Former Cub Andrew Cashner will throw Wednesday for the Padres. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
While the Giants are busy winning World Series titles and the Dodgers continue to take on huge payroll to try to keep pace, their “small market” neighbors to the south have quietly assembled a team many think has the potential to surprise in the NL West. Manager Bud Black already turned a few heads last season, squeezing 76 wins out of a group many expected to finish at the bottom of the division. But through the first month of the season, the pieces haven’t quite clicked, as the team sits at 9-15 heading into the Cubs series. On the plus side, it helps that the Padres have developed a true superstar in switch-hitting third baseman Chase Headley, who opened the season on the DL with a thumb injury. Headley hit a career-high 33 home runs last year (after a previous career high of 12 in 2009) and drove in a league-leading 115 men. He’s gotten off to a slow start this year, but he has played in only 10 games. With the Friars moving in the fences at Petco Park this season, Headley could be a dark-horse MVP candidate.
HITTING: 3.6 RS/G 12th in NL
The shorter fences at Petco won’t help just Headley. Former White Sox slugger Carlos Quentin managed to slug .504 in a half season after coming back from knee surgery last year. Despite that lost time, he also achieved the rare feat of leading different leagues in hit by pitches in consecutive years. The Padres have high hopes that first baseman Yonder Alonso will blossom into a power source as a sophomore after ripping 39 doubles as a rookie. Black runs an aggressive offense, platooning to advantage, getting runners on base and then moving them to keep defenses guessing. Shortstop Everth Cabrera led the NL with 44 steals (against just four times caught stealing) in 2012, spearheading an efficient running game that generated 155 swiped bags. Add in the potential for a power boost in their previously pitcher-friendly home park, and it’s a lineup that should be better than their 3.6 runs a game might indicate.
PITCHING: 4.6 RA/G 13th in NL
The problem with the Padres’ pitching staff is simple: Some of the team’s best starters opened the season on the disabled list. Of course, not having to face Cory Luebke early in the season works to the Cubs’ advantage. In the meantime, San Diego will rely on some starters that should be very familiar to Chicago fans—ex-White Sox southpaw Clayton Richard and ex-Cub Andrew Cashner. They will also run out inconsistent Cincinnati import Edinson Volquez. One thing to watch for is Black’s deft touch with the bullpen, where his best weapon is the rubber-armed Luke Gregerson, who has become one of the best set-up men in baseball. Also keep an eye on Dale Thayer and lefty Joe Thatcher in situational matchups and tight spots.
Comedian Julia Sweeney sang the seventh-inning stretch during a game earlier this month. (Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs kick off a nine-game homestand Monday, as the Padres, Reds and Cardinals come to town. If you’re headed to Wrigley Field over the next week, here’s your first pitch and seventh-inning stretch lineup:
Monday – 4/29
First Pitch & Stretch: John Egan, Rich Rochelle & Chuck Wood from the 1963 Loyola Men’s Basketball championship team (celebrating their 50th anniversary)
Tuesday – 4/30
First Pitch & Stretch: Corey Wootton (Chicago Bears)
Wednesday – 5/1
First Pitch & Stretch: Jeff Mauro (“The Sandwich King”/ Chicago Food Network star)
Thursday – 5/2
First Pitch: Emmylou Harris (12-time Grammy winner)
Stretch: Steve Trout (Cubs alumni)
Friday – 5/3
First Pitch: Shea McClellin (Chicago Bears)
Saturday – 5/4
First Pitch & Stretch: TBD
Sunday – 5/5
First Pitch & Stretch: Gary Sinise (Actor/Musician)
Monday – 5/6
First Pitch: Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
Tuesday – 5/7
First Pitch & Stretch: Nick Cannon (America’s Got Talent)
Wednesday – 5/8 “Pink Out”
First Pitch: Breast cancer survivor
National Anthem: Sing to Live Chorus (40 members affected by breast cancer)
Stretch: Breast cancer survivors
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts talks to the media Monday. (Photo by Vine Line)
The Cubs and the city of Chicago reached an agreement on a renovation plan for Wrigley Field Sunday night which will give the historic landmark and the surrounding area a $500 million facelift. The plan calls for all the money to come from the baseball organization, with no public dollars needed. After unveiling the Cubs’ proposed alterations early Monday, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts spoke to the media on the concourse level of the stadium.
“This massive investment will help us generate the resources we need for our baseball operation to develop championship-caliber players,” Ricketts said. “If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series for our fans and our city.”
Ricketts estimated that the renovation will add 1,300 permanent jobs to the area. Much of the Q&A session was spent discussing two major topics: the proposed digital scoreboard and the leniency towards more night games.
The proposal calls for 40 night games, 10 more than the current 30 games. Should MLB or its national television contracts require them to play more than five home night games, it will not count towards the total. While there will be no proposed Saturday or Sunday games (except for national TV games), they hope to get upwards to six 3:05 Friday start times. Wrigley Field will also host up to four concerts a year.
The Cubs also proposed a 6,000 square foot digital scoreboard to be placed in left field.
“We spent a lot of time talking to our fans, about how they feel about a video board at the park,” Ricketts said. “…I like Wrigley Field, I’m very traditional, but the fact is that when you look at what the fans are asking for, to improve their game day experience, and you add to that the economic value of a video board, it becomes obvious that it’s the best step for us.”
In addition, an advertisement similar to the Toyota sign will be constructed in right field. Ricketts said he is trying to be considerate of the nearby rooftop owners and will even cantilever the scoreboard over the street to minimize blocked views.
