Cubs gag, but Sveum laughs it off
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com February 18, 2013 12:07AM
Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum during a spring training baseball workout Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Updated: March 19, 2013 6:31AM
MESA, Ariz. — If manager Dale Sveum thought he was going to get through spring training without guys knowing or saying much about his hunting accident with Robin Yount this offseason, he found out how wrong he was Sunday.
During the annual spring team meeting on the first day of full-squad workouts, players suddenly took off their jackets to reveal “bright orange hunting gear,” Sveum said, then put on orange caps.
‘‘Of course, they gave me [a shirt] with a target on it,’’ he said.
Sveum was hit in the ear and back with birdshot from 50 yards away by his Hall of Fame hunting pal during a quail-hunting trip. He wasn’t seriously hurt and called it “no big deal” a few weeks later.
Right-hander Matt Garza, a suspected ringleader in the gag, said he remembers hearing about the accident in December.
‘‘I was like, ‘Get out of the way, man,’ ’’ he said.
Garza would not cop to the prank.
‘‘Whoever did that, it was a good one,’’ he said. ‘‘It just kind of loosened people up. I know the first day’s a little nerve-racking, especially for the new guys. But guys laughed, and Skip laughed.’’
Sveum said he still doesn’t know who was behind it.
‘‘But God help him when I find out,’’ he said, laughing.
Where’s the beef?
Chairman Tom Ricketts — in town for his annual address to the team and media — has long said all the money taken in by the operation goes back into the team. And he also has said that the baseball-operations piece of the pie will stay the same.
But Sunday he suggested the finances for baseball ops have been recalibrated since the family took over.
Payroll has gone down each of the three full offseasons since the Rickettses took over, from $145 million to $110 million this year. And while the front office has grown and spent more in some areas of scouting and player development, there also have been numerous cost-saving moves along the way.
In other words, where has the payroll difference gone?
‘‘You’re kind of comparing it to the Tribune payrolls of the last couple of years, which, from our standpoint and from the team’s standpoint, were just unsustainable,’’ he said. ‘‘But what I can say is that it’s a closed system. Every dollar does stay in the baseball organization.’’
Ricketts also said that the club’s pursuit of additional night games for Wrigley is not on the table for the 2013 season — same thing for the big new advertising signs around the stadium that will be part of the renovated ballpark.
◆ Ricketts said he expects enough clearance on city-ordinance restrictions “in the next few weeks” to start the Wrigley renovation project on time next fall.
◆ He called WGN’s national exposure for the Cubs a factor in upcoming negotiations for local TV rights.