Friday, April 15, 2011

The Legend of Sam Fuld

I wrote about the bizarre superhero cape promotion the Tampa Bay Rays are holding in honor of Sam Fuld over on Obstructed View, but this Fuldmania is really taking on a life of its own down there in Tampa.  I blame the humidity.

There is a Twitter meme going around called #LegendofSamFuld and it is entertaining as hell to watch. 
  • @JoeDu - Sam Fuld has appeared in every Star Wars Film. He was the Force. #legendofsamfuld
  •  @JettInTampa - Sam Fuld audits the IRS #LegendOfSamFuld
  •  @guyd10 - San Francisco #Giants requested to be renamed Sam Fuld Giants #legendofsamfuld
  •  @Graymatter11 - In related news, the Red Sox are trying to trade Carl Crawford for Sam Fuld. #LegendofSamFuld
  • @atlasrising - #legendofsamfuld Joe Mauer got hurt so he didn't have to defend home plate against Sam Fuld
  • @JoeDu - When you have a chance to hit for the cycle but decide it's beneath you, you've pulled a Sam Fuld. #legendofsamfuld
  • @richatthetrop - #LegendOfSamFuld auto industry changed the engine power ratings from horse power to fuld power A Nascar is now rated at 1/4 fuld power
  • @billsosports - Sam Fuld's cell phone always has a full charge and 5 bars. #LegendofSamFuld
  • @karenmcallister - When NFL returns, Tim Tebow will write Sam Fuld on his eye black. #LegendofSamFuld
  • @bigbelly55 - What is the meaning of life? The answer is #LegendofSamFuld
  • @TheSportmeister - Sam Fuld doesn't need steroids, steroids actually try to take Sam Fuld to get stronger. #LegendOfSamFuld
And it just keeps going.

Sam Fuld's IQ is higher than everyone else in this photo combined #LegendofSamFuld
Even Rays' team mate David Price is getting in on it:
  • @DAVIDprice14 - I don't WATCH much baseball...but when I do, I watch Sam Fuld! (dos equis guy) #LegendOfSamFuld
I'm so happy Cubs fans aren't the only fanbase to go apeshit over a player that isn't very good.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Today is a very strange day for me.  As I sit here and write this post, I don't really know what tone to take.

Tomorrow is the first day of Obstructed View.  If you don't follow me, Adam, Jeff or David on Twitter or like us on Facebook (why the heck don't you?), you have missed a great deal of hype for the new site that has been a great deal of fun to put together and I couldn't resist one last one:

It started (I think) with a comment from our friend, Melissa about how the four of us coming together was like the Traveling Wilburys.  That led to Adam putting this together:

He also did a few more and I decided I should put a few together like this one:

Or this one:

Soon there were something like twenty images floating around (check out the album on our Facebook page to see the rest) hyping up Obstructed View and I realized that putting those together was the most fun I had had in a long time with this whole blogging thing.

I remember when I first started this blog, one of my friends who had quite a bit of experience blogging told me that the main thing was to have fun with whatever I did with it.  Otherwise, it's just another form of work.  That turned out to be one of the most true statements ever made.

While I loved building up this site, I realized the main fun I've had while musing about the foibles of the Cubs is getting to know the people who have managed to find their way to this site and those who I interact with on Facebook and Twitter.  So, even though I'm not sure what is in store for this site in the future, I'm very excited to enter into this venture with Adam, Jeff and David.  I'm very thankful and honored that they asked me to be a part of Obstructed View and I'm sure our collaboration will result in something far greater than I could ever have achieved by myself on this site.

But I'm also thankful for everyone who stopped by and read the ramblings and rants that spilled out of me as the Cubs somehow managed to underwhelm me despite ever-lowered expectations.  It is a tremendous help to know that so many people out there feel the same pain I feel when watching such repeated failure.  I hope if you liked this site that you will follow me over to the new place because it won't be the same otherwise.

Thanks again, and don't forget to check back here from time to time since I do watch an awful lot of sports that don't involve the Cubs, and I'm pretty opinionated.

Until then, how about one more tip of the hat to one of my favorite shows:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Get Ready For Some Heavy Hitters

We are two days away from the debut of the greatest lineup in Cubs history.  No, not the lineup that will have Koyie Hill in it.

This Sunday, Obstructed View breaks camp and the posts count.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cubs Hellbent on Keeping Silva for Some Reason

The Cubs have to be pretty pissed at Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner, and Carlos Silva for messing up their well-laid plans.  Wells and Cashner are supposed to be the ones fighting over a rotation spot, while Silva claimed that fourth spot.  That is how it was supposed to happen, but it didn't happen.

What's that you say?  The Cubs said that this was a three-man race for the last two spots?  They also said you wouldn't be able to buy tickets for the Yankees games when single-game tickets went on sale.  The Cubs lie.  There is no getting around it.  When the Cubs state that the sun rises in the east, it would be wise to look out your window to make sure it is true.

Of course, most businesses lie at least a bit, so the Cubs aren't necessarily the MLB version of Wolfram & Hart or anything, but they also shouldn't be trusted as much as a lot of fans want to trust them.

So why do I think the Cubs were lying when they said the last two rotation spots were open to competition?  Because Carlos Silva is still alive in the rotation competition, and I think he's going to get it.

