Cubs’ business brass seems to think selling Wrigley is more important than winning
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org June 24, 2012 10:24PM
Concerts and other non-baseball events at Wrigley have taken a toll on the turf — and the Cubs’ reputation. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
Updated: July 26, 2012 6:24AM
PHOENIX — Left fielder Alfonso Soriano sat slumped at his locker after the Cubs lost their fourth consecutive game Sunday.
‘‘I’m tired,’’ said Soriano, who accounted for half of the Cubs’ four hits and all of their run production with a home run in a 5-1 loss Sunday to the Arizona Diamondbacks. ‘‘When we’re winning, I never feel tired. But when we’re losing and get swept, you get tired mentally. So my body’s OK, but losing like we’re losing now, it’s tough.’’
The Cubs return home Monday, but to what? First-base prospect Anthony Rizzo? Another scapegoat coaching change? Another version of the spray-painted monstrosity of an outfield that embarrassed the baseball side of the operation on national television just more than a week ago?
The last time this bruised and battered bunch looked for safe haven at home after a rough road trip, it got to Wrigley Field to discover that hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo had taken the fall for a flawed lineup and that huge chunks of the outfield had paid the price for a pair of concerts the marketing suits had scheduled while the Cubs were out of town.
‘‘At this point right now, we hope that it’s better,’’ said outfielder David DeJesus, who didn’t criticize the cause or the damage but acknowledged the uneven surface presented challenges during the last homestand. ‘‘They said it’s going to be better, so we’ve got to believe them. But we’ll see when we get back.’’
Players were diplomatic about the grotesque look of the field during that homestand and the perception that the use of the ballpark for every possible concert and paid yoga gathering looks more important than the baseball to the top business brass.
That’s right, yoga. Even as the rushed repairs to the Wrigley sod were struggling to take root, a photo was tweeted Sunday of what looked like hundreds of women stretching on yoga mats spread across the outfield grass.
It doesn’t help that the baseball brass has assembled the worst team in the majors to date. Or that in 12 games since firing Jaramillo, the Cubs’ offensive production has suffered.
But the relentless selling of Wrigley Field from the business side of the operation is creating a perception of franchise priorities that seem to take the baseball product for granted, if not push it into second-citizen status.
At best, it shows a lack of regard and respect for the baseball team and the baseball customers paying close to the top ticket prices in the game. At worst, it’s greed gone blind.
And it’s not just Chicagoans who are taking notice. Super-agent Scott Boras, a onetime Cubs farmhand and a former Chicago resident, was asked about an entirely unrelated subject when he went off about the concert-ravaged outfield.
‘‘Any executive who for a $1 million profit takes one of the grandest museums of our country and mars the dignity and appearance of that museum needs to re-examine his decision-making,’’ he said.
The suits certainly had to know the Cubs’ series against the Boston Red Sox would draw national audiences when they invited The Wall and Brad Paisley to churn up the field.
‘‘The only thing that stunk was that it was an ESPN game and MLB Network game, so the fans [around the country] see that,’’ DeJesus said. ‘‘And they’re probably saying, ‘What’s up with that?’ But it’s just because it’s concerts. Once people hear that and understand that, then that’s just the way it is.’’
But it’s more than concerts. According to a source close to the groundskeeping operation, the Cubs had paid, non-baseball events scheduled on the field each day last week, and workers were ordered to get the new sod down by the end of Tuesday because the suits didn’t want to cancel any more than two days of activity.
Now if the players can just hurry up and finish their games this week, there’s a Blues Brothers movie event next week the marketing guys have to get up and running. Only $40 a pop for a chance to tread all over the new sod.
This is important because they’re trying to set a world record for most people assembled wearing sunglasses in the dark.