Cubs preparing to open new complex by 2014


Cubs preparing to open new complex by 2014

Friday, Feb. 18, 2011
Posted 4:14 p.m. Updated 8:51 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney

MESA, Ariz. The Cubs expect to be anchored in Arizona for decades to come and hope to break ground on their new complex this fall. The Ricketts family has toured every other facility in the Cactus League and plans to select an architectural firm within the next few weeks.

Board member Todd Ricketts visited Fitch Park on Friday, one day before the teams first official workout, and said that he anticipates no more legal or political hurdles in Mesa.

Were still talking to the city, getting the final details of our agreement, Ricketts said. But I think everythings lined up and were going to be here in Mesa for a long time.

The timeline isnt firm, though Ricketts said: Id hate to commit to 2013, but 2014 for sure.

The Cubs are looking to sell naming rights at a ballpark that will take visual cues from Wrigley Field and hold close to 15,000 fans. HoHoKam Stadiums current capacity is 13,100.

Ricketts said the family is focused on building the stadium first and hasnt gotten too deep into plans for developing what will be an adjacent Wrigleyville West retail complex.

With the Rockies and Diamondbacks opening a new site in Scottsdale, all 15 Cactus League teams are now located in the metropolitan Phoenix area, typically no more than an hour drive from one stadium to the next. The Cubs began play at the new HoHoKam Park in 1997 and regularly lead the league in attendance.

There has been a bit of a keep up with the Joneses mentality, Ricketts said. Were less about the glitz. Were more about the business. We want a facility thats going to be able to help us win.

At the same time, ownership is trying to find new financial mechanisms to renovate Wrigley Field, after last years initial proposal was met with overwhelming public resistance.

Thats kind of an ongoing process, Ricketts said. Im going to give a guess that some point in the next year or so were going to have something definitive on what were going to do with Wrigley. But I feel confident were going to get that renovation done. It needs to be done.

Waiting on Ramirez and Castro

Alfonso Soriano arrived at Fitch Park on Friday afternoon, leaving Aramis Ramirez and Starlin Castro as the only two Cubs yet to report at that point. Thats how Ramirez rolls, and he has the veteran status to back it up.

Castro is 20 years old and hasnt played a full season in the big leagues yet. It doesnt bother manager Mike Quade, who knows that Castro played winter ball and had several members of the organization visit him in the Dominican Republic.

Its great that these guys are here early, Quade said, but its a seven-week camp and we got guys here for a month (already). The dedication is incredible, and I love it, but at some point this really becomes a long year. You want guys peaking when April comes.

Had he not played any winter ballthen it might have been a different story, but no, its all good.

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

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

Jon Lester says Cubs haven’t done anything yet: ‘Nobody likes second place’

As Cubs players and generations of fans celebrated Christmas in October, Jon Lester had to be The Grinch for a moment. Sure, the Cubs would party from Saturday night into Sunday morning, probably get “a little bit” drunk and enjoy the franchise’s first National League pennant in 71 years. But the reality of the Cleveland Indians would set in once the Cubs got rid of this hangover.

“We ain’t done anything yet,” Lester said during the Wrigley Field celebration after the Cubs eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers. “Nobody likes second place.”

There are enough Boston Red Sox connections in this World Series that Lester already knows what to expect, starting with Indians manager Terry Francona, who became a father figure as he dealt with a cancer scare as a rookie.

There are ex-teammates from those championship teams in 2007 (Coco Crisp) and 2013 (Mike Napoli, Andrew Miller) at Fenway Park. There is the accumulated experience from throwing 119 postseason innings (2.50 ERA) and becoming one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation.

“I don’t want to sound like a smart-ass, but we got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “I know that manager on their side’s going to be prepared. I know their coaching staff’s going to be ready. I know their players are going to be ready, just based on one player alone, and that’s Mike Napoli. I know what he brings to the table. He helped transform our 2013 team.

“Come Tuesday, we got to put the gloves back on. We got to get ready to fight and grind and do what we’ve done well all year. We got four more games to win.”

After limiting the Dodgers to two runs in 13 innings, and being named the NL Championship Series’ co-MVP along with Javier Baez, Lester should be a worthy Game 1 starter opposite Corey Kluber, the 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner.

This is why Lester took a leap of faith with Cubs bosses/ex-Red Sox executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and chairman Tom Ricketts’ family and what had been a last-place team in 2014.

Two seasons into the $155 million contract that signaled the Cubs would be serious about contending – and not just in the Baseball America/Baseball Prospectus prospect rankings – the franchise has won 200 games and four playoff rounds and remained in position to dominate for years to come.

“Theo and Jed and the front office and Tom and all these guys had a belief,” Lester said. “I believed in that belief. The talent here speaks for itself. I didn’t do anything – I came here because I wanted to win in Chicago. I’m just happy to be here and be a part of this and get to this point.

“(But) we’re four hard wins away from doing what we set out to do in spring training.”

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As bright as the future looks on the North Side, Lester will be 33 next season and his left arm has already accounted for more than 2,000 innings during his decorated career. John Lackey turned 38 on Sunday. Jake Arrieta only has one more season before becoming a free agent.

The Cubs built their franchise around young hitters, with the idea that they can figure out the pitching later with free agents, change-of-scenery trades and bounce-back guys. Easier said than done. They have a true No. 1 starter now in Lester, who as a free agent watched a recruiting video that imagined what it would be like when the Cubs win the World Series.

“This isn’t it,” Lester said. “It’s been a tough playoffs for us to this point and it’s only going to get tougher. We’re going to enjoy it. We’re going to show up Tuesday in Cleveland ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”

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