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?