Sunday, January 17, 2010

25th Cubs Convention and a Million Stupid Questions

The Cubs Convention in its 25th iteration clearly shows that the Cubs know what they are doing in highlighting the positives and sweeping the negatives under the rug.  It also helps that this is a gathering that would cheer a giant turd if it was introduced as a member of the Cubs.  How do I know that?  Carlos Silva got quite an ovation at the Opening Ceremonies.

So here are a few highlights from my perspective from this weekend:
  • Before anything got started, this guy started the first "Let's Go Cubbies" cheer of 2010. 

He was clearly very excited to be at the Cubs Convention and the Tribune managed to capture the moment and a few others here.
  • The Pre-Convention Slidwshow (as per the first slide) was about half advertisements for Vineline, the Luxury Suites, the Ice Skating, Wrigley Tours, etc. etc. etc.
  • Crane Kenney was greeted with an awkward quiet, a few boos, a smattering of claps, and more than one hearty sarcastic laugh.
  • Jim Hendry got booed, but not overly vociferously.  I'm guessing that he signed a bunch of fans to three-year deals to not boo him at the Convention.
  • Tom Ricketts got a long ovation and seemed genuinely thrilled to be a part of the Convention.
  • Each member of the Ricketts family tossed a ball for the Ceremonial First Pitch to kick off the Convention.  Pete Ricketts tossed his almost to the back of the ballroom and Hendry immediately gave him a three-year contract with a no-trade clause.
  • Ricketts announced they had set up a booth for fans to make donations to help out the earthquake victims in Haiti.  Both the Cubs Charities and the Ricketts Family will match every dollar donated.
  • I was standing behind the quintessential douchebag dumbass Cubs fan who felt the need to fist-bump his buddy every time a former or current player he liked was introduced. The following players were deemed worthy of the fist-bump: Bobby Dernier, Gary Matthews, Tim Stoddard (I'm not kidding), Lee Smith, Pat Hughes reading a letter from Ron Santo, Ryan Theriot, Sam Fuld, and Marlon Byrd.  Among players that did not warrant a fist-bump:  Derrek Lee, Carlos Zambrano, and Andre Dawson (adding that Dawson's Hall of Fame induction was horseshit).  This fan does not know how close to being sucker punched he came.
  • Marlon Byrd is the perfect centerfielder if you envision your centerfielder being short and squat.
  • Geovany Soto looks to be in fantastic shape.  Hope that means he'll be able to hit again.
  • Ted Lilly was smiling and sending shivers up the spines of everyone in the room.
  • Randy Wells and Micah Hoffpauir took a page out of the DeRosa playbook and sported new sexy stubble for the ladies.
  • Unfortunately, Ronnie Woo was also in attendance in all of his batshit-crazy glory (yes that is a splangly Michael Jackson glove and a Santa hat he is wearing): (Photo by @adaveyouknow)

