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Chicago Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes, June 28, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Who doesn't have a Yellow?" I asked, minutes before the end of the first half. That about sums up the semi-entertaining match I attended between the Chicago Fire and the expansion San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night. The match ended in a nil-nil draw, and featured seven yellow cards, four to the Fire and three for the Quakes.

Andrew Chapin awards a yellow card
Andrew Chapin awards a yellow card, one of seven handed out in the Chicago Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes match.
See more Fire pictures in the photo gallery.

For the Fire, the match was another squandered opportunity to pick up three points in pursuit of the Supporters Shield. The offense, so potent in victories against the New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution, and D.C. United earlier this season, has disappeared once more. The Fire have now gone 333 minutes of league play without a goal, and have scored only once in the last four matches.

Coach Dennis Hamlett clearly attempted to address the recent struggles by starting Tomasz Frankowski and Andy Herron up top versus the Quakes. However, about ten minutes into the match, Andy Herron attempted a bicycle kick in the box and landed awkwardly, apparently losing consciousness. Stretchers were brought onto the field, but Herron walked off the pitch under his own power and even returned to the match for a few minutes before being substituted for Chad Barrett in the sixteenth minute.

Andy Herron lies unconscious after attempting a bicycle kick
Striker Andy Herron of the Chicago Fire lies unconscious in the box after attempting a bicycle kick and landing awkwardly.
See more Fire pictures in the photo gallery.

Barrett played better than he did in his disastrous match against FC Dallas last week, but failed to find the back of the net, or get off any quality shots.

Chris Rolfe was substituted in for the ineffective Tomasz Frankowski in the 65th minute, but only manufactured one quality opportunity, which unfortunately did not make it onto the scoreboard.

Even though the offense was as disappointing as the last few matches, the defense was much improved. Gonzalo Segares returned from Costa Rican national team duty, and Wilman Conde is healthy again. Segares and Conde were joined on the backline by Bakary Soumare and Diego Gutierrez, who were both solid as usual. Combined, the back four effectively shut down the Quakes and thus Jon Busch was not required to make any show-stopping, jaw-dropping saves that are quickly becoming his trademark.

The midfield of Just Mapp, John Thorrington, Brandon Prideaux, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco were solid but not spectacular. Blanco seems to be showing some wear and often needs one more step than he has time for in order to deliver magnificently placed balls, and Justin Mapp contines to slow the momentum of the attack by dribbling too much.

With the tie, the Fire now have 20 points on the season and have fallen into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern conference table.

I've uploaded a bunch of photos from the game to the photo gallery. Click here for Fire vs. Earthquakes photos.

Posted by Byron at 5:46 PM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Injuries piling up for Cubs

Thursday, June 26, 2008

As the Cubs roared through the early part of the schedule, amassing the best record in baseball, I've been smiling at our good fortune and relative health. However, with the injuries to Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano, the team is beginning to feel the effect of over one fourth of their payroll on the disabled list. (I would argue that yesterday's game would have been a victory if Zambrano had started.)

As an exercise, I compiled a list of the 2008 Cubs Payroll, (thanks to the USA Today Salary Database), assuming league minimum salaries for players not listed. I then recreated the active roster for each game of the 79 games the Cubs have played to date. (I used the Cubs official transactions log. What follows are two charts. The first shows the Cubs payroll amount on an annual basis for each game played for both the active roster (25 man) and the disabled list. The second chart is a pie chart showing the income allocated to the active roster, the disabled list, and the minor leagues where the minor league amount only represents those players who have seen active roster time at one point this year.

Payroll Allocation Chart #1
2008 Cubs payroll allocated to the active roster vs. the disabled list by game

Payroll Allocation Pie Chart
June 25, 2008 Cubs payroll allocation

Yes, you can file this under elaborate explanations of things we already knew intuitively, but that's what I do here.

Cubs players currently on the disabled list: Carlos Zambrano ($16 mm), Alfonso Soriano ($14 mm), Reed Johnson ($1.3 mm), Angel Guzman ($401K).

Even with 26% of the payroll injured, we're nowhere near where we were in May 2004.

