While you’ve undoubtedly noticed a marked lull in Wrigley Field renovation stories around these parts lately, I assure you, it isn’t for lack of obsession. I am still of the mind that this story is among the two or three most important things going on in the Chicago Cubs’ world right now, but, the thing is, all is quiet on that front. After the whole Joe-Ricketts-Obama-Attack-Ad-Emanuel flap, all sides have seemed content to lie low, and let things die down.
And they’ve lain extremely low for weeks now. Actually, it’s been over a month.
They’re still lying low, by the way, but a recent Wall Street Journal piece serves as a reminder of just how dire the need to renovate at Wrigley Field is. The focus of the piece is the visiting clubhouse, and the appalling lack of space and amenities for teams coming to Chicago to face the Cubs. From the WSJ:
The scene Monday afternoon was typical. Some players sat at their lockers, with few other places to go before batting practice began. Others crowded around the lone table in the center of the room to play cards. Reporters lined a narrow hallway, sliding past one another like passengers crossing paths in the aisle of an airplane.
The clubhouse, which was last renovated in 1990, is more notable for what it lacks than what it offers. There is no cafeteria, no TV lounge, no video room and no couches. The only indoor batting cage is under the bleachers in right field. And while players are free to use the Cubs’ weight room, the visiting clubhouse offers only a stationary bike ….
For teams like the Mets, who visit only once a year, the history and beauty of the field itself is worth the hassle. “It’s one of those hallowed ground type places,” Bay said.
But players still privately grumble about the place. Last September, Sports Illustrated asked 308 players to rate the facilities for visiting teams at each ballpark. Wrigley Field was the most common choice for worst in the majors, receiving 34% of the vote.
The article is worth a read for a sense of how the visiting facilities are viewed by opposing players.
Before you say, “who cares about the visiting team?” Stop. Think. Setting aside the fact that the dank, cramped, antiquated visiting facilities are merely a reflection of the overall dank, cramped, antiquated facilities, including those for Cubs players, the visitor’s clubhouse is the first, and perhaps most important, impression that players on other teams have of Wrigley Field. Guess who’s on other teams?
Future free agents!
If the Chicago Cubs hope to be a regular competitor at the premium level of the free agent market – and, given the CBA changes, I assure you, they do – they’ve got to do everything they can to make a good impression on free agents. Chicago, to some extent, sells itself. Playing for the Cubs, to some extent, sells itself. The money the Cubs can offer will sell itself. But Wrigley Field? It’s a mixed bag. It’s beautiful and historic in so many ways, but its player facilities are woefully inadequate. And if you’re a free agent who has spent years’ worth of visits to Wrigley being miserable, there is only so much that a January tour of the Cubs’ clubhouse can do to change your mind about what it would be like to play there 81 games a year.