Cubs preparing to open new complex by 2014

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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
CSNChicago.com

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

Now what? Jon Lester driven to deliver more World Series titles to Chicago

Now what? Jon Lester driven to deliver more World Series titles to Chicago

MESA, Ariz. — Now what? Ryan Dempster believes these Cubs are young enough, hungry enough and talented enough to become the first group to win back-to-back World Series since the three-peat New York Yankees built a dynasty with titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

But Dempster already understands the expectations at Wrigley Field this season, especially after pitching on disappointing Cubs teams that got swept out of the playoffs and working as a special assistant in Theo Epstein's front office.

"Nothing can top it," Dempster said. "You can win 162 games and sweep everybody in the playoffs and it won't be as exciting for people, other than maybe the guys playing it."

That's why Jon Lester isn't putting up the "Mission Accomplished" banner at his locker, even though the Cubs had the parade down Michigan Avenue in mind when they gave him the biggest contract in franchise history at the time. Dempster — who also earned a World Series ring with the 2013 Boston Red Sox — had given Lester a scouting report as the Cubs went all-out in their pursuit of the big-game lefty.

There are still four years left on Lester's $155 million megadeal. It has been less than five months since the Cubs finally won the World Series and unleashed an epic celebration.

"Now the hard part is you don't get complacent," Lester said Wednesday after throwing six innings against an Oakland A's minor-league squad at the Sloan Park complex. "I talk about these young guys — that's where that helps. Even though you've accomplished things personally, you still want these guys to accomplish things.

"That's where that drive still gets you. You don't want to let your teammates down. You still want to be accountable for what you do. And that means showing up and doing your work in between starts and in the offseason."

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Lester believed so much in Epstein's vision, the pipeline of talent about to burst and the lure of Chicago that he signed with a last-place team. The Cubs needed a symbol to show they were serious about winning, a clubhouse tone-setter and an anchor for their rotation.

A new comfort level in Year 2 of that contract helped explain how Lester performed as an All Star, a Cy Young Award finalist and the National League Championship Series co-MVP. But Lester wants to make sure that the Cubs don't get too comfortable — or feel like they're playing with house money.

"You enjoy that, you learn from it," Lester said. "The biggest thing is not getting complacent with yourself and with your teammates. That's what drives me, making sure I'm prepared to pitch.

"I'm called upon every five days, and I have to be there. That's where that goal of 30 starts and 200 innings comes into play. I feel like if I do that, then I've done my job, for my teammates and this organization.

"The championships and the World Series — that's stuff you can't predict. It's stuff you strive to do every single year. So that's all we're going to focus on again. Our team goal again is to win a World Series."

Cubs remember Dallas Green's impact on Wrigley Field

Cubs remember Dallas Green's impact on Wrigley Field

MESA, Ariz. — Dallas Green pictured what the Cubs have now become, striking gold in the draft, swinging big deals and pushing to modernize Wrigley Field. The Plan, The Foundation for Sustained Success, all those buzzwords had parallels to the 1980s franchise built in Green's image.

Green — a larger-than-life presence in some of baseball's most intense markets — died Wednesday at the age of 82 after a colorful career and a battle with kidney disease.

Green spent 46 years with the Philadelphia Phillies, guiding them to the 1980 World Series title and working at virtually every level of the organization. Green also pitched eight seasons in the big leagues and managed both the New York Mets and Yankees. But Green clearly raised expectations in Chicago, where he drew up the rough blueprint the Theo Epstein regime would follow 30 years later.

"Absolutely, there's no question," bench coach Dave Martinez said. "He had a vision. He was trying to build an organization from within."

Green took over baseball operations on the North Side and made a franchise-altering trade in 1982, using his Philadelphia connections to steal future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and Larry Bowa for Ivan de Jesus.

Green's scouting department would draft Greg Maddux, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston. Trading for Rick Sutcliffe in the middle of the 1984 season led to the club's first playoff appearance since the 1945 World Series. Signing Andre Dawson to the blank-check contract helped fuel a 93-win season in 1989.

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Green had already been fired after repeated clashes with Tribune Co. bosses and a last-place finish in 1987. The force of Green's personality also helped the Cubs finally install lights at Wrigley Field in 1988.

"What a good baseball man," said Martinez, who got drafted by the Cubs in 1983 and lasted 16 seasons in the big leagues. "He could be hard, at times, but you respected that from him. He gave me and a bunch of other players I came up with the chance to play. And I can honestly say he really loved all of us kids. He thought at one point that we were going to be something special — if we would have stayed together.

"We thought we would be there together for a long time. It didn't work out that way, but he knew talent."

Even before this generation of Cubs executives traded for Jake Arrieta and Addison Russell — and drafted Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber — general manager Jed Hoyer understood the challenge Green undertook.

"When we first got to Chicago," Hoyer said, "you look back and think about what other times in the history of the Cubs did people try to do something similar to what we were doing. Really, him taking over in the 80s and building the '84 team is probably the most similar when you look at it. Some of those great trades that he made — those gutsy trades that he made — are pretty similar in a lot of ways.

"Were it not for a couple big breaks, they might have been able to end the curse a lot earlier."