The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

More stuff to read on the plane

With a little more than five days until my next international flight, I'm stocking up my Kindle:

UAT release this afternoon. Back to the galley.

Cubs labor practices may have caused rare game review

The Sun-Times reported last night that the Cubs organization's desire to avoid paying heath-care benefits required by Obamacare led to the tarp-rolling error Tuesday night that, in turn, almost caused a forfeit:

The staffing issues that hamstrung the grounds crew Tuesday during a mad dash with the tarp under a sudden rainstorm were created in part by a wide-ranging reorganization last winter of game-day personnel, job descriptions and work limits designed to keep the seasonal workers – including much of the grounds crew – under 130 hours per month, according to numerous sources with direct knowledge.

Sources say 10 crew members were sent home early by the bosses Tuesday night with little, if any, input from the field-level supervisors.

Tuesday's game was rained out in part because the ground crew couldn't deploy the tarp over the infield correctly. This caused water to pool on the infield dirt and grass, making the field unplayable. Since the game had gone into the 5th inning, and the Cubs were ahead, a rain out would have meant a Cubs win. The Giants successfully protested, the first time since 1986 for a Major League team.

Keep in mind, the Cubs have more revenue than 26 of the 29 other MLB teams. And they don't want to provide basic benefits to their employees?

Why do I keep going to games again?

Wrigley Field's "paid attendance"

The Wall Street Journal explains why the Cubs can sell 38,000 seats and only get 19,000 asses in them:

Since 2009, ticket sales are down almost 6,500 a game. Where have all the Cub fans gone?

The answer may be that they've in effect awakened from a beer-soaked party.

Over the first four years of Ricketts ownership, attendance sank 13.7%. It is flat so far this year versus 2013, but the figures don't include the legions of no-shows. "I have plenty of friends with tickets who can't get rid of them," said Jon Greenberg, executive editor of Team Marketing Report.

Count me in that group. After sitting through six innings of last night's sad 8-3 loss against the Giants (in which the Giants hit and fielded better than any team I've seen this season), we left shaking our heads. We've still got tonight's game available, plus the 4:05 pm back half of Tuesday's game, but we can't sell them. The Cubs will count our tickets as "paid attendance" even though no one will be using them.

It's even odds whether we're going to renew our season tickets next year, especially if the Cubs don't drop the prices. Unfortunately, it's even worse odds that the Cubs will end the season out of last place.

The rain in Ohio lands mainly on the bayou

(Hm. That didn't quite work, did it?)

We're now in our final weekend (for the time being) in Cleveland, and another person from the client has offered to take us to another Indians game. Two things:

1. I hope they play. Tonight's forecast calls for thunderstorms and rain.

2. If they do play, I hope they do better than last week.

The Indians are at .500, dead-center in the league, the division, and in all of baseball. Tonight they're (scheduled) to play the Diamondbacks, who are just one game ahead of the Cubs and so not a particularly threatening opponent.

Come on, rain. Go away.

Photo from the game

From yesterday's game—with its 22,000 paid attendance:

Progressive Field holds 43,500 people (compared with Wrigley's 41,100) and yet has worse attendance this year. The Cubs are averaging 32,000 fans per game, with no game coming in under 25,000 paid; Cleveland is getting 18,600 per game with some early spring games pulling in fewer than 10,000. This, despite the Cubs holding onto last place like they're afraid to fall off the chart, and the Indians actually being the wild card at the moment.

Progressive Field isn't a bad ballpark. The Indians aren't a bad team. I guess Cleveland just isn't a huge baseball town.

How much did I spend on those tickets?

A friend and I attended last night's Cubs game at Wrigley, and left before it ended. Good thing, too, because it wound up the longest game in team history:

This game, which took six hours, 27 minutes, was the longest game (by time) in Cubs’ history. It surpassed the previous record of six hours, 10 minutes that it took the Cubs and Dodgers to play 21 innings on Aug. 17-18, 1982.