After the Opening Ceremony, I headed down to the WGN SportsCentral broadcast for a bit:
  • Speaking of fashion, I don't have a picture of Dave Kaplan's bright orange sports jacket, but that is probably good since I wouldn't want any of my readers to be blinded by the glare.
  • Theriot spent the bulk of his time behind a microphone talking about how important team chemistry is, and my desire to see him set on fire grew exponentially as he spoke.
  • After his obligatory Harry Caray impression, Ryan Dempster said to Kaplan, "I appreciate you giving Theriot a microphone so he doesn't have to chase around a reporter to interview him."
  • Rick Sutcliffe made a point of saying someone from the Orioles training staff told him that Marlon Byrd is tougher than Cal Ripken.  This is so hard to believe that I have to surmise that there has to be some sort of misunderstanding somewhere that may or may not be alcohol related.
On Saturday, the Ricketts family met a sampling of Cubs fans and most likely had to wonder what the hell they have gotten themselves into:
  • The first "question" was from a fan who wants the Cubs to stay in Mesa.  Ricketts talked about the respect he has for the history and tradition of Spring Training in Mesa and wouldn't rule out a return, but the Cubs have to go where they can have the best possible facilities to prepare the team for winning.
  • Someone asked if the Ricketts would consider buying the Bears, to which Laura Ricketts replied, "I didn't realize that was a serious question.  One team at a time.  Really, we haven't done anything [with the Cubs] yet."
  • Cubs security somehow let Ronnie Woo take the microphone.  I honestly couldn't tell you what he said because it was mostly nonsensical rambling.  Something about bringing back Ladies Day.  Then he wooed for awhile as I sat and seriously considered becoming a fan of another team.
  • The very next person to take the mic was the guy who dresses as Billy the Cub outside of Wrigley on game days asking if the Ricketts would want to hire a mascot.  I'm dead f---ing serious.  Tom dismissed the idea quickly and had to be trying to think of a way to create a diversion that would allow his family to sneak away unnoticed.
At that point, I headed over to the Meet Cubs Management session that included Jim Hendry, Lou Piniella, and for some reason, Randy Bush.  The wireless signal for the Hilton wasn't allowing me to log in and I wasn't getting a great signal on my phone so I had to go to the notepad to try to capture some of the nuggets from this session so I apologize if some of them are a bit incoherent:
  • Murphy, you are an elf, you think...
  • More than one person asked about what Hendry was thinking with the Milton Bradley signing and he stuck to his talking points pretty well - he was a good hitter, we shot for the moon and it didn't work out.  One person pressed him on contract length and Hendry said that there were other three-year deals being offered to Milton.  When the person countered asking if anyone else was offering Aaron Miles two years, Hendry also replied that there were.  These comments made me raise my eyebrows a bit.
  • Hendry revealed that he had spoken with Greg Maddux about a front office position at the number retirement ceremony, but Maddux had told him he wasn't looking for anything for a couple years.  Hendry kept in touch and Maddux decided he was ready and Hendry jumped to bring him back.
  • In the course of discussing the lineup, Lou talked about Theriot leading off with Fukudome batting second.  He also said they will slot Byrd in the fifth spot and Soriano will stay in the sixth where he seems to have settled in.  This leads me to believe the presumptive lineup on most days will be: 1) Theriot 2) Fukudome 3) Lee 4) Ramirez 5) Byrd 6) Soriano 7) Soto 8) Baker/Fontenot.
  • There were obligatory questions about bringing back DeRosa, complaining about not getting Peavy, asking about the possibility of acquiring Ben Sheets, Heath Bell, and inexplicably, Doug Davis.  Hendry and Lou gave the standard answers we have heard before intermixed with reluctance to talk specifically about players that are owned by other teams.
  • One woman, who I assume was Tyler Colvin's mother, was very upset at the lack of playing time by Tyler Colvin and other Cubs prospects at the end of the year last year.  Hendry and Lou talked about the balance of trying to win the games and give the young players some playing time, but Hendry warned, "You don't want to anoint prospects [as saviors]."  Note to Vineline: See statement by Jim Hendry.
  • Lou said the Cubs asked Geovany Soto to lose some weight in the off-season, thinking he would drop 10-15 pounds rather than the 40 pounds he actually lost. Lou added, "When I saw him, he looked like a jockey."
  • With about five minutes left in the session, Dave Eanett, one of the moderators, asked Randy Bush a question because Randy hadn't said a word for about 45 minutes. I don't recall what it was about and I'm almost certain it was not worth noting.
Then it was off to the session with the Cubs coaching staff being second guessed by fans who have trouble knowing the difference between asking a question and delivering a soliloquy:
  • The staff answered almost every question with some variation on the theme of "We really want to win, and we really hate losing.  Probably more than the fans."
  • In discussing Marlon Byrd, Rudy Jaramillo described the Ballpark in Arlington as huge.  That is like calling Sam Fuld tall or Aaron Miles useful.
  • One fan asked if chemistry creates winning or winning creates chemistry.  Lou stated emphatically, "Winning creates chemistry."  Did you hear that, Mr. Theriot?
  • Larry Rothschild looked like he had some severe intestinal disorders going on, but listening to stupid questions about whether Reed Johnson would be back again was making me sick too.
  • Another fan thought that the bullpen woes could be attributed to the relievers having to sit out in the sun on uncomfortable chairs.  Lou: "We'll get them some lounge chairs and pina coladas."  I have nothing to add to that.
  • One guy wanted Lou to get angry more during games. Lou: "I'm 66 years old. You want me to have a damn heart-attack on the field?" Lou was clearly on his game.
  • Lou was asked who he would ideally have succeed him when he is eventually done as Cubs manager.  He was merely being diplomatic when he said, "A lot of people right here on my staff," but I'd like to point out that Ryne Sandberg is not on his staff.  Coincidence?
  • Someone complained that the Cubs always lose when they go to Cincinnati, where he lives and is able to see the Cubs play.  Bob Brenly stepped in and pivoted the question to be, "How do we get Joey Votto out?"  Lou responded, "Yeah, Joey's had some success against us... Larry?" Larry said something about how Votto hits a lot of good pitchers pitches.
  • One guy asked why players like Soriano and Soto kept getting on the field when they weren't performing when Lou had previously stated that the hot hand would get chances to get more playing time.  Lou pointed out that the roster flexibility was not what it should have been because of the injuries.  He then listed them off, but capped the list with Aaron Miles for some reason.
  • A fan complained that Lou would stick with pitchers too long when they didn't have their stuff.  Luckily the session was nearing an end because Lou was starting to lose patience: "I tell you what - anytime a pitcher gives up a hit after the 6th inning, we'll get him the hell out."
In addition to the planned sessions, I had a chance to meet a few tweeting Cubs fans thanks to a little get-together organized by @aleagueofherown, including: @TweetsbyDina, @adaveyouknow, @klyph, @312sports, @TheCubsInHaiku, @BlackhawksHaiku@oneminutecubs, and @ataccini (I'm sorry if I missed someone - I didn't catch everybody's Twitter name).

