By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) For Cubs fans, it’s time to convene.
But for the Cubs? Well, apparently, it’s time to count beans.
On Friday evening, the 2013 Cubs Convention fan fest kicked off at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, just one day after the team’s owners announced that they would like to build a hotel next to Wrigley Field on a plot of land currently occupied by a McDonald’s.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the intent of the hotel proposal is to sweeten the Cubs’ bid for tax incentives and other government assistance to help pay for a $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field, which turns 100 years old in 2014.
As an eight-year resident of Wrigleyville, I have no problem with a hotel being built at that location. Seems reasonable. And as a lifelong fan of Wrigley Field, I’m in strong favor of the ballpark getting a long overdue overhaul. Its need is undeniable.
But what I don’t like is how the Cubs – fresh off a woeful 101-loss season – are busy talking about revenue streams and financial concerns at a time when they should be talking about, you know, baseball.
With the three-day Cubs Convention underway, Chicago fans deserve to hear and see that the Ricketts family, Theo Epstein – heck, the grounds crew – are all focused on improving the team and not just on improving the team’s bottom line.
But ever since the 2012 season ended with the Cubs losing two of three games to the 103-loss Houston Astros, the franchise has seemed more intent on winning new revenue streams than winning.
Shortly after the season finale, the team was busy seeking and securing approval from the Chicago Landmarks Commission to move the brick wall behind Wrigley’s home plate and add 56 prime box seats, which it plans to hawk for more than $200 per game.
The Cubs then announced plans to convert a section of Wrigley’s wall near the home dugout into moveable seats so a regulation football field can fit inside, allowing the team to squeeze even more money out of the historic ballpark.
And now, midway through a winter during which the Cubs’ marquee move has been signing journeyman pitcher Edwin Jackson (feel the excitement!), the team is already busy making moves intended to jump-start talks with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Illinois General Assembly about plans to finance improvements at Wrigley.
Based upon the number of tourism dollars that Wrigley pumps into the city, I personally think that the Cubs do deserve some plubic-funding to help rehab the ballpark. Wrigley is a civic treasure. I also don’t have any issues with the Cubs adding seats or figuring out ways to fit in football games within Wrigley’s confines in order to generate more cash. Baseball is a business. I get that and respect it.
But baseball is also a sport. And I’m not sure if the Cubs really get that these days, or if they do truly respect their fans.
It sure doesn’t seem like it based upon the ticket prices they’re charging while admitting the team is a glorified Triple-A product. Nor does it seem like when they take advantage of Cubs fans’ enormous capacity for patience – and pain – by assuming they’ll gladly cheer on even the bleakest of teams. And it also doesn’t seem like it when the team’s owners start off Cubs Convention weekend by announcing that they need more money and the ways they want to get it.
Personally, I want some wins.
Get those, Cubs. And then we can talk about revenue and financing. But for this weekend, how about just holding a baseball convention.
And not a political one.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.