Cubs

Cubs make minor leagues a family affair

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Cubs make minor leagues a family affair

The Cubs poured almost 12 million into the 2011 amateur draft, tossing lofty signing bonuses at their top picks.

They won't be able to do that anymore with the new CBA rules, but the organization already has something very rare.

In rounds 10 and 11 of the recent draft, the Cubs selected two legacies in Shawon Dunston, Jr. -- son of longtime Cub Shawon Dunston, Sr. -- and Daniel Lockhart -- son of Cubs scout and former Major Leaguer Keith Lockhart.

Add to that the Brenly connection -- father Bob is the popular TV analyst while son Michael is a Single-A catcher -- and the Cubs truly have something unique.

The 2012 Convention came to a close at the Hilton in Chicago with an hour-long session on the father-son connection within the organization.

"A father and son playing catch together is a longstanding tradition in baseball," host Wayne Messmer said. "It doesn't always turn out where either play pro ball. In this case, we have three cases where both played pro ball."

Bob is the more traveled of the fathers, having played nine seasons in the MLB with the Giants and Blue Jays before retiring and becoming a coach. His first year as a manager came in 2001 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who topped the New York Yankees for the World Series title.

Michael was 15 at the time and served as the team's bat boy during that postseason.

"Obviously, being in the game of baseball, your ultimate goal is to win the World Series, either as a player or a coach, a scout, a manager," the elder Brenly said. "It was great for Michael to be able to be a part of that."

Bob used the opportunity as a teaching lesson for his teenage son.

"Michael was around for all seven games of the 2001 World Series," he said. "We went to his teachers a week before to get his homework assignments and he had to complete them all before the World Series started or he didn't get to be the bat boy.

"There's a price to pay to be around the Major League clubhouse. I've always felt it's a real privilege to put on a Major League uniform and walk into that clubhouse. If I didn't think that he had the proper respect and knew his place around the team, I probably wouldn't have let him."

Michael, who was drafted by the Cubs in the 36th round of the '08 draft, decided to follow in his father's footsteps in becoming a catcher, but the 25-year-old is not living in his dad's shadow.

"Anybody who has a 'famous' father or mother, there's certain expectations. For some people, that's a tall mountain to climb, even when the father is a .249 career hitter like me," Bob deadpanned.

"Michael has done very well for himself. I think he would be where he is if his name was Jones or Smith or whatever."

Keith didn't spend his playing career in Chicago, either, but he did play alongside a Cubs icon for several years. Just before the start of the 1997 season, Lockhart was traded from the Royals to Atlanta, where he joined the likes of Greg Maddux in the midst of the Braves' dynasty.

While the other two fathers had a hand in helping advance their son's careers, Keith was directly responsible for actually getting Daniel's professional career started. The Cubs scout was asked to write a report on his own son and the organization wound up selecting the young infielder in the 10th round. It was Keith's first-ever draft pick.

"It was really different," Keith said. "I was on both sides of the fence as a dad and a scout."

Shawon, Sr. is the only one of the three fathers to have been on the Cubs during their playing days and he was a fan favorite during his 11 years on the North Side.

The Cubs made the high-energy shortstop their first overall pick in the 1982 draft. It was because of that opportunity that his son signed with the organization almost three decades later.

The Dunstons had a choice after Shawon, Jr. was drafted -- either send him to college at Vanderbilt or release him into the world of professional baseball. A 1.275 million signing bonus helped sway the family.

Shawon, Sr. admitted the only two teams his son would have skipped college for were the Cubs and Giants, where the elder Dunston currently works as a special assistant.

"I'm very hard on my son," Shawon, Sr. said. "In high school, he had to maintain a 3.5 GPA. If he had a 3.4, he didn't play. He doesn't understand right now, but I tell him 'you'll hate me now, but you'll love me later.'"

If Shawon, Jr. makes good on his potential, that fatherly advice could go a long way.

If you can't wait for baseball to be back, take a look at the Cubs' spring training schedule

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USA TODAY

If you can't wait for baseball to be back, take a look at the Cubs' spring training schedule

Set your alarm, there are only three more months till baseball is back.

The Cubs announced their spring training schedule Monday, getting folks all amped up for the 34 exhibition games in February and March.

Spring game action gets started Feb. 23 out in Arizona, with the Cubs taking on the Milwaukee Brewers to kick off Cactus League play. The Cubs' first home spring game at Sloan Park in Mesa comes the next day, Feb. 24.

In addition to a 32-game Cactus League slate, the Cubs will take on the Cleveland Indians in a pair of exhibition games in Las Vegas. That 2016 World Series rematch comes March 17 and 18.

And of course, there will be three meetings with the White Sox, as both Chicago teams play their spring schedule out in Arizona. Those "Cactus Crosstown" games will be played Feb. 27 and March 10 in Mesa and March 16 in Glendale.

Here's the full schedule:

What if Jake Arrieta stays in the NL Central and repeatedly haunts the Cubs?

What if Jake Arrieta stays in the NL Central and repeatedly haunts the Cubs?

Jake Arrieta in a Brewers uniform?

That's not a sight Cubs fans would like to see, but the North Siders' I-94 rivals are apparently keen on trying to add Arrieta, the free-agent pitcher who's been one of the National League's top arms for the past several seasons.

The Cubs have their own decision to make on whether or not they're going to pursue re-signing Arrieta, a guy who over the past three seasons has posted a 2.71 ERA and struck out 589 batters, winning 54 games in 94 starts for a team that won the 2016 World Series and has advanced to three consecutive NL Championship Series.

The downside to losing Arrieta is obvious, as the Cubs would lose a huge part of their formidable starting rotation, but there would be an added downside if Arrieta were to remain in the NL Central and repeatedly haunt his former team.

Given Arrieta's track record, adding him would make sense for any team in the majors, but the Brewers in particular could use a front-of-the-line starting pitcher to boost their chances of besting the Cubs for the Central crown. The Brew Crew staged a surprising threat to do just that in 2017, perhaps proving that their rebuilding effort has yielded fruit ahead of schedule.

But there are questions in that rotation, with Jimmy Nelson expected to miss time next season after having shoulder surgery. Chase Anderson was great last season, and Zach Davies was solid, too. Brewers starters posted an ERA of 4.10 on the season, good for fifth in the NL. The four teams ahead of them, including the Cubs, all made the playoffs. Adding an arm as good as Arrieta's could make the difference in jumping past the Cubs in the Central and getting the Crew to the postseason for the first time since 2011.

And it'd be a plus for the Brewers to make it so Arrieta couldn't shut down their hitters anymore. In 15 career starts against the Crew, Arrieta is 8-4 with a 2.74 ERA. However, they'd surely love to have him call Miller Park home. He's never lost there in five starts, boasting a 2.03 ERA with 30 strikeouts.

There's an argument to be made that Arrieta would be able to seek revenge on the Cubs no matter what team he ends up pitching for, be it an NL team facing off against the Cubs in the playoffs or an American League squad meeting the Cubs in the World Series. After all, as Scott Boras put it, signing Arrieta is a ticket to "Playoffville."

But should Arrieta make the short drive to Wisconsin and set up shop in America's Dairyland, turning the Brewers into a legitimate playoff contender and challenger to the Cubs' grip on the NL Central crown? Well, consider the Cubs-Brewers rivalry cranked up to 11.