Wrigley Field

The Ricketts family takes a new tack to get Wrigley Field renovated

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Since the day they bought the Cubs, the Ricketts family has been trying to get Wrigley Field renovated. For over two years their efforts were focused on getting public funds to do so. This has gone nowhere, mostly because the Ricketts seem to be awful at politics.

Their first attempt was to ask for state money. This despite the fact that the family patriarch, Joe Ricketts, heads a PAC dedicated to ending public wasteful public spending. Public officials in Mesa, Arizona didn’t mind the disconnect, giving them money for their new spring training facility, but politicians in Springfield were not buying it.

When the state told them to pound sand, they asked for the city of Chicago to divert amusement tax money to the ballpark. This was being negotiated for some time and actually looked like it may work. But then Joe Ricketts’ PAC hatched a plan to run racially-tinged anti-Obama ads (they were to feature “a literate black man” so as to deflect accusations of racism). Which, hey, free country. Unfortunately the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel, is Obama’s friend and former chief of staff and he was livid about it. That pretty much killed off any city cooperation.

Now Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports that the Ricketts have a new plan. This one is different. It presents the possibility of no public funding at all, as long as they can do whatever the hell they want to Wrigley Field and the surrounding area:

The lobbying efforts will revolve around asking the city to ease restrictions on the ancient ballpark, and not begging for public assistance, which had become such a non-starter, especially during a bitter presidential election … The negotiations will center around allowing the Cubs to put up more advertising signage, a move that would take aim at the rooftop owners, and schedule games at times that would maximize revenue … “We’re not a museum,” Ricketts said. “We’re a business.”

This is somewhat logical and less offensive than asking for tax dollars. It’s the Ricketts’ ballpark and the Ricketts’ team. While they were certainly aware of the historic nature of the property they were buying, that property does house a competitive modern business and they should be allowed, within reason, to exploit it for revenue-generating purposes. That “within reason” part seems, at least at first blush, to be being honored inasmuch as Ricketts is claiming that they’re not asking for Wrigley Field’s landmark designation to be revoked and, within that context, there are limits to how radical they can be. It may anger purists to see more advertising and jumbotrons and stuff, but the purists don’t have to pay Edwin Jackson, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.

Of course I’m still a bit dubious here. I’m wondering if this is less of a real push to do the Wrigley renovations on their own and more of a high class extortion job: “You got a nice, historical ballpark here. Be a shame if someone commercialized it and used it in a way that disrupted the neighborhood and pissed off the neighbors a lot. Yep, a real shame. Too bad we can’t do anything about it …”

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.