Cubs

Cubs pushing Wrigley Field into 21st century

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Cubs pushing Wrigley Field into 21st century

This will bother the traditionalists, but might appeal to anyone who cant put down their BlackBerry. The Cubs always seem to provoke strong reactions whenever they make changes to Wrigley Field.

Trying to steal some business away from the surrounding rooftops, the Cubs will build a patio deck in the right-field bleachers and install an LED board thats roughly 70-feet wide.

Team executives unveiled the plan on Saturday at the Cubs Convention and expect everything in place by Opening Day. The LED signage will show game information pitch count, player pictures and statistics but probably not instant replay.

President of business operations Crane Kenney said it would be challenging to play video there. Budweiser, the patios name sponsor, will be part of a rotating series of advertisements. These changes will not require approval from the city.

This isnt touching really a landmarked feature, Kenney said. The contours of the bleachers arent really impacted and it really doesnt touch the scoreboard or the ivy or any of the other aspects that are protected.

The Cubs intend to collapse six rows of bleachers into three and raise the seats, to improve the obstructed views into center field that slowed ticket sales there.

Marketing chief Wally Hayward said the area will be available for corporate outings and birthday parties and can accommodate up to 150 guests. The tickets will include food and drinks.

This reconfiguration wont change the distance to hit a home run and shouldnt impact wind patterns. These arent exactly the Green Monster seats dropped on top of Fenway Park. The bleachers will stay at the same height.

The Cubs will also experiment with dynamic pricing in the bleachers this season. This is a method used in the airline industry, where the earlier you buy your tickets, the better deal youre going to get. The team wont allow it to drop below the season-ticket price.

Chairman Tom Ricketts said the Cubs are not lobbying to add more night games to the schedule, though they would like to get some flexibility from the city that would allow them to play on Friday nights.

Approaching the ballparks 100th anniversary in 2014, the Cubs still havent secured the financing for their grand renovation plans. In the meantime, the Ricketts family recently purchased the McDonalds lot opposite the Wrigley Field marquee for a reported 20 million.

We just decided that property in Wrigleyville doesnt come up for sale that often, Ricketts said. I think one of the things the previous ownership (Tribune Co.) maybe missed on was making sure they bought some of the land around Wrigley to better control the environment.

The restaurant will remain there for the time being. Long term, Ricketts said he wont know what his familys developers will do with the land on Clark Street until the stadium renovation plans are finalized.

It could be everything from parking, shopping, dining, hotel use, Kenney said, all the things that we think (are probably) a gap in the Cubs ecosystem for new amenities.

Until Wrigley Field gets renovated, the Cubs do not expect to be awarded an All-Star Game. With a few modern touches, the place wont look the same in April. Team officials know Cubs fans wont be shy letting you know what they think.

Cubs trade Mike Montgomery to Royals for catcher Martin Maldonado

Cubs trade Mike Montgomery to Royals for catcher Martin Maldonado

It’s not a blockbuster move, but the Cubs have reportedly made a trade with more than two weeks until the trade deadline.

Theo Epstein confirmed previous reports after the game that the Cubs traded left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery to the Kansas City Royals for catcher Martin Maldonado. Epstein added that Willson Contreras is heading to the 10-day IL with a strain in the arch of his foot, but he didn’t expect Contreras to be out much longer than those 10 days.

Montgomery, 30, joined the Cubs in the middle of the 2016 season, but struggled this season. He had a 5.67 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 13 walks in 27 innings this season.

Maldonado, 32, was hitting .224/.288/.359 with the Royals. Maldonado can fill in at catcher with Victor Caratini while Contreras is out. Maldonado is known for his defensive ability behind the plate.

Meanwhile, Montgomery's exit means the pitcher who recorded the last out of the 2016 World Series is no longer in the organization. Epstein addressed that to reporters after the game.

"Obviously you can't talk about his contributions without talking about getting the last out of the World Series that changed everybody's life," Epstein said.

Montgomery talked to reporters from his locker after it was announced that he was traded.

