Explaining the Walk-Year Bounce, Attendance and Concerts and Foul Balls at Wrigley, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Explaining the Walk-Year Bounce, Attendance and Concerts and Foul Balls at Wrigley, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I know it’s going to be a very different type of show, but I am so stoked for ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘ after what an enjoyable experience ‘WandaVision‘ was (which, itself, was such an enjoyable experience after season two of ‘The Mandalorian‘ (any of those links take you to get Disney+, if you’re interested)). Part of what made those such enjoyable experiences is the week-by-week release, and it felt like people were talking about watching them together. I’m down with streaming and all that, but I definitely miss the “water cooler” feel of experiencing a show over a period of a month or two together with others. Haven’t really felt it since ‘Game of Thrones,’ and boy did they wreck any positive feelings by the end …

•   Speaking with NBC Sports Chicago, Cubs President Jed Hoyer tried to explain what he means by the walk-year bounce for a player in his final year before free agency (since the Cubs have so many this year), something for which there is at least a little data support, but which kinda sounds like you’re saying guys try harder when about to hit free agency. Hoyer doesn’t quite mean that – or least doesn’t want it to sound bad:

“I’ve talked about that a bunch, and I think sometimes people take it the wrong way,” Hoyer said, “that you’re inferring that they were not motivated before and now they’re more motivated. I don’t believe that at all.

“When guys are in their walk year I do think that there’s such a level of focus, a level of importance that every little thing is done well,” he added. “Even nutrition or sleep or your workouts —whatever it might be. …I just think that guys have a level of focus in their walk year that is hard to replicate.

“That’s always been my personal view of my idea of a walk-year bounce. It’s not that a player goes from [unmotivated] to motivated. I think these guys are motivated; they’re the best players in the world. But I think that hyper focus and attention to detail is what can maybe make a little bit of difference.”

•   The tricky semantic spot Hoyer is in? He doesn’t want to say guys try harder in their walk year because they’re partly playing for their next contract … but, that *is* kinda the whole idea behind the walk-year bounce. Everything he said is just kind of a more explicatory, nuanced way of saying “yeah, they try a little bit harder.” Not *on the field,* but in all their preparation throughout the preceding offseason and season. And there’s a little data support, too, so however he wants to say it, he’s probably right. Awkward as that may be when you start thinking about the implications.

•   In any case, the Cubs are loaded with important walk-year guys, so if there are surprisingly good performances out of the gate, you can expect this to be discussed a lot (sometimes legit, sometimes just narrative-creation).

•   As we’ve seen, some other states have already begun increasing capacity limitations for outdoor sports like baseball even before Opening Day actually arrives. Could the same happen in Illinois, impacting the Cubs and White Sox? Doesn’t sound like it, but Governor JB Pritzker’s latest update on the reopening of the state at least gives you a rough idea of what to look for (though you should note that the Cubs and Sox would also have to get the City of Chicago on board). Basically, when 70% of those age 65+ have received their first dose of the vaccine, capacities on things like museums and zoos and amusement parks can increase to 60% (sports venues were not mentioned specifically, though you can see the parallel). Then, when more than 50% of the entire adult population has received at least one dose, more normal business operations can resume (with masking still in place until the CDC says otherwise). So those are your numbers to track. Currently, 65+ is at 58%, and total population is at about 23.5% (per Bloomberg’s tracker, though it’s unclear if that includes children in the denominator).

•   The Sun-Times reports that Illinois is vaccinating about 1% of the population per day at this point, so take all that information together, and it’s hard to see how the 20% attendance cap at Wrigley Field won’t be increased before the end of April, and then probably continuing to be increased from there. (Obligatory: I am personally recovering from COVID as I type, so you are reminded that even as things are much better than they were, the virus is still very much out there.)

•   Speaking of attendance, with some of the above in mind, the Cubs have officially rescheduled some of the concerts from last year at Wrigley Field – they will now begin in July (WGN):

Chris Stapleton: July 17, 2021
Guns N’ Roses: July 21, 2021
The Hella Mega Tour with Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer: Aug. 15, 2021
Lady Gaga: Aug. 27, 2021
Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe: Aug. 29, 2021
Maroon 5: Aug. 30, 2021

•   It’s obviously still TBD how much attendance capacity will be in place at that time, but the trajectories are such that it is not inconceivable we’ll be back to full capacity at outdoor venues by July.

•   MLB teams had long been protected against lawsuits based on foul balls because of language on their tickets (assumptions of risk and arbitration provisions), but an Illinois appellate court is allowing a lawsuit involving a 2018 foul ball at Wrigley Field to proceed, essentially saying it was unreasonable to expect an attendee to fully contemplate and digest the implications of those terms on the ticket. Although taking place at Wrigley, the suit is really more relevant to the entirety of MLB, and is all the more reason why we’ve seen the league step up its efforts to have all teams extend the the netting at their parks. It was an issue that was coming to a head in advance of the 2020 season, but then obviously was kinda lost in the shuffle of the pandemic. Netting extensions are expected to be noticeable all across baseball this year, including at Wrigley, where the netting will now extend to the elbows of the outfield.

•   This is fun, though it’s worth noting that Sloan has the same layout as Wrigley Field, so in theory, only the road Spring games would yield significantly different results:

•   Video projectors, shower heads, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.