Despite Silva's six inning, one run outing today, his Spring ERA stands at 10.90.  While Andrew Cashner's 3.97 this spring isn't something that would win him a Cy Young award if he did that all year in the rotation, it certainly is a hell of a lot better than an ERA that requires 4 digits.

Anybody who has watched the Cubs at all this Spring can clearly see that the two best performers to take the #4 and #5 spots would be Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner.  Wells and Cashner are also the younger candidates and have the highest potential to possibly outperform their projections if you completely disregard the Spring numbers.  They are also the more marketable candidates since they are products of the Cubs farm system and still basically make league minimum salaries.

Yet, it is looking more and more like Carlos Silva will be in the Cubs rotation and Andrew Cashner will not.  This says to me that there was almost nothing Carlos Silva could have done short of injury that would have kept him out of the rotation.

Let's go to the map.

Carlos Silva is a big fat-ass with heart issues, so if there was any debate about whether he should be in the rotation or not, he probably should have shown up to camp in better shape than a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon.  He did not.

When one is fighting for a spot on a major league roster, it is best to not get into a fight with the team's best offensive weapon.  But if one does get into a fight with the team's best offensive weapon, maybe one should wait and not get into it during the fourth game of Spring Training.  He did not.

Then there was his inability to get anybody out with any regularity until today's outing.  When one is fighting for a spot and you are a big, fat, old, expensive pitcher that was never all that good to begin with and pretty much a malcontent wherever you've been, you should probably keep your ERA in the three-digit range.  He did not.

So how will Silva get a spot in the Cubs' rotation?  Because he never was going to lose the spot.  Unfortunately he, Wells, and Cashner didn't follow the script.

Wells or Cashner were supposed to battle it out for the fifth spot so that one of them could get sent down to work on another pitch (Cashner) or work on his confidence (Wells).  Meanwhile, Silva wouldn't necessarily be fantastic, but he would be a veteran presence on the back end of a rotation for a team that was trying to win now.

The problem is that Randy Wells pitched so well he absolutely HAD to be included in the rotation.  Between his results from 2009, his peripherals from 2010 (which the Cubs don't care about, but they should), and his Spring performance, there was no way on God's green earth that Wells was going to go down. So it supposedly became a two man race between Cashner and Silva.  Silva screwed that up by pitching as poorly as if he was lobbing the pitches in underhanded and Cashner actually stepped up and pitched like he wanted that rotation spot.

The problem is that Cashner never really stood a realistic chance.  He went out in his last outing and gave up a few runs in the slop that inflated his ERA a bit and Silva went out and had his best outing, but Cashner still has Silva beat by a wide margin.  Cashner is presumably the best option if the Cubs are trying to win now OR if they are trying to focus on development, but Silva is still lingering.

Why?  I'm guessing it is his salary.  The Cubs would have to eat his salary.  He can't go to the bullpen because he doesn't want to be there and he won't go as quietly as Carlos Zambrano did when he had even less reason than Silva to do so.  They can't send him to the minors since he's a veteran.  He has almost no trade value (and today's outing didn't suddenly change him into a viable trade chip).  The Cubs seem extremely reluctant to just consider the 8-0 start from last year as the best return they could have hoped for in return for Milton Bradley and just walk away from the casino with a small profit.  They seem intent on going back to the roulette table to really try to cash in their longshot.

We can't believe it either, Carlos.
If Silva makes the rotation, I can not think of a single scenario where Silva actually had his starting job in jeopardy where he retained the spot based on his performance or value to the team.
I have an easier time rationalizing Braden Looper making the rotation as the fifth starter than I do coming up with an argument for Silva that doesn't involve the crossing of fingers and outright overstatement of his capabilities.  The only thing I can come up with is that there was never two rotation spots open.  It was one spot between Cashner and Wells (with the other dark horses thrown in for good measure) and Wells won that battle.

If anyone can think of a rational reason why Silva would be a part of the rotation, feel free to let me know.  I've got nothing.

I can't wait to see how the Cubs rationalize Cashner getting sent down.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Retro Post(s): The Letter from Tom Ricketts Series

After the 2010 season mercifully ended, season ticket holders were treated to a literary epic from Tom Ricketts where he did his best to gloss over the bad parts (of which there were many), hype up the good parts (not quite so many), prepare us for an offseason where the Cubs wouldn't really do much, and the ticket price structure would become exponentially more difficult to determine.

I originally broke up the letter into five separate posts since the letter itself was so long that I figured nobody would sit through a point-by-point rehashing of the whole thing.  Well, in this retrospective you get to do just that.  Consider it like sitting through all three Lord of the Rings movies at once - your ass might fall asleep, but it is totally worth the time.

(Though, to be honest, it might be more like sitting through all three of the Big Mama's House movies.)

Part 1 - We're Not Worthy!

As you may have already heard through the Twitterverse, I received a nice letter from Tom Ricketts today in my e-mail that addressed the 2010 season, the managerial search, plans for 2011 and beyond, further improvements to Wrigley Field, and ticket pricing.  The letter is shorter than Moby Dick, but only a little bit so I'll address the components in separate posts to keep you all from dying of exhaustion from reading both the actual text and my accompanying commentary.

Dear Mr. McGinnis,

OMG! OMG! OMG! He knows my name!

