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The 2004 Cubs Convention

This is the price we pay for success.

Even though they cut off sales for the convention at 15,000 (the same every year), it seemed way more crowded both yesterday and today. There were lines to get the program, for heaven's sake. There were lines at the coat check, lines to buy a soda, it seemed like there were lines to get in line.

Yesterday's opening ceremony was much more crowded earlier than usual, but I did manage to find a pretty good spot. They roped off the front of the ballroom for wheelchairs, which is nice, but that meant that the wheelchair folks got most of the caps that the players flung off the balcony, which they do every year. Oh, well.

Jim Hendry got a huge ovation when he was announced, which is probably the first time a Cub executive ever has. When Michael Barrett came out, the first of this year's players to be introduced, I couldn't help thinking, "There are more people in this room than were at most of his home games in Montreal." Derrek Lee got a handful of boos from classless people, I guess thinking of him with the Marlins, but hey -- he's a Cub now, folks, and he's going to be a key part of our offense. Someone else to watch out for is Todd Walker -- he started whooping up the crowd, and if Mark Grudzielanek is traded, or something else happens and Walker winds up being the starter, he could be one of the most popular members of the team.

The video of highlights from last year inexplicably didn't include the playoffs, or maybe that's perfectly explicable. Our little bleacher section got about three seconds, and only Jeff, Phil and Jeff's friend Mark were visible.

Obviously, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood got the biggest ovations of all, and Pat Hughes teased us at the end of the introductions by saying "There's something else we have to do right now," and we thought maybe they were going to spring a surprise Greg Maddux introduction on us, but it wasn't to be. I still believe, based on what I hear, that the Maddux deal could get done in the next week or so.

Mike Kiley wrote today that the Cardinals are no longer interested in Maddux and I doubt that the Giants, in cost-cutting mode this winter, will be either. Maddux has gone on record as saying he doesn't want to play in the AL, and at a certain point, he's simply going to have to tell the bombastic Scott Boras that he, not Boras, is in charge of his future. The deal makes sense from Maddux' standpoint and the Cubs' as well.

On to the rest of the convention. Due to work today, I could not make the "Meet Cubs Baseball Management" session, but Mike attended and said that both Hendry and Dusty Baker got huge ovations, and Spike O'Dell, radio host, again said that was the first time that had happened. Mike's comment to me: "It was the first time they deserved an ovation."

Baker came up with the best line when asked why, in NLCS game 7, he used Dave Veres instead of Matt Clement. Dusty said that Clement supposedly has a "two-hour routine to get ready to start", which, whether true or not, is one of the reasons, but then he added, "and if I'd have put Alfonseca in there, all of you people would have really let me have it!"

Apart from that, there were actually some decent deals on autographed balls, but you had to look around carefully. I located an Alex Rodriguez ball for $125, and Mike told me that's about half of what they normally go for, so I bought it -- this from a dealer that Mike, who knows autographs well, says is totally reputable. I also spotted some Joe Borowski balls for $30-$35, but one table had a "show special" for $16, not much more than the price of the ball, so I bought that one too.

After saying hi to some people from the bleachers (not that many showed up, but I did see Tim -- who gave me the pic I posted the other day -- his wife Ellen, Ron, George, Judy and her husband John and daughter Kathy, and it was nice to say "Happy New Year" to them all), that was about enough for me.

Bring on the season. It's 37 degrees in Chicago today, and there have been many Opening Days colder.