Sammy Sosa

Ricketts: 'Nothing's changed' on Sammy Sosa's status with Cubs

Ricketts: 'Nothing's changed' on Sammy Sosa's status with Cubs

It's Cubs Convention week, so naturally, we have a Sammy Sosa update.

It's a question that comes up every year at this time — will Slammin' Sammy ever be welcomed back to the organization either for the fan convention or at Wrigley Field during the season?

David Kaplan posed that query to Tom Ricketts Thursday morning on ESPN 1000 and the Cubs chairman said his stance has not changed on Sosa:

"At the moment, the answer is no, nothing's changed," Ricketts said. "Like I've said in the past, everyone loved Sammy as a player — one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. But he played through a pretty awkward era. We owe all the guys that played in that era a lot of understanding. 

"There were a lot of PEDs being used by a lot of players — I mean, there's a sealed, federal investigation that has over 100 players that tested positive. I don't want to judge those guys in a way that's too harsh. But on the other hand, I think they owe us a little bit of honesty. I think we need to think that through. I don't know where it goes from here, but there's nothing new on that front."

That falls in line with the same thing Ricketts has been saying for years at the Cubs — the need for Sosa to provide some "honesty" and the word "apologize" has been thrown out at various points in the past, as well.

At the 2018 Cubs Convention, Ricketts said, "I just think we need to put everything on the table and move forward."
 
Sosa turned 50 in November and 2018 also represented the 20-year anniversary of his historic home run race with Mark McGwire. But the embattled former Cubs slugger has not been involved with the team or accessible to fans since he left the organization on bad terms after the 2004 season. 

Kaplan spoke with Sosa for NBC Sports Chicago last April and the icon said he doesn't need a job with the Cubs and just wants to be welcomed back by the franchise.

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

Cubs Mailbag: What does the future hold for David Ross and Bote?

Cubs Mailbag: What does the future hold for David Ross and Bote?

Welcome to the weekly Cubs mailbag. This edition is jam-packed with plenty of valid Cubs/MLB questions, but we threw in a few fun ones at the end. 

As always, thanks for all of your submissions and enjoy!

How about John Lackey as asst Pitching Coach and David Ross as Asst Hitting Coach or Bench Coach - John Barger (@Jbarger1967)

Good question, John, but I know you're just joking about Lackey as assistant pitching coach — though that would certainly be fun as hell to cover. Imagine how those mound visits would go...

As for the David Ross question, it's an interesting one and totally valid. Theo Epstein and the Cubs want Ross to be around a little bit more in 2019 and for good reason. He's still a very well respected and popular voice in that clubhouse and it's entirely possible he emerges as a potential successor for Joe Maddon at manager — possibly even as soon as 2020. 

Ross will be a manager somewhere someday, whenever he's ready and willing to put in the extreme time committment away from his family and kids. He's been enjoying retirement — and "Dancing With The Stars" — the last couple years, but if he's in line to become the Cubs skipper in the near future, ramping up his time around the team next year is a great precursor.

Could David Bote play 3d base for the Cubs next year if Kris Bryant  is moved to Lf? - Rowan Campbell (@RustaRow)

Could that scenario happen? Of course. Will it? Probably sometimes and mostly against left-handed pitchers, but it likely will not be a regular occurrence barring injury. 

Bote certainly looks like a better defender than Bryant at third base and Bryant is a better left fielder than Kyle Schwarber even with Schwarbs' weight loss and improvement in that regard, so this could be a "victory formation" type of alignment late in close games. 

But it's more likely Bote will be a role player in 2019, drawing a start a couple times a week but mostly backing up each infield position and the Cubs also want to work him out in the outfield this spring to become a super utility guy. It's still a question as to how much Bote will hit in the big leagues as he struggled over a larger sample after a hot start. 

With Jesse Chavez heading to Texas, where do the Cubs look for a lower priced BP arm? Or do you imagine they spend some $$ to get a higher type. Miller, Allen, Britton, etc - Brandon Spinner (@wxSpinner89)

Well Mr. Spinner, the easy answer to the question of "where" is: EVERYWHERE. Low-priced bullpen arms are found everywhere, with Chavez serving as recent proof of that. Relivers are so volatile, so those who were good last year are not necessarily guaranteed to be good in 2019, which ultimately means there are a lot of bargains to be had out there.