"I look back at that and it's an emotional experience," Montgomery said. "At the time, I didn't realize how much impact it was. Especially now, as I leave this team and the city, it's going to be something I can look back on and really be proud of. I was able to accomplish a lot here and now it's time to move on and see what else I can accomplish somewhere else."

Montgomery may have an opportunity to join the Royals rotation. The Royals traded starting pitcher Homer Bailey to the A's on Sunday. Montgomery didn't make any starts in 2019, but had 38 in his previous two and a half years with the Cubs.

"It's definitely an emotional thing to think of the last three and a half, four years here and obviously the World Series," Montgomery said. "I grew up a lot here. I'm definitely going to miss playing here in the city and with a lot of these guys. It's going to take a little while to settle in."

 

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Jason Heyward getting back to 'who he's supposed to be' in Cubs lineup

Jason Heyward getting back to 'who he's supposed to be' in Cubs lineup

This is the Jason Heyward the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him to an eight-year deal in December 2015.

Back then, the Cubs believed Heyward had more power to tap into from his 6-foot-5, 240-pound, linebacker-esque frame. 

It didn't play out that way initially, with Heyward hitting only 26 homers to go along with a .367 slugging percentage and .688 OPS in his first three seasons in a Cubs uniform.

But all that has changed this year.

Heyward is on pace for 26 homers in 2019 — which would equal that three-year total — and his 71 RBI pace would be his highest since 2012, when he drove in 82 runs.

The 29-year-old hit his 15th homer of the season Sunday and it marks the first time he's eclipsed the 15-homer threshold since that same 2012 season, when he hit 27 dingers as a 22-year-old with the Atlanta Braves.

The power is the area that jumps off the page right now about the new and improved Heyward, but that carries with it a grain of salt that must be taken with everybody's longball total in the game right now. But his walk rate (11.6 percent) is the second-best mark of his career to only his rookie season in 2010. He's also pulling the ball less than he ever has and utilizing the middle of the field more while his hard and soft contact rates are far and away better than they've ever been in a Cubs uniform. 

All told, this is not the same hitter Cubs fans saw in the first three years of Heyward's megadeal.

"He's set up a little bit differently," Joe Maddon said. "Right now, his confidence is soaring. That ball was properly struck [Sunday afternoon] and he's been doing that often — even his basehits.

"... He's set up a little bit differently, but honestly, I think it's a confidence thing right now. He's feeling so good about himself. He's on the barrel more. I mean that's obvious. You don't see the ball off the weaker part of the bat nearly as often as we've seen in the past. I think that's the primary difference — the ball's off the barrel. 

"His hands are really alive. I love that the ball's still line to line, but the power is still showing up. I think that's exactly who he's supposed to be."

Sunday's homer was the game-winning hit for the Cubs and Heyward put his team in front once again Monday night with an RBI groundout to plate Kris Bryant in the fourth inning before a bullpen/defensive meltdown in the seventh inning. Oh yeah, and he got the game-winning knock in the bottom of the eighth inning Friday immediately after the Cubs gave the lead right back to the Pirates in the pivotal first game coming out of the All-Star Break.

He's been a difference-maker in this Cubs lineup all year, even as they search for more consistency and steady production. 

Heyward has gone from a guy who was on the bench in some of the most important games in the 2016-17 postseason because of his offensive issues to an integral part of this team's run production.

He's shown flashes of this in the past, including a month or so in the early part of last summer where he got really hot. But this has been sustained offensive production. In every month but May (when he batted .186 with a .618 OPS), Heyward has hit over .300 with an OPS well above league average, including a .968 mark in June and .992 in April.

But right now, he's not getting into all that. He's just trying to ride the wave of a long season.

"I don't try to break it down at all, honestly," Heyward said. "Just keep it simple and just stay in tune to what I got going on — first at-bat or whatever. It is kinda simple when you just look at it — not dwell on the negative, don't get too deep on that. 'Cause you're gonna fail. Just kinda choose how you want that to happen and make the best."