A Tale of Two Ballparks
On Monday, June 28 I watched the Cubs snap the Pirates’ 17 game road losing streak from the vantage point of Bob Uecker seats in the last row of section 506 at Wrigley Field. They didn’t look any less ugly from there than they would have up closer.
Five days later was my maiden voyage at sparkling new Target Field in the Twin Cities. What a contrast of premises AND tenants.
The Twins’ game against the Rays, a team still mired in a warehouse of a home ballpark, had some other factors going for it besides the venue: two teams in contention; real star power in the persons of Mauer, Morneau and Longoria; 4th of July hoopla courtesy of a team of Navy SEAL paratroopers who dropped in during pregame festivities; historic home runs by Jim Thome, who tied and passed none other than Twin immortal Harmon Killebrew on the all-time long ball list with his first two swings of the day.
But mostly, curiosity about the ballpark drew me there.
We had seats in an area called the Legends Club. They were parallel to 3rd base, about the distance from the field that Terrace Box would be in Wrigley and at a mezzanine level, with upholstered cushions and easy access to a spacious, air conditioned concession area that offered everything from Killebrew root beer and excellent ice cream cones to pricey multi-course meals.
As in the modern world generally, there was almost too much information provided by the park’s bells and whistles. Looking around the place in search of stats during a game is like fanning through a fantasy baseball magazine. And of course the obligatory Jumbotron loomed impressively over the proceedings.
The carved limestone roofs on the dugouts caught my eye and I also appreciated that we were able to see the logo sign on top of the scoreboard from the rooftop of the ramp we parked in and from which we skywalked in less than ten minutes to the plaza and the grand entrance of the joint.
I must say that I was pretty thoroughly dazzled by the time we left and it was nice not to care too much when the visitors came from behind to win in the late innings. Plus, a Twins game is cheaper in terms of both time and money for me. I think I may have found my first official designated AL favorite team. They also happen to run a perennially good organization.
The week had started at a kegger and ended at a cocktail party [yes, you can even order drinks from your seats in the Legends Club tier and have them delivered].
Wrigley’s engine still purrs. The bricks and ivy and scoreboard and neighborhood vibe are forever. But the passengers might appreciate some upgrades. I don’t know how you piecemeal an extreme home makeover on an outdoor facility that’s only idle during seasons not conducive to outdoor work. But it will behoove the Ricketts clan to keep going beyond the spit -and-polished pee troughs as fast as they can; paying top dollar to sit behind poles and beneath structural hair nets while watching an also-ran is starting to lose its charm. If I peel away what romance remains in my long running relationship with the Cubs all that’s left is neurosis.
Jake Arrieta gives up first inning run
For the first time in a year, 33 starts.
Old news, sorry if it's 3/44-
J-Hey being classy by repaying an old teammate:
With Paredes moving to 3B, how do you see playing time shaking out between him and Galindo? Do you think Galindo gets starts at 1B? Galindo is more of a prospect than Paniagua, right?
Phil, your knowledge of the Cubs Minor League system is unbelievable.
This kid would be a key piece in a trade for a pitcher, imo.
This might be old news but Hammel was on ESPN 1000 and said that he changed his diet and workout routine over the off season and tweaked his delivery so it'd be more repeatable so he'd have a better second half. So...some cause for optimism anyway.
CHILDERS: RHSP Dylan Cease and LHSP Bryan Hudson are probably the top two SP prospects in the organization right now.
LHSP Jose Paulino has electric stuff (91-94 MPH fastball with sinking action and a mid-80's slider), but he also has trouble commanding it.
RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico - $1.5M bonus) just turned 17 in November, and his fastball already sits at 95-96. He also throws a curve and a change-up, and is fairly advanced for a kid his age.
AZBOBBOP: Most of 2016 draft picks will get assigned to either Eugene or AZL Cubs, but the Opening Day Eugune roster will probably be almost 100% from the Extended Spring Training squad roster (pending the arrival of draft picks).
I think I can probably tell you which pitchers and players at EXST are in contention for roster slots at Eugene and which are in contention for slots with the AZL Cubs - AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW - (listed alphabetically):
* bats or throws left
# bats both
Eloy Jimenez atop the leader board for minor-league home runs in the Cub system, with seven. Tied with Balaguert and Vogelbach, two 24-year-olds. Jimenez won't be 20 until late November. Leads the Midwest League in SLG and OPS. Maybe he'll get promoted to the Myrtle Beach squad that visits Woodbridge, VA, in June or Frederick, MD, in August.
Watched two Pelican games at Frederick the other week. Was most impressed by Stinnett and Happ. Happ may swing harder than Javier Baez, though more compactly. (Also got to see Brockmeyer hit a bomb.)
E-MAN: Jose Paniagua isn't a string-bean, but I wouldn't say he necessarily bulked-up during the 2015-16 off-season either, He led the DSL Cubs in HR and doubles in 2014, and he showed XBH power when he arrived in Mesa last year, leading the AZL Cubs in HR, doubles, and RBI in 2015. It's just that he has taken his HR power to a new level this year.
Paniagua displayed plus-HR power in Cactus League Minor League Spring Training games in March, and that got him a slot on the South Bend Opening Day roster. But he was sent to EXST after only six MWL games.
More on the Cub Way.
Martinez is one of my least favorite pitchers in baseball. I'd love to see a game like yesterday's against him.
Send Soler down!
Awesome thanks AZ
Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.
Ben Zobrist is very enjoyable to watch!!!!!!