The Cubs have been terrible the last few seasons. As Charlie pointed out here earlier this week, there's a lot of blame to go around for the Cubbies' woes from ownership, to the GM, to the managers, and of course the lack of quality pitching, fielding, and hitting. Attendance is going down from the highs of Cubbie fever in the middle of the last decade. Not only was Wrigley full, but all around the country Cubs fans would flock to see their team in Wrigley North (Milwaukee), Cincinnati, and elsewhere. Well, with the Cubs losing again and fans not showing up to Cubs games like they used to, another easy target has emerged that has nothing to do with the team's play.
Yes, the iconic and legendary ballpark has been under attack from all sides in the last week. First, noted MLB scribe Peter Gammons used his esteemed vocabulary skills to call it a dump...
“They got to make that ballpark livable, it’s a dump, Wrigley Field. They’re going to have to spent $200-and-something million on re-renovating Wrigley Field, do what the Boston owners did with Fenway Park. And the investment is far greater than, I think, maybe they realize. That the amount of work that Wrigley Field needs is, I mean, there’s a ton of money that has to go into rebuilding that.”
Sure, Wrigley could use a touch-up and a few shots of botox, who wouldn't at 97 years old. Yes, there are some refurbishments and renovations that can take place at Wrigley. But, a dump? A dump, ya know, looks like this...
Wrigley Field looks like this...
Does that appear as a "dump" to you? But it didn't stop with Gammons, no, an ESPN poll showed that 50% of respondents would classify Wrigley Field as a "dump." (For clarity, we're still talking about the stadium itself and not the play of the team that actually resides in Wrigley Field). I couldn't believe my eyes, isn't this the same Wrigley that we always wax poetically about and dream of stepping into? The old ballpark at the corner of Clark and Addison? The one with the ivy, the bleachers, and the old-fashioned scoreboard? Don't players envision standing in the outfield next to the ivy? Don't baseball fans wish they could sit in the iconic Wrigley bleachers and have fun at a game, whether the team stinks or not? Are we talking about the same Wrigley Field?
When the Cubs were five outs away from the World Series in 2003 and making the Playoffs continually, I don't remember anyone calling Wrigley Field a dump. When the Red Sox were winning a championship in pre-renovated Fenway, I don't recall Gammons taking the stand of saying the stadium sucked. But, it's all too convenient to turn our attention to the oldest and least fashionable parts of Wrigley Field now that the Cubs are losers again. Most audacious of all though, Sports Illustrated's Richard Rothschild wrote a feature piece yesterday at SI.com saying it was time to get rid of Wrigley Field:
Maybe Wrigley isn't quite so cool anymore, especially if the Cubs are awful.
Meanwhile, most National League teams have moved out of the all-purpose monstrosities and into baseball-only facilities with superior amenities, sightlines and comforts to what Wrigley offers.
PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Coors Field in Denver, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Petco Field in San Diego and AT&T Park in San Francisco are better looking and more comfortable than Wrigley -- also usually cheaper.
How much longer can the Ricketts family ask Cubs fans to pay top dollar for nostalgia and atmosphere? Wrigley's food has never been the greatest, the concourses remain narrow and all those poles mean that many seats have a partially obstructed view of the field. If a fan can't ride a Red Line train to the game, parking becomes an expensive nightmare.
What are we talking about here? Look at the words that are used to argue for axing Wrigley Field to the annals of history - comforts, sightlines, amenities, food, concourses, parking. Never is the experience of actually being in the ballpark mentioned. I suppose it's crazy to think that fans go to a baseball stadium with the top objective of actually watching a baseball game. I don't think there are thousands of baseball fans all around the country that visit stadiums because they just have to go to that new center field food court. Or say my God, we have got to hang out in the wide concourses of Citi Field or check out the restaurant at Progressive Field. Screw it, let's just tear down Wrigley Field and build a new Cubs stadium the right way, with great parking, wide concourses, and a f*c&ing pool in the outfield.
I've been fortunate enough to attend games in many stadiums and arenas, Great American Ballpark is impressive, PNC Park is pure class, Tropicana Field was... well... let's not go there, Old Yankee Stadium was awe-inspiring, but there's one stadium that will never be surpassed in my gameday experience - Wrigley Field. Seeing a game in Wrigley was on my bucket list. Seeing a game in PetCo Field is not. My brother is a Cubs fan, this is the first thing he said when he stepped into Wrigley - "it's just like the way it looks in my dreams." Does anybody dream at night of stepping into historic Coors Field in Denver? Of course not! Yes, the concourses are outdated, it's a little cramped and rusted, but Wrigley Field is different in ways that truly matter. You walk into Wrigley Field and the sun shines a little brighter, the breeze is just a little more refreshing, and you know you are sitting in a sporting oasis. I remember sitting in Wrigley Field and seeing time as if it stood still. There was no jumbotron, no stupid kiss cam, no sausage races, no annoying ballpark promotion. Instead the sun shined on the big scoreboard in center, and the breeze blew the flags and rustled through the ivy. In that moment, you don't turn to your buddy and start complaining about the parking or not having your favorite style of hot wings. We were there to watch a baseball game the way it was meant to be seen - the same way fans watched Babe Ruth's called shot, the Homer in the Gloamin, Banks, Santo, Sandberg, and Sosa. In Wrigley, there's no need for all the extra crap that comes along with the "gameday experience" because the game is the experience.
Have we lost all perspective on the history of the game that we are willing to sacrifice one of the last remaining stadiums that is a national treasure just so our overweight society can fit their fat posteriors through some wider concourses? Are we willing to throw away 100 years of history for some better parking? If that's where we're heading in the game of baseball, just take me up in the next rapture because I don't want any part of it. I don't want to live in a world where the Cubs don't play baseball in Wrigley Field.
People no longer go to watch the game. They want a "mallpark" with all the places to distract from the game. Most of them spend more time looking at their smart phones than the game. I sat behind a row of Boston fans in 2005 when they visited Wrigley. They all said that television does not do it justice. The place is in better shape now than it has ever been. The list of improvements would take longer than I have at the moment. But, sadly it is not about baseball. It is about amenities for spoiled fans and ballplayers.