Cubs

Behind the scenes at Wrigley: Cubs going full speed ahead to defend World Series title

Behind the scenes at Wrigley: Cubs going full speed ahead to defend World Series title

Jake Ciarrachi moved around the trolley, pointing his iPhone at the sea of people, documenting the championship parade so he could show the videos to his kids someday. The Grant Park rally ended on a Friday afternoon, and by Monday morning Ciarrachi would be leaving his Bucktown home again and flying to Phoenix to scout the Arizona Fall League.

“Back to work for 2017, baby,” Ciarrachi said. “Get right back at it.”

The Cubs pushed City Hall for a Nov. 4 parade, lobbying to start it the morning after the team landed in Chicago following an epic World Series Game 7 in Cleveland. Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had to be at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa by the night of Nov. 6 for the general manager meetings.

There the Cubs began to lay the groundwork for a one-year, $8 million deal with outfielder Jon Jay, who earned a World Series ring with the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals and should help fill some of the leadership void in a Grandpa Rossy-less clubhouse.

During a relatively quiet winter meetings at National Harbor in Maryland — at least compared to their grand-scale celebrations — the Cubs closed in on Wade Davis and Koji Uehara, adding two relievers to their bullpen who’ve already notched the final out of a World Series with the 2015 Kansas City Royals and 2013 Boston Red Sox.

Tyson Ross is said to be making a deliberate decision, going through a comprehensive review of his options as he tries to reboot his career after surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, but the talented pitcher could be an X-factor for the 2017 rotation. The Major League Baseball calendar never stops.

“Every year, you watch the World Series,” Ciarrachi said. “You always say to yourself: Man, to be on that side and walk out as the team last standing, there could be no better feeling.”

Recently promoted to major-league scout, Ciarrachi, 36, has an understanding wife, Brooke, who works around her own busy travel schedule as a consultant with Accenture. Ciarrachi also knows what it’s like to dream about working for the Cubs — and how rare these jobs are — because he grew up in Lombard, graduated from Montini Catholic High School and played baseball at Northern Illinois University.

Ciarrachi then played and coached independent ball in the Frontier League, worked in the Arizona Fall League and went to MLB’s scout school. He sent three letters to all 30 MLB front offices — addressed to each team’s farm director, scouting director and director of baseball operations — before finally landing a one-year internship with the Cubs for the 2006 season.

Ciarrachi laughed at the memory of one of his first tasks for Jim Hendry: Flying with the former general manager’s school-age children to ensure they made it down to spring training safely.

“I just worked my ass off,” Ciarrachi said, “and then hopefully something came of it.”

Whether by design — to emphasize closer collaboration and a tighter inner circle — or simply a product of Tribune Co. belt-tightening and the office-space squeeze at Wrigley Field, the smaller front-office structure Andy MacPhail and Hendry built allowed someone like Ciarrachi to gain wider exposure to the draft, the minor-league affiliates and the administrative side of the game.

As chairman Tom Ricketts invested in infrastructure and Epstein’s group overhauled baseball operations, Ciarrachi hit the road as a pro scout and covered the Baltimore Orioles in 2013, becoming one of the sources of information vouching for Jake Arrieta, an up-and-down, borderline Triple-A pitcher.

“Stuff-wise, it was off the charts,” Ciarrachi said. “I know numbers-wise, he wasn’t that great. But he was still young, a really strong kid. I heard really good things makeup-wise about him, because I had some friends with Baltimore.

“You say to yourself, man, when that light turns on, he’s a guy that I’ll take my chances with.

"If he could be a buy-low kind of guy — when he figures it out — he’s going to be really good.

“You can’t walk away from that kind of stuff, because you don’t see that kind of stuff. It wasn’t only just his fastball — breaking ball, his hybrid slider/cutter, changeup — he had it.

“This is the kind of guy you would want to have on your club. Like with any player, there’s no guarantee. Guys will get hurt or what have you, but he was a guy that I was going to bet on.”

