It’s a month before spring training, but after the most hope-gushing, buzz-feeding Cubs Convention in at least eight years, several revelations emerged.
What we learned in the packed ballrooms and byways of the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers:
1. Anthony Rizzo apparently sold the Cubs short. In the three days after the first baseman’s declaration of imminent conquest in the National League Central, fans took turns at various microphones expressing appreciation, exuberance, gratitude and undying love for everything the Cubs have done to turn the team into a champion — 2½ months before they play their first game after five consecutive fifth-place seasons.
It seems the Cubs have too many good hitters (“Where’s Addison Russell going to play?”), too much starting pitching (“If Dan Straily, Jacob Turner or Tsuyoshi Wada pitch well, is a six-man rotation possible?”) and minor-league talent unrivaled in modern times (“We love you [prospects] like we love our wives and our children”).
2. Crane Kenney poses no threat to Al Roker’s job security. Kenney’s business department signed off on a winter wonderland of demolition in the Wrigley Field outfield as part of Phase 1 of the ballpark’s renovation, then watched reconstruction get delayed in part because it got cold in Chicago. Now the baseball world will watch a nationally televised Cardinals-Cubs season opener April 5 with an empty bleacher seating area. The team’s target date for opening any bleacher section is May 11 — the 16th home date of the year.
3. The Cubs spend even less time thinking about the relationship deep freeze between the club and former MVP slugger and Flintstones vitamin spokesman Sammy Sosa than they do on the weather. “Nothing has really changed on our relationship with Sammy,” chairman Tom Ricketts said. “There’s a few things I think have to happen before he comes back, and we’ll see how that goes.” He wouldn’t say what those things are or how many Hail Marys it’ll take.
4. The transition from WGN to WBBM radio might not go as smoothly as hoped. In fact, the new radio flagship operation could have trouble finding in-house voices who know anything about the team if the emcee performance by celebrity DJ Lin Brehmer on Saturday was any indication. Brehmer got multiple coaches’ roles wrong during introductions and subsequent banter, repeatedly called Eric Hinske “Steve” and got the date wrong for the season opener. More than one Cubs official called it “embarrassing.”
5. Alcohol is the official Kool-Aid of Cubs fans. A few months after offering a roomful of reporters a round of shots and beers, Joe Maddon got a standing ovation Saturday from fans, some wearing “shot-and-a-beer” T-shirts. He got another rousing ovation after ripping media for not taking him up on his generosity in November, then extended the same offer to fans.
6. Maddon knows exactly what he’s gotten himself into — and its size. When Brehmer led into a question to Maddon by mentioning famous, successful Cubs managers of the past who started with confidence and finished in straitjackets, he didn’t get any further before Maddon interrupted: “43 regular.”