Kaplan: Ricketts aiming to buy land in Dominican


Kaplan: Ricketts aiming to buy land in Dominican

Tuesday, Feb. 8, 20117:30 p.m.

By David Kaplan

While the Cubs 2010 payroll red-lined at 145 million for a team that was out of contention most of the season, the 2011 budget looks to be as much as 15 million lower.

However, don't look for the the Ricketts family to be spending less to improve the team; rather they are reallocating funds in different areas. While they did approve the signings of first baseman Carlos Pena and reliever Kerry Wood and a trade for starter Matt Garza, they are much more focused on building up the organization's player development system as well as the infrastructure of the team from a new spring training facility to a major overhaul of Wrigley Field.

Sources in the Dominican Republic have confirmed to me that the Ricketts' recently traveled to the D.R. to scout potential locations for a brand new, state-of-the-art Cubs baseball academy to develop young players in one of the richest talent bases in the world.

The cost for a new academy will be several million dollars, but the family's goal is to build the best training and development facility anywhere in Latin America. Tom Ricketts has been talking with several well-connected people in the Dominican real estate market and is prepared to buy a large parcel of land to house the complex.

The Cubs currently have a facility located in Boca Chica, but it is considered outdated and lacking in resources to complete the vision that the family has for the Cubs organization. The trip to the D.R. which included a stop at the funeral for Alfonso Soriano's mother is the second that the Ricketts have taken since purchasing the club in October 2009.

David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he was off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and only making it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."