Mark Mulder to retire . . . Maybe

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Mark Mulder.jpgUPDATE: The Chron’s Susan Slusser reports that Mark Mulder’s agent is saying that reports that Mulder is retiring are “not accurate” and that “Mark has not made a decision.”

Interesting. Earlier Brewers’ pitching coach Rick Peterson said Mulder was retiring, but maybe he misinterpreted.  Or maybe it’s like when I told my buddy at work that I was going to quit and become a blogger on a Monday but didn’t tell the bosses until Friday.

UPDATE II: Slusser spoke with Eric Chavez, who spoke with Mulder today, and Chavez says Mulder is “done.”

Mark Mulder: call your agent.

11:00 A.M. It’s being reported by a Milwaukee television station this morning that Mark Mulder is retiring.  The Journal-Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt tweets that while the Brewers haven’t heard anything of it, “a club official said he wouldn’t be surprised if that’s his decision.”

The reason this is coming out of Milwaukee is that Mulder had been flirting with joining the Brewers this winter due to his connection to Brewers’ pitching coach Rick Peterson, but it’s not happening now.

Mulder, of course, came up as one of the “Big Three” alongside Tim Hudson and Barry Zito in Oakland. You know, the guys who got surprisingly little press while they took turns winning 20 games and carrying the team while their general manager was being canonized for trading for John Mabry. OK, I kid Moneyball because I kid everyone, but really, the extent to which the Big Three were overlooked on those take-and-rake A’s teams borders on the criminal.

And Mulder may have been the most overlooked of the Big Three.  Hudson was considered the ace and Zito got his gigantic contract, but Mulder was a damn fine pitcher there for a couple of years. He won 21 games in 2001 and 19 the next year while keeping the ball in the yard, posting some pretty healthy K/BB ratios and pitching well in the playoffs.

Sadly, his shoulder went pop a year after joining the Cardinals. After a good 2005 season, 2006 was cut short, 2007 and 2008 were near total losses for him. He didn’t pitch at all last year.

While Zito still chugs along in San Francisco and Hudson looks to be on the comeback trail in Atlanta, Mark Mulder’s long absence from the stage makes him seem so much older than the 32 he is. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see more of him.

It’s spring training for groundskeepers too

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Or, I should say, it’s spring training for whatever automated timer thingie turns the sprinklers on and off.

This was the scene at Goodyear on Saturday as the Indians and Reds played in the bottom of the eighth in their spring training opener. Reds manager Bryan Price says that this was probably the second or third time this has happened in the middle of a game there.

Maybe investigate manually operating that bad boy? Just a suggestion!

The Chicago Cubs: Spring training games, regular season prices

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — I’ve been covering spring training for eight years, and in just those eight years a lot has changed in the Cactus and Grapefruit League experiences. The parks are bigger and fancier and the vibe is far more akin to a regular season major league one than the intimate and laid back atmosphere most people think of when they picture February and March baseball.

Just imagine, however, how much has changed if you’ve been coming to Florida or Arizona for a really long time.

“When we first started coming, you could bring your own beer in,” says Don Harper, a lifelong Cubs fan from Kennewick, Washington who spends his winters in Arizona. “You couldn’t bring a cooler, but you could bring a case of beer and a bag of ice and you just set it down in between you and you just put the ice on it and keep it cold.”

I asked Don if the beer vendors complained.

“They didn’t sell beer,” he said.

That was three decades and two ballparks ago. They certainly sell beer at the Cubs’ gleaming new facility, Sloan Park. Cups of the stuff cost more than a couple of cases did back when Don first started coming to spring training.

The price of beer is not the only thing that has changed, of course. The price of tickets is not what it used to be either. Don told me that when he started coming to Cubs spring training games tickets ran about seven dollars. If that. It’s a bit pricer now. Face value for a single lawn ticket, where you’ll be sitting on a blanker on the outfield berm — can be as high as $47 depending on the day of the week and the opponent. Infield box seats run as high as $85.

The thing is, though, you’re not getting face value seats for Cubs spring training games. Half of the home games sold out within a week of tickets going on sale in January. Since then just about every other game has sold out or soon will. That will force you to get tickets on the secondary market. According to TickPick, the average — average! — Cubs spring training ticket on the secondary market is $106.30. For a single ticket. It’s easily the highest price for spring training tickets in all of baseball, and is $26 higher than secondary market tickets for the next highest team, the Red Sox:

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That may be shocking or even appalling to some, but as the automatic sellouts at Sloan Park and those high secondary market prices suggest, there are at least 15,000 people or so for each Cubs home game who don’t seem to mind. Supply meet demand meet the defending World Series champions.

I spoke with two younger Cubs fans, Corey Hayden and Eleanor Meloul, who traveled here from Salt Lake City. On Sunday they lucked out and got a couple of lawn seats for $28. On Saturday, however, they paid $100 a piece on StubHub to get some seats just beyond third base. I asked them if there is some price point that would keep them from coming.

“There isn’t one,” Hayden said. “I paid $4,500 for a World Series ticket, so . . .”

Don Harper wouldn’t do that, but he doesn’t really mind the higher prices he’s paying for his spring tickets. Of course, he’s a longtime season ticket holder so he gets access to the face value seats. I asked him whether his spring training habit would end if those prices got jacked up higher, as the market would seem to bear, or if he had to resort to the secondary market.

Don paused and sighed, suggesting it was a tough question. As he considered it, I put a hard number on it, asking him if he’d still go if he had to pay $50 per ticket. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “$75?” I asked. He paused again.

“As long as I got enough money.”

Don is a diehard who, one senses, will always find a way to make it work. Corey spent a wad of cash on that once-in-a-lifetime World Series ticket, but he and Eleanor seem content to bargain hunt for the most part and splurge strategically. If you’re a Cubs fan — and if you’re not rich — that’s what you’ll have to do. The ticket it just too hot.