Posted by Byron at 8:00 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Recycling the empties at Wrigley Field

Monday, June 23, 2008

Have you ever wondered what the Cubs do with all those empty beer cans after a game? Me neither... but I was waiting in line for day-of-game Cubs/Sox tickets yesterday and a truck from Bucktown Recycling pulled up to the gate. (The gate by the Harry Caray statue, I think Gate D.)

Anyhow, the Cubs were apparently expecting this truck as a few minutes after the driver parked it, they started carting out pallets full of empty beer cans. I counted four pallets just like the one being loaded onto the truck in this picture.

Bucktown Recycling truck at Wrigley Field
Bucktown Recycling - the official recycler of the Chicago Cubs?

And now you know. (More about my Cubs/Sox adventures later this week. It was a good weekend for discovering some things around Wrigleyville.)

Finally, I'd be remiss to mention that today is the 24th anniversary of the Ryne Sandberg Game. Here's some links for further reading:

• The greatest Ryne Sandberg fan page on the interwebs.

• A reflection on my first time seeing the Sandberg game. (hee, hee, hee :^) - I'm so juvenile.)

The Ryne Sandberg Appreciation Day program (4 MB download).

Posted by Byron at 8:00 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Cubs Sox coincidence, 10 years later

Friday, June 20, 2008

As the Cubs and Sox get underway this weekend, it's a bizarre coincidence that both managers from the 1998 showdown have recently found their first managerial jobs since the last time they were with their respective clubs.

Earlier this week, the Mets fired Willie Randolph and have replaced him on an interim basis with Jerry Manuel. Manuel has not been a Major League manager since the White Sox let him go in 2003.

Jim Riggleman

In a freaky coincidence, former Cubs manager Jim Riggleman finds himself in the mirror reflection of Manuel once more. The Mariners fired Bill Bavasi on Monday and interim GM Lee Pelekoudas relieved manager John McLaren of his duties. Who replaced McLaren? Not former Cubs hitting coach Jeff Pentland, who was also fired, but Riggleman. Like Manuel, Riggleman hasn't managed in the majors since he was replaced by Don Baylor after a disappointing 1999 season.

Despite each receiving interim tags, neither former Chicago manager may be there long. In Seattle, they're apparently considering anyone who's been affiliated with Major League Baseball in the last two decades... including the Peoria Chiefs manager, Ryne Sandberg.

From the Seattle Times
One more intriguing wild-card name: Ryne Sandberg, Hall of Famer and pride of Spokane, now managing, and reportedly well, in the Midwest League with the Peoria Chiefs, a Cubs Class A team.

What do you think, should Ryno take the job in Seattle if it's offered to him? Would he?

Posted by Byron at 1:29 PM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

TribCo Revenue Grab: Revenue Estimate for The Sandberg Game 2

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ryno's coming to Wrigley Field in July. I've already examined how this came about, now let's whip out our calculators (or Excel spreadsheets as the case may be.) and see if we can't get an estimate of the increased revenue to the ball club.

For this exercise, I used my Cubs 2008 media guide to find the breakdown of the Wrigley Field seating capacity. Then, I visited the Cubs site to find the price of Cubs tickets for this game. The results and a short discussion are below.

Seat Type 2008 Ticket Price 100% 75% 50% 25%
Club Box Infield 2,550 15 38,250 28,688 19,125 9,563
Club Box Outfield 960 15 14,400 10,800 7,200 3,600
Field Boxes Between the Bases 3,992 15 59,880 44,910 29,940 14,970
Field Boxes Beyond the Bases 3,237 15 48,555 36,416 24,278 12,139
Terrace Boxes Between the Bases 1,785 12 21,420 16,065 10,710 5,355
Terrace Boxes Beyond the Bases 609 12 7,308 5,481 3,654 1,827
Terrace Reserved Between the Bases 6,308 10 63,080 47,310 31,540 15,770
Terrace Reserved Beyond the Bases 5,914 10 59,140 44,355 29,570 14,785
Bleachers 4,960 10 49,600 37,200 24,800 12,400
Bleacher Boxes 252 15 3,780 2,835 1,890 945
Capacity 30,567 Total 365,413 274,060 182,707 91,353

The first thing I noticed is that the Cubs aren't selling tickets to any of the upper deck seats. That will take the Wrigley Field seating capacity down from 41,160 to 30,567 for the day.

