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?

Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak ended 78 years ago today

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There’s nothing special about a 78-year anniversary. It’s not a round number or anything and we tend to like round numbers. But (a) I was reminded of this today; and (b) we have no idea if the Martians will have invaded and taken over the planet come 2021, so I feel like it’s best to run this now than wait for the 80th anniversary. Cool? Cool.

Anyway: on this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s still-unbroken and possibly unbreakable (see below) 56-game hitting streak came to end. The game took place in Cleveland in front of a staggering 67,468 fans. Not bad for a Thursday night. The way the streak ended, courtesy of an ESPN Classic post from Larry Scwartz back in 2003:

Third baseman Ken Keltner makes two outstanding plays, grabbing DiMaggio smashes down the line in the first and seventh innings and throwing him out at first base. In between these at-bats, left-hander Al Smith walks DiMaggio in the fourth.

The Yankee Clipper has one more chance to extend his streak when he bats in the eighth with the bases full against Jim Bagby, a young right-hander who just enters the game. DiMaggio hits the ball sharply, but shortstop Lou Boudreau plays a bad hop perfectly and turns the grounder into a double play.

Stuff happens.

To be clear: 56 may not be broken in my lifetime or yours. It’s obviously a SUPER difficult task to string together a hitting streak of considerable length. As we saw when guys like Pete Rose or Paul Molitor or whoever have come within spitting distance of DiMaggio’s record — long spitting distance — the pressure ramps up and it’s hard to do you job with a lot of pressure. Add in the fact that simple base hits are harder to come by in today’s game than they used to be due to prevalent hitting, pitching and defensive trends, and it’d be no shocker whatsoever if no one ever does it.

But I draw the line at “unbreakable,” simply because, as noted above, stuff does happen. And because there’s nothing structural preventing it from happening. It’s not like Cy Young’s 511 wins or something which fundamental changes in the game have made basically impossible. No one is going to win 26 games a year for 20 years straight or what have you. Heck, CC Sabathia is baseball’s current gray hair among pitchers and only has a few dozen more career starts than that. It’s just a different game.

Hitters do play in 150-160 games now, though, and the good ones do average more than one hit per game. Putting them in the right arrangement may never be likely, but doing so is only a matter of stars aligning, not breaking the fundamental rules of engagement. It could happen. Maybe. Because, unlike some other records, it did before under broadly similar circumstances.

OK, that aside, I’ll offer up my favorite and most maddening DiMaggio hitting streak fact.

During his streak, which lasted from May 15-July 17, DiMaggio went 91-of-223, which is a .408 average. Between April 15-September 28 (i.e. the whole dang season) Ted Williams hit .406. And when it was all said and done he was substantially better in virtually every other batting category as well.

Joe DiMaggio won the MVP Award.