I bring all of this up because the Chicago Tribune published an interesting story today that aired a lot of the grievances that Cubs players have with the place of their empoyment, beautiful, historic, cozy, friendly, (insert adjective here), Wrigley Field. And while people might dismiss that and say, "Suck it up, big fellas," I actually support their quest for improved work conditions.
This time I say that because it would affect me.
More on that, later, but first the complaints from the Cubs. They're nothing we haven't heard, of course. The clubhouses are the size of your run-of-the-mill roadside smut stand, the weight room is the size of a walk-in closet and there's no place to put a big leather sofa to play XBox from. (Come to think of it, there's no place to put an XBox.)
But the reason the Cubs are griping today is that they just spent two days seeing how the other half lives, occupying the home clubhouse up at Milwaukee's Miller Park. Said Carlos Zambrano after his no-hitter: "This is a beautiful ballpark. Gosh, I wish we could have a new ballpark."
Z's quote led to the media gathering of other supportive quotes from fellow Cubs players, all of whom delicately danced around the Wrigley tradition while issuing a between-the-lines message that they'd prefer the wrecking of Wrigley just so they could upgrade their amenities to what most minor leaguers have these days. Jason Marquis went the farthest, saying he'd prefer if Wrigley was knocked down and a replica was built on the exact same location (a statement GROTA attributes to some sort of Tribune Co. conspiracy to sell the public on the idea of eventually bulldozing the Friendly Confines.)
As I mentioned before, here's the point where I should say that the players, who are being paid millions per year to play baseball in baseball's best setting, should just shut up and go about their jobs.
But the thing is, I pretty much agree. The same comfort issues that face the players at Wrigley also affect the fans — and yes, the media — during each game. As the park nears its 100th birthday in 2014, its deficiencies in hosting a modern-day crowd grow ever more noticeable and in need of change. Don't think that Cubs fans don't go to games in Milwaukee or on the South Side and think they'd like to have some of the same features while watching the Cubs at home. They do.
Of course, I understand that the tourists who help fill Wrigley every summer appreciate the "old time feel" of attending a game in that setting and it's not lost on me for the first visit to the park each year. But as someone who has attended hundreds of games there over the years and even wrote a book about it (free plug time!), the areas where improvement is needed are much too clear.
(First order of business: Would it break the bank to put up clear flat panel TVs instead of the 1974 Zeniths that currently hang in the 200-level?)
The way, I see it, Wrigley Field is all about how it's built into the neighborhood around it and the proximity to so many people.
I do love the fact that I can step out of my front door and be at Wrigley after a 15-minute walk. I don't love the fact that once I get there, I can't check out the game from more than one view or separate myself from the fat dude who's spilling over his seat and into mine.
And while I do like being able to eat and drink at any of 8,000 establishments surrounding the place, I don't like the
hot garbage "food" served at the prehistoric concession stands.
Without making this post longer than it already is, I'll just conclude by saying that if the new Cubs' owner ever decided to come up with a workable plan (and it's a big IF) to knock down the grandstand and rebuild it completely, all while keeping the ivy, the bleachers and the scoreboard, I'd be on board.
Look, as someone — I think it was Rick Morrissey — once said, no one ever looks at the tiny grandstand or crowded clubhouses or dank concourse and says "What a beautiful park." As much as Wrigley Field remains one of the best places to watch baseball, there's also definitely room for improvement. Why not go ahead and see if it can be done?
- Wrigley Field