Cubs waiting for their Fenway plan, or a Miami game-changer

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Cubs waiting for their Fenway plan, or a Miami game-changer

MIAMI Theo Epstein who wasnt initially invited to take part in Fenway Parks 100th anniversary ceremony on Friday took the high road and released a statement after the snub:

I hope tomorrow is a great day for Red Sox fans and for the whole organization. I have plans to be at the Cubs game tomorrow, but I will take a moment to toast Fenway along with everyone else who loves that ballpark.

As general manager, Epstein witnessed the golden age on Yawkey Way. The Red Sox won World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, and began a streak of sellouts thats about to hit 700 games in their remodeled ballpark.

It wasnt long before that when people were talking about tearing down Fenway Park and building a new waterfront stadium. The Cubs are still waiting for their game-changer.

Taking in all the eye candy around Marlins Park, you wondered what a renovated Wrigley Field would mean for the Cubs. Chairman Tom Ricketts and the teams high-level business executives were curious enough on Wednesday to tour the stadium.

It effects our on-field product, Epstein said Thursday. In a renovated Wrigley, wed put our players in a better position to succeed because they can prepare better.

They can take care of their bodies better with a modern clubhouse, a modern training room. A modern BP tunnel, a modern video room just helps the players prepare like they need to.

Usually, a renovated ballpark leads to more revenues that we can pour back into the major-league team.

The Marlins knew they had to make a splash when they moved into their new ballpark in Little Havana.

Ozzie Guillen took his talents to South Beach, and if he said something off-the-cuff about Fidel Castro, well, thats the cost of doing business.

The Marlins made a run at Albert Pujols during the winter meetings last December, a big name that could be put up in lights with the same wattage as LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.

In a shopping spree that stunned the industry, the Marlins wound up committing almost 200 million to Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.

If you play this out at Clark and Addison, you can envision a five-year plan where Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson are all in their prime. The Cubs Way is producing players. The team is rolling in new money from Wrigley 2.0 and the changing landscape for local television deals.

It will be harder to justify a middle-of-the-pack payroll, which is where USA Today had the Cubs in its 2012 salary survey (even if the accounting isnt exact and there were reasons for scaling back). Last winter, Pujols and Prince Fielder were the right players at the wrong time, but this is where forces could collide for the megadeal.

Rahm Emanuel caught the Cubs off-guard just before Opening Day, when the mayor announced negotiations were in the final stages.

The Sun-Times has reported on Emanuels Fenway Plan, where public and private financing could fuel the renovation, which could lead to more advertising, a possible Jumbotron and street fairs on Sheffield and Waveland.

We dont know when its all going to be finalized and finished, manager Dale Sveum said. Were still two, three, four years away from major things being done. But it means a lot when you get a new clubhouse and just batting cages.

The more money you crank out, the more resources you have, obviously, for free agency or whatever it might be in the draft. It means a lot to the organization when youre trying to get somewhere and all that stuff comes together. Its huge.

The Cubs wont have the blank canvas the Marlins got on the site of the old Orange Bowl. Not when a Toyota sign or an Under Armour logo on the outfield doors generates neighborhood controversy.

If Wrigley Field is a cathedral, then what does that make Marlins Park?

The retractable-roof stadium looks like a spaceship. Girls in bikinis hang out in the pool behind the left-field wall. Techno beats pump from the Clevelander, trying to recreate a South Beach nightclub.

The walls are colored lime green, and the players wear bright orange jerseys. In between innings, cheerleaders dance on the field and a mascot fires a gun that shoots T-shirts into the crowd.

Theres definitely a lot of Miami in here, said Cubs pitcher Chris Volstad, a former Marlins first-round pick who grew up in South Florida.

There will be a lot of Chicago in how this deal is cut. You can argue about the politics, but theres no denying that it should make this a destination for free agents, and take the team to another level.

Its not just about that, Epstein said. Its also potentially a win for the fans, being more comfortable, and a win for the surrounding areas, continuing to keep Wrigley as a prime tourist attraction. So it could be a win-win-win. But it certainly has a chance to impact the on-field product in a positive way.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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