It has been an incredible year for my family in our first season as stewards of the Chicago Cubs. Of all the new experiences, none was more enjoyable than the opportunity to meet and spend time with you---our season ticket holders.

We met many of you during our game day walks through Wrigley Field. Over the course of those games, you welcomed me and my family, you shared your thoughts and suggestions on improving the team and the ballpark, we celebrated some wins and, unfortunately, suffered too many losses.

Tom brought the shovel out pretty quickly because I can't imagine hearing opinions on middle relief from guys wearing Ryan Theriot jerseys was actually the most enjoyable part of owning the Cubs.

One of the highlights of the year was our first ever season ticket holder "open house" on July 8th. On that day alone I met more than 2100 of you, as we spent a day together in the greatest ballpark on earth. (For all who have inquired---yes, we are going to host that event again and in fact we will double up with a night session as well).

I wonder if he is counting his speaking to a large group at the beginning of each session as "meeting" the fans.  I think there were six sessions that day that all lasted an hour, so if he is counting the people he individually met, he would have spent about 10 seconds with every fan (which I know isn't possible because he was actually engaged in conversations whenever I looked over there). So, he's definitely playing fast and loose with the definition of the word "met."  It reminds me of the time I "met" the Rolling Stones at Soldier Field.

As our most highly valued customers, your opinions are invaluable as we move our organization forward. In fact, you will soon be contacted to participate in a quality assurance survey as we consider amenity upgrades and look to identify ways to improve your experience at Wrigley Field.

As long as they are only taking opinions from fans regarding the amenities in Wrigley Field, that is fine with me, but I do not want the fate of the managerial position or any roster moves based even a little bit on what the fanbase thinks.  Jim Hendry and the rest of the baseball operations team get paid a nice sum to evaluate baseball talent and our stupid opinions shouldn't matter for shit to them.  The ONLY time I want a fan's opinion taken into account in a baseball decision is when there is a decision between two players that basically are the same level player, but one is a dick and one is a scrappy fan-favorite.  Then sure, go ahead and let the fans be the tie-breaker in that all-too-rare circumstance.

On behalf of my entire family, thank you for your warm welcome and your incredible support of the Cubs organization. You are truly our partners and we respect your contribution and insights.

We're not worthy! We're not worthy! We suck!

OK, Tom, we get it.  We're valuable, we're part of the team, you respect us, we shouldn't stop spendinng our money on your crappy product, you love us, you'd name your children after us if you could somehow have 3,000,000 children.  Groveling is not becoming of a major league owner.

Part 2 - 2010: It Wasn't All Shitty

Tom Ricketts opened telling us how important Cubs fans are to the team, so now that we are still basking in the warm embrace of our new fan-friendly owners, it's as good a time as any to slap us in the face with the cold, hard reality of the:

2010 Review

The 2010 season was a disappointment for all at the major league level-for my family, for the organization, for the players and for the fans. The team showed signs of its potential the last quarter of the season, but the 75-87 record fell well short of our goals. My family is committed to winning a World Series and though it may not be entirely evident from this year's performance, there are encouraging signs.

Well that sure doesn't sound like the season was as big of a cluster-fuck death march as I thought it was.  Maybe I'm all turned around about the Cubs. Maybe I'll get a DVD to commemorate such a successful season:

Oh... right...
(h/t The Heckler)

If the potential of this team was shown by lots of playing time for Koyie Hill, Darwin Barney, Bobby Scales, and Micah Hoffpauir, I'm not sure what the encouraging signs are.  However, Tom nails it on the head when he says that his family's committment to winning a World Series is not "evident from this year's performance."

The 2010 highlights revolved around our home grown talent. Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner developed into budding stars, with Castro and Colvin in the NL Rookie of the Year discussion. That young group was enhanced by the August promotion of Casey Coleman, who went 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his last four starts. All need to take the next step in 2011, but we are very encouraged to have a group of young, home grown players emerge as regulars in 2010.

There is the silver lining.  Castro, Colvin, and for some reason, Cashner, get prominent billing.  Youth shall save us! The Cubs seem hellbent on turning Cashner into a middle reliever so even if you followed him through the minors and are excited about his power arm, no team should hype a middle relief prospect in its top three "encouraging" signs.  Throwing Casey Coleman and his small sample size is just grasping for straws.

We also have to recognize the superb job done by another one of our own-Mike Quade. During the final 37 games, the team played at a .649 clip (24-13), the second best record in the majors over that timeframe. Making this even more significant, we played largely against teams fighting for playoff berths.

This last part is particularly interesting since Tom seems to be selling Quade to the fans.  He could have mentioned the strong finish and left it at that to build the hope train going for next season, but he practically equates Quade to a prospect that is coming into his own at the major league level that we can enjoy in future seasons. Huh...

Plus, he gets a little liberal with his definitions again when he states the Cubs finished "largely" against teams fighting for playoff berths.  Even if I include the last three games against the Cardinals as a team "fighting for playoff berths," only 16 of Quade's 37 games came against such playoff contenders.  In those 16 games, the Cubs were 9-7.  That is nice, but it isn't like they kicked good teams' asses and took names.  But yes, Quade did a nice job overall.

It is my strong belief that, in the end, it is organizations with strong farm systems that win championships and I am convinced that our organization is making progress.

