Mooney: Cubs prepare for long winter

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Mooney: Cubs prepare for long winter

Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010
4:10 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

HOUSTON Lou Piniella and a few of his staffers gathered in the lobby bar of a downtown Atlanta hotel on April 5 to watch Duke and Butler play for college basketballs national championship.

Hours earlier, in front of new ownership and the 53,081 fans at Turner Field, the Cubs absorbed their worst opening loss since 1884. Whatever reservations they may have had about the roster and a pitching staff that gave up 16 runs that day they couldnt have seen all this coming.

The Cubs wouldnt spend a single moment above .500 and play for three different managers. Core members of the teams that won back-to-back division titles Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot would be traded.

Carlos Zambrano would be shipped to the bullpen, banished to the restricted list and perform like one of the best pitchers in the National League.

Rookies Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner contributed faster than anyone expected. Colvin (pneumothorax) and Carlos Silva (cardiac ablation) would discover medical terms no one else had ever heard of before.

The season ended at 3:40 p.m. Sunday at Minute Maid Park with a 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros and now the question is where the Cubs transition from here.

Its a bittersweet kind of day, manager Mike Quade said. It will take about a month for me to get to ready to say whatevers going to happen (that) Im ready to get back into it. These guys finished like they meant business and Im real proud of that.

The players will go hunting and fishing. Within the next few days general manager Jim Hendry who doesnt need to meet with any more outside candidates will begin serious discussions with chairman Tom Ricketts about who should manage the Cubs in 2011.

With a 24-13 close to the season, Quade enjoys almost unanimous support in the clubhouse.

Hes done an amazing job, pitcher Ryan Dempster said. Hes been great to us and hopefully weve been good in return. Ive enjoyed every minute of him as a manager and hopefully hell have the chance to come back.

Several weeks ago, when a 75-87 record seemed absurdly optimistic, the Cubs pulled their advance scouts off upcoming opponents and redirected them to track players who were approaching free agency or might be available this winter.

Within the next few weeks, Hendry will assemble his talent evaluators and begin to prioritize offseason needs. He doesnt know how much money he will have to spend.

Opening Day payroll began around 145 million. The team has approximately 125 million committed for next season. Ricketts has indicated that payroll will drop from the 2010 level.

Tom and I have not had any final conversation in any way, shape or form about what the payroll number will be (or) what my thoughts are on improving the club, Hendry said. I take into consideration all the people that work out on the road doing the dirty work (scouting for us) before I talk to Tom about what we really think we need.

Hendry expects to see Zambrano, who has a no-trade clause in his 91.5 million deal, wearing a Cubs uniform next season.

Ive never assumed that he really wanted to go, Hendry said. He earned the contract that he got and Ive always assumed that he would be pitching for the Cubs. Im glad that hes obviously righted the ship and had a really good ending.

The Cubs, Zambrano and Quade will be eyed with the same suspicions. Some will question just how reliable those September numbers will be when making projections for 2011.

It depends on whether you think Zambrano can be trusted for 30-plus starts and at least 200 innings next season. And you might wonder how those young relievers will respond when Quade brings them into a game in the heat of a pennant race.

Decision-makers throughout the organization will be working under enormous pressure to guess right. The hope is that there will be a carryover effect into spring training, that six weeks can translate into six months, and that there will be a sense of momentum through Opening Day 2011.

A good April can set off everything, Alfonso Soriano said.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

A surreal offseason puts world champion Cubs in the White House spotlight

A surreal offseason puts world champion Cubs in the White House spotlight

Three days before Election Day, Alec Baldwin walked into a dressing room on the eighth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza to meet the Cubs in New York. Dressed in a full Donald Trump costume – but still talking in his normal voice – Baldwin chatted with Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler and David Ross while they rehearsed with Bill Murray before "Saturday Night Live."     

That scene sums up the surreal nature of two seismic events colliding, the joyous victory tour that saw Kris Bryant appear on the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" set with a goat and a bitter presidential election that pitted sides of the Ricketts family against each other.

President Barack Obama called Cubs manager Joe Maddon from Air Force One after the team ended the 108-year drought in early November, winning the franchise's first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. Obama amplified the message he posted on Twitter: "Want to come to the White House before I leave?"