The pitching infrastructure the Cubs can sell Ross helped transform Arrieta into the National League’s Cy Young Award winner in 2015 and the World Series starter who beat the Indians in Games 2 and 6 at Progressive Field.

In late September, Ciarrachi started doing advance work on Cleveland, tracking the Indians throughout the playoffs (plus jumping over to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals and move on to the NL Championship Series). The Cubs typically assigned five scouts to a playoff series, two for each team and a floater to cross-check what they were seeing.

“We were a young team — and we made the adjustments,” Ciarrachi said. “(Coming back) shows what our players are made of. They didn’t succumb to pressure. It was kind of like: ‘Hey, we know we’re the best team in baseball. Don’t be afraid that you’re down in the series.’

“Our guys were just (calm throughout). I don’t know if it was the youth. This is a huge credit to Theo and Jed and those guys — the makeup of our (players). They’re just quality human beings that jelled together to win.

“We struggled against Cleveland offensively. (Corey) Kluber handled us well. (Trevor) Bauer was tough, same as (Josh) Tomlin. I (remember) talking to (hitting coach John) Mallee (and saying): ‘I feel comfortable with our guys facing them again a second time, because I think our guys will adjust, like we did against L.A.’

“That was something that really stuck out for me with our guys, making the adjustments and then executing (while) being on the biggest stage (for) a franchise that hasn’t won in a long time.

“It was awesome to see. They didn’t really care about the past. I’m not saying they didn’t care, but that wasn’t on their minds. It was the present. With Joe (Maddon) at the helm leading our guys, you couldn’t have a better guy to do it. He kind of kept them grounded: Take every day as just one game and go from there.”

Embrace The Target? The Cubs will need a fresh message from their star manager — plus the New England Patriots-style game plans and the composure and baseball IQ they showed throughout October — to defend their World Series title.

While the Cubs kept showing up on “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show,” “Conan,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “Live with Kelly,” Epstein declined requests to do the national morning shows and late-night talk-show circuit.

“I turned down all the, you know, extracurricular stuff, trips to New York and things like that,” Epstein said. “For a few different reasons, among them we had to get back to work right away. But I also think it’s kind of the players’ time to enjoy stuff like that.

“Being around Chicago was wonderful, so many people coming up and saying thank you. I think David Ross was the first one to sort of point out that everyone was saying ‘thank you,’ not ‘congratulations,’ which, I think, reflects this tremendous gratitude that everyone has and how personally they feel the championship impacted their lives.

“It was great to see everyone in a good mood — and connected with each other (through) the ballclub and with different family members and generations — all because of one team that came together to play great baseball.

“It’s been awesome to be in the middle of that and observe it and see how rewarded all our fans feel. And all the front-office guys who pull the all-nighters and all our players who grew up in the middle of a pennant race.

“It’s been fun to see the positive impact it’s had on so many people, and the city as a whole, really. I mean, what more could you want than to be able to feel that just walking around town? It’s been wonderful.”

And the Jed’s-in-charge, wake-me-up-for-the-winter-meetings bender?

“I pulled that one off pretty good,” Epstein said.

CSN Chicago is replaying all 11 playoff wins, part of a programming block that will run through the day after Christmas, featuring sit-down interviews with Cubs personnel, a look back at the championship parade and Grant Park rally and fresh content on CSNChicago.com.

More stories from Behind the scenes at Wrigley

Behind the scenes at Wrigley: A Giant comeback launched a new generation of Cubs

Behind the scenes at Wrigley: Cubs winning World Series hit longtime scout Sam Hughes 'like a tidal wave'

Behind the scenes at Wrigley: Eddie Vedder, the Cubs Way, and how winners write history

Dexter Fowler was racially profiled by nightclub while with Cubs teammates

Dexter Fowler was racially profiled by nightclub while with Cubs teammates

Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler shared a story on his Instagram Tuesday of a time he was racially profiled while at a club with his then-Cubs teammates.

