The injuries are piling up for the Cubs. In the outfield, our centerfielder and unlikely three hitter is down with a BROKEN FACE, the $136 million dollar man’s legs are all but useless at this point, and even our scrappy reclamation project veteran is down with a bad back, presumably from lugging around a giant bag of awesome all by himself.
In addition, 60% of the projected starting rotation has spent time on the DL, one of them appears done for the year, another has been shelled in every appearance he has made at both the minor and major-league levels since coming back, and the replacements have made the movie, “The Replacements” look good by comparison. To put it another way, When Doug Davis is solidified as the #4 starter, you have some serious fucking problems.
Meanwhile, the infield does its best to keep things together, but with Aramis Ramirez set on Low Power and Geovany Soto doing his best Koyie Hill impression as he battles through injuries, there is only so much an occasional homerun from Carlos Pee-nya can do. Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro remain the brightest spots and we can only assume that means that they will soon be killed by a falling piece of Wrigley Field.
But the hemorrhaging isn’t just contained on the playing field.
The Cubs are getting absolutely killed in revenue generation. I don’t have access to their financials, but you don’t need them to know that the Rickettseses have to spend at least some of their time (when not in front of a TV camera) banging their heads on a desk or wall.
The Cubs drew 30,450 yesterday. It was a holiday. It was sunny and warm. They were playing a “winnable game” against a division rival. There were over 11,000 unsold seats anyway. That is unfathomable and as Ed Sherman points out in his blog, it is a new reality at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs are doing everything they can to try to move tickets in the new reality. Just before the first pitch, it was stunning to see the centerfield bleachers nearly empty. They did fill up a bit, but there still were pockets of open spaces throughout the bleachers. I can’t remember the last time I saw that sight, especially on a perfect day.
Indeed, there were only 30,450 people in the stands. That’s a big drop in revenue for the Ricketts family, considering the old reality would have seen a full house of 40,000 people on a holiday.
The Cubs are down 90,694 people in attendance through 28 games, a figure that is expected to rise if the Cubs don’t improve on the field.
That perhaps was the saddest part of Monday’s game. There was little energy in the stands. It felt more like a meaningless September game between two teams going nowhere. It seemed the fans already have given up on the Cubs, and it’s not even June 1. All you had to do was look at the mass exodus after the ritual singing of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the seventh inning.
The decline and fall of a supposedly a “recession proof” commodity like demand for Cubs tickets is staggering. There is almost nothing the Ricketts have done “right” since they took over to stem the tide either.
Would handing the reigns over to Ryne Sandberg have made a difference if Hendry had been retained and the roster was composed as it is now? Probably not. Would a new general manager have been able to re-work the tangled mess of no-trade clauses, vesting options, and overwhelming contract terms to make this a contending team on the established budget? Probably not. Would we be more accepting of this team if the bleacher seats cost only $50 instead of $60? Probably not.
So are the Ricketts just the unwitting inheritors to a time bomb that was going to go off no matter what they did? Maybe.
But it seems that the apathy has grown from the feeling that this is just business-as-usual around Wrigley Field. The change in ownership from a greedy corporate giant, floundering in red ink in every aspect of their business not related to the Cubs to a family composed of unabashed Cubs fans yearning for a World Series title was supposed to be a good thing. People wanted George Steinbrenner. They wanted Mark Cuban. Hell, even a Jerry Reinsdorf would have been preferable to just hanging onto the Trib’s main man, Crane Kenney, running his same playbook as when he reported to the Trib.
I had thought that this would bring on resentment and anger in the fan base. I assumed that I, and others like me here in the interwebs who spend too much time dwelling on this team, had simply arrived at a place of anger where everyone else would eventually arrive. But they haven’t, at least not en masse. It seems a lot of people have just stopped caring.
Nobody cares about Rodrigo Lopez or Doug Davis or the cannon fodder du jour out of the bullpen. They barely care about the veterans that were actually counted on to turn around last year’s disappointing team. That translates to not going into the wallet to buy tickets, and it would not surprise me to learn that it also means not bothering to turn on Pat & Keith or Len & Bob on the radio and TV.
This all means much less revenue than the Ricketts projected when they made the decision to keep Crane and his merry men, and that has trickled down to the decisions about spending more time trying to find additional revenue streams while simply attempting to tread water competitively in a weak division.
All of the decisions since haven’t amounted to much. Quade sticking too long with a starter, batting Ramirez fourth come hell or high water, not playing Colvin much, leaving Brett Jackson in the minors, missed hit-and-runs, dollar hot dogs, discounted seats and all of the other nonsense going on down at Clark and Addison all stem from the one monumental decision by the Ricketts to not rock the boat when they took control of the team.
Now they are wounded and bleeding badly and I’m not quite sure where they can find a band-aid big enough to stop it.