It was a week ago today that I spent Saturday at the Chicago Hilton for the second day of the 22nd Cubs Convention. (By the way, I finally got the pictures up.) When I was thinking back about how great that day was, I thought about the recent Cliff Floyd signing. I admit I am not thrilled about it, but some good things have come of it. First off, to make room for Floyd, the Cubs released Glendon Rusch. One more horrible piece of the Dusty Era is gone. I guess I will trust my best friend Jim Hendry and assume that he knows what he is doing. After a wild night of partying (see said pictures) we woke up bright and early to make our way to the first session of the day "Meet Cubs Management". This is the one where fans get to ask questions to the manager and general manager. As usual, there were some great questions and some horrible ones. Unfortunately, Lou’s back was acting up and he did come a little late, so I my question was for Jim Hendry. I asked him, "Jim, this has been the first time that I remember the Cubs signed the top free agent on the market in Alfonso Soriano. Are we finally going to spend like the major market team that we are like Boston and New York? Why do you feel that you were unhandcuffed and allowed to spend the money that we should have been spending for many years?" (for a complete audio response, click here and go to Meet Cubs Management. You need real player to hear it. My question and Jim’s response come at 16:30.) Jim responded that
"I don’t look at it as being ‘handcuffed. I’ve never felt that since I was the general manager I wasn’t given a respectable amount of money to compete. We certainly have done business a little differently this offseason. For the first time in a long, long time, we wanted to get the best player. We wanted to show people that last year is not going to happen again. It was going to be a different way. Once we did that, a lot of good things happened."
My question was the subject of an article on cubs.com by everyones favorite Cubs reporter, Carrie Muskat (do you hear my sarcasm!) Anyway the article is here but old Muskat gives Crawly no credit!
The session went well, with Hendry and Pinella each making good points. Pinella stressed that the team would be fundamentally sound, that he was high on Matt Murton, and that he wants to win now. Hendry admitted to making some mistakes (three pitchers to sign Juan Pierre for a year), but said that he and McDonough got the players that they wanted and that Lou was the right man for the job. He also felt that the CUbs have one of the strongest bullpens in baseball.
After that we caught the Jeopardy session, with the ’07 Cubs (Bob Howry, Rich Hll,Will Ohman, and Neal Cotts) against the ’69 Cubs (Ron Santo, Glen Beckert, Gene Oliver, and Rich Nye). You forget that not all of these Cubs players know that much about the history of the team. The ’69 team won, although the ’07 team was getting help from some annoying fans in the front. Will Ohman kind of creeped me out. He kept yelling "Larry Bowa after every question.
The "Pinella 101" session was really interesting. As I said before, Lou wasn’t my first choice for manager, but I enjoy saying I was wrong about that. The team of managers really impressed me. Pinella started out by saying "All good teams have a swagger, so we have to get that Cubs swagger going." He also said "One thing I have is a pencil, which makes out the lineup card. My teams have never had that problem [of bad fundamentals]. Believe me, you’ll have a very sound club here in Chicago." Tons of cheers. Alan Trammel talked about preperation, dedication, and discipline. New hitting coach Gerald Perry said
“My philosophy is you don’t go up there looking for a walk. You go up there looking for a good pitch to hit. You attack the ball until it’s not there. You have to be careful when you tell guys to be less aggressive up there. I want guys to go up there, swing the bats and get a pitch to drive until it’s not there.”
Considering this is a guy who believes highly in on base percentage, this is definately a far cry from Dusty’s concern that high OBP "clogs the bases."
Rothchild talked a little about the problems with pitchers arms, saying that too many pitchers are brought up too early and that may be contributing to the number of young arm injuries. Rothchild said that in the old days, young pitchers had to spend a lot of time in the minors, and if they had arm injuries, you never heard about them. Now, the pitchers are brought up at a young age, become famous, then blow their arms out. Everyone know about it.
We then waited for what was going to be the highlight of the weekend, the return of #17 Mark Grace. The event was called "The Boys Of Zimmer..the Summer of 89", with Grace, Sandberg, Jerome Walton, Dwight Smith, Mike Bilecki, Doug Descenzo, and Les Lancaster The Grand Ballroom went nuts when Grace entered the room. It was really fun reliving all the old memories. Among the highlights
- Grace on Mitch Williams-"I’d yell from first and say, ‘Throw a bleeping strike now,’" Grace said. "He’d say, ‘I’m trying.’
- All the players making fun of Dwight Smith’s taste in clothing
- Dwight Smith telling the story about how when he was rooming with Jerome Walton, Walton said "You know, we could finish # 1 and 2 in rookie of the year voting". Smith replied "Yeah" Then Walton say, Smitty, I’m gonna be number one and you’re gonna be number 2!"
- Mike Bilecki asking Grace what it was like to see a high chopper go over the pitcher’s head and Shawon Dunston coming in charging at the ball. "Me, the first base coach, the first base umpire, and everyone in the first row on the first base side all screaming!"
It was a lot of fun. I asked the Boys of Zimmer what they would have done if Pedro would have thrown Zimmer down if front of them. Smith, Walton, and Grace gave me a look and said there would have been trouble. Sandberg explained that Zim got hit in the head during his playing days and he had to have a steel plate put in his head, so Sandberg knew that there would be trouble when Pedro was headhunting the Yankees.
We finished our day watching Stump the Hughes, a variation of the Stump the Schwab game show on ESPN. Pat Huges know more about baseball than any man alive. It was unbelievable how much that guy has up in his head. After checking out some vendor booths, we headed home. As we left, the Bears began checking in. It was cool that we saw Rex and Ogunleye(pictured here )
With a Bears win on Sunday, it was the perfect weekend!