The second thing I noticed is that the ticket prices are all fairly low. Like a minor league game, the most expensive ticket available online is $15. (I think I'll go to this game.) Consequently, I was a little surprised to see that the total upside potential in terms of ticket revenue was as low as it is. Assuming the cubs sold 100% of the offered tickets, their total revenue would be around $365,000. (This factors in $0 for the Mezzanine suites, and $0 for the special sections near the dugouts and the CBOE seats, so the real ticket revenue potential is higher, but probably not more than another 10-15%.)

Given the likelihood that the Cubs won't sell 100% of the tickets, you can get a feel for the ticket revenue from the table above. At 75% capacity, ticket revenue is $275,000, etc.)

While the Cubs are sure to enjoy the extra revenue, (enough to pay a league minimum guy like Mike Fontenot for a year), the real earnings potential comes from the opportunity to sell concessions, parking, and memorabilia for an extra game. I would guess the concessions alone will double the ticket revenue. (Who can avoid splurging for an extra round of hot dogs and soda when your family of 4 just saved $200 on tickets compared to a regular MLB game?)

All in all, I had expected the total revenue bump would be larger than it looks like it will be, but it's still a no-brainer for the Cubs.

Posted by Byron at 10:15 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Cubs Wrigley Field Mezzanine Suite Luxury Box Review

Monday, June 16, 2008

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend a game in one of the Cubs Mezzanine Suite Luxury boxes. For those unfamiliar with Wrigley Field, the Mezzanine level is below the upper deck and consists of approximately 60 suites that are positioned from left field all the way around to right field.

Interior of a Wrigley Field Luxury Box

This was my fourth time in a Cubs luxury box, the third time in a 'single.' (I've also had the opportunity to see a game from a 'double play' suite which is pretty much twice the size of a single suite... they also have a couch.)

For all of the Cubs Mezzanine suites, the luxury box space is divided into two areas: inside and outside. The inside of a single suite is approximately twelve by fourteen feet. There is a sign proclaiming the capacity of the room to be 18. I'm almost positive the capacity refers to the entire box, because the room is only big enough for about six people at once. Outside, there are 15 padded seats, all with good views of the playing field. (Tip: If possible, avoid sitting in the front row because the railing is smack-dab at eye level.)

Inside: The first thing I noticed was that the box has air conditioning/heat. This can be ultra-convenient in April, July, rain delays, and hopefully October. When you first enter the box, the food (assuming you opt for the food option) is ready for you. There is generally hot dogs, chicken, and a few other options. There were tamales in the warmer last week, and I think I've had Italian beef and hamburgers on previous visits. There is also a selection of nuts, chips,popcorn, fruits, and vegetables. The drink selections are pretty limited. There's a small refrigerator with beverages: Wine or champagne, Bud, Bud Light, Heineken, Amstel, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sierra Mist, and water. (Those were the choices on Tuesday. I know I had Old Style on my first visit in 2006.)


To help create a baseball atmosphere, the WGN radio broadcast is played over the suite speakers, and two televisions are tuned to Len Kasper and Bob Brenly on whatever medium they're announcing for the day. The artwork in the box consists of great photos of Cubs from yesteryear.

And finally, in case I missed anything, I've shot a minute of video showing everything in our luxury box.

Outside: Nothing too special. 15 seats arranged in three rows of 5. You're very close to the boxes on either side of you, but people seem to be pretty good about not prying into the other boxes.

For a few pictures of the view from a Cubs luxury box, here's a post with some of the pictures I took at the game. The only thing that the pictures don't really show is that the upper deck overshadows the mezzanine boxes, so high pop-ups can be obscured.

Here's the Cubs' page where I got this official information.

Mezzanine Suite

Located throughout the Mezzanine Suites presented by Nuveen, a 15 person suite is a great way to enjoy the excitement of the Chicago Cubs. Suites are available to rent on a game to game basis. Seating for your guests outdoors with comfortable space inside. Each suite is equipped with plasma televisions as well. Also included in the rental price are two VIP parking passes. Catering is separate and is available through Levy Restaurants.

