Cubs think big: Going deep with Carlos Pena

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Cubs think big: Going deep with Carlos Pena

Saturday, April 2, 2011
Posted: 1:23 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com
The white board at the front of the Cubs clubhouse on Saturday morning listed all the details, from game time (12:05) to when pitchers stretch (10:45) and position players hit in the cage (11).

It also had a little Zen philosophy written on the right side, which almost seemed out of place in a room where Jay-Zs rap music was bumping from the speakers.

You cant see the rising sun if your eyes are fixed on the setting one. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, thats why it is called present. Conquer the now!

This was less than 24 hours after an Opening Day loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Carlos Pena did not want to take credit or responsibility for those words. Technically, a clubhouse attendant wrote it in black erasable marker.

But it sums up Penas worldview. Hes been traded twice, released twice and is now working for his seventh team.

Im talking about every cell in your body, Pena said, detaching yourself from the past and detaching yourself from the future and focus on the now. I know that there is extreme power in that.

Sometimes when we try to take too much on, maybe carry some baggage from the past, (or) start thinking too far ahead into the future, then all of a sudden (were) absent from the present moment. If all of us take (the) attitude where were here today 100 percent this second, (then) we can handle that.

A few Cubs walked by the board with confused or curious looks. You wouldve guessed Pena was behind the message, and you probably couldve eliminated 90 percent of the roster without a second thought.

Manager Mike Quade has read Phil Jacksons book and actually liked it, but hadnt seen the words of inspiration by the time he met with the media in his office.

Oh, wow, the yin and the yang? Quade said. Just go play, man. I talk way too much, but Im not that philosophical. Im just like: Figure out a way to beat the Pirates. Thats all I would put on the board.

Pena is a deep thinker, an engineering student from Northeastern University, but those who know him well say its not an act. Over-analyzing the game and allowing outside forces to seep in slowed his development as a first-round pick. It probably didnt help last year in Tampa Bay when he hit .196.

Pena, who will turn 33 next month, was immediately viewed as a one-and-done player at the winter meetings when agent Scott Boras and general manager Jim Hendry announced their pillow contract.

But Pena has impressed the Cubs with his willingness to lead. He doesnt come across as a mercenary. You saw the first baseman go to the mound more than once on Saturday trying to calm down Carlos Zambrano.

Maybe living in the Wrigley Field fishbowl will get old, but right now Pena finds the cramped clubhouse to be cozy way better than people make it out to be.

Driving to work Pena sees Lake Michigan to his right and imagines what it will look like once the trees blossom and summer rolls in. He looked at Wrigley Fields architecture and absorbed the entire scene.

Its just a beautiful place (with) great energy, Pena said. (Im) like a kid, and I dont even want to lose that. I dont care (that) Im a Major League Baseball player. Ok, Im too cool for that? No, Im not.

As a young boy in the Dominican Republic, Pena would run underneath the stands at Quisqueya, and be blown away when he got out of the darkness and saw the entire stadium lit up. Some 25 years later, he had the same experience at Clark and Addison.

I walk up the ramp and you see that light at the end of the tunnel, Pena said. You come up and its like the gates of heaven have opened when you see Wrigley Field at the end. This is really a special place in every sense of the word and Im not going to hide it. Im really excited to be here.

How can Pena keep this enthusiasm up for 160 more games across the next six months? Will he hit above .200? What does he want out of his next contract?

Those are questions for tomorrow. Penas just trying to focus on today.

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

Catch a glimpse inside 'The Cousin Eddie,' Joe Maddon's tricked-out RV

Catch a glimpse inside 'The Cousin Eddie,' Joe Maddon's tricked-out RV

We finally have a full glimpse inside the "Cousin Eddie."

Joe Maddon's luxury RV has been name-dropped ever since before the celebrity manager became embedded forever in Cubs lore.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer tell the story about sitting with Maddon down in Pensacola, Fla., outside the "Cousin Eddie" as the trio discussed Maddon coming to manage the Cubs.

[SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here] 

Maddon has since mentioned the RV several times as his offseason oasis.

Nearly two-and-a-half years later, we can now catch a glimpse inside the "Cousin Eddie" as Maddon was recently profiled on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel:"

The pimped-out RV has four TVs, a fireplace, heated floors, a sweet kitchen with a regular-sized fridge and on and on.

His RV is better than most apartments in Chicago.

Essentially, it's good to be Joe Maddon.

The Maddon profile airs Tuesday night on HBO at 9 p.m. CT.

Check out a full trailer:

Why Sammy Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ in candid interview

Why Sammy Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ in candid interview

For more than a decade, Cubs fans probably thought Sammy Sosa could walk on water.

They weren't alone in that respect.

In a recent tell-all interview with Chuck Wasserstrom, Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ being accused of being a witch when the Cubs icon was asked about being accused of PEDs.

"Chuck, it’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem," Sosa says. "Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) – and he was our savior. So if they talk (poop) about Jesus Christ, what about me?"

Talk about a God complex.

It's been 10 years since Sosa last suited up in the big leagues — and 13 years since his Cubs career ended — but the slugger is still just as polarizing as ever in the candid interview. Wasserstrom was let go by Theo Epstein and the Cubs in 2012 after spending 24 years in the organization in the media relations and baseball information departments.

[RELATED - Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture]

Sosa talks a lot about his pride and it's very clear from his answers about coming back to Chicago and being a part of the current Cubs product that his pride is a major factor steering his ship even still.

He even drops a line in there:

"When nobody knew who Chicago was, I put Chicago on the map."

I'm not sure exactly what he means by that, to be honest. I would venture almost everybody in the world knew what Chicago was before 1992. It is the third biggest city in America.

If he means the Cubs, well, the Cubs were Lovable Losers and a draw for so many people well before Sosa got there. 

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Of course, Sosa did do some absolutely incredible things for the Cubs and the entire game of baseball. Many believe he and Mark McGwire helped put baseball on the map again in a resurgent 1998 season that helped make the strike of 1994/95 an afterthought. Count me among that group, as well.

He deserves all the credit in the world. People would show up to Wrigley just to see Sosa run out to the right field bleachers and camera bulbs flashed by the thousands every single time he came up to the plate for the better part of a decade. Waveland was sometimes so packed with ballhawks that there wouldn't be room to walk.

I also agree wholeheartedly with Sosa when he says, "you're never going to see the show Mark [McGwire] and I put on [again]." He's right. That was an event that transfixed the nation and will absolutely be something I tell my kids and grandkids and — hopefully — my greatgrandkids about.

Sosa continued to push the onus of any possible reunion with the Cubs on the orgainzation, saying he would absolutely say "yes" if they ever extended an invite to join Wrigley Field.

But he wants to do it "in style."

"If one day they want to do something, I want to do it in style. If it’s going to happen, it’s got to be the right way. Don’t worry, one day they’re going to do it. I’m not in a rush.”

Sosa also said he would rather have all the money — he earned more than $124 million in his career — than be in the Hall of Fame.

Go read the entire interview with Wasserstrom. It's as transparent as you'll see Sosa, especially nowadays.