Honestly, there isn’t much I need to say….
First, major credit goes to Julie DiCaro, who one week after a well placed first pitch, threw another strike on the neighbors this afternoon…
There was some complaining about a pedestrian bridge…
Which is kind of ridiculous because…
And the neighbors are a little nervous about what will come of the neighborhood…
I like it when these write themselves.
First, an explanation of the title… It’ll become clear that this post is regarding Matt Garza’s absence very soon. The Billy Goat reference is to the beard he’s sported. And it’s not a knock at all. I think it’s awesome. And I’m a bit jealous that my employer’s dress code doesn’t allow me to have it. Moving on…
Some would consider it overstated if I were to say that the Cubs really, really miss Matt Garza. After all, how can they miss a guy who hasn’t pitched since last July while the rotation is in the midst of one of the best runs on the north side in quite some time?
Garza may not be the sole source of energy on the Cubs’ roster. Darwin Barney hustles and plays with enthusiasm. David DeJesus is a workman everyday. And being a starting pitcher, what Garza can do on the field is pretty limited to one game in every five. The on-field component is only a part of the story, though. Matt Garza does things that don’t usually get caught by cameras, but when they do, boy they stand out. He’s really good at delivering a shaving cream pie. Leaning over the rail in the dugout is a particularly nice trait he features.
Enthusiasm is a tough thing to bottle. As I mentioned, a number of players on the roster play with enthusiasm. Matt Garza does damn near everything with enthusiasm. He tweets with enthusiasm, completing every win by tweeting “Raise ‘er up” with the white flag with trademark blue W in the middle. At the Cubs Convention, he was so laid back that he looked like he nearly fell out of his chair laughing, by my count, three times. Once when Scott Feldman referenced an “upper decker” when he was in Texas. Once when a fan I know fairly well asked Scott Baker for tickets after he’d mentioned in a panel discussion that it was awkward to say no to fans who ask for them. And another at what was a seemingly benign joke from Scott Feldman. I don’t even recall what the joke was. I just remember Garza’s reaction. That personality, which may exist in a less public form within the Cubs clubhouse while Garza gets back, is something the Cubs need. From my view, no team can have enough Matt Garzas.
As I’ve been working on this piece, Pat Mooney put one of his own out with some great stuff from Garza directly. It actually set up the point I was going to make before I made it, so if Pat Mooney or Matt Garza feel like wasting time reading my hobby, thanks a lot for beating me to the punch. Since I came to make a point, I won’t let them stand in my way, though. Garza, in all of his enthusiastic glory, is about the most positive person I can think of. I can’t say I’ve seen him acknowledge the negative. He’d been outspoken about progress and tackling his rehab from the stress reaction last summer. The same thing with the strained lat. And he wants the same out of the fans, which is well highlighted in the Mooney piece. He either really loves the fans or he’s a really good actor (and I think it’s the former). And he wants us to have his (and his team’s) back as much as he’s shown that he has ours over the course of the last few years.
With the free agency climate changing, I, too, could see Matt Garza sticking around with a qualifying offer. If he comes back and pitches as well as he has since he’s been with the Cubs, there’s no good reason not to lock up a legitimate front line starter, to go with Samardzija, Jackson, et al to make a run at the postseason down the line. We know what he’s capable of in October. He was quite good in his appearance with the Rays in 2008 and 2010. And, as positive as he is, it would be nice to see him winning a playoff game, series, and championship with the Cubs when that day comes.
For the last day, the general agreement among fans and the media is that Tom Ricketts is bluffing. There have been comments ranging from “The Cubs without Wrigley are the White Sox,” to, pretty much, “LOL.” Nobody seems worried that Tom Ricketts might actually be the owner to leave Lakeview. It seems in part because of how much he loves the ballpark. It also seems that the PR blitz afterward was to walk back to rhetoric of moving. After all, you can’t “remain committed” to fixing up your fixer upper park AND be willing to move away from it, can you?
The reality of the his comment is that the Cubs can leave Wrigley. And if this deal falls through, the odds shift to about 50/50 that they will.
