Because the world will end if 99-year-old Wrigley Field retains any of its historic character, at least according to its current owner, the Ricketts family have pushed the Landmarks Commission to approve an ugly Jumbotron in left field. It may get approved today:
At the strong urging of Mayor Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Commission on Landmarks is expected to approve the team's plans for a 6,000-square-foot electronic sign in left field and a smaller non-electronic sign in right.
[M]ultiple sources say that despite [the local Alderman's] opposition, and barring a last-minute surprise, the commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor, will give its assent. That will leave only approval by the Chicago Plan Commission, another body appointed by the mayor, and the City Council, which already has approved the Cubs' request for more night and late-start games.
Wonderful. I can't wait for a huge electronic monstrosity to erupt from the left-field bleachers next year.
The Chicago White Sox gave up 28 runs yesterday, losing both games of a double-header with the Indians, 19-10 and 9-8. While that went on, Philadelphia beat the Dodgers 16-1, and Milwaukee got spanked 10-3 by the Pirates.
In total, there were 171 runs in Major League Baseball yesterday. I don't know if that's a record, but an average of 11.4 runs per game seems a little high, doesn't it?
But, wow. Twenty-eight runs in one day against one team. That's the super-special kind of baseball they play on the South Side.
Park #25 is in the bag.
The Seattle Mariners beat the Cubs 5-4 in 10 innings yesterday after being up by 3 in the top of the 7th. Because if you're up by 3 in the 7th, and you're the Cubs, you're probably going to screw up the 9th. And here is Mike Zunino hitting the 10th-inning single (with bases loaded) that won the game:
So I'm in Seattle, and I have a couple of hours of work to do before my flight to San Francisco. I need some coffee. Where to go? That's a no-brainer: I am under an obligation as a tourist to go to the first Starbucks:
More Seattle and game photos later.
It turns out, all of O'Hare has free WiFi these days, so I can do work right at the gate when my plane's delayed by several short intervals. (A long delay would have seen me in the club, what what!)
Tonight I'll be at Safeco Field watching the Cubs probably lose to the Mariners and taking in my 25th park. Right now, I'm at H11A waiting for them to clean the plane.
Pretty normal travel day, except for getting out of the Loop.
The journey began with Jonathan Toews organizing informal workouts while the NHL lockout raged on and ended with the Blackhawks captain holding the Stanley Cup aloft.
The Hawks' magical 2013 season concluded with seemingly the only result Toews and Co. would allow — the franchise's fifth title and second in the last four years after a 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Monday night at TD Garden.
And like the first title, the second sparked a celebration that began on the ice, continued on the flight back to Chicago and showed no signs of letting up as the team partied first at Harry Caray's in Rosemont and then at a private gathering at The Scout bar in the South Loop.
Last night we had fireworks, a huge impromptu rally a few blocks from me, helicopters taking video of the huge impromptu rally, and a drunken neighbor having some difficulty getting into his apartment at 1:30 am that set Parker off.
Well done, Hawks. I'll have to watch the last 76 seconds of the game at some point.
Meanwhile, the Cubs and Brewers both had a day off yesterday, keeping them tied in 4th place. One of my friends has a bet going with a cheesehead that hinges on which team is ahead of the other by the All-Star Game on July 16th. The loser has to do something public and embarrassing: changing his or her Facebook picture to the winning team's logo. For my friend's sake, I hope the Cubs can stay in 4th place. (Third place is now an insurmountable 12 games away. We're in 4th this season.)
Going into yesterday's game against the Astros, the Cubs and Brewers were tied for 4th place in the National League Central division, and the Astros were the second-worst team in all of baseball. (Miami, with a 24-49 record, is firmly in last place overall.)
So no one expected anything exciting in the game, and we got what we expected. Both teams played at a level familiar to parents with children in Little League. Baserunning mistakes cost the Cubs three outs in two innings; simple relays between fielders went all over the field like electrons in a cloud.
We did get to see a rare play when Houston executed a perfect suicide squeeze in the top of the 9th to score the winning run. With a runner on 3rd, shortstop Ronny Cedeno bunted the ball just to the left of pitcher Kevin Gregg, who got the ball in time—but with catcher Wellington Castillo infield of the plate, neither he nor Gregg saw Justin Maxwell barreling down the line from 3rd until his foot crossed the plate.
The park erupted with ennui. Not a peep. About half the fans had already left. When the Cubs went one-two-three in the 9th, we shrugged and went home.
With Milwaukee's win yesterday, the Cubs are back in 5th place, at 30-43. Houston rose to 29-47 with the win, and Miami rounds out the benighted trio of losers at 24-50. Yay, us.
