Cubs

Szczur plans to get on the fast track with Cubs

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Szczur plans to get on the fast track with Cubs

MESA, Ariz. Thirteen months ago, Matt Szczur was training for the NFL combine at a facility in Boca Raton, Fla. Jim Hendry flew down from Chicago to watch him work out and the two went to dinner at a nearby Mortons steakhouse.

The Cubs had selected Szczur in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, and he got a taste that summer, playing 25 games of Class-A ball that began with a 21-game hitting streak.

It was fun, but Szczur (pronounced Caesar) had already won a national championship at Villanova University in 2009, and some NFL team figured to draft him as a wide receiver who could line up at running back and return punts and kickoffs.

I didnt think I was playing baseball at all, Szczur said Saturday, sitting in front of his locker at Fitch Park. I had no thought in my mind I was playing baseball.

Szczur got high marks for his character. He had donated his bone marrow to an infant with leukemia in the spring of 2010. She only had a 1-in-80,000 chance of finding a match, but still survived.

The Cubs general manager at the time had to own some bad contracts. That overshadowed how creative Hendry could be as a dealmaker, the loyalty and trust that he could build up across the table.

Greg Maddux could have any job he wanted in baseball, but he once decided to be a special assistant to Hendry. Kerry Wood had just given Hendry a hometown discount.

Several players Hendry closed on last August when he already knew he was fired were scheduled to begin a minicamp on Saturday at HoHoKam Stadium, among them: Shawon Dunston Jr.; Javier Baez; Daniel Vogelbach; and Dillon Maples, all part of a 12 million draft class.

He was very easy to talk to, Szczur said. I just felt like I had a lot of injuries my senior year (in football). We talked about that a little bit and it got me thinking.

Szczur went back to his parents and his agent and took a new deal, which was believed to include a 1.5 million payment for the 2011 season. The outfielder landed in the All-Star Futures Game and finished with a .293 average, 10 homers and 24 stolen bases in 109 games split between Class-A Peoria and Daytona.

Szczur played last season on top of a football schedule, and by the middle of July he was so sore that hed jump into an ice bath after each game.

Hendry used to joke that Szczurs offseason baseball activities were the equivalent of taking hacks in a beer league. Szczur freely admits that fundamentally, Im not that sound.

Szczur also missed 10 games during Villanovas 2010 baseball season because of the medication he had to take to donate those peripheral blood cells, which saved the young girls life.

Really, the 22-year-old Szczur is just scratching the surface. Hes been at the Cubs complex in Arizona since last November, losing the bulk he used to carry for football, redistributing the weight and becoming more flexible.

Szczur is listed at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds and has explosive speed. He can chase down balls in the outfield, but he might not take the right path. He can sprint to second and steal a base, but he might not get the best jump. Hes always been aggressive, able to just get by on his athleticism.

Thats why Baseball America is bullish on Szczur, putting him at No. 64 on its just-released top 100 prospect list and giving this scouting report: Exciting high-risk, high-reward talent who should take off with football in his rearview mirror.

Theo Epstein collected those types of players when he ran the Boston Red Sox. Szczur has spoken with the president of baseball operations, and will have to make the new boss take notice.

Maybe a dinner at Mortons last January got the Cubs a core player for the future. The fans in the bleachers would love a guy whos not afraid of crashing into the bricks and ivy.

Im just here to play and make a team, Szczur said. I dont care whos in the front office. Not that its a bad thing, but I have to worry about myself. I have to perform, because no matter whos in the front office, if Im not playing well, theyre not going to do anything for me. Once I start playing well, they see that.

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

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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.”

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