I don’t have any insider knowledge of the thinking of the ownership. All I have is what the media has reported. And what has happened since the Ricketts’ bought the majority of the team. The fact that this card hasn’t been played until this point tells me that Tom Ricketts and his family are committed to renovating Wrigley Field. It also tells me that their patience is not unlimited. He’s been fighting this battle since he took control of the team in October, 2009. Since then, he’s managed to work out a new complex in Mesa and get a baseball academy in the Dominican ready to open. The last domino to fall is Wrigley Field. But the hurdles at Wrigley are much, much different than the hurdles in Arizona and the Dominican. In Chicago, he’s got neighbors and “hand out” politics at play. Honestly, at this point, can anyone give a good reason why the team has to fight to spend a half of a billion dollars to fix its own park? It’s preposterous by any measure that they should have to work this hard to spend that much of their own money.
So why not order the Code Red? Maybe training just isn’t enough. Maybe it takes an ordinary rag stuffed into the mouth of some unsuspecting neighbors. And maybe, while the Cubs deflect the negativity of what Ricketts said yesterday, he gets a little more upset with the fact that nobody seems to understand that he’s the one who makes the call, and it doesn’t matter that he has to eat breakfast 500 yards from a bunch of neighbors who want to kill him. At some point, Ricketts is going to be on the stand, and he’s going to scream on the top of his lungs that he’s going to take his team to the ‘burbs if he damn well pleases, and there is nothing the neighbors, the mayor, or the alderman can do about it. Unless they decide to play ball…
“A Few Good Men” references aside, the most powerful person in this battle is Tom Ricketts. I tweeted this morning that it was a mistake to think a man who is in a family that is worth north of $2 billion would resign himself to nothing but the emotion of loving Wrigley Field. That family did not get that wealthy by making emotional decisions.
Calling Ricketts’ bluff might be a mistake. He has all of the cards. The entire deck. So if he wants to pull out all four aces and drop them in Rosemont, Naperville, or any other suburb willing to give him a sweet deal on land and public financing for a new park, he very well can if he wants to. And it is absurd to think he won’t, merely because he can’t.
My feelings on the Wrigley Renovation have been pretty simple…either make Wrigley work, or move on. Based on today, it seems that Tom Ricketts is at that point, too.
There was a lot of information released last night, including the renderings of what the agreed upon deal will actually be. I think I speak for everyone when I say it was nice to get a visual idea of what the video board and signage will be. With Tom Ricketts having a news conference today, a lot of information came out, which, for the most part, I came across tweets by Patrick Mooney and David Kaplan. So I’m just going to share it with some of my own thoughts, with quotes being attributed to Tom Ricketts.
- “We have tried to minimize the impact on the rooftops.” I think this is a pretty intuitive statement, since the team and the rooftop owners have a revenue sharing agreement place in future for the next decade. There’s not really a lot to add to this, other than Ricketts acknowledging the rooftops means they’ve mattered to the process, in spite of the rooftop owners claims of not being included.
- “We anticipate increasing spending on the baseball side as soon as we know what we can do with this plan.” and “We need this revenue to compete. That is a fact.” These are pretty significant statements. They say that the Cubs are not going to spend significantly more on the on field product before the plans are finalized, but will once they know they have the additional revenue streams in place. The unrest about waiting until the renovation is complete flies out the window, you would think, with the comment about spending as soon as they know what they can do with the plan. It certainly appears that all the team is waiting for is some certainty in what revenue will be coming in as the renovation progresses, which allows them to spend more money on the Major League product. It also says that the team thinks its current revenue is what is holding back the front office from fielding a more competitive team at the moment. While not mentioned here, Ricketts did mention that they were building a minor league system, and I think that’s important, too. As those players come up, they are going to earn more money. Not only will the revenue help the team bring new players in, but will allow them to retain the talent they’re developing for the long term. It’s worth a mention, because teams like the Rays have produced a lot of talent over the course of the last few years, and have not been able to retain much of it because of their midsize market (which is basically what the Cubs are working at right now), and because of the lack of revenue that their ballpark brings them.