I also had a chance to meet Bad Kermit from Hire Jim Essian, Brad Zibung from The Heckler, and Sarah Spain from No Spain, No Gain.  It was good to at least briefly meet people I had before only known online and made up for the fact that I missed Paul Sullivan asking bloggers why they don't like him.

My Cubs Convention experience ended with a stop by the skills area where a friend of mine was trying to get last year's first round draft pick, Brett Jackson's autograph.  Mike Quade and Jackson were playing a scaled down game with the kids with Quade pitching and Jackson playing centerfield.  One kid, who looked to be about seven years old, hit a pop-up.  Jackson smoothly glided over to the routine fly and promptly dropped the ball.  That seemed about right.


bigdeadsidebar said...

What's the over-under on standing ovations Carlos Silva gets in his career as a Cub?

I'm starting the line at 1.5.

Aisle 424 said...

I'd set it at .5. Otherwise, everyone is going to take the under and you'll be in the poorhouse.

Anonymous said...

so both woo and billy the cub got to ask ricketts questions! that is fucking brilliant.

Anonymous said...

the fist bumps were pretty cool.

ricdik said...

I'd hate for you to leave out the 8yr old who had a wicked hit off the wall and went over the 3ft high railing with a blue curtain drapped around it. Instead of walking around, Brett thought it'd be a good idea to take a Ryan Dempster jump over to impress the woman and other people watching. I think someone should tell Brett that not even the parents were watching that game. Brett hopped back over the fence after getting the ball and still no one was impressed, not even the woman he was with. Where was Hendry & the coaching staff to tell Brett not to be stupid and jump over a railing. If he's that dump now, think of the possibilities roaming CF for the Cubs and the nights in Wriglyville.

adaveyouknow said...

Was great to meet you! Thanks for using that photo - made it worthwhile to stand so close to him to get it!

bigdeadsidebar said...

I set it at 1.5 thinking he would at least get one standing ovation from fans who are happy to see him get pulled after 3 2/3 innings of bad baseball.

Aisle 424 said...

It was good to meet you too, Dave. You are certainly a dedicated photographer.

Good point, bigdeadsidebar, I didn't consider sarcastic standing ovations.

Brad said...

Nice recap! Great meeting you too, if only briefly. Hope to see you around soon.

Aisle 424 said...

Thanks Brad. I had no idea at the time that I was meeting the "media power couple of the year" (Per the Sun-Times' Elliot Harris -,CST-SPT-1hit18.article).

Does that mean Chug-Chug is the power third wheel of the year?

SarahS said...

Great to meet you, too. We'll let you know if Chug Chug overstays his welcome and we need a power new third wheel. : )

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