They want to put a big old billboard in Wrigley Field

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When the Ricketeseses took over a few months ago they said that they were going to ensure that Wrigley Field maintained “it’s essential character.”  Apparently part of that character — in addition of the urinal troughs, which will not be touched — includes a big billboard above the left field bleachers:

The Cubs filed a permit application this week for a “projecting,
illuminated” billboard rising high above the left-field bleachers that
has the potential to rake in big bucks from advertisers at the expense
of offending purists.

But, there’s a problem. The 75 foot high, 360 square foot billboard
has raised the eyebrows of local Ald. Tom Tunney (44th). And it may not
pass muster with the Commission on Historical Landmarks, which must
decide whether new signage conforms with Wrigley’s landmark
designation.

Two thoughts:

  • Given that the biggest thing out towards left field for the last couple of decades has been a giant advertisement — one that the Cubs didn’t even make any money on — I’m not sure that putting up one to block it is the end of the world. Right now the ad is for a cheesy Indiana casino.  They also cut into the damn ivy in the name of spandex recently. I can’t imagine that whatever the Cubs put up on their own billboard will do any more to “offend purists” than that stuff;
  • I sure hope the dimensions of the sign listed in the ad are wrong.  If the thing is really 75 feet high and 360 square feet, it must only be 4.8 feet wide.  Unless they’re advertising pens or longneck beers or something on it, it’s gonna look funny.

Way I see it is if you want to keep Wrigley Field around you have to keep the place economically viable. The Ricketseseses are following the Fenway model in terms of renovating the ballpark. It’s a good model. It also requires squeezing as many dollars from the place as can be squeezed.  I think the de minimus aesthetic intrusion of a billboard in left is worth it if it means dragging Wrigley Field into the 21st century.

Nationals’ sell-off a vindication for Dusty Baker

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The Nationals threw in the towel on Tuesday, trading second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and 1B/OF Matt Adams to the Cardinals. The club also placed outfielder and soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper on revocable waivers but took him back. The Nats’ sell-off is a vindication for former manager Dusty Baker, let go after the Nationals failed to advance past the NLDS for a second straight year.

Baker had roughly the same team current manager Dave Martinez did. It was arguably worse, considering he never wrote Juan Soto‘s name on the lineup card. The 2018 squad, sans Baker, has been marked by mutiny and underachievement. While failing to reach the NLCS in Baker’s two years was disappointing, he took them to Game 5 in the NLDS both years as well as 95 and 97 regular season wins. Right now, Martinez’s squad has a winning percentage more than 100 points lower than Baker’s last year. They’re on pace to go 80-82, which would be their first sub-.500 season since 2011.

Baker has always had an undeserved bad rap. He was, correctly, blamed for the Cubs’ demise, due somewhat to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior falling apart, ostensibly from overuse. However, after his stint in Chicago, Baker took the lowly Reds from the bottom of the NL Central to the top in two years between 2008-10. Then he took the Nationals, which had won a meager 83 games in 2015 and had made the playoffs just twice since moving from Montreal, to two consecutive NLDS Game 5’s.

Not much changed from 2017 to ’18. Martinez inherited Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Michael Taylor, Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover, among others. But for one reason or another — injuries, admittedly, make up one reason — almost all of these players are having worse years under Martinez than under Baker. Describing the 2018 team to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Baker said, “They’re together, but they’re separate.”

Is it strictly Baker that would make the difference? No, of course not. But the Nationals organization seems unwilling or unable to address issues that may extend into the front office. The Nats seem happy to go through a new manager every couple of years and hope that fixes all that ails them. Since Frank Robinson’s five years at the helm from 2002-06, Manny Acta managed two and a half years, Jim Riggleman one and a half, Davey Johnson two, Matt Williams two, Baker two. Maybe the problem was never the manager. Perhaps the problem is the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo.