TELANDER: Wrigley can still entertain
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com April 15, 2013 10:03AM
Cub reliever Carlos Marmol smiles after he was booed during pre game introductions before the Chicago Cubs home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday April 8, 2013 at the Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: May 10, 2013 6:34AM
There it flew for the first time this year.
Like a windsock on the prow of a steamer headed over the falls — a big white ‘‘L’’ on the flapping blue flag.
How many times have we seen the Loser flag at Cubs home games, flying above the ancient scoreboard? How many times will we see it before October? Monday it signified the Cubs’ 7-4 home-opening loss to the Brewers.
‘‘It blew both ways,’’ said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, speaking of the wind on this blustery day. It blew out, and then it blew in. It swirled and it curled.
And for almost 31/2 hours it blew bad fortune the Cubs’ way.
It all ended with one out and the bases loaded in the ninth inning, the winning run at the plate in the form of Starlin Castro, and then …hoist the ‘‘L.’’
There was entertainment on this pleasant afternoon, provided mainly by the tricky wind that gusted to 30 mph and made fly balls seem like adventures in kite flying. Most fans stayed to the end. But Sveum was particularly disgusted by the three-run double hit in the first inning by Brewers first baseman Martin Maldonado.
The ball went high up toward center and then sliced southward, away from Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz. It landed like a shanked nine-iron in the right corner by the yellow ‘‘Hey Hey’’ foul pole. Those three runs, you could say, were the difference in the game.
‘‘The wind-blown pop-up to right field, with the bases loaded,’’ said Sveum, speaking of the difference between the two clubs.
Yes, that’s true. But, then, the Brewers have beaten the Cubs in 14 of their last 18 matchups. That’s more than wind.
Maybe it’s hot air. The kind being blown around in the endless and idiotic battle between the Ricketts family, which wants to improve decrepit Wrigley Field, and the nearby rooftop owners, who want free periscopes for life.
You wouldn’t think things like putting in a large, modern replay screen — the kind seen in every ballpark everywhere in the country — or building a small hotel on trashy land with a McDonald’s and a giant souvenir tent on it would cause such a fuss.
But it has.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is involved. Alderman Tom Tunney (44th) is involved. Apartment owners are involved. All of Chicago seems to be involved. And, God help us, the grasping suburb of Rosement is involved.
A rehab deal seems to get done. And then it doesn’t. A compromise deadline is set. And then it passes.
Shortstop Castro, now 23 and in his fourth big-league year, has gotten his focus on the game. But the Cubs owners have not.
There is no way chairman Tom Ricketts can be focused on putting a winning baseball team on the field when he’s worried about lawsuits, public urination and private vendettas.
I know precisely how Wrigley Field could be served and saved. Want to hear it? Here it is:
Put a huge Jumbotron where the Toyota sign is in left-center field. Put much smaller signs along the top of the bleachers, maybe see-through ones. Buy every damned apartment in the elbow formed by Sheffield and Waveland (about 18, by my count). Block off Waveland and Sheffield alongside Wrigley for every game and every concert (they already are essentially blocked by police and barricades). Make those streets into game-day fairs.
Plant the Great Flag of Wrigleyland right where the big ‘‘L’’ always seems to fly. And tell the world to kiss your butt.
Impossible, you say?
But it wouldn’t have been if the old Cubs owners had any foresight. It wasn’t always yuppie Wrigleyville, you know. Back when I lived near the stadium, in the late 1970s, it was more like Latin Kingsville. The gang’s graffiti was everywhere. And whoever made the deal in 2004 to legitimize the rooftop owners and cut the Cubs in for a paltry 17 percent of their profits — was it Tribune Co. counsel and current Cubs president Crane Kenney? — should be sent back to business school.
But it’s hard to boo an entity. And so Cubs fans have found an easier, more convenient whipping boy — former and maybe-once-again closer Carlos Marmol.
Man, the Wrigley crowd let him have it when he came in from the bullpen, replacing reliever Shawn Camp in the eighth. Of course, in Marmol-style, the erratic righthander gave up a first-pitch double to Ryan Braun, threw a wild pitch to Jonathon Lucroy before walking him, then got the side out without allowing a run.
Marmol equals excitement!
But the Cubs are 2-5 for the year, 0-1 at home and tied for fourth in the division. They’re on pace to lose 100 games for the second consecutive year.
So we talk about rooftops. To keep — lose? — our sanity.
Monday I spotted four fans sitting on lawn chairs, on the roof of the third building down Kenmore Ave. Past the house Dave Kingman once hit on a monstrous home run in a near-hurricane.
Kenmore Ave. Never seen that before.
I counted over 40 rooftops — some on 50-story buildings — that can peer into Wrigley. Sure, they may be a mile or so away. But that’s why God invented telescopes, right?
It’s all crazy. A landmark that can’t change. A neighborhood that won’t concede. A beloved, cursed team that is bad.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Cubs.