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?

James McCann is in The Best Shape of His Life

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.

We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.

James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:

Spring training is less than a month away, folks!

Bo Jackson is not gonna change kids’ minds

1989:  Bo Jackson #16 of the Kansas City Royals practices his swing as he prepares to bat during a game in the 1989 season.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Last week Bo Jackson said that, if he had it to do all over again, he would have never played professional football and that he would never let his kids play. The sport is too violent, he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”

Fair enough. Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, however, thinks that Bo could do more than simply give his opinion on the matter. He thinks Bo should become an official ambassador for Major League Baseball:

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, pick up the phone right now and call Bo Jackson. Tell him you have a job for him — vice president of something, whatever you would call the man in charge of converting a generation of young athletes to baseball. And pay him what he wants.

You won’t find a better symbol of the differences between the two sports than Bo Jackson. After all, he was an All-Star in both. Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball.

Bo, tell the children — baseball over football.

The Children: “Who is Bo Jackson?”

Yeah, I’m being a bit flip here, but dude: Jackson is 54 years-old. He last played baseball 23 years ago. I’d personally run through a wall for Bo Jackson, but I’m 43. I was 12 when he won the Heisman trophy. While he may loom large to middle aged sports writers, a teenager contemplating what sport to play is not going to listen to someone a decade or more older than his parents.

This isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s indicative of how most columnists process the world through their own experiences and assume they apply universally. It’s probably the biggest trap most sports opinion folks fall into.