – This is a big bowl of wrong: Cubs manager Joe Maddon might have missed his only window to make the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" cameo appearance Jeff Garlin promised. 

Garlin – a Second City alumnus and one of several celebrity fans within the team's orbit – had offered Maddon a role whenever Larry David brought the band back together for the loosely scripted HBO comedy.

But last week's Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore conflicted with filming in Southern California, where "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is working on a ninth season after a five-year hiatus.

"There was one matchup, and I couldn't get there," Maddon said before Sunday's World Series rematch against the Cleveland Indians at Sloan Park. "I just couldn't do it. It'll happen."

During an all-over-the-place session with reporters that lasted 20-plus minutes, Maddon declined to make any Oscar predictions, saying he's into Netflix and Hulu now and doesn't really go to the movies anymore.

Maddon also hasn't watched much – or any – of the World Series highlights or documentaries. When it came to the handling Aroldis Chapman part, there were some boos inside Chicago's Civic Opera House during the premiere of Major League Baseball's "The 2016 World Series."

But Maddon said he basically skipped that type of content after being Mike Scioscia's bench coach for the 2002 Anaheim Angels and managing the Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 World Series.

"You get busy and I don't know," Maddon said. "I need to start reading more and watching Netflix less."

Didn't you say that last spring?

"I did," Maddon said.

Maddon had been addicted to cable news during last year's polarizing presidential campaign: "But, damn, it's gotten really annoying, so I stopped watching all that stuff. It's just not good for your brain. It's really not. There's nothing to be gained."

When Maddon starts rolling, it's not hard to picture him in a scene with David and J.B. Smoove. Shaquille O'Neal, John McEnroe and Bill Buckner are among the sports figures with "Curb Your Enthusiasm" credits.

"That was the only day, so I don't know how we're going to figure this out," Maddon said. "First, they had one day set up, and that was going to be good. And then they had to change it to this other day, which was not good. So we'll have to (come up with something else), even if it's maybe a picture on the wall or a phone call."

Jason Heyward surprised Cubs fans didn’t boo Rajai Davis more

Jason Heyward surprised Cubs fans didn’t boo Rajai Davis more

MESA, Ariz. – The Cactus League crowds are different than the ones packed into Wrigley Field. It was only a meaningless split-squad game on a Saturday afternoon in the Arizona sunshine. Finally winning the World Series must have somewhat dulled the edge.

But Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward still thought Rajai Davis would hear it from the sellout crowd of 14,929 at Sloan Park, the what-could-have-been anxiety bubbling up when seeing the Oakland A's leadoff guy who nearly changed the course of baseball history.

"I was surprised he didn't get booed more, but that's just how our fans are," Heyward said. "They're fun like that. They have fun with the game. They acknowledge it. That's pretty cool for Cubs fans to boo you. If anybody boos you from last year, that's kind of an honor, I would say. To be on that side of things, it means you did something great."

As Alfonso Soriano liked to say, they don't boo nobodies. With one big swing, Davis almost unleashed a miserable winter for the Cubs and ended the Cleveland Indians' 68-year drought.

Manager Joe Maddon kept pushing closer Aroldis Chapman, who fired 97 pitches in Games 5, 6, and 7 combined. Davis timed seven straight fastballs in the eighth inning – the last one at 97.1 mph – and drove a Game 7-tying two-run homer just inside the foul pole and onto the left-field patio. In a now-famous rain-delay speech, Heyward gathered his teammates in a Progressive Field weight room as the Cubs regained their composure.

"They booed him, but only the first at-bat," Heyward said. "The second at-bat and the third, I was like: ‘Eh, they kind of just let him off the hook.' They let him be."

The fans who stuck around until the end got to hear "Go Cubs Go" after a 4-3 win. Davis parlayed that big moment into a one-year, $6 million contract with the A's. The Cubs will see the Indians again on Sunday afternoon in Mesa.

"As players, we're all onto the season and enjoying this ride and a new journey," said Heyward, who went 0-for-3 with an RBI as he worked on his new swing. "All the teams that we played in the playoffs are obviously out here in spring training, so it's just really fun and it's good for the makeup of your team when you compete that way.

"You're thrown right back into the fire when you talk about the competition and remembering things that happened in the postseason. But we don't dwell on it too much."