July 9, 2009 [LINK / comment]

MLB ponders sale of Cubs

A couple days ago I saw a newsflash that the Chicago Cubs, and Wrigley Field, had been sold to Tom Ricketts for about $900 million, nearly six months after a preliminary deal was reached. (See Jan. 25.) Any such deal will require approval by the MLB franchise owners, and since the owner of the franchise -- Chicago Tribune Company -- is bankrupt, a bankruptcy court will also have to approve the transaction. See MLB.com, which mentions that shortstop Ryan Theriot expects the new owners to upgrade the facilities at Wrigley Field; a retractable roof "would be neat." !!!???

Today I read that the Tribune Co. agreed to terms to sell the Cubs to a group led by investor Marc Utay, presumably on more favorable terms than the deal with the Ricketts family. See nwherald.com. What is really going on?

Gannett / USA Today columnist Mike Lopresti has some handy advice for anyone who is considering investing a billion bucks or so on a team that has made losing a way of life. Last year marked a full century since the last World Series victory by the Cubs, and many of us thought they would follow in the Red Sox footsteps by "reversing the curse."

Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey welcomes the change of ownership, but wonders what the future will bring to the troubled (though highly profitable) franchise:

The bottom line is that the Cubs are heading into the great unknown and most everyone is OK with it. Fans will take the unknown over the known because, mostly, the known has been nothing but heartache.

(Some of the above links were from ESPN.) From what I know, the Cubs' sorry experience of recent years shows what happens when a corporation, rather than a single strong-willed individual, owns a baseball team. "Who's the boss?"

The mail bag

Gradually, I'm starting to get caught up with communications again...

Mike Zurawski came across a news item about an engineering study by "Populous" (formerly H.O.K.) that says that renovating Tropicana Field with a retractable dome would cost $471 million, even more than the cost of building a new stadium, and the results would be less than satisfactory. See tampabay.com. Complaints about the "Trop" include narrow seats, bad sight lines, and cramped concourses. The proposed renovation would reduce the seating capacity by at least 7,000, and the Rays would have to play elsewhere for at least a full season. I still think they should junk the dome and hope for good weather (in addition to rebuilding the more distant portions of the grandstand), but apparently that option isn't being considered. For a facility that was designed exclusively for baseball, I've always wondered about the poorly-angled seats behind the bullpens near the foul poles. Who the heck designed that place???

Mark London was watching an old MLB videotape of a 1968 game at Busch Stadium, and noticed something odd: a place with a pitching rubber near each foul pole for starting pitchers to warm up on the field before the game. These "mini-bullpens" were in foul territory, before the main bullpens were moved there. Does anyone remember about that?

I forgot to mention that John Parent confirmed from personal recollection what a photograph revealed about Tiger Stadium (see June 26): that there were indeed a few rows of seats behind the second set of support beams in portions of the lower deck. Thank you, John. Speaking of which, all that's left of Tiger Stadium is the crumbled ruins of the lower deck behind the diamond. See aerialpics.com. frown

Plus, I've had a few requests, such as James Melchow, who would like to see a diagram of Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. Like they used to say in Brooklyn (and still do in North Chicago), "Wait till next year!" smile

UPDATE: Mike Zurawski sent another news item about Tampa Bay. An 11-member civic board called "A Baseball Community" is exploring various site options for a new baseball stadium, including downtown Tampa, elsewhere in Hillsborough County, downtown St. Petersburg, and mid Pinellas County. Ironically, the mayors of both St. Petersburg and Tampa want the Rays to stay on the west side of the Bay, even though the population is somewhat greater on the east side. This comes as the owners of the Tampa Bay Rays are complaining loudly about mediocre attendance, even during the recent "rematch" with the Rays' 2008 World Series opponent, the Philadelphia Phillies. It's all part of the argument over whether the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area has enough fan support or political will to build a new stadium. See the St. Petersburg Times; columnist John Romano doesn't think the Rays' owner Stuart Sternberg will threaten to move the team, but will more likely just sell the franchise to somebody else. It's too bad baseball isn't catching on on the "Sun Coast" of Florida; smaller urban areas such as Milwaukee have registered much greater attendance than the Rays in recent years.