It's that time again! Every winter, the Cubs gather their current players, management, and any ex-players for whom they have blackmail material and trot them out like showdogs for their fans in a massive effort to "build their brand" or "polish the turd." Yes, the Cubs Convention is tomorrow and the Cubs have been very busy planning how best to shovel massive portions of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo on us, while conveniently glossing over the fact that Nate Schierholtz is probably going to get a lot of playing time.
This year, the Cubs leave the familiar surroundings at the Hilton Towers and give the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers a whirl. From the descriptions of the convention spaces the Sheraton provides, it seems like there is more space available, which would be good since even in these last down years, the crowds are considerable. No matter how much the Cubs hold our collective heads in the toilet, we keep coming back in droves for more. (It also seems the Ricketts have been cozying up to the Sheraton folks for reasons that are not Cubs Convention related.)
But other than the location, the offerings at this year's Cubs Convention are very familiar to the previous iterations. Some of the highlights include:
- Ricketts Family Forum: Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts will talk about their experience as the Cubs owners over the last three years and take questions from fans.
The Ricketts' welcome from the fans has degraded quite a bit from the hero's welcome they received at their first Convention. That first year, people were practically ready to sacrifice their first-borns on the altar of the Ricketts. But the bloom is off the rose now and many Cubs fans are disillusioned after 101 losses under noted snake-oil salesman, Theo Epstein. I expect every year for the crowd to boo the Ricketts, but they haven't yet and I don't think they will this year either. It won't be raucous applause anymore, but it won't be hostile. Not until they start talking about more video scoreboards in the stadium, anyway. The highlight is when Pete Ricketts comes out of his burrow for the one time per year and predicts the weather based on the shadow of his bald head.
- Meet Cubs Baseball Management: Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, will be joined by general manager Jed Hoyer, assistant general managers Randy Bush and Shiraz Rehman and manager Dale Sveum to talk about the team's recent moves and what lies ahead.
Every year they throw Randy Bush into this session and every year nobody asks Randy Bush a question because nobody gives a shit. I'm seriously considering grabbing the microphone and asking him his favorite color just so he gets to say something.
- From Draft Day to the Big Leagues: Minor League prospects Dallas Beeler, Matt Szczur, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych will discuss what it's like to get drafted by the Cubs and advance through the system.
Dallas Beeler? Who or what is a Dallas Beeler? Why did they lead off with Dallas Beeler in this description? Sure Szczur, Whitenack and Zych might never crack the majors either, but we've at least heard of them. Hey Randy, who the fuck is Dallas Beeler?
- Dale Sveum and the coaching staff: Sveum and his staff will talk about the team and answer questions.
They'll "talk about the team and answer questions." That sounds scintillating. jesus, not even a Dallas Beeler mention to spice things up. Way to bring the sizzle, Cubs marketing department! In reality, it actually does sound better than the 60 minutes of people bitching about the bunting tournament that this will inevitably turn into.
- For Kids Only Press Conference, presented by Advocate Health Care: Kids will get to play reporter and ask players questions. The panel will feature Darwin Barney, David DeJesus, Brooks Raley, Anthony Rizzo and Chris Rusin.
This is probably where the most intelligent questions will get asked all weekend. I might pop my head in just to see if Kim DeJesus is lingering around anywhere. I may have to borrow someone's kid.
- Renew Wrigley Field: Cubs executives will discuss ideas to preserve and renew Wrigley Field based on input from Cubs fans, season ticket holders and the community.
We're still just TALKING about it? Holy hell, shouldn't you know what to do with the stadium by now? It is 2013 and the Ricketts have owned the team since 2009 and haven't shut up about preserving and renewing the stadium since then. Crane has been there for at least eight years and this should probably be the #1 thing he would be working on and we're still just TALKING about it? I get that they don't have the money and some tweaks to the overall plan will happen as long as they aren't pouring concrete, but for the love of God, let's at least cut the fans out of this process by now. Haven't there been enough surveys? At least when the Cubs wouldn't shut up about the troughs, the troughs actually, you know, GOT RENOVATED! OR SO THEY SAY! I CAN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE!
- Not for Women Only: Baker, Feldman, Matt Garza, James Russell and Travis Wood will discuss their personal lives off the field.
They're resurrecting Kathy & Judy's old bit where the players make really obvious baseball lingo double-entendres and everyone thinks it is just hilarious. This was usually Ryan Dempster's favorite session because he got to tell his tale of dressing up like Captain America every year like it was the first time we ever heard that story. Normally, this would be the annual Mike Bielecki sighting, but he must not have been able to squeeze this into his busy schedule of sitting on the couch in his underwear. I bet we hear way more about Matt Garza's shaving cream pies than any human could ever imagine possible.
- WGN Radio's Sports Central: WGN Radio's Jim Memolo and Glen Kozlowski's live broadcast will feature segments with DeJesus and Garza; Barney and Jeff Samardzija; Tony Campana and Starlin Castro; and Jackson, Jackson and Rizzo in a live broadcast.
It's ON THE RADIO! The players will talk about how they're REALLY anxious to get to Mesa and the team is really ready to prove last year is behind them and start playing winning Cubs Way baseball. And it will be ON THE RADIO! And you can sit there quietly and just listen! It really is quite something.
Yes, the wonders of the Cubs Convention are many and I hope to mock it as much as possible on Twitter, so follow along if you'd like.
Also, for those lucky enough to also be attending, the annual, semi-planned Cubs blogger/tweeter/loser meet-up will be happening at the hotel bar named, (I swear I am not making this up) Chi-Bar. In the past you have not needed a Convention pass to get access to the bar, but it's a different location and I really don't know what to expect. After a drink or two at Chi-Bar, the plan is to head to Lizzie McNeil's which is right next to the hotel and has a better beer and whiskey list (and you definitely don't need a pass to get in there). I expect I'll be arriving at the Chi-Bar somewhere around 7:00ish. I expect to be hammered by 7:02ish. So come on out if you dare.