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Wrigley Field renovations? Cubs economics? Don’t worry: Rick Reilly’s got this

Mar 15, 2013, 1:32 PM EDT

Wrigley Field

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?

  1. chrisdtx - Mar 15, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Rick Reilly is a pathetic hack. Fin.

    • worldseriestiger - Mar 15, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      he’s terrible, as is this article, he even references Epstein as the teams GM…he is not the team’s GM, Jed Hoyer is, doesn’t anyone fact check his stuff for overly apparent inaccuracies?

      he also speaks about how the Ricketts are paying for this themselves like they are amazing people and leaves out how they’ve been begging for money for 2 years and b/c of their PAC that ran ads against government spending screwed them for State or City money for this project.

  2. brewcrewfan54 - Mar 15, 2013 at 1:42 PM

    I used to enjoy this guys columns. I pretty much can’t stand them anymore.

    • psousa1 - Mar 15, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      As soon as he left Sports Ilustrated and went to ESPN, not only do you automatically suck but you lose credibility.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 15, 2013 at 1:59 PM

        Couldn’t agree more.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 15, 2013 at 2:50 PM

      Rick Reilley himself came and thumbs downed our comments. Then he told me about it first on Twitter.

      • paperlions - Mar 15, 2013 at 4:19 PM

        Damn it! I wanted to do the twitter joke.

  3. shaggylocks - Mar 15, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    “Wrigley Field renovation news. Per the Chicago Tribune, people who live in Wrigley Field want the city and the Rickettseseses to slow down on renovation plans.”

    People live in Wrigley Field? Couldn’t the Cubs just raise their rent?

    • gunpowderjones - Mar 15, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      I didn’t realize that a Katrina-style hurricane recently formed over Lake Michigan.

  4. chacochicken - Mar 15, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    I once saw Rick get into an argument with a parking meter.

    • psousa1 - Mar 15, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      You have to admit some parking meters have an attitude about them…………….

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 15, 2013 at 2:12 PM

        I know that meter, it definitely had it coming.

  5. asimonetti88 - Mar 15, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Rick Reilly is like the Andy Rooney of sports. Leatherheads was a mistake too

    • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 15, 2013 at 1:51 PM

      That movie sucked. I watched it absolutely hammered and never laughed.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 15, 2013 at 2:13 PM

        That comment about Leatherheads was funnier and more entertaining than the movie itself.

  6. unclemosesgreen - Mar 15, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Totally Ridicu-Reilly. He could have written the same exact article about Fenway Park 15 years ago.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Mar 15, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      He probably did. He’s been known to do that.

  7. mj2sexay - Mar 15, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    “Rick Reilly wants you to know that Rick Reilly just tweeted that breaking news because Rick Reilly is just the absolute best”

    -regards from inside the head of Rick Reilly.

  8. Bob - Mar 15, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Surprised Reilly didn’t play the “Cubs are cursed” card.

  9. randmwa - Mar 15, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    Ain’t nobody got time for that!

  10. senioreditor2 - Mar 15, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    The basic premise is, they have NEVER won at Wrigley. I’m of the belief that the Cubs should start to play hardball with Chicago. Far too long they’ve let Chicago dictate the running of the franchise. Nearly every other baseball team has a sweetheart deal with their city but for some reason Chicago acts as if the Cubs are owned by the public. I see a VERY bad ending to this issue if Chicago doesn’t wake up soon and please don’t tell me the Cubs can never move. There are dozens of other cities who thought their franchises would/could never leave.

    • gunpowderjones - Mar 15, 2013 at 3:16 PM

      If they move, they’ll win the Super Bowl less than ten years later

    • superturtle611 - Mar 15, 2013 at 7:54 PM

      Sure they COULD move, but it would be dumber than their Soriano deal. You think starting fresh in something like the 30th biggest market is better than sharing Chicago? That’s why I never understand when cities give in to hardball demands by teams. All the good markets are taken. If you really think setting up shop in Albany is a smart move then go for it.

  11. jm91rs - Mar 15, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Ignoring the incorrect facts in the story (seems like a man with his connections could get actual numbers from ad execs, other owners, etc.), he does highlight some strange scenarios going on in Chicago.

    I find it ridiculous they aren’t allowed to do things to their stadium because it blocks the people who were charging others to sit on their roof to watch the Cubs. The owners of the Cubs should not be in competition with “mom and pops” for fans watching their own product. That one seems like common sense to me and as an outsider I had no idea that was going on.

    I thought it was the Cubs that didn’t want night games. I didn’t know that the city told them no. I wish MLB would step in here and tell the city they aren’t scheduling so many day games. After all, if it hurts the Cubs’ bottom dollar then it hurts MLB’s bottom dollar.

    We’re always on here talking about wishing the city would stay out of the way when it comes to stadium deals. Here we have an owner willing to go to corporations for money to make improvements to the stadium and the city says no. I’m sure they’ll make plenty in taxes from increased concessions, ad deals, ticket sales (although they don’t struggle much in this area) and tv deals.

    Set aside the fact that they’re making plenty of money, they own the team and stadium so I think they should be able to make more $ if they want. Sell the stadium name and make it “so and so’s Wrigley field”. It’s still called Wrigley but they’re making bank by putting another name in front of it. Sure it’s not Pure to do it that way, but I can promise you the cubs were not purchased for any reason other than to make the Ricketts more money.

    What if the Rickett’s stopped maintaining Wrigley and just let it fall apart? Would the city step in then?

  12. professormaddog31 - Mar 15, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Sometimes I use faulty logic when I’m writing a blog entry about pitching, or the Cubs/Braves, or what have you. But the difference between my hack job and Reilly’s hack job is

    a) I’m doing it for free, for love of the game, and without inside sources, and
    b) dude is making a lot of money to publish this drivel.

    When I make a mistake, I’m embarrassed and I try to fix it. When Reilly makes a mistake, he just goes headlong into making fifty more. And gets paid to do it, too.

    How do I get this gig?

  13. niubears - Mar 15, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    Lots of room in the suburbs for the Cubs.
    The neighborhood should get no say in this matter. They choose to overpay for their condo in a neighborhood that has a major league baseball stadium. The bars and the rooftops would be obsolete without the Cubs, thus making the neighborhood obsolete. Wrigleyville’s alderman is a joke and its time for the Cubs to play hardball.

    There would be millions of happy Cubs fan in the Chicago area that will rejoice if they move from the North Side to the suburbs. You can easily recreate the “ambiance” of Wrigleyville in a new, modern ballpark. Modern facilities, night games, easy parking, easy access to the millions of Cubs fans in the suburbs. It just makes way too much sense for it not too happen

  14. hojo20 - Mar 15, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    Give me a break on this nonsense. The Cubs lost Games 3, 4, & 5 of the 1984 NLCS in San Diego. It had nothing to do with Wrigley.

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