Our success in producing talent from within our system can be attributed to a number of factors, including a commitment of financial resources. We believe we have one of the best scouting directors in baseball in Tim Wilken (now 4 years in place) and with a strong farm director in Oneri Fleita and a very productive international effort, we are making progress in what had been a weak spot in the organization.

He's talking about good young talent more than a popped-collar guy at Casey Moran's.  It's like he's wearing beer goggles when looking at the state of the team...

Well, that explains the optimism.

Our farm clubs performed very well in 2010, playing to a collective 374-316 record, with first place finishes at both the Triple-A level in Iowa (tied) and Double-A level in Tennessee. The overall .542 winning percentage was second among all major league organizations and our 374 wins were the most for the Cubs organization in 15 years. As I said at our opening press conference about a year ago, we are committed to winning the right way---with our farm system. We believe we are on the right track.

Notice he didn't mention what a great job Ryne Sandberg did to lead Iowa to that first place tie.  Maybe because they blew a post-season berth in their last game.  Maybe because Ryne suddenly finds himself on the outside looking in?  At least there is a head-fake towards Ryne with his mention of "winning the right way."

Besides the absence of Sandberg being discussed, some other noticeable omissions were: Every veteran player on the roster.  No mention of Zambrano's strong finish, no mention of Byrd's All-Star appearance, no mention of Soto's rebound season.  It makes you wonder if a full fire sale may at least be on the table as an option.

So, in short, the season was disappointing, but check out all those rookies!  That makes a nice segue into the next segment:

Part 3 - 2011 Preview - Things Are Looking Up

So far, Tom has told us how valued we, the fans, are and how the 2010 season had a whole bunch of silver linings if you looked hard enough.  But enough about all of the lovey-dovey crap and going over things in the past nobody can change.  Let's talk about the future!  What about 2011?  Tom?:

We are early in the process of building the club for 2011. The first order of business is hiring our manager. Jim Hendry has identified a strong group of candidates and we are currently completing our interviews. This is a critical decision and I am confident we will find the right person to lead the club.

When the list of candidates involves Bob Melvin it can't really be that strong.  Ryne Sandberg has name recognition, Mike Quade has a month of major league experience with an expanded roster, and Joe Girardi isn't even officially interested in the job.  Bob Brenly said thanks, but no thanks.  The only way the list gets less impressive is if Dave Martinez is added to it (and he's interested!).

I do like his confidence and wish I had that sort of optimism regarding the choice Hendry is about to make.  I wonder where that comes from...

Oh yeah.

The strength of our team in 2010 was our starting pitching, as we led the National League with 96 quality starts. We expect that to continue. We are excited to see the continued development of our young players and the strong bullpen work anchored by Carlos Marmol (38 saves and a reliever-franchise record 138 strikeouts) and Sean Marshall (2.65 ERA, 22 holds).

I really like this paragraph because he starts out talking about the quality of the starting pitching and finishes by talking about the youth again (particularly Marmol and Marshall - who aren't starters).  This would lead many people to believe that the starting pitching that was so successful this past year is young and that we can expect that kind of success in the future.  It's a great marketing message.

Unfortunately, it is also wishful thinking at best and flat out not true at worst.  The leader in quality starts this season was Ryan Dempster, age 34 next year.  Next comes Randy Wells (age 29), Carlos Silva (age 32), and Carlos Zambrano (age 30).  That isn't exactly a kindergarten class out there.  What's more, Dempster and Silva will be in their last years of expensive contracts, and the Cubs would really like to get rid of Zambrano's big contract.  This does not bode well when the two regular starters with the lowest percentage of quality starts (Wells and Gorzelanny) are the only ones under 30 years old.

The only other starters besides the aforementioned Casey Coleman that pitched for the Cubs this year under the age of 30 were Jeff Samardzija and Thomas Diamond. This does not make me feel optimistic.

Going forward, we recognize the need to recommit to fundamentals. We need to stabilize our defense and cut down on errors. We need to improve our offense and become more efficient in both moving runners and hitting with players in scoring position. It is too early to determine whether this will be addressed with internal moves, trades or through free agent acquisitions. But we know we must improve in these areas.

This paragraph sounds like he is running for something and he is addressing a room full of Cubs fans all waving "It's Gonna Happen" signs.  He talks about changing what needs to be changed and offers absolutely no solutions.  Here is how I imagine it would be written on a teleprompter:

"Going forward, we recognize the need to recommit to fundamentals. (wait for applause)
We need to stabilize our defense and cut down on errors. (wait for applause)
We need to improve our offense (pause)
and become more efficient in both moving runners (pause)
and hitting with players in scoring position. (wait for applause)
It is too early to determine whether this will be addressed with internal moves,
trades or through free agent acquisitions.
(pounds fist on podium) But we know we must (pounds fist)
improve in these areas. (wait for standing ovation)"

Add a "God Bless the Cubs" and maybe a "Think of the children" and you've got a really good start to a stump speech.

Given that we had the highest payroll in the NL in 2010, I get a lot of questions about our payroll commitment for 2011. As I said earlier, we are still working on our 2011 baseball plan, so it is hard to be too specific at this time. What I can tell you is that our overall baseball budget (scouting, player development and payroll) will be about the same in 2011 as it was in 2010. Continued long term success will come through superior scouting and player development, and we are committed to improving that facet of the organization. As a result, this likely means a shift of some of our resources from the major league payroll toward scouting and player development, but we are still very much in the evaluation phase.

