[Grant Park, site of the Cubs planned 2008 World Series celebration, was at least used for a good cause last week]

First, congrats to South Sider Nick Swisher, who made it to the major leagues this week by getting a bona fide Yankees contract.

In Cub news, to everyone’s surprise, mostly because baseball fans forgot the award is handed out at all, the Cubs Lou Piniella was named 2008’s Manager of the Year.  As part of his contract, Piniella receives a $100K bonus for the award, which he will hand over to the kids charity, Cubs Care.   Originally, the money was to be considered for World Series shares, but, well … In other Cubs news, the Tribune Corporation under Sam Zell’s vision continues to flounder, with a 10.5% drop in profits.  Apparently, Fall 2008 just isn’t a great time to pedal conservative editorials in Chicago. Who knew?  The credit crisis currently dogging the rest of the world is also hitting the Cub cadre of bidders.  The team will most likely not fetch $1 billion, as Zell had hoped.  Indeed, with the Sun-Times reporting that lead bidder Mark Cuban only offered $100 million of his own cash in his bid, the idea of anyone floating $900 million in loans seems ludicrous at the moment.  Worse for Zell, no one believes in him as a loan partner, as they expect he’ll be defaulting on the Trib’s own loans sometime in mid-2009.  Maybe Cub fans Henry Paulson and Dick Cheney can provide one of those no-oversight bailouts they like so much?

If that bit of reality dawning on Cubdom isn’t enough, the Sun-Times broke some sad news to the Cubs densest fans faithful today.  “The Prior-Wood era of Cubs baseball is officially over.”  Yeah, that sentence ran in November 2008, not November 2005.  Go figure.  With Wood a free agent, (free of interest from the Cubs, certainly), and Kevin Gregg moving in, I look forward to Wood bringing his $10-mil contracts and million dollar arm somewhere else.  The Sun-Times’ Mr. Wittenmeyer breaks the news to 1990s nostaligists here:

The Wood-Prior era of Cubs baseball officially is over.

Less than a year after the Cubs parted ways with former star pitcher Mark Prior, they cut ties with two-time All-Star Kerry Wood, a move consummated with the acquisition today of former closer Kevin Gregg from the Florida Marlins in a trade for pitching prospect Jose Ceda.

“The obvious question to ask and address is, `What about Kerry Wood?™ ” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. “We all feel Kerry is deserving of a three- or four-year, long-term contract. We™re just in a position now, as Kerry understands, that the length of that deal for the salary he would command right now is not our first priority.”

Hendry said he spoke in recent days to Wood about that and said that based on their tight relationship that it was only fair to Wood and his family to encourage him to seek the best deal he could on the free agent market rather than leave him “dangling” over a possible chance to return, possibly at a discount.

“I don™t think I™ve had a longer or more special relationship with anybody else in baseball,” Hendry said of the star-crossed Wood, a first-round draft pick in 1995 who won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 1998 and earned All-Star recognition as both a starter (2003) and closer (2008).

Hendry said that setup man Carlos Marmol™s development as a dominating late-inning reliever capable of closing contributed to the change of direction. Marmol and Gregg, a right-hander with 29 saves but who lost his closer job with the Marlins last season, go to spring training as the Cubs™ top closer candidates.