Tom Ricketts is ready to move forward with Wrigley upgrades … if the city will

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We talked a few weeks ago about the Cubs’ new and improved (i.e. privately financed) Wrigley Field renovation plans. Tom Ricketts spoke to MLB.com and it sounds like they’re set to begin. They’re just waiting for city sign-off on the aspects of it that require approval, such as an increase in the number of night games, allowing advertising to block the rooftops across the street and allowing the closing of Sheffield Avenue for weekend games. About all that:

“There’s a lot of things we have to deal with at Wrigley Field that other teams don’t,” Ricketts said on Sunday. “Whether that’s signage restrictions, rooftops, other people selling Cubs gear right outside the park — all of that is great for [the city], but it doesn’t help us. We have to get those resources back into the team so I can give those to [president of baseball operations] Theo [Epstein] to put on the field or to get those resources into improving and preserving the third-largest tourist attraction in the state.”

With all of the time I spend slamming team owners for wanting public handouts, this point, with respect to the Cubs anyway, does get neglected from time to time.  I realize that the Cubs have gotten a lot of goodwill from the rooftops and the neighborhood and things like that — and I know that in recent years the team has even gone into business to some extent with the rooftop owners — but the Cubs are sort of treated like a public good more than other teams are.

What’s more, they’re expected — mostly out of tradition — to give away an awful lot. Views and ticket revenue to the people across the street, nighttime revenue to the bar and restaurant owners.  I don’t think that mandates public financing or anything, but I think it does make their challenges somewhat unique and demands a bit more flexibility on the part of the city so the team can remain competitive.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