Wrigley is Changing More Than the Roster
It seems appropriate that Rob G. would ask me to guest post for him in his absence about improvements to the ballpark. If you have read anything of mine at Tales from Aisle 424, you know I am a season ticket holder there since the 1998 season, so I tend to mention the ballpark, its facilities, and the Cubs' staff more than most Cubs blogs.
This year, there is quite a bit of change happening in the old ballpark.
The aspect that has gotten the most press is, of course, the bathrooms. Basically, the bathrooms on the concourse level will get noticeably larger for the ladies, and slightly larger for the men. The troughs will remain and they will all get a good cleaning.
The most interesting thing about this part of the changes is the reaction to it. Some people seem to love the troughs as a "Wrigley tradition" more than anyone should have feelings for a bathroom fixture. Other people hate the troughs more than Hitler. I'm pretty confident in my heterosexuality and am big on spending the least amount of time in the bathroom when I have paid more the $60 to be in the ballpark, so I come down on the pro-troughs side simple for efficiency, but I wouldn't cry if they ever went away. HINT: If your problem with troughs is the stage fright, try computing complicated math problems in your head as you try to go. I don't know why, but it works.
As for me, of all the changes that can be seen outlined by Paul Sullivan here and Dave Kaplan here, there are two in particular that interest me as a season ticket holder that attends more than 40 games per year in that ballpark.
First. the new PNC Club of Chicago is interesting to me because I have long been concerned about the possibility of PSLs coming into play at Wrigley, and this could seem to be a step in that direction. They have converted a number of the individual skyboxes on the left field side into a fancy club that I will almost assuredly never see unless I take a tour of Wrigley on a non-game day. Over at Aisle 424, I did a post about the various PSL plans that are currently in place in the major leagues and what I found was that the only PSL plans in place were begun when the teams went to new ballparks. Also, the PSLs were sold more as club memberships that entitle the owners to perks above and beyond what "regular" season ticket holders would get in their plans.
However, despite the opening of the PNC Club, I tend to believe Crane Kenney when he says that PSLs are not coming to Wrigley anytime soon. For one, the Cubs seem to be following the model of the Red Sox in maximizing the revenue streams in an old ballpark and the Red Sox do not have a PSL plan. Also, the Mets and Yankees don't have PSLs in their new high-end ballparks, so clearly there is a model for bringing in the dollars without having to take a PR hit by introducing PSLs to Wrigley.
Secondly, the biggest change, in my opinion, is not a physical change, but a change in how the operations in the ballpark will become more fan friendly (in theory). The Cubs hired Jahaan Blake (who worked in the Red Sox organization at one point) as a Chief Hospitality Officer and has been tasked with making sure the Cubs' flowery words in the marketing promotions translates into the actual experience when fans attend a game.
This is part of the Ricketts' overall vision of Disneying up the ballpark so that fans won't notice or care as much that the prices are getting really, really high. According to Crane Kenney in an interview with Bleed Cubbie Blue, there will be an army of Game Ambassadors that will be evaluating every aspect of the fan experience at Wrigley:
"They will be riding the remote bus from DeVry. They’ll be riding the El from downtown. They’ll be secret shopping our food seeing whether is the hot dog warm, is the beer cold. They’ll be monitoring the restrooms. They’ll be basically touching every point where a fan comes into contact with our ballpark even including the remote parking lot. How is the bus traffic from DeVry to the ballpark? Are the bus routes appropriate on game days where it’s a day game versus a night game, day game weekend, week day. Have we done everything we possibly can to make the bike corral work well? To help the pedestrians get from the El platform to the ballpark."
How they respond to the data they recover from these Ambassadors will be key to whether this is simply more Tribune fan-speak or if they are intent on making sure that when I pay $20 for a hot dog, I can be reasonably assured that it will actually be hot.
I'd be satisfied with an occasional thank you from the ticket office and ushers who are good at making sure people who don't know where they are going find the correct seats. I'm a simple man with simple tastes.
We'll see how they do once the season starts and the inevitable stupid questions from fans erode their resolve.
I know he's struggles against lefties but Schwarber seems zoned in - hope he starts tonight.
Awesome stuff, Phil.
listening on ESPN 1000, caller says Bill Welke will be the home plate ump today. Supposedly his reputation is for having an even bigger strike zone than last night's Phil Cuzzi. Some of the issues with bad umpiring come from an inconsistent strike zone. Hoping at least for consistency. Last night's called strike on David Ross was outright embarrassing for Cuzzi.
That might work out in favor of Kyle Hendricks, who benefits much from a large strike zone.
it's kind of mesmerizing to watch
should Theo add some Ted Abernathy videos for minor league pitching coordinator's use?
sadly, Ted passed away in 2004 from complications of Alzheimers. I always loved the Cub bullpen trio of Phil Regan, Ted Abernathy and Hank Aguirre. As a kid, I even worked on both Phil Regan (very quirky delivery) and Ted Abernathy (extreme submarine) imitations when throwing a rubber ball against a wall. It wasn't a good imitation unless I could scrape my knuckles off the ground. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for submariners.
HAGSAG: Chris Pieters was sent to instructs to develop his hitting, bunting, and outfield play (he is already a decent first-baseman).
Pieters is tall and rangy , a "long-strider" in the same mold as Trey Martin and Rashad Crawford. He is a very patient hitter (unusual for a hitter with his lack of experience) and has an outstanding (almost uncanny) eye at the plate, and he is a fast runner with unusually good baserunning instincts, and he is a good basestealer, too.
I doubt we will see Pedro in any more "high leverage" situations this series. With Hendricks and the pen today, we need Bryant-Rizzo-Castro to get going ASAP.
One funny thing to see before the game was the two submariner pitchers (David Berg and Corbin Hoffner) playing catch with each other. Both pitchers throw "submarine" even when they play catch, and it's kind of mesmerizing to watch, even for the other players.
CUBSTER: One of the points of emphasis at "basic" Instructs this year was teaching the position players the art of baserunning and base-stealing, like getting a good primary and seconday lead, reading the pitcher, cutting bases sharply, and different ways to slide to maximize the baserunner's chance to arrive safely.
Brooksbaseball.net has some interesting stats/graphs on pitch and strike zones and you can dial up individual games/pitchers. I'd love to see some comments from readers who can interpret this better than I can. I thought the Ump was really inconsistent with a very wide zone. Does this info seem to match up with my eyeball perception? Also, looking at the graphs, Lackey was not throwing as many pitches below the K-zone (certainly more above) while Lester was clearly getting his pitches down and not many above.
As I was fearing in my post yesterday, Maddon keeps trotting Strop out against the Redbirds and he constantly fails. I understand the psychology behind this, but in a series where there is a finite lock on who moves on, why does he keep riding the wrong horse?
AZ Phil: Agree, this must have been a really fun game to watch. There was a lot of base stealing going on. Are the pitchers not holding runners or is the catching still a work in progress?
Cuzzi has long been known as having the biggest strike zone among all umpires.
AZ Phil, give me a scouting report on Chris Pieters since he has become a 1B/OF.
I think it's probably hard to adjust to an ump's zone mid-game, as least for hitters. Pitchers can locate to an ump's zone, but hitters have minimal time to react.
But, whatever. Umps are going to miss calls. Let's beat up on the non-Lackey starters.
Watched a little of Mets-Dodgers.
Jason deGrom -- oh, my.
Cubs 3-4-5 hitters are 0-21 so far in the post-season.
Let's change that in a big effin' way tomorrow, boys.