Brian Duensing was a great example of this in 2017 and while he struggled after the Cubs handed him $7 million on a two-year deal, it's entirely possible he puts the shoulder injury in the past and becomes a reliable option again. Same for Brandon Kintzler. Maybe the recently signed Kyle Ryan can become a solid left-handed, multi-inning option. Alec Mills certainly impressed in 2018. This could be the season Dillon Maples puts it all together. 24-year-old right-hander Dakota Mekkes has soared through the Cubs farm system and his next stop will be Chicago at some point in 2019.

The point is, the Cubs have a bunch of options already in the mix and there is no shortage of bullpen arms at the bottom of the market. Think about a guy like Carson Smith, who has only managed to throw 23.2 innings the last three seasons but was one of the most valuable relief pitchers in the game with Seattle in 2015 and he's still only 29. A.J. Ramos, Drew Storen, Zach McAllister and Brandon Maurer are other younger options who have flown under the radar recently but could be nice low-risk options.

As for the top of the market, it would be unlikely to see the Cubs outbid a bunch of other teams for the best available relievers given their financial woes, but they could definitely use another proven, reliable option in the back end of that 'pen.

what are the odds the Cubs sign Craig Kimbrel? - kimberly corono (@kimsrad)

Pretty slim, Kimberly. Epstein and the Cubs front office members don't like handing out huge contracts to relievers given the positions volatility and Kimbrel is asking for a 6-year contract and will surely get the most money of any bullpen arm this winter.

Do the Cubs have enough in the bullpen or do they need to address the clear inconsistency? - dwest (@dwest9cubs)

They 100 percent do not have enough in the bullpen. The chances are higher that the Cubs would sign BOTH Bryce Harper and Manny Machado than do nothing and ignore the bullpen this winter, even if that means they won't sign the top guys on the market. The only area the Cubs feel is set right now is the rotation.

Simple question. Rumors? Where are all the rumors? - Jon Levanich (@JonLevanich)

Oh the rumors are coming, Jon. There's never a shortage of rumors in Hot Stove Season, even if major signings are few and far between. One reason it may seem slow on the rumor front from a Cubs perspective is that they started their offseason on Oct. 3, something we're not used to around here. The last few falls, the Cubs either played all the way past Halloween or were eliminated 7-10 days before. We've had three more weeks of an offseason than we're used to.

I’m the cubs future owner How many World Series you think we can snag together? I’m going for three in 6 years - Alessia Lowe (@LoweAllesia)

It depends on when you buy the team and how long you own it, Alessia. If you bought it this offseason and owned it for the next 6 years, I'd say the Cubs add one more World Series during that time while also making it to the Fall Classic and losing on another instance. But championship windows can close awfully fast. Just ask the San Francisco Giants (or even the Blackhawks if we're talking non-baseball).

Who needs to take the biggest step forward next year to help the team reclaim the division? - Trevor Hipsher (@thipsher85)

Great question, Trevor. There are so many potential answers here, but I'm going to say Kyle Schwarber. Willson Contreras would've been my call here, but he's already taken a step forward in 2017, then took a step back in 2018, so I don't quite feel like that counts. Carl Edwards Jr. also could've been an option given the importance of a bullpen and the Cubs' need in that regard.

But Schwarber is a huge wild-card in that he's entirely capable of putting up numbers that come close to Bryce Harper in the power and OBP departments, yet will cost $30 million less in 2019. With all the inconsistency the lineup has faced recently, a dynamic Schwarber striking fear into the opposing pitchers would change the complexion of the lineup.

That's cold, Jack.

Hi Tony. From the start, Rizzo’s been pegged as a leader. From what you see/hear, is he shouldering any extra weight (warranted or not) for the collective “breaking” of the team’s offense? I’d love to hear more about his development as a leader and the pressure it can cause. - W.F. Call (@HatCreek_Outfit)

I don't think Rizzo is taking any extra weight on because of the offensive lull, but that's mostly because he already shouldered a lot of weight for the lineup. In the 2016 NLCS, he was one of the main culprits to the offensive slump and took it hard for obvious reasons. But he rebounded — as did the rest of the Cubs lineup — and we all know how that finished.