This is what Tom has been working towards with all the youth talk.  Young talent in baseball is cheap talent, thus the major league payroll is most likely going down.  This means there will be veterans traded away if Hendry can find takers who are willing to pay a decent portion of the contract.  This means that the team is most likely going to be crappy.  Tom is trying to sell the notion of a rebuild, but he's framing it so that we think that the youth can carry the team as soon as next year.

The thing is, most of the superior talent down in the farm system probably won't be making significant contributions until the rosters expand again in September.  If there was talent that close to being significant on the major league level, we surely would have seen it down the stretch in 2010.  Instead we got Thomas Diamond and Jeff Samardzija.

Trades probably won't boost that major-league ready talent unless they are willing to part with pieces like Marmol and Marshall.  Otherwise, all the Cubs get back is salary relief in any trades that occur of players like Fukudome or Zambrano (not that he would waive the no-trade clause anyway).

So Tom is doing his darndest to put the best face on 2011, but when it all comes down to it, it really has no more substance than this:

Part 4 - Ticket Pricing: Good Luck Figuring it Out

If you remember from last week, Tom Ricketts sent a very lengthy letter and I've been breaking it down as best I can so it can be viewed safely by normal human beings without going insane.  By now we've seen that Tom has given a group hug to the fans, talked up the rookies to Corey Patterson levels, glossed over the disaster of the 2010 season, and made some leaps from small sample sizes to build up the hope for 2011.  At this point, he is counting on our eyes glazing over and nobody reading this far.  As one of my heroes,  Dave Barry, has pointed out, it is an age-old tactic dating back to Thomas Jefferson when he wrote the Declaration of Independence:

"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind require that they should get some sleep.  Because I have been up for two nights now, declaring independence, and I may be a lanky Virginian but I am not a machine, for heaven's sake, and it just doesn't make sense to sit here scrawling away these complex-compound sentences when I just know nobody's going to read them, because nobody ever does read all the way through these legal documents. Take leases. You take the average tenants, and you could put a lease in front of them with a clause halfway through stating that they have to eat toasted moose doots for breakfast, and I'll guarantee you they never read it."

He's betting no one is reading at this point so that it will be an optimal time to slip in some information that won't necessarily be popular along with some confusing plans that are being spun as good news for season ticket holders. Tom is crafty.  It is time to start talking about:

2011 Ticket Pricing

The other question I get regularly concerns our ticket pricing for 2011 and beyond. Overall, our average ticket price will be flat in 2011 compared to 2010. Before going into greater detail on that topic, let me provide some background.

Translation: The amount of revenue we generate from ticket sales on an average per ticket basis will remain the same, but it will change for you. I won't say how yet because I'm going to try to confuse you with more words here in a second.  (Hint: it probably isn't going to go down for you, but I'll try to make you think that it is.)

My family is committed to providing ticket pricing that allows families to enjoy Cubs baseball. In so many ways, our children represent the next generation in the Cubs family. We want to invest in providing families with opportunities to experience Wrigley Field, including such things as running the bases, which will be continued in 2011.

This is nice.  Families can come and watch the Cubs and enjoy the same experiences as the Ricketts FAMILY that now owns the team.  They understand the importance of families and they understand that giving children the opportunity to come to games at an early age is important so that they can get addicted and continue buying tickets for the rest of their lives.

To this end, we will continue the policy of keeping many of our tickets in the sub $10 range-in fact, we will offer a substantial increase in sub-$10 tickets next year compared to 2010.

As long as the families are content sitting in the 500 sections of the upper deck in the outfield (and like to see the Pirates a lot), they can get into the park for less than $10 per person.  I'm sure it is only a coincidence that these sections probably have the fewest season ticket holders since season ticket holders generally want a halfway decent seat if they are going to sit and watch a team lose 81 times per year.

In addition, we are increasing the number of bronze games (our lowest ticket pricing tier) from 6 games in 2010 to 15 games in the bleachers and 11 games in the grandstand in 2011. As a result, there will be 77% more tickets priced at $20 or less in 2011 than there were in 2010. Stated differently, a total of more than 550,000 tickets will be available for $20 or less next year.

This is great news to the single-game ticket buyers because there are now cheaper options available to the games that the Cubs had trouble selling at the end of the year last year (and therefore would probably be a tough sell in 2011).  It could also end up lowering a season ticket holder's cost overall as long as they don't jack up prices to the games they know they are going to sell out anyway.  Let's cross our fingers.

Again, our average ticket price next year will be essentially flat compared to 2010 (actually it is fractionally down vs. 2010). This does not mean all ticket prices will be the same as last year however, as pricing was adjusted based on location and our schedule. A little background might be helpful.

See what I mean about a bunch of words? He already said this, but he really wants to hammer home the message that the average ticket price won't be going up so he'll repeat it again here and then go into some more background (translation: more words to distract us).

To set our pricing in 2011, we examined approximately 5 million transactions from our primary and secondary ticket markets from 2005 through 2010. Our goal was to keep our average ticket price flat overall but improve the alignment of pricing for games and seating sections with actual demand. The result is a market-based ticket model that reflects our fans' buying patterns.

