I was a little confused this morning when I read Ed Sherman’s interview with Tom Ricketts. In it, Ricketts said that the Cubs’ meagre attendance numbers had more to do with the soggy weather than the crappy baseball.
When you play most of your home games in 45 degrees and it’s wet, I’m sorry, I can understand why some people don’t want to come out. That’s been the driver here. Once we get some spring weather, people will want to be at the park.
This struck me as either incredibly naive or intentionally evasive, but I wanted to give Ricketts the chance to clear up that and some of his other more confusing statements (such as “I can’t stand it when I hear someone say they can’t afford to go to a game. It might be hard to get tickets for a Yankees or Sox game, but there’s no reason why they can’t afford to go another game.” Really, Tom? No reason anyone can’t afford to go to a game where the average ticket price is $FU?). Unfortunately, the terms of a certain restraining order don’t allow me to conduct one-on-one conversations with Cubs ownership, whoever that may be. So I did the next best thing:
I got a hold of @NotTomRicketts. I can usually count on him to be pretty straightforward, honest, and direct, especially when it comes to the subject of buying Cubs tickets. Here’s my Q&A with him that should help set the record straight.
April 2011 was the least sunniest April in Chicago history. How much do you think that has impacted ticket sales in the early going this season?
Tremendously. As you know, some of the finest meteorologists work here in Chicago and they were all predicting back in February that this would be a dreary April. I’m certain Tom Skilling and his cohorts scared a few people off from buying tickets in advance. Then when it turned out the weather predictions were correct, few people came out on the day of game. I mean, remember that Mother’s Day game against the Reds where we drew 31,000 or so? Can you really expect people to show up to a weekend sunny game with temperatures in the 60s against a division rival? What can you do about that? You can’t beat science.
Which do you think is more directly to blame for the Cubs poor performance thus far: bad weather or poor attendance?
The weather. Definitely the weather. Because, as I mentioned, the weather is primarily responsible for keeping the people away from the ballpark and that creates a dead atmosphere that the players don’t like. They need to feel that energy from the crowd to get clutch hits. Ari Kaplan tells me that the Cubs are batting .456 in clutch situations at home during sunny days when the crowd noise is “electric.” I know the games aren’t played on Ari’s statsheets, but he makes a compelling argument.
Who owns the Cubs?
This again. You bloggers never quit with this question do you? Can’t you just take our word like the mainstream media does? I’ll tell you what . . . I’m going to tell you a little secret . . . nobody fucking knows. If you look at the paperwork that completed the transfer from the Tribune, it is a mess of legalese that none of us understand. “Wherein the party of the first part agrees forthwith to the party of the second part on Article VI, subsection D, blah blah blah . . . ” Even Pete can’t figure out what the hell is going on and he is way smarter than me at this business stuff. I just tell everyone I’m the Executive Chairman and hope nobody fact checks it. But that information probably shouldn’t leave your mother’s basement.
Some people have accused this front office of putting too much pressure on Starlin Castro. To prove them wrong, list five players in the history of the game who had more potential than he does to save a floundering franchise.
(At this point, NotTomRicketts mumbled something about Babe Ruth and then trailed off. Read into that what you will.)
Did you miscalculate fan interest when you set the prices for Cubs tickets this offseason?
Not at all. We kept the overall average ticket price flat. We cannot stress that enough. On average, it costs the same amount to go to a Cubs game this year as it did last year. Last year was a shitty team. Let’s not pretend that last year wasn’t a complete joke that was all Lou’s fault. Now we have made a few solid moves and brought in a new staff ace in Matt Garza, good clubhouse guy Carlos Pena, and some old fan favorites back into the fold to make the team better. So fans are getting a better, more likable team that should be able to contend for the same amount as last year’s crap team. So, once again, if the ticket sales are down, it must be the weather.
What do you say to people who can’t afford to pay $60 a ticket or who think the ballpark concessions are too expensive?
We can’t have everything we want in life. For instance, I wanted the state to fork over $250 million to us to renovate Wrigley Field and build a bunch of revenue-driving shops and stuff out on Clark Street, but it didn’t happen. Did I whine and complain that the state wouldn’t give me the money? Well sure I did, we’re talking about $250 million being taken away from me and these people are complaining about $60 seats? Cry me a river. We went and provided plenty of cheap seats for people on budgets to come out to the ballpark, and did they show up for that Monday, April 4th game against the craptastic Diamondbacks? No. The 500 section up in the pigeon poop and spiderwebs was practically empty that day. And that was a pretty decent 47 degree day. That ain’t bad for April in Chicago, so I’m not sure what else people want.
Tickets are being priced on the secondary market for what some people would call reasonable market prices, substantially below face value. Is that fair to the fans who paid full price, and do you plan to offer a discount to make it up to your best customers?
It is probably not fair to our best customers since they paid full price way back in January before all this weather nonsense got started, but let’s face it, our best customers regularly bring their own baloney sandwiches with them to munch on while sitting in their crappy seat and cost us concession revenue. So I’m not all that inclined to bend over backwards for those people. Life isn’t always fair, or so I’ve been told from people who don’t have a billionaire father.
If ticket sales fail to rebound, who in this organization will take the fall for the disappointment?
Is Tom Skilling part of the organization? I think we may still have enough influence on the Tribune to get his ass fired. Otherwise, Todd says he knows a guy who fixes problems. That has nothing to do with anything, really. Todd just likes to brag.
Which is more likely to improve on a sustained basis: the Chicago weather or the Chicago Cubs?
I really think we are on the right course here. Ken Rosenthal also agrees with me, so I don’t think there is any rational argument otherwise at this point. Our plan of trading away valuable members of the minor leagues while simultaneously relying on prospects taken way above their consensus draft slot to perform at the major league level can’t possibly fail. I believe that. It’s what gets me through the nights. Say, you wouldn’t want to buy any Cubs tickets for the next homestand, would you? The weather should be much better. I’ve got bleachers, I’ve got Club Box, I’ve got all the good seats. Make me an offer. Please?