Rizzo is the face of the franchise and he is certainly a leader and a major tone-setter in the lineup, but guys like Jason Heyward and Jon Lester are more of the leaders in the clubhouse and Javy Baez is among the most vocal leaders on the team.

Who would you guess will be leading off for the Cubs in 2018? - Wally O'Malley (@wallyomalley)

Good question, Wally, and the simple answer is that I just don't know right now. It's totally possibly the Cubs wind up signing or trading for a more prototypical leadoff hitter since the current roster doesn't boast a guy in that mold. But if they don't make that move, I bet Ben Zobrist sees a bunch of time there when he plays and I would also bet a Schwarber (vs. RHP) and Albert Almora Jr. (vs. LHP) platoon, too.

Cub need proven bats at the lead off spot and another power bat behind Rizzo. Will the cubs fix this here in this off season? I cant see the cubs win any world series without an upgrade. Philly g cubs win. - Philly G (@gocubsgopg)

They could use another power bat, sure, but the Cubs are also anticipating more power from guys like Schwarber and Ian Happ in 2019 — plus a return to form and health from Bryant. But they still intend to address the lineup this winter and we may even see a guy like Nick Markakis or Michael Brantley join the roster to help provide veteran at-bats.

Do the Cubs have any interest in FA veteran catcher Martin Maldonado as. BU to Contreras? He isn’t an offensive guy but is one of the best defensive catchers and a great pitch framer who could work wonders with Wilson Contreras. - Eric Alexander (@Ericlosingit)

The Cubs certainly need a veteran backup option and Maldonado could fit that bill, but he also has spent the last two years as essentially a starter (playing 257 games) and at only 32, may prefer to hold out for a more regular role rather than simply spelling Contreras once or twice a week. But if he wants another taste at the postseason after his first experience in 2018 with the Astros, maybe Maldonado would choose to spend next summer in Wrigleyville.

Two-parter: Should we be worried Cole Hamels will regress over a full season? Also: Can you tell Clarence I say hi, who’s a good boy, yes he is? - JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz)

Clarence is a real good boy and I will tell him you asked about him. As for Hamels — yes, it's a legit concern he may regress given he's about to be 35 and had shown a noticable dip in stuff and production before the final two months of the season in Chicago. That being said, he was still dialing it up to 95 mph with the Cubs, has put his oblique injury firmly in the rearview mirror and is a savvy veteran who simply knows how to get hitters out. There will be some regression, but a potential Hamels meltdown is not even in the Top 30 of biggest Cubs concerns heading into 2019.

should the cubs consider trading for starlin castro? #mailbag - timbo slice (@tfilarski) 

Yes, and no. 

Yes because the Cubs need another starting-caliber middle infielder, the guys in the clubhouse freaking love Starlin and he's not even 29 yet and coming off arguably his best season as a pro (3.3 WAR, second only to the 3.5 WAR he put up in 2012).

No because he's due more than $12 million this year, still doesn't walk a ton and is good enough that the Marlins would actually want something of value for him, which is a tough sell.

if you had to take a position player from the 2003-2005 Cubs teams in their current state and put them on the 25 man roster, who would it be? - Dan Gratie (@DanGratie)

Love this thought experiment, Mr. Gratie. Derrek Lee was my initial reaction (especially the 2005 version), but neither he nor Rizzo could play the outfield, so that idea's out. Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa had some good years in that stretch and Aramis Ramirez would be a nice fit in the middle of this Cubs lineup, pushing Bryant to the outfield.

But I'm gonna go with Kenny Lofton. A consistent, stable leadoff hitter would do wonders to let the rest of this Cubs lineup settle in and Lofton slashed .327/.381/.471 while playing good defense and notching a 1.8 WAR in only 56 games for the Cubs in 2003. That's a 5.5 WAR player over an entire season.

What is the best intramural sport to play and why? Please include all relevant factors (ie competition, beverage consumption, weather) - Peter John (@Cubs567)

Softball. It's the closest rec sport to baseball (obviously) and there's enough downtime where you can enjoy a beer at the field but not so much downtime where you get bored. It's mostly played on beautiful summer nights (there's no place better on Earth than Chicago in summertime and I'll fight anybody who says otherwise) and 16-inch softball evens out the playing field and competition quite a bit. Plus, anybody can play it. You don't have to have a long history of playing baseball/softball all throughout high school or anything like that.

