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 …”

Josh Johnson retires from baseball

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Josh Johnson #55 of the San Diego Padres poses during Picture Day on February 21, 2014 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.

Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.

Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.

Report: Angels close to a multi-year deal with Luis Valbuena

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Luis Valbuena #18 of the Houston Astros hits a three run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.

Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.

Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.