[S]tarter Edwin Jackson needed 105 pitches just to throw four innings, and seven Cubs relievers combined to throw 11 scoreless innings and closer Hector Rondon wasn’t available.

Yes, that's how catcher John Baker wound up pitching in the 16th inning. At least he got the win.

Let me explain why we left: in the first inning, Colorado got three runs before getting their second out, because the Cubs' outfield couldn't get the ball back to the infield. Then both teams hit so many foul balls and lollygagged around the infield so much that the third inning ended almost 90 minutes after the game started. (Usually, 90 minutes in, we're well into the 4th or even 5th inning.)

So the two worst teams in the league played uninspired, boring baseball for six hours, and hit a record that I (mercifully) didn't wait to see. I'm not enjoying Wrigley as much as I used to.

On Wrigley Field's upcoming "renovations"

The Tribune reported about half an hour ago that the Cubs have agreed to the Mayor's proposal and will scale back their signage plans:

The Cubs agreed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s requested conditions in order to present its latest renovation proposal Thursday to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, including reducing the size of signs along exterior outfield walls and to continue negotiating with rooftop owners who have said the signs will hurt their businesses, according to a City Hall source.

The changes requested by the city include reducing the size of the signs along the exterior outfield walls and increase spacing between them, as well as eliminating plans for sliding concession windows for the exterior brick wall at Waveland and Sheffield avenues. The team also agreed to drop enlarged openings in the outfield brick wall for new bullpens, a change the team previously announced.

But Crain's Joe Cahill has a snarkier view of the Ricketts' plans:

After looking over the Chicago Cubs' latest proposal for new advertising signs at Wrigley Field, I'm more convinced than ever that they're really committed to winning.

Why? Because their plan to install seven big signs at a ballpark that has been free of the visual clutter found in most big league stadiums means they won't be able to count on Wrigley Field to draw crowds win or lose. The retro charms of Wrigley Field are the reason why the Cubs have done well financially while doing poorly on the field for so many years, a rare feat for a sports franchise.

But it seems to me they're messing with a unique asset. Wrigley Field has been an annuity of sorts, generating reliable income for decades. Altering it is a risky business move.

It seems that way to us fans, too. As much as I'd like to see the Cubs in the Series, do I really have to give up historical Wrigley Field to get there? Cahill might not be joking, but only just.

More about an ending I mentioned, plus a new one

Yesterday I mentioned three things that weren't connected except they all ended recently. This morning Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal has an op-ed about one of them:

HomeMade Pizza Co. was in the right business and exactly the wrong place.

We consumers indeed are buying more fresh prepared meals to eat at home or elsewhere, like the take-and-bake pizzas HomeMade hawked from 1997 until its abrupt closing Friday. These kinds of meals have become a $26 billion business in this country and are growing at a healthy clip.

But we're not buying most of those grab-and-go meals at stand-alone storefront operations, where costs for an operator like HomeMade, which had more than 20 outlets when it shut down, include the lease and utilities, and whatever it takes to let potential customers know that it's there and why it's worth a visit.

The fresh pre-prepared food business is proving a boon to food/drug stores, where almost three-quarters of these meals are being sold, according to NPD Group. Savvy supermarket operators are offering an expanding array of menu items, increasingly going beyond heat-and-serve home-style meals. Some have added restaurant-quality entrees, various cuisines and occasionally palate-challenging fare.

While you're chewing on that, here's another passing: the Cubs are ending their 90-year relationship with radio station WGN:

The team tomorrow will reportedly announce a new seven-year agreement with WBBM-AM/780 to air the team's games beginning in 2015, ending a run with WGN-AM/720 that dates back to 1924.

"The economic terms just don't make sense for us,” WGN Radio President Jimmy de Castro told media columnist Robert Feder. “So it's really not us saying we don't want them anymore. It's the Cubs saying that the economics they need are much greater than what we think they're worth or what we'll pay. They chose to go another way economically and made a decision to move on.”

Sic transit gloria etuli.