The renovations will take an estimated five offseasons to complete. The deal is still pending final community and city approval. Other highlights to the proposal include plans to add 1,000 free remote parking spots, new public safety and traffic management plans, closing of Waveland Avenue from Sheffield to Clark before, during and after games, constructing a new two-story Captain Morgan Club for an additional merchandise store and more space in the visitors’ clubhouse, more flexible space in the left and right field corners as well as a hotel next to the stadium.
There’s nothing like a fresh start to the season at the Friendly Confines. Though the Cubs ninth-inning comeback attempt fell short and the team ultimately dropped their home opener 7-4 to the division rival Brewers, it was still a beautiful day for baseball at Wrigley Field. After a rainy morning, the clouds miraculously parted, and the game-time temperature was in the mid-60s. Cubs Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins were all on hand, along with Chicago dignitaries like Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Tom Tunney. Vine Line shared the Opening Day festivities with Jenkins, Anthony Rizzo and several of the newest Cubs players.
The days of simply serving hot dogs and Cracker Jacks are firmly in the past.
For the 2013 season, Levy Restaurants will be selling a wide, new selection of food offerings at Wrigley Field, including Dippin’ Dots ice cream and Uncle Dougie’s Barbeque Sauce. Chicago-based Uncle Dougie’s, which makes natural, gluten-free, small-batch products with no high-fructose corn syrup, MSG or preservatives, becomes the official barbeque sauce and official Bloody Mary mix of the Chicago Cubs.
In addition, Levy will debut new vegetarian dishes like the veggie hot dog, as well as a chopped salad. Those options will join the veggie burger, fruit and veggie cups, and other vegetarian items.
The High Plains Bison cart, located on the right field main concourse, will feature a bison bratwurst with sauerkraut or grilled onions, a bison Italian sausage with sautéed peppers and marinara, and a footlong bison hot dog with various toppings.
Levy will also debut pretzel sandwiches like the ham and Swiss, roast beef and cheddar, turkey and Swiss, or vegetable. Other options include an Italian beef sandwich called the Sheffield Dip, Italian beef nachos, a footlong hot dog called the Chicago Chop, and Chicken and Waffle Stix.
Guests interested in the Wrigley Field food options can search the amenities map on the Cubs website.
Opening Day is just seven days away. As Cubs fans prepare for pitcher Jeff Samardzija and the rest of the squad to kick off the regular season, we here at Vine Line are counting down the days in a unique way. For every day remaining until the season starts—today’s number is seven—we’ll commemorate some of the best players to wear that number for the Cubs.
Two-time All-Star and former Gold Glove winner Jody Davis sported the No. 7 from 1981-88 with the North Siders. In that time, he hit .251/.313/.416 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 122 home runs and 467 driven in. Davis is still viewed as one of the franchise’s best all-time catchers. He wrapped up his career with three seasons in Atlanta.
Other Cubs greats to wear the No. 7 extensively include:
Joe Girardi, Gabby Hartnett, Rick Monday and Bobby Murcer. The number is currently worn by outfielder Brett Jackson.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Chicago Cubs and Northwestern University Athletics announced a historic partnership on Tuesday that will bring football back to Wrigley Field for the first time since Northwestern and Illinois squared off in 2010. The multiyear, innovative event and reciprocal marketing partnership will showcase a wide range of Wildcats athletic programs—including baseball, lacrosse and five Northwestern football games—at historic Wrigley Field in the coming years.
“We are thrilled to partner with a professional sports franchise as iconic as the Chicago Cubs in an agreement that truly is the first of its kind,” said Jim Phillips, Northwestern University vice president for athletics and recreation. “As Chicago’s Big Ten team, this is a natural fit that will create tremendous opportunities for our student-athletes, our coaches and our fans in the area.”
As part of the partnership, the Friendly Confines will potentially serve as a home venue for many of Northwestern’s 19 varsity programs over the coming years. Two sports programs have set tentative dates to kick off the partnership. On April 20, Northwestern baseball will host the Michigan Wolverines in a Big Ten matchup. In spring 2014, the Wildcats’ women’s lacrosse team, winner of seven of the last eight NCAA championships under head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, plans to host regional rival Notre Dame.
According to Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney, all profits from these events will go back into the Cubs baseball operations. The dates of the five football games are yet to be determined, as Big Ten schedules are being reworked due to the additions of Maryland and Rutgers. The restoration of Wrigley Field is also a factor.
“To do this on a consistent basis, we have to have a renovation of the park so that the field fits the right way,” said Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. “But we’ve anticipated that in our designs, and we look forward to making sure we get the right renovations in so we can hold a [football] game every year.”
(Photo by Stephen Green)
After months of rumors and a day full of hints, Pearl Jam announced it will be playing a show at Wrigley Field on July 19. The confirmation, “IT’S OFFICIAL: Pearl Jam will be playing at Wrigley Field. Will you be there?” was displayed on the band’s Twitter page, and the news was also posted on the Wrigley marquee Wednesday morning.
Tickets go on sale Feb. 9 at 10 a.m., according to Live Nation, the concert promoter. They will be available at tickets.com or by calling 1-800-THE-CUBS.
On Tuesday, both the Cubs and Pearl Jam spent most of the day hinting about a big announcement. Both tweeted a picture of a concert stage on the field at Wrigley. The Cubs sent a a tweet that said “Ten” (the title of Pearl Jam’s first album) and sent out a link to a photo of Ron Santo’s No. 10 jersey.
Lead singer Eddie Vedder was born in nearby Evanston, Ill., and is a diehard Cubs fan. A friend of former pitcher Kerry Wood, the singer-songwriter has thrown out the first pitch and sung “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” numerous times at Wrigley Field.
Pearl Jam has sold 31.5 million records in the United States and more than 60 million worldwide.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The first snow of the season is due tonight in Chicago. Ernie’s ready. Are you?