The 2012 Cubs Convention is in the books and probably the biggest revelation all weekend was that the Cubs plan to build a patio on top of a 70-foot LED display in the right field corner before the start of the season.
As you can imagine, this did not play well at all with the “purists.” Assuming that is defined as “those who imagine that baseball used to not be about the money.” It got to the point where Al Yellon, King of Caring About Things That Don’t Matter in the Ballpark, got booed for saying something positive about the plan prior to asking his question.
If I had to sum up my reaction in one word, that one word would be: What the hell took so motherfucking long?
Why in the hell are the Cubs last or among the last to do anything that could be useful to them actually winning more baseball games?
They were the last to install lights. Forget about the arguments that day baseball wears the team down. They willingly gave up prime time ratings for mid-afternoon weekday viewers about 30 times a year. That had to have an impact on their ad revenues over the years and impacted their ability to spend on a winner.
Their practice facilities are medieval (though the Ricketts are also trying to address that 30 years after the Tribune should have). So the Cubs would occasionally go out and buy some expensive players like a real major league team and then hand them the training facilities of a poorly funded high school program. Hard to imagine how we haven’t won anything since before World War I since the exercise equipment also pre-dates it.
Bloomberg Sports had a booth at the Cubs Convention where they were showing off some of the data they have collected and how it can be used as they build the Cubs a computer program that does more than show whether or not one of their highly paid assets has eaten dinner. The rep mentioned that Bloomberg has worked with 22 other teams in building systems to help those teams make smarter baseball decisions. That means, assuming that Bloomberg is the ONLY group that does this sort of thing (which is unlikely), the Cubs are the 23rd team out of thirty to jump on board the statistical analysis train that left the station 10 years ago.
Now the Cubs are finally going to put in some sort of videoboard in the right field corner so that they can generate ad revenue in the park that they have purposefully been leaving on the table for years, and fans are going to bitch about it.
The hand-wringing about ruining the pristine nature of baseball perfection in Wrigley never ceases to amaze me:
I’m not sure what the Ricketts or President of Business Operations Crane Kenney were thinking when this decision was greenlighted, but the end result is an aesthetic nightmare as you can see above. The JumboTron…pardon me, LED board…looks horribly out of place when it comes to the rest of the Wrigley Field architecture. If anything, this seems almost like an attempt at incorporating a bit of Fenway Park into Wrigley Field’s historic architecture by raising the seating area and creating a patio area in right field. The seating arrangement above looks similar to Fenway’s Green Monster seats and nothing like the rest of the outfield seating area.
Well now I’m all turned around on the whole thing. I didn’t know that the patio would look horribly out of place. What fun would a World Series championship be if it took place in a stadium that had an unbalanced seating area?
Assuming the structure will not be actually built by M.C. Escher as this drawing suggests, I don’t see what is so terrible about it. Right now, that area is a bunch of chain-link fence and mostly empty bleacher box seats. Behold the wonder of 1970s-style fencing!
I have news for people. Wrigley Field is not a museum. It is a functioning major league ballpark whose job is to maximize revenues for the team so that it can have a strategic edge over the other teams that don’t make as much money. That is the system as it stands, so those are the rules the team should play by. Voluntarily leaving revenue uncollected because a few fans want to remember what Wrigley looked like in years past is stupid.
Wrigley was originally built without an upperdeck, that was added in 1927. The permanent bleachers weren’t added until 1937. Those additions were necessary to keeping Wrigley Field as the home of the Cubs. If they couldn’t have done those additions, then the Cubs would have had to move. But now, all of a sudden, any time the Cubs want to simply keep up with the economics of the game, they have to fight fans for the right to make a change in their own ballpark. It took a threat from the Commissioner of Baseball that the Cubs would not host home playoff games if they didn’t get lights to finally have have lights installed.
This videoboard will be saving you people money, don’t you see that? For every dollar that Ricketts can get from something like this videoboard or naming the bleachers after Bud Light, that is one less dollar he needs to take from your pockets in the form of tickets and concessions. Do you enjoy paying the same rate as the Yankees and Red Sox, but getting 20-30% less wins per year? Theo may know how to spend the money more efficiently, but the money is still going to get spent. You’re not getting a championship team for bargain basement prices. Not without a ton of luck, and the Cubs don’t excel at having luck.
I’ll tell you what, purists, I have an idea. You go start a fund drive to pay the Cubs the same amount of money they would generate from the patio and the video board, minus the construction expenses pro-rated over a set number of years (let’s say twenty) and go to Ricketts and say you’ll give them that money to leave the park alone. I bet he’ll do it. Hell, he might even do it if you even got close to the number just to save himself the hassle.
Otherwise, he probably has all sorts of corporate sponsors lining up to hand him money and you can all just get out of the way so he can pay for players better than Darwin Barney to win some damn baseball games for once.