This was sort of a "State of the Cubs" presentation. Crane Kenney and Theo Epstein took turns discussing the state of the team with regards to business operations and the progress of the ballclub, respectively. In previous years this was done as a conference call but this year they held it in the Bank of America Theatre building in downtown Chicago. It was free to attend.
I won't discuss the whole presentation. If you're interested a much more thorough description of what went on can be found here:
The presentation was split into a few parts with business operations being led by Crane Kenney and baseball ops led by Theo Epstein. I'm really surprised Crane still has a job mainly because the Wrigley renovation has taken much longer than it should have.
Crane asked people to raise their hands based on how long they've had season tickets. The longest I heard was 43 years. 43 years! So many bad teams! Oh, the pain!
They showed a "history of the Cubs" video. It included the footage of Ernie Banks's 500th homer. I'm fairly certain I've seen that at least 500 times.
Also included was video of Darwin Barney hitting a walkoff homer. The shock in Len Kasper's voice spoke for all of us that day.
In the drawings for the remodeled Wrigley Field, depicted as the player taking extra batting practice in the new facilities under the dugout was Alphonso Soriano. This leads me to believe he'll be brought back when the renovation is complete. He'll be 41 at the time.
After the restored ballpark video a lot of people left the theatre. I assumed they were all rooftop owners.
I hate to break it to all of you but I discovered something sitting in the balcony when Theo came out to talk. Theo's going bald. There's a nice shiny spot in the center of his scalp.
They had a video of "The Cubs Way." The second clip they showed was of Starlin Castro hustling to get an infield single by diving headfirst into first base. Hope that's not part of the Cubs Way unless that way includes broken hands.
In the discussion of "core pieces" Travis Wood was mentioned (surprise) while Darwin Barney was not. He had previously been talked about as a core piece but I hope that was simply to drum up trade interest. He had such a terrible offensive season this past year that there's not much reason to pretend anymore.
We met new manager Rick Renteria via video. It was strange. He was very engaging on the video and got me all fired up for baseball. I wanted there to be a game tomorrow and I didn't care about the weather.
The session ended with a Q&A, first with questions from Dave Kaplan then from the audience. The fans were asked repeatedly to keep their questions concise. Apparently that word was too big for this group because most questions were rambling. One guy went on for what seemed like 2 minutes just to ask why with his season ticket combo package he no longer automatically gets playoff tickets. Like he'll need to worry about that anytime soon.
One really good, and short, question was "I understand the commitment to youth and growing your own players. So my question is, why Edwin Jackson?" Theo laughed and answered it a few ways. One is that they went after Anibal Sanchez and Jackson primarily because they were both fairly young at 29. And, unfortunately, they got the guy who had the much worse season. Two is that Edwin pitched better than his ERA showed last season so we can expect some improvement. More interesting is that he said that if they understood where the business operations progress would be that they might not have spent that money. In other words, if they knew the renovations and the resulting increase in revenue would be delayed a year they may not have signed him. May not bode well for anyone hoping for a big money free agent acquisition this offseason.
After the event it was announced that Kenney and Epstein would be answering questions in the lobby. I hung around for that. Theo was swamped. Didn't see Crane. But I did spot Jed Hoyer about 15 feet away from Theo with about 5 people around him. I wandered over there and asked him what he expects the new manager to do differently than the old manager did. He said they wanted him to help players develop at the big league level better, to have a development plan for each player. I asked him if that was in relation to lack of improvement by Castro and Rizzo. He said it wasn't fair to put all the focus on those two players. I took that as a yes.
I really enjoyed this presentation. I found Tom Ricketts on the way out and thanked him for having it. He remarked that he thought they did a good job.
So I left out one question that was asked in the Q&A. Many of you have seen the drawings of the renovation plans.
As you can see, there's a video board in left center and behind right field, there's a script advertisement that says "Wrigley Field." You can see it better here: Wrigley Field Renovations. As you can see in the larger image, all the ad space says "Cubs" or "Wrigley Field" but everywhere you see script Wrigley Field will likely say either Budweiser or Bud Light. I hope I didn't need to tell you that.
This question was asked (not a direct quote)
So you're having problems with the rooftops over the signage. I understand the Jumbotron in left field but that's not in front of too many buildings so I don't think they'd be upset over it. But that sign in right field that's in front of more buildings just says 'Wrigley Field.' Why are you fighting so much over a sign that's just gonna say Wrigley Field?
Ladies and gentleman, presenting your 2013 Cubs Season Ticket Holders!