The unofficial start to the baseball season has begun for the Chicago Cubs. As yesterday marked opening night at the Cubs Convention. However this time, the Cubs convention was missing some familiar faces. The late Ron Santo, Greg Maddux, and former Cub and hall of famer Ryne Sandberg were all missing in attendance. Not to mention around several hundred fans who opted not attend the Cubs Convention, marking the first time it has not been sold out in recent years. But as the cliche goes, the show must go on. So, here is look at what happened on day 1 at the Cubs Convention.
Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald provided us with some fan reactions to specific front office member, and players…
"Tom Ricketts: Polite applause, or a downtick from last year’s uproarious reception.Jim Hendry: A good number of boos, but still some cheers.Crane Kenney: Some boos amid the indifference.Carlos Zambrano: Loud cheers.Kerry Wood: Brought the house down with cheers. He also threw out the ceremonial first pitch, but I hate to say the radar-gun readings were a bit down. Kerry also says he’s been practicing for that imminent broadcasting career. (He was kidding.) “Not at all,” Kerry said of being fitted for a headset. “It would never be an interest getting behind a mike on a regular basis broadcasting anything, much less baseball.”"
No surprises from the fans, obviously they going to give Kerry Wood the biggest ovation. To be honest, I do not think Jim Hendry will ever win over the entire fan base of the Chicago Cubs. I have been critical of Hendry in recent years, but I feel like he had one of the best off-season’s a general manager could have under the circumstances that were put on him.
Also in Miles report, he had an update from Jeff Samardzija, who was also at the Cubs Convention…
"Jeff Samardzija said he’s “very, very excited” about how things went with his throwing program in Arizona. Jeff said new pitching coach Mark Riggins saw all the changes he went through last year with his mechanics at Iowa. “Let’s just wipe the slate clean, and let’s just go back to being an athlete. I don’t have to change anything this year. I don’t have to backtrack. I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing, just treading water for about a year and a half, and I don’t want to do that anymore, and I’m not going to do it anymore.” Daily Herald"
Now this could just be the investigative type of person that I am, but does anyone else focus on the last part from Samardzija, when he said ” Let’s just wipe the slate clean, and let’s just go back to being an athlete……I don’t have to backtrack. I feel that’s what I’ve been doing, just treading water for about a year and a half.” That signals to me that Samardzija has been entering each of the past two seasons thinking that he would just be handed a spot on the major league team. It almost seems like he is admitting that he did not put forth the most effort he could, because he felt that he would get by, by simply “treading water.” Entering a contract year, Samardzija had better realize that he needs to show something this season, or else he will not be back with the Chicago Cubs.
Miles also touched on the Reed Johnson signing, and why Hendry decided to bring back the fan favorite…
"Hendry said it was mutual trust that led to the Cubs signing outfielder Reed Johnson to a minor-league deal and an invite to spring training earlier this week. Johnson played for the Cubs in 2008-09. Hendry said Johnson knows he’s not guaranteed a job. “We like the Perez kid a lot,” Jim said. “When Reed and I talked the other day, Reed got an honest assessment of where we’re at and where he fits, and I think there’s a trust factor there with him, too, that if he was going to go in on a nonroster invite, he wanted to go in where he was comfortable, had a fighting chance. Mike (Quade) was his outfield instructor for a couple years here. Reed’s a high-end character guy, too.” Daily Herald"
So, that is essentially what we all thought of the signing. Johnson will be given a chance to compete with Fernando Perez for the 5th outfielder’s spot on the Cubs 25 man roster. It probably will be an uphill battle for Johnson, considering Perez is heavily liked within the Cubs front office, and Perez may be one of the fastest players in baseball.
ESPN Chicago’s Bruce Levine has more from the Convention, as he highlighted the new found friendship of Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza…
"Garza, acquired from Tampa earlier this month, is a big fan of Zambrano’s. He said he watched Zambrano pitch many times in the Rays’ clubhouse before night games.Garza was asked what the impact of Zambrano being around him will be.“[Zambrano’s presence will be a] huge, huge tool,” Garza said. “I just want to know how he throws that sinker. It just kind of bores in on people.”Zambrano is also an admirer of Garza’s.“I want to know how he throw that curve,” Zambrano said. “He can teach that to me.” Zambrano is hoping to continue his strong pitching in 2011, after ending the 2010 season going 8-0 in his last 11 starts."
Lets just hope that it is Zambrano who is taking notes from Garza, and not the other way around. But in all seriousness, if Zambrano continues to be the dominant pitcher that he was at the end of the season, then we should have nothing to worry about. Both were asked about being the opening day starter, and both said that they were just looking forward to pitching whenever manager Mike Quade hands them the ball.
Tyler Colvin was also at the Cubs Convention, speaking for the first time since being by hit in the chest by a bat during the last week of the season…
"Colvin is completely healed and ready to start a new season.“I’ll go back the same way this year and see what happens,” he said. “I’ll see how the pitchers come after me. I know them better going into this season as well.”Colvin will be getting playing time at both outfield and first base. Although he wasn’t talking about it on Friday, the Cubs expect Colvin, along with Jeff Baker, to back up for starter Carlos Pena at first. Colvin took some ground balls at first base before games late in the 2010 season, but he hasn’t played the position since his sophomore year of college. ESPN Chicago"
That is great news to hear that Colvin is fully recovered from that horrific injury that ended his season. While you can attest that 2010 was Colvin’s breakout year, many feel that 2011 will be the year that he breaks out, considering he will be the starting right fielder. Along with playing the outfield, Colvin will also back up Carlos Pena at first. The Cubs do not have a primary first base back up, and Colvin seems to fit the bill as much as anyone else on the roster.
Levine also talked to Tom Gorzelanny at the Cubs Convention, where trade rumors involving him were brought up…
"I talked to Tom Gorzelanny at the Convention. He told me he and his family are sick of me writing about the teams that were contacting the Cubs about his availability. The truth of the matter is that they have.With a glut of starters vying for the Cubs’ fourth and fifth rotation spots, the Cubs have heard from numerous teams about Gorzelanny’s availability. The Mets, Orioles and Nationals all have interest in the Oak Lawn native. Gorzelanny will make close to $2 million in arbitration in 2011. That’s not a big price to pay for a solid fourth starter. ESPN Chicago"
Unfortunately for Gorzelanny, the writing is pretty much on the wall that he will not be with the Cubs to start the 2011 season. Of the three teams interested in Gorzelanny-the Mets, Orioles, and Nationals- I believe that Nationals may be more inclined to acquire a starting pitcher. But, the Mets have shown strong interest in Gorzelanny throughout the off-season. This is the first time that the Orioles have been mentioned as a suitor for Gorzelanny.
Here is a picture of the patch that the Cubs will be wearing during the season in memory of Ron Santo.
Also, expect the announcement to come today that there will be a statue constructed of Ron Santo in memory of the late Cubs legend.