Once again this evening, we have a whole bunch of stuff to get to, including Tom Ricketts talking about Jim Hendry, a Ron Santo tribute and even a little fun with our old pal Kap, who had his old-school stuff working about pitch counts and Aramis Ramirez bunting. Well get to it all here as we wrap up Day 2 of the Cubs convention.
First, Tom Ricketts said the Cubs will honor Ron Santo with players wearing a uniform patch bearing the numeral “10” in honor of Ronnie’s familiar uniform number. The Cubs also will unveil a statue likeness of Ron on Aug. 10, as Ronnie joins Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Haray Caray as members of the Cubs family honored with statues.
At the same session this morning where Tom Ricketts announced the Santo tributes, he also said something that confirms what I’ve been feeling lately: that Ricketts’ confidence in Hendry seems to be growing, not shrinking. We’ll flesh it all out in a story for the paper:
In short, Ricketts said it would have been unfair for his family to make big changes in its first year of ownership. Ricketts said he’s basing his growing confidence in Hendry on the entire organization, including the work Hendry lieutenants Tim Wilken and Oneri Fleita have done in building the farm system.
All of this from Ricketts came in response to a question from a fan who wondered by Hendry still had a job. Ricketts seems willing to let things with Hendry play out long term. Hendry’s contract runs through 2012. If the Cubs win this year, the talk will turn to a contract extension, not a firing, for Hendry.
That was about as testy as things got today. Hendry and the Ricketts family were greeted politely by fans, who applauded several times at each session with management. Team president Crane Kenney fended off a question about the “nonsense” of tradition. That question came from a fan who complained about the hand-operated scoreboard and the ivy, among other things, saying that tradition had gotten the Cubs 102 years of not winning a World Series. The fan was shouted down by the crowd. Kenney pointed out that it’s not easy to maintain the tradition Cubs fans seem to treasure and generate revenue streams other teams can generate these days. He pointed to the Cubs not selling naming rights to Wrigley Field. He also maintained that higher ticket prices for games against teams such as the Yankees and Cardinals “subsidize” lower prices for games against other teams.
Now, let’s have a little fun. One of my pet peeves at these sessions has been how many questions the WGN radio hosts ask, thus cutting into time for the fans. We in the media can ask questions every day. The convention is for the fans. That said, Dave Kaplan asked 15 questions at the baseball-management session. Here are a couple, along with the answers:
Kap: “I interviewed Matt Garza the night. He said, Jan. 1, ‘I throw seven days a week. And I’m not talking about just playing catch. I throw.’ He said, ‘For some guys, it doesn’t work. For me, it’s kept me healthy.’”
Kap again: “This nonsense about pitch counts…”
Assistant GM Randy Bush: “Are making an editorial comment, Kap?”
Kap: “A lot of people here will see a guy with 110 pitches, a 2-hitter in the eighth, and you yank him, and the closer gives it up. I’m not saying Marmol. It’s just in general in the game.” (Crowd laughs). Kap to Mike Quade: “What’s your philosophy?”
Quade: “Oh, my God. Every day is a new day. I will say this. And yes, I do pay attention to pitch counts. I don’t care what anybody says, you only have so many bullets in this arm, and you need them in September every bit as much as you need them in April. High pitch counts early in the season concern me. On a given day, guy’s throwing the ball well, let’s go, and especially an older guy and a guy who’s shown he can do it before. There’s all sorts of stuff that goes into letting a guy go 120, 122, 125. You’ve got old-timers out there who say Bob Gibson used to throw 150-160. You don’t take a bunch of kids who come through a system and watch and protect them very well arm wise, with 100-110 pitches and let them out there and say, ‘Let them go 155.’ You’re tempting fate, to me. The thing is to keep everybody healthy and productive the entire year.”
Kap went into populist mode a little later when he mentioned a favorite whipping boy of his, Aramis Ramirez, whom he has accused of being “a dog” in the past. Let’s remember that Ramirez is a middle-of-the-order hitter who is paid to drive in runs.
Kap: “You’re at home. It’s a tie ballgame. It’s the bottom of the eighth. You’ve got, let’s say, Aramis Ramirez. Let’s pull someone out of thin air (sure). You’ve got guys at first and second. We keep seeing, not just the Cubs, everywhere in the game, ‘I can’t ask my 4-hole hitter to lay a bunt down. Why is that? A guy gets paid 15 million dollars. I can’t ask him to bunt.’ Then he shouldn’t be in the damn game.”
Actually, some people in the crowd applauded this line. Cubs people rolled their eyes.
Quade: “We’ve just got a different philosophy there. I think he’s getting $15 million to drive in the winning run (applause). We can bunt him. They walk the 5-hole guy, and the fifth-hole guy hits into a double play. Then you’re asking me, ‘Why in the hell did you bunt Ramirez?’ Those guys in the middle of the order get paid to hit. Those middle-of-the-lineup guys have to drive in runs. When you start asking them to play small ball, you’re normally in trouble.”
One member of the Cubs family later said that if you ask Ramirez or any other No. 4 hitter to bunt in that situation, you’re telling him you have no confidence in him to drive in a run. He also said you’re giving away one of your 27 outs.
Fun stuff at the old Cubs convention. We'll have a couple stories up online tonight for the paper tomorrow, including some Cubs players none too pleased with former teammate Ryan Theriot saying he's not on the "right side" of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry: