Saturday, January 19, 2013
Cubs talk TV contracts, MLB draft and more
By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- From retiring Kerry Wood's jersey (hasn't been discussed) to asking if the players can be given a raise to get a haircut and shave (no), Chicago Cubs fans were front and center with the front office and coaching staff on Day 2 of the annual Cubs convention. No Q&A session went without the ultimate question: When will the team contend again? No one could pinpoint a time or year, but all said things were "moving in the right direction" whether fans see it on the field or not.
Here are some notes from hourlong sessions with the Ricketts family, the front office and the coaching staff, in no particular order:
• Owner Tom Ricketts and general manager Jed Hoyer explained the move from Peoria, Ill., to Kane County, Ill., for their Class A affiliate. The simple reason is geography. Hoyer said it's a quick 45-minute to one-hour drive for a rehab assignment, and he also indicated they want their players to get acclimated to the Chicago area as quickly as possible when they come through the system.
• Ricketts indicated that other teams that have recently renewed their local television contracts have done so at a much higher rate. It means the Cubs are in line for more revenue when their current television contracts with WGN-TV and Comcast SportsNet expire. He indicated that the newfound money would go into Wrigley renovations or player contracts and development.
"Few more years on them," he said. "At some point in the future we'll be able to renew that contract. We know the rights fees have gone up a lot. Somewhere down the line the Cubs will able to renew our TV contracts, and that will be at a much higher level."
• Ricketts expressed ultimate faith in his baseball people to turn the Cubs into an annual contender. When asked the timetable, he stressed patience and quoted from Mark Twain:
"If you always do what you always did, you're going to get what you always got," he said. "So we had to change."
• The Cubs have entered into a partnership with the Starwood Hotel chain, which includes Sheraton hotels. It's the reason the convention was moved to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers this year. The team will mainly stay at Starwood hotels on the road, and a new 175-room Sheraton will be built across the street from Wrigley Field.
• Dale Sveum indicated a deal with Carlos Villanueva was close to being official. The Cubs have to adjust their roster to make room for him.
• Hoyer and team president Theo Epstein indicated the Cubs would go heavy on pitchers in the June draft. But that doesn't mean they'll take one with the No. 2 pick overall.
"We'll take the best player," Hoyer said.
Both indicated pitching can be found in later rounds, while top position players usually come from early in the draft.
• Hoyer refuted the idea that the front office "botched" trades in regard to deals that didn't happen with Ryan Dempster, Carlos Marmol and Anibal Sanchez.
"They simply weren't completed deals," he said.
Hoyer likened it to buying a house. You might agree to a purchase, but until all the "boxes are checked," the deal isn't complete. If it fails inspection, Hoyer surmised, no one calls it a "botched house purchase." It's just something that didn't get to completion even though word got out in the media.
Jesse Rogers covers the Cubs for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com