The Cubs Convention wrapped up on Sunday with plenty of good information to take away from all the panels. It was everything you’d assume it to be, so I won’t dress it up for you.
Here are the raw details:
- Jorge Soler said, thanks to the wonderful Spanish translation skills of Albert Almora, that after suffering a broken leg last season, he feels “100% ready for next season”. Soler was having a steady season before his broken leg hindered his development, sidelining him for a vast portion of 2013. He showed no signs of favoring the formerly broken leg, and said he felt “strong and ready to compete”. Fantastic news.
- Speaking of Almora, when asked about how the panel of prospects plan on making it to the MLB, Almora said that “We are all one big family. We support each other. That’s going to bring us a World Series title one day”. Almora may have been hamming it up a bit for the fans by dropping the world series reference in there, but the idea is what counts.
- Kris Bryant reiterated the same idea: “The key to victory is trusting each other” he said. He also made reference to how he likes to become close friends with his team mates and that makes it much easier to trust them: “When you had guys like C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson on the mound, you just knew they were going to throw fire and strike guys out.”
- Bryant also alluded to the language barrier that is present in a lot of clubhouses: “Jorge and I are great friends, but it’s tough to chat sometimes. I use my hands a lot when I’m talking to him”. Baseball is a global game with a lot of the best players being only able to communicate in Spanish. It’s interesting to note that these barriers are present at all levels of baseball. It also reinforces the need for a bilingual manager for proper team communication…
- There was an entire panel that was entirely unrelated to baseball and allowed the fans to ask Jeff Samardzija, Ryan Sweeney, Pedro Strop and James Russell what ever question they liked. From this, we found out that Samardzija is not single (sorry ladies), Sweeney paid for his girlfriend to have a boob job, Strop is a genuinely good dude and Russell is notoriously late for everything.
- Rick Renteria was at the center of the coaching staff panel with plenty of questions being fired his way. He said he is incredibly impressed by Starlin Castro, who was one of the first players he called after he was hired. He said Castro is a true team player who is willing to do just about anything that is asked of him. He also hinted that the coaching staff would go back to letting him bat the way he likes and put less emphasis on taking pitches. Renteria clearly believes in Castro’s skill.
- The newly hired Cubs’ manager also stated that Jose Veras was the Cubs’ closer for 2014. He was quoted saying: “Controlling the 9th inning is incredibly important. That’s why we went out and signed Veras this offseason. He’s an integral part of that strategy.”
- He also is not worried about the hot corner positionally and feels that a platoon of Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy “did a great job in 2013″. The numbers certainly back up what Renteria is saying and having a similar platoon going forward in 2014 seems to be the plan.
- Renteria says he’s drawing a lot of his managerial experience from when he played under the likes of Jim Leyland and others. He places the important of “making what we have work, versus complaining about what we don’t have”. This is the attitude and approach that a bench boss for a rebuilding club needs.
I was incredibly impressed with this organization the entire weekend. The front office staff has a deep understanding for the game’s subtle nuances and an incredible amount of brain power. All prospects seem to know their role and Rick Renteria impressed the pants off me with his attitude towards the challenge he faces with the Cubs.
This organization has all the pieces in the right position – it’s only a matter of time before the team sees success.