Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field renovations? Cubs economics? Don’t worry: Rick Reilly’s got this

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Wrigley Field renovation news. Per the Chicago Tribune, people who live near Wrigley Field want the city and the Rickettseseses to slow down on renovation plans. The Ricketteseses, meanwhile, say stuff has to get moving now or else they will not be able to plan to turn dirt come October as planned. And the rooftop owners across the street really, really want to keep making money off the baseball games. In short: nothing really new.

Meanwhile, into the fray leaps Rick Reilly, who does his standard, well-thought-out work on the job. In addition to getting the Cubs’ tenure in Wrigley Field wrong, Reilly does some back-of-the-envelope calculations to determine that (a) Wrigley Field’s various issues cost the cubs some $73 million a year; and (b) Wrigley Field is the very reason why the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since they’ve called the place home.

I love Wrigley Field. But I’m not a Cubs fan. If I were a Cubs fan, I would despise Wrigley. I’d want Wrigley laid flatter than Wrigley gum. There’s a reason the Cubs have never won a World Series at Wrigley. There’s a reason they’re 0-for-the-last-67 pennant races at Wrigley. The reason IS Wrigley.

His math on the $73 million is specious at best (his understanding of Chicago’s amusement tax is poor and his view that the Cubs can both block out the rooftop owners and then collect a bigger cut of their existing revenue is nothing short of magical thinking). As Ballpark Digest notes, moreover, the crazy debt service the Ricketts family pays for their purchase of the team — debt which violates MLB’s debt rules, by the way — is a far greater drag on the team’s finances than the absence of revenue the team would realize from renovations.

But his biggest sportswriter sin here is simply not understanding Cubs baseball. Failing to recognize that the Cubs make money hand over fist and, when it has suited their interests, they have spent it hand over fist.  The problem with all of that has been how they’ve chosen to spend it.  What, you’re telling me that if Jim Hendry had $73 more million to spend he would have done fewer deals like the ones given to Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano? That he would have somehow found a way to pay big money for a free agent that wasn’t truly awful?  The Cubs have never been one of baseball’s poor sisters. They have been baseball’s poor decision makers often, however.

But hey, no need for Reilly to get into that. That would take some thought and critical analysis of what the team’s owners tell him while they’re trying to get the ball rolling on ballpark renovations. And who has time for that?

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.16.51 AM
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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.