They are segmenting their fanbase based on past ticket buying patterns and splitting the stadium and games into appropriate categories to maximize their profit from every segment. There is nothing sinister about this and they are actually being very smart in not lumping all Cubs fans into one massive group. The duplicitous thing they are doing is talking about a few segments being helped by their price adjustments as if it was benefiting a large percentage of the season ticket holders, which is just not true.

The highlights include: (1) reducing the average ticket price for all gold, silver and bronze games, (2) separating the bleachers and grandstands in the pricing tiers, as the buying patterns vary significantly for each area, and (3) adding a new fifth tier of pricing (Marquee Tier) for our highest demand games.

1) Yay!
2) That's a highlight?
3) Uh. Oh.

Cutting through it all, the net result for our season ticket holders is that some will see a slight (in all cases, less than 3%) increase, others will see a reduction as much as 6% and some will see virtually no change at all.

Oh ho!  There's the increase snuck in there amongst all the good news and tier talk.  You have to get up pretty early in the morning to sneak that by us in Aisle 424, Tom.

So let's take Tom's approach and cut through it all.  I would be shocked if the percentage of season ticket holders that actually see a drop in their overall price from 2010 is over 20%.  I'd actually be surprised if it was higher than 15%, but I'm being conservative.

Folks holding tickets in the infield portion of the stadium are mostly full plan holders, so they will benefit slightly from an increase in the number of cheaper Crappy Level games, but that will get negated by the boost of including the new Mega-Maxi-Super-Duper-Snazzy-Marquee-alicious Tier in the package.  They also will not benefit from those 550,000 tickets that are under $20 that Tom mentioned before.

Anyone grandfathered into the Combo Plan (nights and weekends) isn't benefiting from all of their restructuring since the price drops will all be in games not included in their package.  I would gather this group will almost assuredly be in the group whose prices actually go up since they now have the Premiere-Ultra-Awesome-Happy-Fun-Luxury Tier games to pay for without anything to offset that cost.

The folks who will benefit are the Bleacher season ticket holders (Yellon and his three friends), and the folks who sit way down the lines and/or far under the upper deck in the Terrace Reserved sections.  Like I said before, the percentage of season ticket holders in these sections is small.  This new pricing structure is actually much more beneficial to the single game buyers like the families Tom talked about a million words ago.

It's all very simple.  Oh, there's a separate pricing structure for bleachers now too?

But Tom, always crafty, has packaged this into his announcement to season ticket holders, and tried to bury it as best he could.  Now he's going to talk about a bunch of stuff that has little to do with the baseball team being good as a way to continue to sell us on what a good deal season tickets are.

Other changes in 2011 include new season ticket holder benefits. Over the years, we have added significant benefits to being a Cubs season ticket holder, such as a dedicated area within our website, early access to Spring Training tickets and other special events (such as the very popular Dave Matthews concerts and Allstate Wrigleyville Classic football game coming in November), and last year's open house.

Dude, we just want the team to fucking win.  Seriously.  Do that and I'll volunteer to let any member of the Cubs organization punch me in the ding and take a dollar from me.  You can form a line.  It will be totally worth it.

For 2011, there are a number of new benefits that I think you will find interesting. Among them is exclusive access to our players, coaches, manager, front office and ownership through Cubs Insider Webcasts that will occur throughout the year. In addition to updates on everything happening inside the ballclub, these webcasts will provide you the opportunity to ask questions on topics of your choice. A Season Ticket Holder Benefit page follows this letter and you should ask your Cubs representative about any of the items listed there.

Finally!  A chance to have my question answered about what brand of chewing gum Justin Berg prefers! 

Actually, as a Cubs blogger, the Webcasts would probably be pure gold as they shove more contrived crap into our consciousness than the people at Vineline could possibly dream.  Get ready to learn way more about Starlin Castro than any normal human being should ever want.

The long and short of it is: the Cubs have lowered prices on games you either don't want to see or can't see because you have a job, and on the seats that you don't want to sit in unless you have to because all of the other good seats are sold.  They have raised ticket prices on all the really good games because they know they can and they will still sell them out.  I'm actually shocked at their restraint in how much they've bumped them.

They can talk about families all they want and how much they care about us, but when it comes down to it, this was about adjusting the single game pricing structure to maximize those revenues while still collecting the full amount of revenue from season ticket holders that they count on each and every year.

Part 5 - The Final Chapter

So, if you have been following along, Tom Ricketts' letter to the season ticket holders has now reached epic proportions.  He has used many, many, many, many words to explain things that really shouldn't be that hard to succinctly discuss:
  • Cubs fans are important to the Ricketts family
  • Families are important to the Ricketts family
  • The Cubs were disappointing in 2010, except for the end part when they were awesome
  • 2011 will be a continuation of the awesome part
  • Some ticket prices will go up for some games and seats, but not others, when they may go down, or not
  • The new ticket prices make it easier for families to go to Cubs games
  • Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings!, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree
After all of this, you may be asking yourself if you can expect to see any more major changes in Wrigley Field itself in 2011.  You will be happy to know that the answer to that question is... maybe.

Like you, we love Wrigley Field and are committed to winning a championship at the Friendly Confines. We all need to recognize, however, that our wonderful Wrigley Field is fast approaching 100 years of age and is in need of substantial improvements. We committed over $10 million to that effort last year, largely to improve restrooms, add new food options, recast concrete, upgrade steel and other general maintenance. We will continue this effort in 2011 but again the focus will be more tactical than strategic.

