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Nov 11 2010, 03:27 PM
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts stated last week that the team’s payroll will remain flat. Knowing that, the Cubs' front office will be targeting the trade market as a way to improve on a disappointing 2010 season.

Like many teams, the North Siders have had their eye on San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who can become a free agent after the 2011 season.

The small-market Padres know they will not be able to afford the $15 million-$20 million per season that Gonzalez will demand as a free agent next November. That being the case, deciding when to trade their best player will be the key to the Padres’ structure in the near future.

San Diego picked up Gonzalez's $6.2 million option for 2011.

Gonzalez had surgery on his right shoulder in late October to repair his labrum. He’s expected to be 100 percent by spring training.

The Cubs would love to add Gonzalez. The fact the 29-year-old slugger hit 30 home runs or more in four consecutive seasons in cavernous Petco Park makes teams like the Cubs and Red Sox believe he’d be a 40-HR hitter in their parks. Historically, Wrigley Field has been a black hole for left-handed pull hitters due to wind conditions. Gonzalez is a perfect hitter for Wrigley, because he hits with power to all fields.

The Padres must decide if they can part with Gonzalez, a San Diego native, this winter. If they do, they would lose the marketability of a local product who helps them sell tickets.

The Red Sox have been trying to trade for Gonzalez for the last two seasons, and the Padres probably would have done that last year if they hadn't led the Western Division for most of the season. Gonzalez is the team’s only legitimate RBI threat.

In order to trade for Gonzalez, if and when the Padres are ready to do so, teams will have to be ready to part with 3-4 of their top young players. In the meantime, the Cubs will be talking to the agents for the top left-handed hitting first baseman in the free agent market in order to find out what the market will be.

Washington first baseman Adam Dunn will be asking in the range of three-years, $40 million, a contract the Cubs will not be able to afford. The Cubs will look at Tampa’s Carlos Pena, the Yankees Lance Berkman, Arizona’s Adam Laroche, the Yankee’s Nick Johnson and possible short-term free-agent solutions if a trade for Gonzalez is not feasible
Nov 11 2010, 03:23 PM
Joakim Noah's candor is a quality that separates the Chicago Bulls center from many athletes, and when the subject is Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, Noah's candor can turn into biting commentary.

Noah has gone from a fan who once had a Garnett poster in his room to someone who probably has a Garnett photo on his dartboard.

"Kevin Garnett will not -- will not -- get a Christmas gift from me," Noah said with a tinge of humor Wednesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I don't like him."

The feud started, or perhaps escalated, during last season's playoffs. After Garnett was suspended for throwing an elbow at Quentin Richardson, Noah -- who was in Cleveland playing the Cavaliers -- chimed in that Garnett was a "dirty player."

The most recent incident was Friday night in Boston when Noah received a technical foul, and afterward said of Garnett: "He is who he is."

"He's a very mean guy," Noah said Wednesday. "Where's the love? None at all. Ugly, too."

Noah said what makes the relationship difficult is how big a fan he was of Garnett before entering the NBA in 2007.

"I had his poster in my room," Noah said. "I used to wear his jersey. And the truth is my rookie year, I was in admiration of this guy, and he kind of shut me down.

"And he was very mean to me my rookie year. And he's only mean to the young guys and the [European players], for some reason. I don't know why, but that's who he doesn't like. He's not nice. I talk a lot of trash out there, but c'mon, be a little sensitive. Be sweet."

The Bulls play in Boston on Dec. 3.

Nov 5 2010, 01:49 PM

Daylight Savings Time Ends Saturday Night/ Sunday Morning at 2a.m.
Nov 5 2010, 01:08 PM
When producers called to ask the new Chicago Cubs owners to participate in "Undercover Boss," the CBS reality show in which CEOs pose incognito as rank-and-file employees in order to get an unvarnished, behind-the-scenes look at their businesses, the joke among the Ricketts family was that Tom couldn't do it.

[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Todd Ricketts got an "Undercover" look at the day-to-day operations of Wrigley Field.

"Can't grow a beard," said Todd.

The joke about Todd could have been that a disguise probably wasn't necessary for the lowest-profile among the four Ricketts siblings and the reluctant star of this Sunday's episode.

Still, he grew a beard (in only three weeks), donned glasses and spent a week in early September cleaning bathrooms, vending hot dogs, parking cars, working on the grounds crew and manning the famous Wrigley Field scoreboard.

What did he find?

Well for one, that the guy who works the scoreboard also cleans the bathrooms.

"They're all part of the grounds crew and getting to run the scoreboard is like a gift back," Todd said.

Todd Ricketts, who in real life also owns bike shops in Highland Park and Wilmette, posed as an out-of-work roofer who won a contest to appear on a TV show and get the chance to earn a job with the Cubs based on his evaluation at the end of the week.

In the interest of having people tune in, we're not told much about what happened. But apparently Todd is so bad on the grounds crew that he gets "fired." There are also some sentimental moments from a show that is known for them, not the least of which is the ending, when the boss's identity is revealed to astonished employees who are often rewarded for their work performance or positive attitudes. (In one earlier episode, however, a cranky phone operator was sent to a class for the exceptionally rude. She quit.)

"[The Cubs] are pretty much a male-dominated world so you think it might not be as emotionally touching or have as much story as other episodes," said producer Chris Carlson. "But we were surprised to find that a lot of these guys had just as many inspirational backstories, people struggling with personal adversity."

