The 2019 Cubs Convention began Friday night with the traditional opening ceremony and the talk-show format “Friday Night with Ryan Dempster.”
Cubs players also had plenty to say to reporters before everything began. Here are a few quotes.
“We know what we’ve got. We know our players and we know our talent. We’ve just got to compete more as a team and not worry about the other team. It’s going to be great. Baseball can go either way.”
“Sometimes you don’t get what you want, and it’s kind of good for us to go through that and get our teeth kicked in a little bit on our field in Game 163 and the wild-card game,” Kris Bryant said Friday.
Bryant was supposed to be joined by his Vegas pal Bryce Harper, the prominent free agent who supposedly craved being in a Cubs uniform. But that’s not happening, and the Cubs will win or lose with the same crew, for better or worse.
“Honestly, I understand some of the fan frustration,” Bryant said. “But as a player, that feels pretty good knowing your owner and president and GM all trust the team we have. That means something to us, knowing that we don’t really need another addition because the talent that we have is pretty dang good. I like the team we have.
“A lot of these guys have been on that World Series team, and I think we’ll come out and show everybody what we’re made of.”
“I don’t feel any pain,” Darvish said Friday at the Cubs Convention. “I feel strong. I’m throwing from 120 feet now.”
Theo Epstein, on Addison Russell:
“If he’s booed, I think people have the right to boo,” Epstein said. “And if he lives up to the standards we set out for him and earns his way back into a Cubs uniform, that’s all he deserves is an opportunity to earn people’s trust back, the organization’s trust, the players’ trust, the fans’ trust.
“He doesn’t deserve to be welcomed back unconditionally or with open arms. But I think the conditional second chance affords him enough of an opportunity to earn people’s trust back and change his life and change his story. There have been more than a dozen players that have returned from domestic violence suspensions, and many of them represent success stories as far as their lives going forward.”
Russell won’t be eligible to return from the suspension until May 3 if he remains on the roster.
“I’m not saying it’s going to happen,” Epstein said. “We’re probably in the top of the second inning of this story. (Russell) has a ton of work ahead of him, and it may not work. And if it doesn’t, we will move on instantaneously. But if it does …”
The last paragraph of that quote is most interesting. As you know, I have gone on record as saying the Cubs ought to move on from Russell. It seems to me that by saying “if it doesn’t (work out), we will move on instantaneously,” that Epstein is acknowledging that the Russell situation is a difficult one for the ballclub and they might not be able to continue to have him on the team. There were reports earlier this offseason that they did attempt to trade him and had some interest, only to have an unnamed team back off after further revelations from Russell’s former wife and a former girlfriend.
So it would appear that this story is not over.
“I’m his friend,” Bryant said. “That’s his business, and it’s a good time for him and his family. I’m not going to be another one of the guys who asks him where he’s going to sign.”
Bryant, however, did say it was “really weird” and “not good” that Harper and Manny Machado — the other superstar free agent this offseason — haven’t signed with spring training less than a month away.
“Two of the best players in the game, and (teams) have very little interest in them, from what I hear,” Bryant said. “It’s not good. It’s something that’s going to have to change. I know a lot of the other players are upset about it.”
It will be interesting to see what management has to say to fan questions during the day Saturday. As such, use this thread for commentary as the day goes on. We’ll have wraps here later in the day and tomorrow on the events at the convention.