Yes, the urinals and the bison dogs, how can we forget?  Sounds like more of the same little tweaks that they will herald later as grand sweeping changes are in store for us in 2011.  Seriously, did anybody notice an appreciable difference in the bathrooms?  The one change I noticed was that the sign above the sink that said "sink" to differentiate itself from the troughs was not there when the season began and then re-appeared at some point in the middle of the season.

I honestly have no idea if this is a Before or After picture.

The bison dogs were tasty from what I remember.  I didn't have one after the month of May because I had stopped buying anything in the ballpark as a personal protest.  But whatever, they didn't suck, which was nice compared to what we were offered on the baseball field while we ate the damn things.

So who knows what will come next.  Ketchup and mustard packets instead of the dispensers that always cause a log jam at the condiment/napkin stations because everyone is trying to unwrap their food to be able to apply some mustard?  Miller Park and a few other ballparks have little kiosks that serve freshly roasted nuts with cinnamon and sugar.  Those are awesome.  Maybe something like that?  I might even buy some of those even if the team sucks next year.

Whatever it is they have planned, it doesn't sound like it will be of much consequence in the grand scheme of things, so you have to wonder why Tom bothered to bring it up at all, but he was on a roll.

We spent much of the 2010 season assembling a team of renowned architects, engineers, designers and project managers to develop a master plan for a more significant Wrigley Field overhaul and Triangle Building development. Our planning will continue in 2011 and your involvement through the quality assurance surveys mentioned earlier is very important. We look forward to completing the analysis phase and getting underway with the construction and occupation phase.

The Triangle Building!  Bet you had forgotten all about that with all the noodles and Toyota signs and the team sucking and all, but there it is still getting planned.  Look at them plan.  Plan, plan, plan.  They should charge money to have fans be able to watch them plan.

They are looking forward to turning the plans into reality though, as should you because there will be all kinds of different ways to separate us from our money in the Triangle Building.  They just have to finish planning how. Hopefully their plans for the Triangle Building are more solid than their plans for building a World Series contender.

I guess as long as it isn't the same people that designed the Soldier Field spaceship thing, I don't care that much, but it sure was nice of Tom to keep us informed that nothing specific can be divulged at this time.


We were in Year One when this started, what year is it now?

Thank you again for your incredible support of Cubs baseball and the Ricketts family. We have spent our adult lives sitting next to you cheering for our team. We now have the responsibility to improve not only the play on the field but also to protect and save our summer home, Wrigley Field. With your help we will accomplish both.

It is pretty incredible that so many people love this team so much when they never, ever fulfill that love and devotion by ending a season with a playoff win. 

Think about it, Tom openly admitted that payroll is going to go down (and therefore the realistic expectations of being a contender also go down), and at the same time they've said they'll pretty much be charging us the same rates as last year (which was supposed to be a contending team). I haven't seen much backlash about that.  We, as a fanbase, seem pretty much OK with it since they aren't actually raising the rates (except when they are for some people).

That is incredible.  It really is.

I did notice a slight clerical error at the end though.

"With your help money we will (hope, pray and ultimately fail to) accomplish both."

Fixed. You're welcome.


Thanks, Tom.  Do you take personal checks?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Retro Post: Coming Soon: The Magical Cubdom

The Heckler published a great cartoon today that captures Tom Ricketts' vision for Wrigley as well as anything I've ever seen:

It reminded me of my post from about a year ago that pretty much saw this sort of thing coming.  I still haven't gotten my royalty check from the Cubs.

Coming Soon: The Magical Cubdom

The Cubs announced today that they would be unveiling a new statue outside of Wrigley for Billy Williams this coming September.  That is nice and I want to say up front that I don't necessarily believe that Billy doesn't deserve it, but it begs the question: What is next?  

For those of you keeping score at home, the Cubs have six players numbers retired represented by the five flags hanging on the fair poles.  Those same fair poles have the Hey Hey memorials to Jack Brickhouse.  Harry Caray gets the pressbox caricature and the statue outside the Captain Morgan's Club.  Ernie Banks has his statue by the ticket windows.  There are flags waiving on the rooftop that commemorate every Cubs playoff appearance and important players, events, and even a former owner.

Now Billy gets his own statue.  That's nice.

I guess I didn't think that another statue was really necessary to properly commemorate any more players on a team that hasn't won anything since before the Titanic was built.

I think the problem is that they went a little too overboard on the commemoration of broadcasters to the point where it became obvious that they were lacking in solid memorials to great players.  Since the Harry Statue went up in 1999, the Cubs have retired the numbers of Santo, Sandberg, Jenkins, and Maddux and they added the Banks statue.  I guess I thought that was enough to balance it out.  Especially since there really hasn't been a whole lot of winning on the North Side about which we should get all nostalgic.

What it boils down to is that the Cubs are going full bore ahead with their plans to make Wrigley a baseball version of Disney World.  If they have to build a few statues to support a revisionist view of their past history of failure, that is exactly what they are going to do.