- “We are very confident in the legality of our signage plan. We are not making a threat to move. The fact is we want to win in Wrigley Field.”; “Keep my talk about moving in context. We want to win at Wrigley. We also need to run our business.”; and “Moving is not a threat. It is a fact that if we don’t have outfield signage we cannot make the financials work. That’s it.” I am pretty surprised by these comments, which were the first of their kind, at least to my recollection. I, and none of the other blogs, reporters, or writers I follow for information, have recalled an instance where Tom Ricketts has said publicly that moving to another location is on the table. There is a lot of buzz about whether it was substantive or not. At this point, I would figure, it almost has to be. The renovation of all of the facilities has been one of the priorities of this owner since taking over, and if the team and the city can get this close to a plan to improve Wrigley, it stands to reason that it may be time to explore other alternatives if this deal doesn’t work out. I think this is Tom Ricketts’ “put up or shut up” call to the neighborhood. And, as I’ve said before, it is long overdue. He cannot wait around forever to have only a few more restrictions than every other team, as opposed to the current load of oppressive ordinances and rules that inhibit the Cubs from playing on a level field with the rest of the league. If this deal falls through, the Cubs, in my view, will be forced to look elsewhere. In the long run, that may be their best option because a new location outside of the city would eliminate all of the ordinances, regulations, and restrictions on signs, night games, and renovations that affect the historic landmark designation of the park.
- In a piece from David Kaplan this afternoon, Ricketts said that naming rights and seat licenses are not in the immediate plans because of fans coming from all over to see “Wrigley Field.” From a fan’s perspective, that’s great news, and if I were a season ticket holder, the seat license news would also make me happy. For the time being, the Cubs seem intent on raising revenue through sponsorship and using corporate partners in the proposed plaza and outfield signage. All of that to me seems like a good way to do it, as long as it’s possible. I doubt he’s slammed the door on the idea. This post by Kaplan comes from an interview which will air at 5:30 CDT on CSN Chicago.
Last night there was some chatter about making Wrigley “old.” To me, none of the renovation drawings and proposals seem to do that. They don’t make it old again. Hell, it’s already old. The falling concrete, worn paint, and small concourses being topped off with troughs in the bathroom make it old. What the renovation does, in my eyes, is leave the charms that we all love about the park…the ivy, the scoreboard, the intimate feeling of the park…intact with some more modern amenities that every other team has. Nothing I’ve seen ruins Wrigley. In fact, from what I’ve seen, it’ll make Wrigley even better than it is now as a park to watch a ballgame.
Today was an important day in the history of the Chicago Cubs. It is either the first day of a new era of baseball at Wrigley Field for our children and, potentially, grandchildren to enjoy. Or, it is the first day of the end of the Wrigley Field era in baseball. Either way, this day is an important one for the Cubs and us, as their fans.
(h/t to John Arguello and Cubs Den for being the place where I found these images in one place)
There is no denying that it’s been tough to watch at times in the early going. The errors, the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position, the lack of patience at the plate, the base running blunders…it’s all been quite frustrating. There is a bright side, though. It can’t get any worse.
In my Central Division Preview, I called the Cubs an 80 win team. I made my predictions, intentionally early, based on the on-paper roster. It actually looks pretty good right now. *Hold on, meatball…before you call me a moron and tell me to watch the games, you’re right.* But hear me out. The Cubs are losing games, which is to say they are not being beaten by the other teams, but by themselves. We can agree they played well enough to win one against the Braves, two more than they did against the Giants, and probably the first two of this series against the Brewers without the mistakes which have cost them early. There are five wins in there the Cubs don’t have, that they could have. And really, if they win two or three of those five games, nobody’s saying anything about the errors or struggles with runners in scoring position because an 8-8 or a 7-9 record would be acceptable based on what we were expecting this season.
