One of the nice things about removing oneself from the everyday hubbub of watching the Cubs lose to nondescript pitchers of questionable talent is that you get a chance to take a step back and see the bigger picture. I mentioned yesterday how I don't think the ticket prices are going to move downwards next year because ticket revenues won't go up by filling more of the stands because the season ticket holders aren't going anywhere.
Doc Blume commented and made an excellent point about ticket sales not being the only factor:
But getting people to actually attend the game (and avoiding 10,000 no shows) is something that needs to be a high priority as well. The Cubs have lost a ton of revenue this year in concession sales, and on top of that, television rating have plummeted. In order for the Cubs to continue to have high revenues, they will need to not only sell the tickets, but get people in the stands...the last part of the plan that I felt was important to solve the Cubs current "people problem" was to get a superstar of some sort. There isn't any draw at Wrigley right now...no Sandberg, Dawson, Sosa or Caray.
He is right, but all the Cubs have to do is get through 2011 and have a plan to build up the hope again in 2012. It would be nice if Hendry's three or four moves actually turn the team around and make them contenders, but it isn't essential. Not with the Cubs' fan base.
Like I said, the season ticket holders are locked in and as long as the Cubs don't come right out and literally hold season ticket holders' heads in the toilet, they will keep coming back. They have more than a big enough buffer zone. Think about how long it took for the Bears' season ticket waiting list to erode away. Years of McCaskey meddling, Wannstedt trading away first round draft picks for Rick Mirer, and a dependency on "core" players like Alonzo Spellman (who makes Carlos Zambrano look measured and reasoned), not to mention an inability to work with the city to improve the stadium amenities. And Bears fans are nowhere close to being as blindly loyal and addicted to the suckitude as Cubs fans who wear it as a badge of pride.
MB21 over at Another Cubs Blog has a theory that the Cubs actually could literally hold fans heads in the toilet and they would come back every year for more. I won't go that far, but he's not as wrong about that as I'd prefer.
If things don't go miraculously well next year, the Ricketts can then entertain the thought of discounting unsold seats. They don't care that season ticket holders can't sell their seats at face value because the Cubs already have the full price of the ticket in their coffers. They might care, however, that they have bunches of unsold tickets. So maybe they do some group discounts in certain sections (buy 3 get 1 free). Maybe they just do an outright sale again like they did with the $10 bleacher tickets that pissed off Yellon (though not enough to make him consider telling his new best friend to find another sucker to buy his season bleacher seats).
Many people have wondered why the Cubs are keeping Jim Hendry around. Wouldn't it make more sense for him to be sent away at the same time that Lou walks away? Wouldn't it make the most sense to have a new general manager hire the new manager?
Sure, Hendry has made some nice moves. Hell, I was ready to build a statue of him after he acquired Nomar Garciaparra and the highest rated prospect involved in the deal (Matt Murton) in exchange for Alex Gonzalez, Francis Beltran, and Brendan Harris. This after getting Derrek Lee for Hee Seop Choi, and Aramis Ramirez (and Kenny Lofton) for Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill, and Matt Bruback. But I don't think he is sticking around because of his job performance.
He has two years left on his deal, but eating his salary would be like eating the amuse bouche before choking down the all-you-can-eat buffet of Zambrano, Fukudome, and Soriano's salaries, so I don't think he his hanging on because of his contract status.
I'm guessing that the Rickettses need a scapegoat for 2011. If things go horribly wrong (or, rather, as I expect them to), they won't be able to blame the Tribune as much as they were able to this year. They will have a brand new manager, so they can't really blame him since he inherited this team of misfits. They need someone to throw to the masses, so it might as well be Hendry.
I've said it before and I'll continue to say it until something indicates otherwise. Cubs fans WANT to believe that every year they have a chance. It does not matter what common sense and good reason tells us. It does not matter that projections told us that the Cubs were going to win 78-83 games this year. We wanted to believe that the margin of error could only favor the Cubs. It did not enter our darkest dreams that a 78-win season at this point would be a ridiculous long shot.
If Hendry pulls some rabbits out of his hat and the Cubs can stay even reasonably close next year, the no-shows won't be as big a problem. Good weather will get nice walk-up sales. Series against good opponents will be interesting and they will sell.
If not, they will still be announcing crowds of 32,000 when there are probably half of that in the stands, but it doesn't matter for 2011 because the Cubs will have their money. They will just offer up Jim Hendry as the sacrificial lamb and move to building up the hope again for 2012.
All the Cubs have to do is get to 2012 with their fan base intact. By then, most of the horrible salaries will be off the books and they can start clean. Silva is gone with a small buyout. Ramirez is gone. Fukudome gone. Grabow gone. Dempster will be in his final year and potential trade bait. Same with Zambrano, though I expect he'll be gone long before 2012.
Only Soriano will have unmovable money left on his contract, so that is virtually like starting clean. A new general manager could really come in and make a difference. It would certainly raise expectations and hope again, which is really all the Ricketts need at this point to keep ticket prices where they are.
You wondered how Hendry still has a job after all that has gone wrong in the last two years. This is why. And us season ticket holders are the ones who allow it to happen.