If you go to Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom, you don't get an actual jungle experience.  There are no warring tribes, bugs the size of a Volkswagen (though with it being in Florida, this part is actually pretty close), and people dying of malaria, dysentary, or ebola.  You get happy natives and friendly British explorers who have no intentions of enslaving the darker skinned people.  You get friendly animals banding together to defeat the more harshly designed, mean looking animals that are only violent because they are bad eggs, not because they are naturally carnivores looking to survive in a harsh environment.  It is good clean fun and no one cares that it isn't close to reality.  In fact, they prefer it isn't and they pay big bucks to escape reality for a while.

Wrigley Field has real potential to become a place where reality is suspended and we as fans can pay a lot of money to walk down memory lane to the great teams of Cubs past.  I've been giving it some thought, and I think I've come up with some good attractions that could enhance the experience:
  • Audioanimatronic Harry (voice provided by Ryan Dempster) - An interactive computer program will allow a virtual Harry to mispronounce visitors' names as he would if he were calling a game.
  • The College of Coaches Jamboree - Audioanimatronic versions of El Tappe, Goldie Holt, Bobby Adams, Harry Craft, Verlon Walker, Ripper Collins, Vedie Himsl and Charlie Grimm will sing a medley of classics like "Go Cubs Go" and "It's a Beautiful Day For a Ballgame"
  • The Carousel of Diminutive Middle Infielders - this could be audioanimatronic or it could help keep guys like Manny Alexander, Neifi Perez, and Aaron Miles out of the unemployment line.
  • Journey to the Bottom of Yosh Kawano's Laundry Bag - kids can attempt to find the lucky soiled jock strap to win a prize.
  • Michael Barrett's Punching Gallery - visitors can choose to be Michael Barret and punch A.J. Pierzynski, or they can choose to be Carlos Zambrano and punch Michael Barrett.  It's win/win.
  • It's a Small Strike Zone Afterall - where visitors attempt to throw a virtual pitch on 3 and 2 to complete a perfect game that Bruce Froemming doesn't call a ball.
  • Honey, I Shrunk My Testicles - where visitors try to hit virtual homeruns as Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro for prize tickets and they can use virtual cream, clear, or needles to enhance their power.  But watch out! If you get caught you have to go sit and explain yourself in the Hall of Congressional Committees, but you get to keep the prize tickets.
  • Cindy Sandberg's Wild Ride (Adults only)
  • Wait 'Til Next Year! - this is just a long line that never ends.
Mr. Kenney, please feel free to e-mail me to find out where to send the royalty checks.  Thanks.

Illinois Thinks Helping Delayed Children is a Part-Time Job

I'm trying to figure out Illinois State Representative Raymond Poe. It says on the Illinois General Assembly website that Mr. Poe has three children and eight grandchildren.  So I'm sure he is familiar with the feelings that parents and grandparents have when they are hoping and praying the additions to their families are born without complications and have the capacity to develop and grow normally.

But I wonder if he knows what it's like when a child is born with syndromes that prevent normal development or physical problems that require therapy. I guess none of his kids or grandkids needed any special attention or assistance as babies.

I assume that is the case because I don't know how else someone could introduce a bill regulating the state's support of early intervention therapy with the following clause:

State-approved public or private early intervention providers shall not exceed 30 billable hours per 7-day week.

There is already a shortage of qualified service providers in early intervention (probably due to the fact that the state routinely falls six months behind in payment for the services), but now they don't want to let anyone who is capable of helping these children do it as their full-time job?  So I'm trying to think of a rationale that explains the proposal of such a bill.

Maybe Mr. Poe is a big Jenny McCarthy fan and saw on the Oprah show that she had cured autism and figures these services aren't as necessary anymore. 

No. Probably not.

Maybe he is a big believer in the study by Andrew Wakefield that concluded that giving children vaccinations contributed to autism.  Maybe he didn't see that the study was debunked because it was determined Wakefield falsified data

Maybe Mr. Poe just doesn't give a damn about children.

But then if you go to his website you can see that he recently passed a bill that allows Newborn Metabolic Screenings without administrative charges or charge-backs:

“In the past, the Newborn Metabolic Screening funds have been subject to administrative charge-backs in Illinois,” said Poe. “As a result, the healths of thousands of babies have been put at unnecessary risk. To ensure that this does not happen again, I worked with the March of Dimes on this important piece of legislation to help ensure that any disorders are detected and treated early.”

Se he obviously knows how important early detection of disorders are to the health of children, but now he wants to restrict those who are qualified to help once the problems are detected?  It just doesn't make sense.

I'm sure this is being proposed as a means to close the gap in our state budget that has been left to implode on itself while Blagojevich bided his time and padded his resume for his eventual... ... bid for President... ... of the United States... HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA... excuse me.

But who is going to regulate which providers are staying within the new guidelines?  Some assistant therapists don't have their own billing numbers so they have to bill through a therapist that hires them.  Does that mean the assistant is out of luck since the main therapist isn't going to waste the 30 billable hours on an employee when they need to put food on their own table?  If not, who is going to sift through all the invoices to determine who gets what money?  Will assistants get their own billing codes?  Who will administer the rollout and management of that system?  It sounds like they'll have to add a few positions in the state government and the people who fill those positions are probably going to want a salary and I'll bet they're full-time positions. 

It seems like a whole lot of wasted effort and money on a regulation that won't end up saving the state much to begin with AND will drive even more qualified therapists into different lines of work because they can't afford to be part-timers.

I just don't get it.