More silver lining: the mistakes are inexcusable. They are not, however, uncorrectable. Change can happen with the defense, especially when the vast majority are effort mistakes. Anthony Rizzo is a very good defensive first baseman, and has made two uncharacteristic plays in the last two nights. Both of them were because he was trying to rush. Friday, on a play against a speedy Nori Aoki, and last night trying to get an out and throw home on a play he wasn’t going to make. Ultimately, the play last night didn’t matter. Sure, he bobbled the ball, but they still got the out at first base, and he wasn’t going to hold Logan Schafer at third anyway. That’s a “no harm, no foul” play. The misplay was not relevant to the outcome of the play. Starlin Castro is our favorite whipping boy, and it probably has a lot to do with his off the charts talent. His issues have not been concentration related, either as much as they’re publicized as. Say what you will about an error with the pitcher running, but that was a physical mistake, not taking his time and making the play. Stop with the garbage “you have to be aware of who’s running” stuff. Last night was no different. Actually, it was the same play. Two outs, and making the play ends the innings and ends the scoring threat.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be disappointed or frustrated or cover our eyes while we watch yet another defeat being snatched out of the jaws of victory. At the end of the day, though, who cares? The front office, and Theo Epstein, in particular make no qualms about “playoffs or protected pick.” He said that they’re going to take the “cold assessment” in the middle of the season. There is no valor in winning 78 vs 73. He’s absolutely right, too. Hell, I’ll take it a step further. When you watch the game today, look across the field at the other dugout. They won 83 last season. Our guys got 61. Everybody finished on the same day. Their fans get to talk about the magical “winning season” and we get mocked for “101 losses.” But in June, the Cubs get a prize. They get Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray. They get a chance at a college arm who can be teamed with Jeff Samardzija for years to come. The Brewers coughed up a first round pick for three years of Kyle Lohse, and with it, stay stuck in mediocrity. They can have their 75-84 wins each year. If the Cubs go down with another 100+ losses this season, that’s alright. *Cue Meatball fan throwing closing the browser window…NOW* It’s not like tthe Cubs have had a difficult time attracting free agents. Edwin Jackson was one of the prizes of last winter’s class, and he came.
The Cubs are in the midst of culture change. A welcome one. Look across the field at the Brewers, again. Now think back to 2011 and what the Cubs were. In 2011, the Cubs didn’t have anybody but Starlin Castro who would actually be improving over the course of the next 4-5 years. Everyone on the roster was either in or past their prime. They won 71 games. It was miserable. It was worse than we have now because it was hopeless. We wanted to think adding Carlos Pena and trading the farm for Matt Garza would be enough to have another magical winning season. We hoped Carlos Zambrano wouldn’t be a complete headcase, and with him, Garza, and Ryan Dempster, there would be a rotation worth running out each day. We had Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall setting up for Carlos Marmol, which turned out to be a decent pen when the Cubs actually led. Aramis Ramirez was still at third and it didn’t look like an endless abyss of suck. The reality of that team, though, is that the only player who played any considerable amount of time with any potential to grow was Starlin Castro. *Meatball, if you’re still with me, I’m talking to you again…yes, Starlin is getting better. No, we shouldn’t trade him unless we get a lot in return, and yes, his defense is above league average.* Now, look at the Brewers. Lucroy is pretty good, but at 26 is probably not going to get much better, if at all. Ryan Braun is in the twilight of his 20s, and is in his prime. Jean Segura is a young and talented player who will improve. But apart from that, who else is there? Their minor league organization is bare, and Aramis Ramirez is two years older than the past his prime Rami we saw a couple of years ago. Corey Hart can’t stay healthy, and is starting to get to the point of decline. Rickie Weeks is a laughable shell of his former self. It all looks very familiar to our situation a couple of years ago.
The point of all of this is that, like Wrigley Field, the product on the field was a real mess a couple of years ago. That’s why Jim Hendry was fired, that’s why Theo Epstein was given the reigns, and that’s why we are where we are. It needed to be done. Like any massive renovation, some things are going to be broken down, some things are going to be ugly and tough to handle, but in the end, the foundation will be stronger and the finished product will look better. If you take anything from this series, take it as progress. Two short years ago, the Cubs may have won some games because a less talented team made some silly mistakes against a team of aging veterans who weren’t going to be better than 71 wins, but wouldn’t beat themselves as often. Honestly, I would rather the Cubs throw the ball around the diamond and beat themselves than get run day after day. That’s not happening. What is happening is a young team learning to play together, and learning to win together. It’s hard to watch. It may result in being swept out of Milwaukee.
