Wrigley's new looks begin with Santo statue

Wrigley's new looks begin with Santo statue

Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
10:18 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Cubs executives measure their building against the great cathedrals of sports Fenway Park, Lambeau Field, the Rose Bowl.

For Ron Santo, it was the religion that he believed kept him alive all those years as his body began to fail. And the spontaneous shrines that appeared on the gates of Wrigley Field when Santo died last month will take a permanent form.

To honor his memory, players will wear No. 10 uniform patches this season. And a Santo statue will be unveiled outside Wrigley Field on Aug. 10, chairman Tom Ricketts announced Saturday at the Cubs Convention.

Santo shirts could be spotted all around the Hilton Chicago this weekend. It will be weird for those fans to look up and see someone else in the broadcast booth, or turn on their radio and not hear that familiar voice.

The transition wont be easy, but the Cubs and WGN Radio are getting deeper into their search process for the next analyst.

Team president Crane Kenney interviewed one candidate on Saturday, and indicated that the names being mentioned as possible replacements are accurate. Keith Moreland, Dave Otto and Doug Glanville are thought to be in the mix. The expectation is that Santos replacement will be named before spring training.

The future at Clark and Addison

Santo connected with listeners because he had such strong feelings for a place that hadnt changed much since his playing days.

Any idea about Wrigley Field seems to be met with resistance from some corner of the fan base or community. When one fan complained about recorded pop music replacing the organ before each at-bat, Ricketts said that a player came to ownership with the suggestion early last season, as a way to shake the team out of a slump.

Inevitably Wrigley Field will become more modern. AT&T is partnering with the Cubs and investing 5 million to make the stadium a wireless hotspot.

The concept of a video board so long as it doesnt disturb the center-field landscape is gaining traction. Sixty percent of fans surveyed by the Cubs liked that idea, though theres still no obvious place to put it.

The Cubs have grand designs for a renovated Wrigley Field, but they are still figuring out how to pay for it.

Vice president of community affairs Mike Lufrano who once worked as a special assistant in the White House continues to talk with officials on the city, county and state levels about different financing techniques.

Looking back on his first year-plus of ownership, Ricketts identified one glaring mistake how his group rolled out a proposal to renovate the stadium with the help of state-issued bonds last November.

Ricketts said we lost control of the dialogue a little bit, but Kenney reminded everyone that it took 18 months to two years for the Cubs to lobby for another public-private partnership and a new facility in Mesa, Ariz.
Finding a balance

Until those improvements are made, Ricketts doesnt think the Cubs will get an All-Star Game. Team executives continue to point toward the Red Sox, who they say arent subject to an amusement tax, and have put up 67 advertisements inside Fenway Park.

Signage is one way to continue growing incremental revenue. The Cubs also remain open to hosting more concerts though no non-baseball events have been finalized yet for 2011 and even college football despite the bad press one end zone generated.

It did not go unnoticed in the Cubs executive offices that Farmers Insurance will reportedly be paying around 400 million (20 million annually) for naming rights at the proposed NFL stadium in Los Angeles.

The marquee, the scoreboard and the ivy are historical landmarks protected by the city. Building a statue for a beloved figure such as Santo is an easy call. There are other tough choices to make around Wrigley Field.

Can we think outside the box? And how much do you want to sacrifice progress for tradition? Kenney asked. Another way of looking at that question is: So youre going to walk away from 400 million because you dont want to sell the naming rights? Where does that money come from? It comes from football games, concerts, everything creative we come up with.

Should you just give up on that and build a new stadium somewhere? (No), were going to try to fight it out where we are and were going to protect the traditions that mean so much to all of us.

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

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Theo Epstein's front office is heading into Year 6 with the Cubs and they're finally talking about a pitcher as one of the organization's most exciting prospects.

That's how senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod framed his Dylan Cease report to fans at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago last weekend.

It was a tongue-in-cheek summation from McLeod after he spent the previous few minutes fawning over Cease, the Cubs' sixth round pick in 2014.

Of course, McLeod and the Cubs can poke fun at the lack of impact pitching the farm system has developed when the homegrown position players like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber just helped lead the franchise to its first World Series championship in over a century.

Cease, however, has been one of the more intriguing Cubs prospects for years — a right-handed pitcher capable of touching 101 mph on the radar gun.

"This guy is throwing lightning bolts out of his arm," McLeod said. "It's really exciting. But we also understaned he's only in Low-A this year, so he's far away."

The Cubs expect Cease to pitch for Class-A South Bend in 2017 after spending last season pitching for short-season Eugene and the 2015 campaign working in the rookie league in Arizona.

Cease — who just turned 21 in late December — put up some impressive numbers at both stops in the Cubs system, posting a 2.36 ERA and 1.165 WHIP to go along with a whopping 91 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. He also only surrendered one homer and walked more batters (41) than reached via a basehit (39).

Control is obviously an issue for Cease, but the upside is evident.

"He's so far away," McLeod said. "He's gonna go into 2017 as a starter. As with a lot of young guys, it's gonna come down to command and depend on that third pitch and the ability to land them for strikes.

"It's a special arm. He can pitch 95-100 mph with a big power curveball. He's unlike anyone else we have in our system since we've been here in terms of pure stuff."

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One fan compared Cease to Carl Edwards Jr. in terms of their lanky build and high velocity, setting McLeod up for a layup joke.

