A couple months ago you may have heard that the Cubs came to Mayor Emmanuel with a plan to massively renovate Wrigley Field without any financial assistance from the City or State. The renovation would include a massive overhaul of Wrigley and the immediate surrounding area. In return for being allowed to spend a few hundred million dollars in the neighborhood, the Cubs want three things: (1) more advertising in the outfield; (2) more night games; and (3) more concerts. I know, it sounds crazy, that the Cubs have to bargain to spend their own money on this, but such is the world of municipal politics.
The main snag in getting a deal done has been the rooftop owners. For those of you whose familiarity with the rooftops is solely seeing them on television, the rooftops are not owned by the Cubs. Several years back, the Cubs, who were owned by the Tribune at the time, made a deal with the rooftop owners to get a portion of the proceeds from the rooftops in exchange for not blocking their views. The Ricketts are still bound by this deal, and are for the next several years.
On top of that, the Cubs need the approval of Alderman Tom Tunney, or the deal isn’t going to get the go ahead from the City. And to get Tom Tunney’s approval, the Cubs need to come to a deal with the rooftop owners. For full disclosure, the reports I’ve seen indicate that the rooftops contribute about $140,000 per election to Alderman Tunney’s campaign.
Yes, this is Chicago politics at its worst at many ways. But it’s going to get done eventually. One idea that gets floated around the internet every time Alderman Tunney unwisely opens his mouth on the issue is to just move the Cubs to the suburbs. The mayor of Roselle (which, by the way, has enough of an organized crime presence it couldn’t get a casino) indicated that he has 25 acres set aside for a new ballpark, if the Cubs want it. A DuPage County Executive also stated that the west suburban county would get involved if the Cubs decided to move.
I’ll make this very simple. The Cubs aren’t leaving Wrigley Field. This has nothing to do with tradition or ivy covered walls or scoreboards, and everything to do with money. Look at last year’s MLB attendance numbers. The Cubs, who had the second worst record in all of baseball last season and have one of the highest ticket prices in the game, had the tenth highest attendance at 35,590 per game. The cross town White Sox, on the other hand, had the seventh worst attendance, 24,271 per game, despite spending the majority of the season in first place in the AL Central.
Might all the fans follow the Cubs to a shiny new suburban stadium in the middle of a giant parking structure? Sure, they might. But Wrigley is a guaranteed windfall. And it’s just as possible that the Cubs in the suburbs would just become a suburban version of the White Sox, as far as attendance is concerned: a team that can’t draw in a town that is much more a football city than a baseball city.
The Cubs are staying at Wrigley. A deal will get done. Tom Tunney is being a pain in the you know what. These are the birth, death and taxes of the Wrigley Field renovation discussions.
In more directly baseball related news, Joe pointed me to an interesting article in Baseball America about how players can have four minor league options instead of three. Typically, after a player is added to the 40 man roster, he can be optioned to the minor leagues in three separate seasons. So, for example, a player who is in the Majors for two-thirds of the season before being sent down uses up one option. A player who is called up and down several times over the course of a season also uses up one option. However, once a player’s options are all used up, he must clear waivers before being optioned to the minors, allowing other teams to claim said player.
Baseball America points out, though, that rare situations exist where a player may have four options instead of three. This generally effects Latin American players due to the young age at which they sign. Two Cubs fit this description: Rafael Dolis and Hector Rondon. However, as Rondon is the Cubs’ Rule 5 pick he must stay on the active roster and/or do the disabled list dance this season to not be offered back to the Indians.