Cubs

Cubs strengthening security at Wrigley Field after Paris attacks

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Cubs strengthening security at Wrigley Field after Paris attacks

The nightmare scenario for the Cubs at Wrigley Field would be the terrorist attacks that besieged Paris two months ago, when explosions went off outside Stade de France during the French national team’s soccer match against Germany.

The agenda for Major League Baseball’s ownership meetings next week in South Florida includes a briefing from the Department of Homeland Security, trying to protect the business and prevent that kind of large-scale attack.

President of business operations Crane Kenney said the Cubs are installing metal detectors for this season at Wrigley Field and working with City Hall to try to shut down Clark and Addison on gamedays and control the streets around the iconic ballpark.

“Certainly, Paris got everyone’s attention,” Kenney said during a Cubs Convention presentation on Saturday at the Sheraton Grand Chicago. “Large venues like Wrigley Field are targets. And we got to do everything we can to protect our fans, our players and our neighborhood.”

In another safety measure, the Cubs will also extend the netting to the inside edge of the home-plate side of the dugouts, trying to shield fans from foul balls. A stadium that had been literally falling apart in certain spots is getting something close to a $600 million facelift with this Wrigleyville project.

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The Cubs don’t know where the next threats might come from — Wrigley Field had to be evacuated postgame after a bomb threat last August — but the Paris attacks rattled Kenney.

“The thing that used to keep me awake all night was the concrete and steel in our ballpark, which we’re fixing,” Kenney said. “The thing that keeps me awake all night now is the crazy times we live in.

“The next morning, I rounded my team up and I said: ‘Listen, we got to talk about what we do next.’ We hired a consultant. We went to the league for help. Because we play in such a tight urban environment, we’re not surrounded by a sea of parking lots like a lot of (other) ballparks.

“If you go to Dodger Stadium, they control their perimeter for hundreds and hundreds of yards. And they know who’s there and can really ring fence (to control) who gets close to the ballpark and who doesn’t. We don’t have that advantage.”

Club officials are lobbying the city for control of a 100-foot perimeter in each direction of the ballpark at a time when the Cubs are becoming a version of America’s Team and anticipating regular crowds of 40,000, plus Wrigleyville’s carnival atmosphere.

“We already have Sheffield and Waveland closed,” Kenney said. “We’re now talking about what we do on Clark and Addison and whether those should only be open to city traffic, meaning emergency vehicles, police and buses.

“You’ve all been there on Addison — you’re six feet from the ballpark. That sidewalk’s six-feet wide. We would love to know who’s driving what and what they are doing next to the ballpark while the games are going on.”

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

News broke to Willson Contreras that the league will be limiting mound visits this upcoming season, and the Cubs catcher —notorious for his frequent visits to the rubber — is not having it.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If you have to go again and pay the price for my team, I will," he said.

The new rules rolled out Tuesday will limit six visits —any time a manager, coach or player visits the mound — per nine innings. But, communication between a player and a pitcher that does not require them moving from their position does not count as a visit.When a team is out of visits, it's the umpire's discretion to allow an extra trip to the mound.

But despite the new rules, Contreras is willing to do what's best for the team.

“There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? They cannot say anything about that. If you’re going to fine me about the [seventh] mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."