The question about Sammy Sosa being welcomed back to the Cubs comes up every year at the team’s convention.
With Carlos Zambrano – another prodigal son – coming to the convention this year and getting a warm reception from the fans, Sosa’s name was sure to come up again.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has steadfastly avoided talking too much about Sosa since his family took over the team in late 2009.
Ricketts said as much about it during Saturday’s session with fans, as he has since taking over.
“I really believe that all the players from that era who were in that performance-enhanced era, that steroid era as people call it, I think we owe them a lot of understanding,” he said. “I think we have to put ourselves in their shoes and be very, very sympathetic to everything, all the decisions they had to make. As it turned out, after testing was begun ... a large number of players tested positive. I think we all have to be really, really sensitive and sympathetic in understanding their situation.
“But I also believe players from that era owe us a little bit of honesty, too. I kind of feel like the only way to turn this page is to just put everything on the table. I think that’s kind of a better answer in the long run. We’ll see what happens in the future.”
Sosa has said he never failed a drug test, but his name appeared in a New York Times report, citing anonymous lawyers, that he had tested positive during a “survey test” in 2003.
Both Sosa and Zambrano walked out on the Cubs during games, and Sosa was caught using a corked bat in 2003.
Looking to stay: Cubs manager Joe Maddon is entering the third season of his five-year contract. He was asked by a fan Saturday whether there had been talks about a contract extension.
“I don’t try to strike up those kind of conversations,” he responded. “I’ve got a job to do. I’ve got two years left on my contract. I’m totally looking forward to honoring those next two years. I’ve been very fortunate in the first place that the Ricketts family and [team president] Theo [Epstein] and [general manager] Jed [Hoyer] gave me this opportunity.
“I don’t want to go anywhere else. That’s obvious, and that’s true.”
Around the ballpark: The Cubs are in the midst of the fourth year of the Wrigley Field renovations. For this season, Cubs business president Crane Kenney said two new elevators behind home plate will be operational by Opening Day.
New, bigger dugouts will be pushed down the first- and third-base lines toward the foul poles as the Cubs open their new premium club under the seats behind the plate.
Kenney said cellular reception will be improved this season.
The Hotel Zachary, across Clark Street, will be ready by Opening Day, and it will house a McDonald’s restaurant, which is scheduled to be open by St. Patrick’s Day.
Kenney said eight new concession stands in the main concourse will be finished by July, with portable stands operating until the permanent stands are ready.