We knew what 2013 was coming in. It still is. A bridge to next year.
“Ald. Thomas Tunney, 44th, said Thursday that he would not sign off on a deal unless it included more parking, better police protection and “aesthetic” assurances sought by Wrigleyville residents and businesses — all issues that have yet to be settled.
Reminded that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for an agreement, in part because the Ricketts family that owns the Cubs is not asking for any government funding, Tunney replied, “Yeah, but it’s not going to be on the backs of my community, sorry.”
The Rickettses have maintained that a deal needs to get done by Opening Day in early April so they can line up the contractors and materials needed to fix up their aging ballpark, but Tunney dismissed that concern.
“You’re talking about one of the wealthiest families in America,” the alderman told a throng of City Hall reporters pressing him on the issue. “End of statement.”
That load of political BS was from the Tribune, where Alderman and Professional Extortionist, Tom Tunney, made it clear that he wants his hands filled before he does the right thing. None of it makes sense, however, when you break this bit of complete stupidity into pieces:
- I can see how parking is an issue, especially since I come down from Wisconsin for trips to Wrigley. With that said, parking is not going to get much better than it is with the current location of the ballpark. It just isn’t. You can’t have a park in the middle of a neighborhood and expect that you can just make parking appear. I would assume the hotel that is being proposed for the McDonald’s property would have some parking. I doubt it’ll be sufficient for a full park’s attendance, but it would probably be better than what is there now, and even if it’s not, the DeVry University remote parking is an affordable and good option for nights and weekends. Police protection is on the city. Period. As far as “aesthetic assurances,” I am with all of those who say that the ballpark isn’t aesthetically pleasing now in the concourse area, but the renovation would enhance it. I know the alder-crook is talking about the roof top owners who line his pockets politically. As far as residents and businesses go, somebody should get the pulse of the property and business owners’ feelings about the Cubs leaving. Their businesses closing and property value plummeting wouldn’t be ideal for any of them, which would be the result of the Cubs moving out of the neighborhood.
- The same logic applies when he talks about the renovation being “on the backs of [his] community.” That community is nothing without the Cubs and Wrigley Field. I can’t imagine that they want to see a half billion dollars of private improvement to their cash cow packing its bags.
- Lastly, he is right about the wealth of the Ricketts family. It begs the question, why push it? They are wealthy, and they are proposing to sink $500 million into the ballpark and surrounding area. All of the work they propose would be paid for out of their own pockets. Sounds like a sweet deal for the city.
For those who haven’t been paying too much attention, Tom Ricketts announced a partnership with the Chicago Athletic Club, and that a state-of-the-art fitness center would be built in the Sheraton Hotel proposed for the McDonald’s property across from Wrigley (very well discussed on the Bleacher Nation Blog). The grand total in improvements to the park and area is half a billion dollars. WITH NO PUBLIC FUNDING AT ALL!
I continue to be a proponent of the Cubs actively and seriously considering options in the suburbs. This is exactly why. When coupling this statement with Tunney trying to extort repairing a train stop and building a park on
the back of “one of the wealthiest families in America,” it appears that there is no deal to be had.
The best leverage to broker a deal with the city has to be actively looking for other places to build a ballpark and hotel/ health club structures. While the mayor wants to have a deal done, he is, at least at the moment, unwilling to step in and make the deal happen. It seems unlikely that he will. I’ve noted in the past his political differences with the Ricketts family. I can’t imagine that he is enthusiastic about jumping up to help. Looking for alternatives to Wrigley Field solves the problem. Either the city realized it has a gold mine with the potential to bring even more money and even more jobs to the existing location, or the Cubs get a modern ballpark without the headaches of the Chicago political fist-pounding.
