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.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Manny Machado’s value and other Cubs offseason wish list items

Did Manny Machado’s value take a hit at all after he openly admitted hustling isn’t his “cup of tea”? Our Cubs team (David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Tony Andracki, Jeff Nelson) debate that, plus the potential fit of Machado or Bryce Harper for the 2019 Cubs and beyond.

[MORE: The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason]

The crew also runs down the top items on the Cubs’ offseason wish list – ranging from bullpen help to infield depth to a set leadoff hitter – in what may be the most impactful winter in Theo Epstein’s tenure in Chicago.

Listen to the podcast here or via the embedded player below:

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess, as we discussed on the latest CubsTalk Podcast.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.