Will any pitchers be signed this year exclusively just to get a haircut? - Victor C. (@VictorC4victory)

The Cubs should totally have John Lackey out for Joe Maddon's Respect Bald event in spring training this year. 

What position would Jon Snow occupy in the Cubs lineup? - Patrick Giblin (@patrickgiblin)

Easy — The Pitcher That Was Promised. Epstein's front office has yet to draft/develop a homegrown starting pitcher and as a result, they've had to shell out a boatload of money the last few winters to round out the rotation and bullpen. Jon Snow could totally change that as The Chosen One.

How many of the Lannister children survive? Any other fantasy tale and I've got Tyrion and Jaime making it through. GoT? I think Cersei is standing tall at the end. - Matt LaCasse (@MattLaCasse)

I think Tyrion is the only one left standing at the end because I'm still optimistic the humans will win and Tyrion will be one of the saviors riding a dragon. Either way, Jaime just seems destined to die in the GoT universe.

How do we get Pedro his own reality show where he sings the opening? - KChi18 (@KAFChi18)

That would be incredible. Pedro Strop has always been one of my favorite guys in the Cubs clubhouse and now he's finally getting the appreciation and recognition he deserves. Guarantee Cubs fans would watch this show.

if paul walker (god rest his soul) was still alive do you think the rock would have remained as big of a character in the movie series? - Blake Bortles (@5blakebortles5)

First off, sorry about your demotion in the Sunshine State, Blake. But at least it gives you more time to hang out with Jason Mendoza.

Secondly, probably. Paul Walker has only been out of the Fast and Furious universe for one film and The Rock was a pretty big part of Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7 after his debut in Fast Five. It's hard to imagine this franchise without Dwayne Johnson.

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

What happened the last time that the Cubs played in Game 163?

What happened the last time that the Cubs played in Game 163?

The NL Central title will be on the line Monday when the Cubs and Brewers face off in a Game 163 at Wrigley Field.

Monday's game is not the first Game 163 in MLB history, of course, though it is first such game for the Cubs in quite some time.

In fact, the last time the Cubs played in a Game 163 was 1998, the season Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire dueled it out for the MLB home run single-season record (which McGwire won, 70 home runs to Sosa's 66).

Yeah, it's been a while.

The Cubs and Giants met at Wrigley Field for Game 163 on Monday, Sept. 28, 1998. The two teams entered the game 89-73, tied for the lone NL Wild Card Spot (MLB did not add a second Wild Card postseason position until the 2012 season).

Steve Trachsel started for the Cubs, facing off against Mark Gardner of the Giants. Trachsel pitched an odd game in which he allowed just one hit in 6 1/3 innings, though he walked six batters (he also struck out six).

Gardner had less success than Trachsel, allowing four runs (all earned) in 5 1/3 innings. Gardner pitched four shutout innings before surrendering a two-run blast to third baseman Gary Gaetti in the fifth.

Gardner exited the game in the sixth after allowing singles to Lance Johnson and Sammy Sosa. Giants pitcher Rich Rodriguez walked Mark Grace to load the bases, and Matt Mieske drove in Johnson and Sosa to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead.

San Francisco actually loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh inning, giving slugger Barry Bonds a chance to tie the game. Bonds, who hit 37 home runs in 1998, grounded out to first base to end the threat, however.

Sosa singled in the eighth inning and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch. The Cubs entered the ninth inning with a comfortable 5-0 lead, though the Giants did not go quietly.

After the Giants scored their first run of the game, Bonds again had a bases loaded opportunity, this time with none out. 

Fortunately for the Cubs, Bonds "only" hit a sacrifice fly. The Giants added a third run on a ground ball force out, though that was all, as the Cubs held on for a 5-3 victory to clinch the last playoff berth.

Long story short, that game in 1998 was a hard-fought and tight game. Bonds had several chances in big moments to get the Giants back in the game, though he ultimately came up short.

It would not come as a surprise if Monday's game at Wrigley Field is similar, 20 years later.