The new location could still house some of the Northwestern University sports that have been discussed, and could be a modern magnet for concerts and other revenue streams that are limited by the current location. The Cubs would also get the value of a normal slate of night games, which would increase the value of their upcoming television contract, which is another source of revenue. The sale of Wrigley Field to the state, to a private investor who thinks it’ll be cool to own a team-less 100+ year old symbol of baseball history, to whoever offers the most, would be a nice chunk of funding to drop into the construction of a new park. The only downside to a new ballpark is that it will not be Wrigley. As I have noted in the past, if Yankee Stadium, Tiger Stadium, and others can be replaced, so can Wrigley.
My first preference is for the Cubs to remain in Wrigley, of course. At this point, though, all of us, as Cubs fans should warm up to the idea of watching a competitive team at “SOLD NAMING RIGHTS” Park in, say…Schaumberg…or Naperville. They would still be the Chicago Cubs, after all…but without the grief and political thuggery that go with the actual city.
After the Cubs Convention last weekend, there has been some considerable excitement for the renovation plans which were unveiled. After all, a $300M project to modernize the ballpark, while keeping the things that make Wrigley…well, Wrigley…and the Ricketts being able to fund the entire project sounds like a win for everybody. But…
Mayor Emanuel really doesn’t like the Ricketts. His insistence that the Cubs not use public funds could be driven out of his city’s disastrous financial situation. I would suspect, though, that it has as much to do with Joe Ricketts plans to run racially charged ads against Emanuel’s buddy during the last election. Politics is a dirty game…and this is an opportunity for the mayor to stick it to Ricketts, in spite of the damage it does to his city. Make no mistake…it does damage the city. Wrigley Field is an attraction in Chicago. It brings thousands of people to the city every summer, where they buy tickets (and pay a 10% amusement tax for those tickets that the mayor refuses to allow the Cubs to use because they are paying for Cell Phone Field and the United Center), they spend money at bars, restaurants, shops, hotels, etc. Preserving Wrigley should be a priority for the city. It is apparent, though, that it is not.
Should the city not relax the restrictions on the Cubs and allow them to run their business as they choose, in spite of the landmark status of Wrigley Field, it might be time to explore replacing the ballpark. The Cubs can compete financially with any team in the sport, but they need a facility to match the rest of the league. The upgrade plans do just that. The project looks tasteful, it preserves the ballpark, and it allows the Cubs to have a more modern facility, which is absolutely necessary in today’s game. It just may not be politically feasible.
A new ballpark will not have the same history as Wrigley Field. I love Wrigley Field…I really do…but history can be replaced. A new ballpark can have a replica of the scoreboard that is in Wrigley now. It can have ivy covered walls. It can have the organ. It can have the marquee outside the park. It can also have a parking lot. And a screen for replays. And modern player facilities. As a matter of principle, I would be opposed to the idea of a roof on a new Cubs’ park. Baseball is meant to be played outside. I am warming up to the idea of a new park, though. There is revenue to be made by giving the Cubs a better place to play. If that can’t be done in the existing location, there is no good reason why it shouldn’t be done in a new location. “The Cubs play at Wrigley” is not a good reason, either.
If the team showed seriousness in building a new ballpark, it may spur action from the city to allow the Cubs to renovate Wrigley, too. Nobody wants to see the Cubs leave the neighborhood they’ve called home for 99 years. Myself included. That might force the city to crap or get off the pot. If they don’t want to relax the rules which only apply to the Cubs, then they should pay a share of the renovation cost. If they want control, they have to pay for it. The ownership has offered to pay to run its business, though, and if the city doesn’t want to (or can’t afford to) ante up to keep Wrigley viable, this is a cheap way for them to avoid it. Allow the Ricketts to do what they need to do to keep the team in the park, and relax some of the rules. Otherwise, the team should explore selling the park to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and allow Wrigley to be the state’s problem altogether. Any money they get from the state could be thrown directly into the pot to build a new park, in addition to the $300M that the team is earmarking to renovate Wrigley.
Tiger Stadium was replaced. Old Yankee Stadium was replaced. Shea Stadium was replaced. Wrigley, too, can be replaced.