Inbox: Samardzija's Mexico stint
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers Cubs fans' questions
Jeff Samardzija, Reed Johnson, 300 home runs, and Wrigley Field upgrades are among the topics in this week's Inbox. We'll try to stick to a regular Monday schedule. Please send your questions and include your full name and hometown to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happened to Jeff Samardzija to allow Thomas Diamond to take his spot in Mexico? Is Samardzija OK?
-- Wade T., Flora, Miss.
Samardzija is fine. The plan was for him to make four or five starts in Mexico, so he could get in a regular routine and have a chance to work on his curve, etc., then return home. Not many players go the entire Winter League season. For example, Jake Fox planned on playing for Licey in the Dominican Republic, but he was going for the second half.
In Samardzija's five starts with Mexicali, he gave up six earned runs, walked eight, struck out 22 over 24 innings and finished with a 2.25 ERA. For the season, he totaled 142 2/3 combined innings with the Cubs, Triple-A Iowa and Mexicali. Diamond made his first start on Friday, throwing three-plus scoreless innings.
What is the likelihood the Cubs will re-sign Reed Johnson? I thought he played great off the bench and has made some awesome catches with the Cubs.
-- Cameron B., Monroeville, Ind.
Johnson did bat .324 against left-handers, did make spectacular catches, and was a clubhouse favorite. But the Cubs have to decide whether Johnson, who made $3 million last season, is their best option in center or if they can find a less expensive player. After watching Tyler Colvin in his few games with the Cubs, I'd like to see him get a chance, but I'm not sure the front office feels he's ready. And a note to the e-mailers who want the Cubs to sign Hideki Matsui: No way. Yes, he's a left-handed bat, but Matsui is 35, was bothered by bad knees, didn't play any outfield this season, and is best suited for an American League team as a designated hitter.
With Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez both creeping up on the 300-home run mark, I'm curious if two players on the Cubs (or any other team) have ever hit the mark in the same year? Also, do the Cubs present players with anything when they reach certain milestones like this?
-- Levi R., Gilbert, Ariz.
According to Cubs historian Ed Hartig, Billy Williams and Ron Santo both reached the 300-home run mark in 1971, Williams on May 15 and Santo on Sept. 21. The White Sox had a pair of players hit their 300th homer in the same game this year. On April 13, Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko reached that milestone in back-to-back at-bats. That was the first time teammates reached 300 in the same game in Major League history.
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Lee enters 2010 with 293 career homers, and Ramirez has 264. The Cubs could have a trio reach 300 in '10 because Alfonso Soriano heads into next year with 290 career homers.
Ramirez ranks 10th and Lee is 12th on the Cubs' all-time home run list:
1. Sammy Sosa, 545 home runs
2. Ernie Banks, 512
3. Billy Williams, 392
4. Ron Santo, 337
5. Ryne Sandberg, 282
6. Gabby Hartnett, 231
7. Bill Nicholson, 205
8. Hank Sauer, 198
9. Hack Wilson, 190
10. Aramis Ramirez, 188
11. Andre Dawson, 174
12. Derrek Lee, 163
I've been reading that the Cubs' new owners are set on a new Spring Training facility with a Wrigleyville experience. Why doesn't Mesa, Ariz., come up with the greatest possible proposal for fans and make an exact replica of Wrigley Field, scaled down? It could be fully equipped with Clark and Addison streets surrounding the ballpark, with shops, bars and restaurants. They could even place hotels on Waveland Avenue with rooftop bleachers. They could go crazy with a mini "L" system to shuttle people back and forth from the parking lots. This mini version would be the ultimate fan experience. With the devout following the Cubs have, this could become quite a destination spot for Cubs fans around the world.
-- Shane G., Phoenix, Ariz.
Sounds wonderful. The Ricketts family does want to create a family friendly "Wrigley village" at the new Spring Training site. The question is, who pays for it? If the Cubs stay in Arizona it will be a municipal deal with a little bit of private contribution. The Naples, Fla., deal is the opposite, and would be privately funded with a little bit of help from the community.
Tom Ricketts mentioned that, in order for the Cubs to be World Series winners, they need state-of-the-art facilities. What does that mean? Are they going to upgrade Wrigley Field? What would they do? Would they change the appearance of Wrigley? Would they build a new stadium?
-- Adam L., Billings, Mont.
Since 2000, all of the National League Central teams have gotten new ballparks except the Cubs. Wrigley is outdated. The Ricketts family is considering a project called the "Triangle building," which would be located along Clark Street on what is now a parking lot west of the ballpark. Some of the early plans included underground batting cages, a larger weight room and training room connected to the existing clubhouse, which could then be expanded. Currently, if a bench player wants to take a few swings during a game to get ready, he does so in the clubhouse, lowering a net from the ceiling. No new stadium is in the works, just improvements to the existing structure. The Ricketts family has studied how renovations were done at Fenway Park to avoid having the Cubs play somewhere else during construction. Also, Tom Ricketts said they are not considering selling the naming rights, so Wrigley will remain Wrigley.
Do the Cubs make their players follow a mandatory fitness program in the offseason? Guys who were injured or not in the best shape this year should be on a weekly program. Imagine if Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano could get into the best shape of their lives.
-- Adam S., Mesa, Ariz.
Each player is given a structured offseason program, and Cubs strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss and athletic trainer Mark O'Neal monitor them very closely. They travel around the country as well as the Dominican Republic to check on the players.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.