The Ricketts’ proposal for Wrigley Field is wrongheaded and deceptive

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I was a day or two late into the whole Ricketts-want-public-money-for-Wrigley Field thing, and yesterday I spent more time trying to get Joe Ricketts or someone on record about it than reading deeply into the issue.  Note: the Ricketts’ spokespeople have still not returned my calls, so I can only assume that their response to the question “do you believe it is inconsistent to campaign against wasteful government spending while asking for public monies to pay for the improvements to Wrigley Field and the construction of the Cubs’ new spring training complex in Mesa, Arizona” is “no comment.”  I’ll call ’em back, though.

But I have been reading up more on the proposal this morning.  Tom Ricketts made the rounds yesterday touting the plan as a public-private partnership that woudn’t raise anyone’s taxes or directly spend public money, but that just doesn’t add up at all.  The short version of this can best be seen in the Chicago Tribune’s editorial on the matter yesterday, which illustrates that there is no free ride here:

Under Ricketts’ plan, the authority would sell up to $300 million in bonds for the Wrigley renovations. The money would be repaid out of the 12 percent amusement tax levied on each Cubs ticket. The city and county would be guaranteed each year the $16.1 million in revenue that was generated by the tax in 2009, but everything above that would be used to retire the bonds.

That’s money that would otherwise go into the city and county general funds. Neither the city nor the county is in any position to sneeze at the loss. Mayor Richard Daley didn’t rule out helping the Cubs somehow but stressed that the city is counting “nickels and dimes.” County Board Finance Committee Chairman John Daley said much the same thing.

Perhaps the strongest argument of all: The Civic Federation’s Laurence Msall warned against taking on debt for non-essentials with a $15 billion deficit looming. “The state of Illinois faces an enormous financial crisis and will be needing all of its borrowing power just to pay its bills and continue to operate,” he said.

Both the borrowing power exerted by the State of Illinois under the Ricketts’ proposal, and the extra amusement taxes collected, could be directed in more useful directions than a Wrigley rehab.

What’s more, I think the Tribune makes the best suggestion here:

Why not private financing? The deal is largely based on hiking ticket prices to garner 12 cents in tax for every $1 dollar in higher ticket revenue. Better to put the entire buck toward a privately financed rehab.

Makes sense to me. If you’re going to increase the amusement tax on tickets — which Tom Ricketts clearly said was the case yesterday — why don’t the Cubs just increase the face price of the tickets to pay for it themselves?

I can’t think of a single reason other than that by doing so, the Cubs couldn’t claim that they’ve never raised ticket prices.

Aaron Judge says “there is no need” to participate in 2018 Home Run Derby

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge won last year’s Home Run Derby, directly outslugging Justin Bour, Cody Bellinger, and Miguel Sano at Marlins Park, and beating Charlie Blackmon, Mike Moustakas, and current teamamtes Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton in the process.

Judge had a terrific first half of the 2017 season, batting .329/.448/.691 with 30 home runs and 66 RBI in 366 plate appearances. He appeared to slump in the second half. He was still productive, but hit a relatively lower .228/.391/.548 with 22 home runs and 48 RBI in 312 PA.

Last year, I tried to head off the claim that the Home Run Derby would be the cause of any player’s second-half struggles, but it didn’t work. Merely a week after the Derby, columns were being written about Judge’s struggles being attributed to the home run contest. Judge didn’t seem to be convinced, at least then, that the Home Run Derby impacted him negatively, saying, “You’re going to have your ups and downs. You’re going to have your times when you do everything right and you still get out. It’s just part of it. I’m happy with the swing. I’m happy with a lot of the swings I took the last couple of days. But you don’t get any results from it. That’s baseball. That’s the game we play.”

Judge might have had a change of heart. George A. King III of the New York Post reports that Judge said “there is no need” to participate in the 2018 Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. That’s not surprising, as he said on an appearance on teammate CC Sabathia‘s podcast back in March, “I think I’m one and done at the Derby.”

As King notes, when Judge was asked two months ago if the Derby impacted his need for offseason shoulder surgery, he said, “I would rather not say.”

Judge 26, is putting together another great first half. He enters Wednesday’s action batting .281/.412/.556 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI in 211 plate appearances. He’s one of 13 players in baseball with at least 12 home runs at the moment.