The Daily Parker

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Is Tom Ricketts destroying the Cubs?

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?

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