This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will happen on Monday after about two months of scheduling and discussions, with chairman Tom Ricketts downplaying the idea that the Cubs might have stalled for his brothers Todd (Trump's pick for deputy commerce secretary) and Pete (Nebraska's Republican governor). 

This is part of the family business. Laura – their sister and another Cubs board member – has clout in Democratic circles as a superdelegate/fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. The patriarch is Joe, the billionaire TD Ameritrade founder who's heavily involved in right-wing politics. 

"There's no big conspiracy here," said team president Theo Epstein, who attended Obama's farewell address at McCormick Place last week. "Tom is a very reasonable guy. And in the end, the president invited us, and then they followed up with a real invitation. Once there was a real invitation, we figured out if we could make it work. We could, and we were happy to go."

Cubs Convention – where last year Todd made headlines by describing New York Mets fans as "really, really obnoxious" and dismissing All-Star pitcher Matt Harvey as a wannabe "tough guy" – would be the only logical offseason staging ground.

Todd did not participate in this weekend's ownership Q&A session with fans at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. The Cubs will also be in Washington this summer for a four-game series at Nationals Park, not far from Todd's nominated Cabinet position. 

Epstein paused four seconds after hearing the question: Would you have gone to the White House in June?

"Uh…" Epstein said. "Yeah, if the whole team was going, I probably would have gone.

"I'm not going to tell you what I would have been wearing. But I would have gone." 

Epstein campaigned for John Kerry in New Hampshire after the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series and then shook hands with George W. Bush during that White House visit. Epstein missed the ceremonial trip with Boston's 2007 World Series team because his young son had been hospitalized and recovering from an illness at the time: "People took it as a protest, but it wasn't."

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Jake Arrieta doesn't want to be misinterpreted, either. The Cy Young Award winner explained his anticipated absence on Monday has nothing to do with his post-election "#beatit" tweet.  

Arrieta – who is dealing with family medical issues back home in Texas – said his "#illhelpyoupack" message wasn't an explicit endorsement of Trump's agenda. Arrieta said he didn't vote and aimed the tweet at Hollywood celebrities who talked about leaving the country if Trump won. 

"People view us as athletes as being Republican and only caring about lower taxes, which isn't the case," Arrieta said. "If paying higher taxes is going to benefit the majority of society, I'm fine with that. 

"It's tough when people start talking politics. But I'll be open and honest: I just want somebody to lead our country and do a good job. Whether it's Obama – whether it's Trump or Hillary – I just want to see somebody do a good job for the benefit of everybody."

Fowler will be there on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to meet the nation's first African-American president and reconnect with his old teammates after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

The Cubs had waited so long for this – winning their last National League pennant two years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 – that Fowler became the franchise's first African-American player in the World Series.

"I'm most happy for our players," Epstein said. "It's just a really special part of winning the World Series. You feel like you've finally made it. You're in the most precious building in the country, really, and you get to strut around as world champs and meet the president. 

"It doesn't get any better than that. It's very fitting that we're seeing a Chicagoan, and in his last week in office makes it even more special."

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Maddon met Obama while managing the 2009 American League All-Star team at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the president wore a White Sox jacket while throwing out the first pitch. 

Maddon already went to the White House for a ceremony honoring the 2002 Anaheim Angels. Maddon and his wife, Jaye, also attended a small group dinner Bush's staff organized during the final days of his presidency in January 2009.  

"No matter your politics, you get invited to the White House, you go," said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. "I'm like giddy to be able to get invited on the trip." 

The Cubs are also expected to tour the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. Rizzo hopes to present the nation's 44th president with his No. 44 jersey. It will be a day in the life of the 2016 Cubs. 

"It's going to be amazing," Rizzo said. "I think everyone except the true diehard White Sox fans have a little spot for the North Side in their hearts, just because of how long it's taken to get to where we've been."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Recapping the Cubs Convention

Cubs Talk Podcast: Recapping the Cubs Convention

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, Cubs Double A broadcaster Mick Gillispie and CSN's Tony Andracki recap the 2017 Cubs Convention and how the World Series championship changed everything about the Opening Ceremonies, the panels and the overall buzz and positivity surrounding CubsCon.

Gillispie also provides a unique perspective on some of the young, homegrown heroes that helped lead the Cubs to glory as well as his experience watching the Cubs' run while making his way through the SEC with Alabama football, including turning a bar into "Wrigley South."

Listen to the Cubs Talk Podcast below.