Fowler, who played on the North Side from 2015-16, explained how he wasn't allowed into a club in Arizona with other members of the Cubs because he was wearing a gold chain. He said he was dressed nice and added the profiling of his attire didn't apply to his teammates, some who were dressed more casually.

When the club turned Fowler away, the group, which included first baseman Anthony Rizzo, left to show their support for him.

'What can I do'

Let me tell you a little story

A club in AZ turned me away because I had a gold chain on. While my friends had on shorts & vans & flip flops.

I was dressed nicely.

[Anthony Rizzo] and my friends with the [Cubs] left the club for me.

That's what you can do. Every day. It happens. EVERY DAY. There are opportunities EVERY DAY to help enforce change.

Fowler has been outspoken on social media regarding racial profiling amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He described the hardships black people endure due to racism in a heartfelt Instagram post on Thursday.

View this post on Instagram

Here’s the thing. I know it’s hard to fully grasp why black people are outraged. It’s hard to grasp unless you’ve seen people hold their purses tighter when you walk by, when you have people refer to you as “not black” when you’re not “ghetto”. When your parents have to give you a talk when you’re just a kid. “you can’t act like your white friends. you’ll get killed. they won’t” This is a generational discussion EVERY black family has. It terrifies you as a kid, and as an adult. You don’t understand why we know, those officers didn’t flinch at murdering that man, because he is black. The race card. We hold it. You tell us “it’s not about race” if we ever hold you to it. You don’t want us to have even that 1 bone chilling “privilege” of defense. You don’t want us to hold any privilege. We don’t hold the privilege of being a criminal, making a mistake, or simply taking a jog, the same as a white man, and being treated the same. He couldn’t breathe. He was murdered. They were gently fired from their jobs. This isn’t right. This can’t go on. (if you assume “you”, is you, and you’re upset about the generalization...... just think about that for a second)

A post shared by Dexter Fowler (@dexterfowler) on

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts 'optimistic' 2020 MLB season will happen

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts 'optimistic' 2020 MLB season will happen

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts expressed confidence MLB and the players union will come to terms for a 2020 season despite his suggestion some teams might lose more money playing even a short season than by not playing at all.

"I'm pretty optimistic we'll get games back on the field," Ricketts told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers on Tuesday. "I have full faith and confidence in the commissioner. How we get there is yet to be written, but I'm pretty sure we'll get there."

RELATED: Why Scott Boras' comments on Cubs suggest optimism MLB, union can make deal

Ricketts isn’t the only owner to suggest in recent weeks it makes more financial sense to not play this season. The players are seeking their full prorated salaries, which they agreed to take in March. The owners, however, have cited a clause in that agreement where they can reopen negotiations if games are played without fans. That is the expectation for most of the season (should the two sides come to terms) due to the coronavirus.

Ricketts said MLB owners aren’t looking at not playing, however, echoing comments he made on CNBC last week stating the Cubs “definitely” would rather play.

"There are scenarios where not playing at all can be a better financial option, but we're not looking at that," Ricketts told Rogers. "We want to play. We want to get back on the field. ... I'm not aware of any owners that don't want to play. 

“We just want to get back on the field in a way that doesn't make this season financially worse for us."

The league sent the union its financial proposal for 2020 last Tuesday, and the players countered with a proposal on Sunday to play 114 games compared to the owners’ 82-game plan. The aforementioned March agreement allows the league to mandate a shorter season if it sees fit.

RELATED: How deferrals in MLBPA counterproposal could provide Cubs financial relief

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Monday MLB could propose something along the lines of a 50-60 game season in which they’d pay players prorated salaries. That would still represent a pay cut for the players, however. In any case, a shortened season means significant revenue losses for the league.

"The scale of losses across the league is biblical," Ricketts said. "The timing of the work stoppage, the inability to play was right before the season started. We're looking at 30 teams with zero revenue. To cover the losses, all teams have gone out and borrowed. There's no other way to do it in the short run. In the long run, we may be able to sell equity to cover some of our losses but that's in the long run.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.