After a two-and-a-half hour rain delay, last night's Cubs game ticked along with the Cubs ahead 3-1 until the last time I checked the score before going to bed.
This morning I woke up to a 12-4 Cubs loss. Why? Marmol, again:
After escaping two bases-loaded jams early, the Cubs were unable to do so when they needed it most, as D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt launched a tie-breaking grand slam off Carlos Marmol (2-3) in the eighth inning to make it 8-4.
"He's a good hitter," Marmol said. "I left one up there and he took advantage."
Marmol walked Willie Bloomquist and Didi Gregorius and allowed a double to Gerardo Parra before Goldschmidt's slam.
I'm going to the game today. The only good thing about Marmol's loss yesterday is that he won't pitch today's game.
The Cubs have won the last five complete games, and were ahead when Tuesday got rained out. They swept the White Sox, and just today beat the Diamondbacks 7-2. In fact, in their last six games, the Cubs have gotten 36 runs to their opponents' 12.
Here's how the season looks at the end of May:
The orange line tracks their position in the division. With their 23-30 record, the Cubs are now 3.5 games ahead of the last-place Brewers (19-33), but fully 9.5 games behind the third-place Reds (33-21).
There's really no hope of a pennant this season, but it's great to see them finally winning some games.
Chicago Tribune op-ed writer Marty Sandberg thinks so:
Ricketts has done one thing successfully — creating the most apathetic, undemanding fan base possible. Over the past few years third-generation die-hards have quietly been returning their season tickets. The knowledgeable, fun and sometimes offensive regulars that used to pack the park and make game day such a raucously enjoyable experience have disappeared. In their place, we find a ballpark full of expense-account-toting managers, teenage girls posting self-portraits on Facebook and a few drunken college bros confused by the ramp system. And let's not forget the legions of first-timers still traveling to Wrigley from out of state, somewhat disappointed by the lethargic atmosphere they encounter. But don't worry about them — they'll stop coming soon, too.
Ricketts loves to repeat that he "just wants to run his business like a business," because he "bought a private business, not a museum." Spare us the act, Tom. When you purchased a community institution like the Cubs, you were never naive enough to think you were buying an Al's Beef franchise. The Cubs have thrived for generations because of devoted fans. Professional sports is a give-and-take relationship — Ricketts can't expect to get whatever he wants without repercussions, simply because he bangs his spoon on the table loud enough.
Does Wrigley need a little face-lift? Most definitely. But the proposed alterations to Wrigley go beyond what is necessary or even tolerable. They discard the very atmosphere the Cubs spend so much time promoting. The renovations gut the soul of a stadium that has survived so long because of its character, not in spite of it.
I've been to 24 ballparks, including Fenway and the old Yankee Stadium, and on that basis I agree with Sandberg on the value of Wrigley Field. I don't agree entirely that one or two upgrades to Wrigley would kill its character. Jumbo-Tron in Left Field? Meh, as long as it's not too big. The old scoreboard will stay there above the bleachers, right? How about a hotel across Clark St.? Almost anything would improve the current situation of a temporary sports clothing store and a McDonald's.
He's right that the Cubs need to start winning games again. They've been in last place since April 16th, and just lost their 22nd game (out of 35) yesterday.
Maybe Tom Ricketts will surprise everyone and invest in the Cubs. I don't believe Ricketts would abandon or destroy the biggest asset the organization has. We'll see, though. It's already been 104 years; what are a few more?
The Chicago City Council could ratify a proposal allowing 46 night games as early as next month:
The proposal also would permit the Cubs to host four concerts and to make changes to its schedule as soon as next month. It allows for six Friday afternoon games starting at 3:05 instead of the traditional 1:20. The Cubs would like to move back some Friday afternoon games this season if the City Council approves the night-game plan.
The changes are consistent with a tentative agreement struck last month involving Emanuel, Tunney and the Cubs. The introduction of the night-game ordinance is the first legislative step in a process to renovate historic Wrigley Field.
Cubs' ownership has proposed spending $500 million to make extensive renovations to the ballpark and develop surrounding property in the North Side neighborhood. But before the Ricketts family, owners of the team and Wrigley Field, makes the financial commitment, it asked the city to ease regulations that limit night games and advertising signage in the ballpark. The family says more night games and signage would allow the team to generate more revenue that would be used to pay for the park restoration and field a more competitive team.
I would, of course, go to more games if the ordinance passes. I used to live three blocks from Wrigley, though, so I understand the deleterious effects more night games could have on the neighborhood. Still, if Ricketts' improvements actually help the Cubs win games, I'm in.