By Dave Wischnowsky
Come October, the usual refrain on the North Side of Chicago is “Wait ’til next year.” But here in 2012, as Cubs fans stand ankle deep in the ashes of a 101-loss season compiled by a lineup better suited for Iowa than Wrigley Field, it’s more like “Wait ’til the year after next year.”
Or, maybe, the year after that.
Last week, Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein told reporters that he believes in “transparency,” and won’t “sell a bill of goods” to fans by trying to dupe them into thinking that the team is going to be much better in 2013.
“I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Don’t worry about 101 losses because we have a magic plan to win the World Series in 2013, (that) it’s gonna happen, so be there now,’ ” Epstein said. “That’s not the case. There is a plan, there is a vision. It might be a little bit longer turn than we all want it to be, but that we’re committed to it and that there is a great reward at the end.”
If the Cubs can indeed someday win the World Series, the reward will be the greatest in sports history. I hope Epstein’s plan works and that his vision proves to be, well, visionary.
However, in the meantime, while Theo & Co. may not be selling a bill of goods, they are still expecting Cubs fans to pay for one through outrageous ticket prices for an outrageously bad product.
And in the sense of transparency, I think that stinks.
With this offseason barely underway, the Cubs already are in midseason form in seeking greater revenue streams. The team has secured 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.
Plans are also underway to convert a section of Wrigley’s wall near the Cubs’ 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.
This week, a Cubs-related spat over money even broke out between Pat Quinn and Rahm Emanuel, with the governor accusing the mayor of criticizing his selection to run the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority because Emanuel is trying strong-arm state funding to renovate Wrigley Field. Emanuel denied Quinn’s charges.
Nevertheless, there’s no denying that right now the Cubs franchise is far more focused on making money than it is on winning.
This past season, the Cubs boasted Major League Baseball’s third-highest average ticket prices – to watch its second worst team. No matter if a team is rebuilding, those numbers simply don’t add up. However, when asked if the Cubs would lower ticket prices following triple-digit losses – and very possibly facing the same in 2013 – Epstein balked at the notion.
“I think the experience at Wrigley is pretty great,” he said. “If we stay committed to that vision and we’re going places and we put a team on the field that plays really hard, the experience of coming to Wrigley is pretty special, it’s unique, it’s hard to replicate. I think that has something to do with the ticket prices.”
Epstein went on to add that the Cubs have a “covenant” with fans and that the 2,882,756 tickets they bought for a 101-loss team is proof that they’re “buying in” to the plan.
“They’re a part of that covenant,” Epstein said, “so we have to reward them ultimately.”
But, you know, just not now.
So, be patient Cubs fans. But don’t wait for any breaks.