The Cubs corner the market on adversity. And the timing of the show was admittedly awkward given the fact that Mike Quade had just taken over the floundering club for Lou Piniella.

"Our biggest concern," said Todd, "was we didn't want anything perceived that the team was not performing well and the owners were making TV shows." Cubs blog
The latest news and notes on the Cubs. Blog

The Ricketts' stipulation was that the show would not involve the baseball side of the operation, though it would have been fun seeing Todd posing as an intern for an unsuspecting Jim Hendry or as a bearded team masseuse trying to work out the knots in Carlos Zambrano.

"We just thought the team is written about every day," Todd said. "A lot of guys have their routines and bringing cameras in could be disruptive." He did have some fun thinking about the possibilities, however. "The first day, we did talk about it," he laughed. "I'm thinking, gee, what could I do? Let's see. Center field is taken, how about closer?"

Todd, who came up with the alias "Mark Dawson" (a combination of Grace and Andre), had fun playing dumb. "Who's Billy Williams?" he asked a prospective co-worker at one point. And thanks to youthful stints pouring concrete and laying roofs, he apparently took to the physical labor a lot better than bosses in other episodes. The CEO from Chiquita had to be practically carted off after a couple hours on the loading dock.

Ricketts' attitude is a big part of what endeared the family to Cubs fans from the start. These weren't some corporate wonks but rather real people, Cubs fans themselves. It comes through on the show, Carlson said, when Todd fulfills a secret wish of operating the scoreboard during a game.

"It happened to be a game they won and he got to raise the 'W' flag," Carlson said. "We caught him singing during the seventh-inning stretch and you could tell he lost himself in the moment and was a kid again, a fan having a great moment."

Great moments, of course, have been scarce for Cubs fans before and since the family took over. And this is not fantasy league. "It's real people with real families," Todd said, and he was reminded of this when his 8-year-old daughter was wistful about Mike Fontenot leaving the Cubs but told her father she was happy for him when his new team won the World Series. "For me, it's been pretty easy to stay a fan and to do what we do," he said. "We feel like we have the right method of thinking as far as building a team that's going to be competitive every year and I don't think that conflicts with any sort of fandom."

An ownership philosophy is definitely beginning to take shape.

"If you look at how we're going to do things over the next few years, and I don't know exactly how that's going to pan out, some teams in baseball go out and sign a big-name free agent and part of their logic is to sell tickets and to create some excitement around the team," Todd said. "And I think that's something that we have the luxury of being able to avoid.

"We don't have to go out and just sign Adam Dunn because Adam Dunn's name will sell tickets. If we were going to sign somebody like Adam Dunn, it would have to be because it makes sense for the long-term view of the franchise to be a playoff team every single year."

They approached the managerial search the same way, he said, resisting the urge to hire Ryne Sandberg just because he's a fan favorite.

"Quade is a bit of a risk," Todd said. "We're hiring a guy that's not necessarily the name brand or a household name for managers in Major League Baseball. But our thinking is, we don't need to hire Joe Girardi to sell tickets or create excitement around the team. Or maybe we do, but we have the luxury of just not having to give in to that. We'll see how it works out. Maybe we're totally wrong.

"But as an outsider looking in, if you took the résumés of Quade and Sandberg and took their names off of them, I think you can come to the conclusion we did. Obviously, Ryne is beloved by all of us so you want to make sure he doesn't feel he was snubbed in any way. And even now, he's a representative and I think Sandberg is a guy who we're going to continue to have a great relationship with."

The family, Todd said, has yet to have any "super-tough" decisions and he does not foresee any in the future coming down to a vote.

"I see it more as us coming to a consensus than a vote," he said. And the consensus on GM Jim Hendry, whose contract expires at the end of 2012?

"Jim is a super great guy and has really endeared himself to the family and we really like him, but part of being the general manager is you've got to perform on the field," Todd said. "I think when that time comes, it will be less about this year and what the team has done in the past and more about where are we heading. Are we heading in the right direction? And I feel pretty confident at this moment that we are."

While the Cubs hold their organizational meetings this week, Todd Ricketts reels off the names of players who have come through the club's minor league system under Hendry's regime.

"If we can keep the pipeline going, I think we'll be in really good shape," Ricketts said.

It may not end up as reality. But as always, it should be entertaining.

Nov 5 2010, 01:05 PM
The Chicago White Sox have pushed John Danks near the top of their offseason priorities.

According to a source, the team is trying to work a multiyear contract for the left-handed starter into their budget. So while negotiating with free agent Paul Konerko lies ahead, as well as deciding whether or not to bring back A.J. Pierzynski, not to mention retooling the bullpen, it will all be done with an eye toward Danks.

The 24-year-old still has two more years of arbitration-eligible status, but the desire is to lock him in at least through his first free-agent year in 2013. That would require a minimum three-year deal, but a four-year pact is more desirable, according to the source.

Danks made $3.45 million this past season while proving to be the team's steadiest starter. He finished 15-11 with a 3.72 ERA, while his walks and innings pitched per nine innings was a career best 1.21. Over the last three seasons, Danks has pitched at least 195 innings and has never had an ERA above 3.77, while making a minimum of 32 starts.

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