"Well, Dylan is much stronger physically than CJ is...as is everybody in this room," McLeod said as the ballroom filled with laugher. "Don't tell [CJ] I said that. 

"They have different body types, obviously. Carl is long and lanky and Dylan has probably put on 20 pounds since we drafted him, so he's more like 6-foot-2, 190."

By comparison, Edwards — who goes by "The String Bean Slinger" for his slight build — is listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds.

Edwards was drafted in the 48th round in 2011 and spent his whole minor-league career as a starting pitcher until the Cubs converted him to a reliever in 2015.

Cease may eventually go down the same path, but the Cubs are going to give him every opportunity to make it as a starter first.

Cease was one of the top pitchers available in the 2014 draft, but his stock took a hit when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow while at Milton High School in Georgia.

That scared off a lot of teams — as did the potential signability issues with college offers looming — but the Cubs took a chance and have now watched Cease soar to a top prospect in the system (No. 4 by Baseball America; No. 7 by FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus) despite the cautious approach and lack of innings in professional ball.

"We have to thank Kyle Schwarber, actually, as one of the main reasons we got to sign Dylan Cease," McLeod said. "Because we took Kyle fourth overall, we were able to save money on the selection with him, which gave us the resources to go get Dylan Cease.

"He was a Top 10 pick in the draft — a high school arm that got hurt, fell down to the fifth round and he had a commitment to Vanderbilt, I think it was, and we were able to use the money we saved from Kyle.

"Just another reason to love Kyle Schwarber."

Joe Maddon’s messaging to Cubs before the 2017 campaign

Joe Maddon’s messaging to Cubs before the 2017 campaign

Joe Maddon's Washington itinerary didn't include an hour-long sit-down with Chuck Todd for NBC's "Meet the Press." There would be no rehashing the manager's Game 7 decisions as he stood outside the West Wing, though the second question during the media stakeout involved "last year's team" and how the 2017 Cubs are prepared to defend a World Series title.

"You're already there, huh?" Maddon said to a CNN reporter, minutes after President Barack Obama's final official White House event ended on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

But last year's team is gone — preserved now in highlight films and the hearts and minds of generations of Cub fans — even if so many familiar faces will be in Mesa when pitchers and catchers officially report to Arizona on Valentine's Day.

It would be impossible to replicate everything that made the 2016 Cubs so special. Baseball has its own relentless pace and the dynamics are constantly shifting. (Remember when players were passive-aggressively complaining about Maddon's spring-training approach during the final week of a 103-win regular season?) The clubhouse chemistry will inevitably feel different after climbing a Mount Everest of professional sports.

"A mind once stretched has a very difficult time going back to its original form," Maddon said. "We're motivated by it. We want to do it again, of course. There's no question we're trying to do that.

"I'm really leaning on the phrase or the thought of being uncomfortable. I want us to be uncomfortable. I think the moment you get into your comfort zone after having such a significant moment in your life like that, the threat is that you're going to stop growing.

"So I really want us to be uncomfortable. I really want to continue (to see) a pattern of growth and really try to get at them very quickly again."

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Can Jason Heyward recover from one of the worst offensive seasons in the majors last year? Is Willson Contreras ready to be a frontline catcher? Will Javier Baez have to adjust back to being a role player after becoming a playoff superstar? Does Kyle Schwarber in the leadoff spot and Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay in a center-field timeshare represent an upgrade over Dexter Fowler?

If healthy, Wade Davis should be a trusted, lower-maintenance closer than Aroldis Chapman, with an advanced approach to pitching and more clubhouse presence. As a staff, the Cubs will have to bounce back from pitching into early November (or not, in the case of the relievers Maddon didn't trust during the playoffs).

As it stands, Jon Lester (33) and John Lackey (38) have already combined to throw almost 5,000 innings in The Show (including the postseason). Jake Arrieta will have to deal with the pressure of playing for his megadeal in his final season before becoming a free agent.

The drop-off after Mike Montgomery — and it's still mostly projected potential with the No. 5 starter — appears to be very steep in an organization that doesn't have any high-end pitching prospects in the upper levels of the farm system.

After painting the bull's-eye on the chest and turning "Embrace The Target" and "Try Not To Suck" into viral T-shirts, a guy who hates meetings is still working on his themes for this campaign.

"I'm really rotating around the thought of authenticity," Maddon said. "I talked about it a lot last year, the fact that I think authenticity has a chance to repeat itself without even trying. It's part of who you are. It's not fabricated. It's real.

"I've talked about our guys a lot the last couple years. I think one of our strongest qualities is the authentic component of our players. So I'm really focusing on that word right now. Again, that's a great word to bring an entire message from (when) you get in front of the group that first day in spring training.

"I kind of just think like authenticity happens. And let's work it from there."

The costumes should be in midseason form with Maddon planning a house party around Tampa's Gasparilla Pirate Festival before driving his RV from Florida to Arizona.

Maddon will turn 63 on Feb. 8 and have to keep evolving, just like his players, who might outgrow some of those gimmicks. But the Cubs are still a reflection of their future Hall of Fame manager.

Amid all the uncertainty in Washington, Maddon wouldn't touch a question about what advice he would give Donald Trump before Friday's inauguration.

"I'm not even going to go anywhere close to that," Maddon said. "I will say this: I have a lot of respect of the office.

"At the end of the day, just have a lot of respect for the office, regardless of your political persuasion. My point would be to encourage people to really respect the office and let's see what we get done here over the next four years."