Increased revenue from Wrigley rehab will provide on-field benefits for Cubs
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org April 19, 2012 9:36PM
Updated: May 21, 2012 8:59AM
MIAMI — Don’t count on swimming pools, nightclub-themed party zones or bikini-clad ‘‘fans’’ as props on the right-field patio deck.
And the Cubs’ business and marketing honchos probably will pass on the tacky $2.5 million exploding monstrosity/sculpture for home runs (even if these are the guys who gave us the noodle).
But if you’re looking for a way to make sense of this historically miserable start for the Cubs — or a way to avoid looking at all — take a panoramic gaze at what the newly christened Miami Marlins have done with their gaudy revenue-producing digs.
From that wider view, the Cubs’ three-day trip to Miami insinuates more than three losses that sent them reeling to their fourth-worst 13-game start, including Thursday’s 5-3 loss to Ozzie Guillen’s new team.
It’s about what a new ballpark has done to inject life, and money, into a Marlins franchise that had been on the brink of relocation or extinction for most of its 19 seasons before Marlins Park opened this year.
Don’t like the sightlines or the product you get for that enormous ticket price on the North Side now?
Don’t like watching a team in transition with more question marks than All-Stars get shut down Wednesday night by Mark Buehrle or watching the revamped left side of the Marlins’ infield reach base 11 times, score six times and put a defensive clamp on half the infield for three games?
Then imagine what that Wrigley Field renovation, which suddenly looks like a short-term reality, might produce once Rahm Emanuel puts the Cubs’ plan on the city dole and helps create an all-Cubs party zone around the ballpark on game day.
Not that the Cubs don’t have money to spend on as many big-name players as they want now. But once the Triangle Building rises, the ‘‘luxury’’ gets added to the suites and the extra cash starts rolling in like so many Clark Street noodles, there will be nothing left to buy but players. And no excuses.
‘‘It has a chance to affect our on-field product in a couple of ways,’’ team president Theo Epstein said. ‘‘One is that a renovated Wrigley will put our players in a better position to succeed, so they can prepare better, they can take care of their bodies better, with a modern clubhouse, modern training room, modern BP tunnel, modern video rooms. …
‘‘And usually a renovated ballpark leads to more revenue to pour back into the major-league team and continue to improve the product on the field.’’
You think the Marlins had a big winter with free-agent acquisitions such as Jose Reyes and Buehrle and that down-to-the-wire pursuit of Albert Pujols?
With the ground-up focus on rebuilding under Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and scouting/player development boss Jason McLeod, that overhaul could coincide roughly with the Wrigley renovations — just about the time Starlin Castro is hitting his early prime years and top prospects Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson are becoming established major-leaguers.
About the time Castro is sitting on a major long-term contract, about the time a rotation built around, say, Matt Garza is getting a boost from the next big free-agent pitcher.
And if that’s also about the time the Cubs find a way to arm-twist some of that suddenly easy big money from one of their local TV deals, then some combination of the Yankees and Red Sox will have been reborn at Clark and Addison.
At least that’s the vision the top suits in the organization have. Several of them, including chairman Tom Ricketts and business president Crane Kenney, toured the Marlins’ new ballpark this week.
‘‘The more money you crank out, the more resources you have for the draft, free agents, whatever it is,’’ manager Dale Sveum said, ‘‘It means a lot to the organization when you’re trying to get somewhere and all that stuff comes together with resources.’’
It’s no wonder that Cincinnati locked up Joey Votto for 10 years and Milwaukee wants so badly to get Zack Greinke signed to an extension — before the next Matt Cain deal raises the price even higher.
‘‘I don’t think we’re short of resources, either,’’ said Sveum, whose first extensive walk-through at Wrigley in the winter involved a fruitless effort to find space to add work stations for his players. ‘‘But that’s just a matter of when it’s all going to come about.’’
For now, it doesn’t make a five-game losing streak, 3-10 record, .328 team slugging percentage and 4.90 team ERA taste any better.
But Epstein, for one, is keeping his eye on the long-term vision for the team, regardless. And if the renovations come as quickly as now seems possible …
‘‘It could be a win-win-win,’’ he said, including the fan amenities in the three-way pleasure. ‘‘But certainly it has a chance to impact the on-field product in a positive way.’’