Sunday is usually a slow day at the Cubs convention, with everybody sleeping it off from the night before and then getting to listen to those exciting business types. But today’s session with ticket guy Frank Maloney, do-it-all exec Mark McGuire and community-relations czar Mike Lufrano certainly had its moments.
Let's get to that and some baseball stuff, too:
--Maybe the digital TV revolution will finally make those old TV monitors around the park obsolete. At least one fan thought so. "Any of you guys ever seen those?" the guy asked the panel. McGuire promised the monitors are on the list of things to be upgraded. McGuire did say the Cubs aren't sure how those newfangled flat-screen things that everybody seems to like will respond to the spring weather in Chicago.
--We've got more for the paper tomorrow and on the Web site, but look for the Cubs to move closer to retiring uniform No. 31, for Greg Maddux and Fergie Jenkins. But Sammy Sosa is going to have to wait for No. 21 to be retired.
--The big-screen TVs the NHL used for the Winter Classic seemed fine for hockey, according to fans at the convention, but not for baseball. Shouts of “no” were the order of the day when the idea was broached for Jumbotrons for baseball.
--McGuire called 2009 “an incredible year of opportunity for the Cubs,” in light of the way the economy is going. Many teams are seeing their advertising and sales numbers decline, but the Cubs’ situation could be “phenomenally strong through the ’09 season.” In other words, the Cubs aren’t recession-proof, but they’re as close to it as it gets.
--We got a chance to talk with GM Jim Hendry about the trade of Felix Pie to the O’s. Hendry was reminded that Pie was another highly rated Cubs prospect who hasn’t gotten it done. The Cubs seem to take with a grain of salt the prospect rankings by such outfits as Baseball America.
"We don't rank prospects,” Hendry said. “I might make Oneri (farm director Fleita) rank them for me in the office. We can't control the rankings. Just like somebody gets ranked 1. I don't think Soto was ever in the top 10. I don't think Theriot was ever in the top 30. It's part of the game. He (Pie) certainly shows you the skills from (age) 18-22 why he was kind of a hot-ticket guy. He's a great outfielder. He can run well. At this point in his career, he hasn't been able to shorten his swing enough to make it conducive to when you play part time, it's hard for him to make the adjustments."
--The Cubs appear to be closing in on deals for arbitration-eligible pitchers Michael Wuertz and Kevin Gregg.
--Hendry says Micah Hoffpauir indeed has a good shot at making the club out of spring training.
"Absolutely,” he said. "If he starts hitting off the bench like he does when he plays, he's got a lot better chance of hanging around. If he can't pinch hit and do that well, then obviously, it's a different game."
--The Cubs may take a look at reliever Jose Ascanio as a starter in Class AAA Iowa this year. Ascanio came to the Cubs last year in a trade and impressed in spring training. Ascanio got into 6 games during the season with the big club.
"We've toyed with the idea of maybe putting him as a starter if he goes back to Triple-A just to get him stretched out, pitch more and develop his other pitches because his slider was so good when he traded for him, and it wasn't quite as good last year in the pen," Hendry said.
--And on a subject near and dear to my heart, on-base percentage, Hendry said the Cubs’ recent “conversion” to the “OBP is important camp” is not so recent.
"We've been paying attention to it for a while,” he said.
Where do I go for my consultant’s fee?