Discount Dates: $2,300 - Regular Dates: $3,500 - Prime Dates: $4,200

On the whole, luxury boxes are great. You can choose to watch the game if you want, or you can chat with your friends/co-workers. The big draw back, of course, is the price. (Those prices don't include the cost of food or the dessert cart that comes around in the middle of the game.) So, if you have the scratch, I recommend it. However, if you're budget conscious, there might be better ways to entertain at the game. (Here's where I plug my Wrigley Field Rooftop Directory.)

Posted by Byron at 8:00 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Win 2009 Cubs Season Tickets!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I joined the Cubs season ticket waiting list on October 3, 2006. I've moved up 65 slots since then, and there's still nearly 15,000 people above me on the waiting list. Depressing? You betcha. Anyhow, here's an opportunity that might land you season tickets a bit quicker than the waitlist.

Call Your Shot at the State Farm Home Run Derby
Here's how the promotion works: Fans can enter the promotion daily through June 24 at www.sfCallYourShot.com/2008. The grand prize winner of Call Your Shot will win:

* All-expense paid trip for four to the All-Star Game and State Farm Home Run Derby
* First class hotel accommodations in New York
* Tickets to a Broadway show
* $1,000 MasterCard gift card

The grand prize winner will also get the chance to pick a spot to which two of the Home Run Derby players must compete to try to hit a ball. If the first player hits the ball to the called spot, the promotion ends. If either player succeeds, the fan receives a 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid vehicle and a 2009 season-ticket package for any team.

Additionally, 10 fans will win first place prizes consisting of a $300 MLB.com gift card and 25 second place prize winners will receive $100 MLB.com gift cards.
State Farm Home Run Derby Competition
Posted by Byron at 2:52 PM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Cubs send out Financial Books to Prospective Owners

Thursday, June 12, 2008

From my office window, I can look down 28 stories and across the Chicago River to see the private deck just outside of Sam Zell's office. I rarely see anyone on the deck, and used to think it would be a great place to eat lunch in the midday sunshine. Now that I know it Zell's territory... I think it would be a great place to picket. :^) Anyhow...

From Paul Sullivan in the Chicago Tribune: Link

Cubs Chairman Crane Kenney confirmed that Tribune Co. had sent out the financial books on the franchise to prospective ownership groups Tuesday.

Tribune Chairman Sam Zell recently said Major League Baseball had preapproved nine potential groups and that Tribune Co. would retain a minority interest of about 5 percent of the team. The groups bidding on the Cubs will have a month to study the financial data and make their preliminary bids. The sale is not expected to be completed until after the season.

This is a relief for Cubs fans who are already tired of the Sam Zell era. I'd sure love to get my hands on one of those books just to see all of the areas where the Cubs are finding revenues, and the expenses that I don't tend to think about when I visit Wrigley.

On Monday, we received another batch of good news as the State of Illinois and the Cubs are apparently at an impasse in the talks to have the ISFA purchase Wrigley Field. The key quote in the article is as follows:

From the state's viewpoint, Tribune Co. was unwilling to accept a plan that wasn't backed by tax dollars.

Tribune Co. believes the acquisition "requires either the transfer of future sales and amusement tax revenue from transactions at Wrigley Field for the next 30 years, or the imposition of new taxes, or the transfer of existing ISFA funds now pledged to projects at U.S. Cellular," Thompson said in a statement Monday afternoon.

Essentially, the reason the two groups couldn't come together was that the "value" of public financing wasn't great enough to outweigh the destruction of value that occurs when you saddle the Cubs with rent. Prospective club owners are all unanimous in their desire to own the stadium as well as the team, so a bid for only the club would result in a lower value than the value of the club in a bid that included the stadium as well.

Even though the State could finance the deal less expensively than private individuals, Sam Zell was really only interested in adding money to the system. The only way that he could create enough extra value was if the state subsidized the Wrigley acquisition with taxpayer dollars and then passed along those savings in terms of inexpensive rent to the Cubs. This would have introduced a new revenue stream into the picture, thus increasing the value of the club to prospective owners, and letting Sam Zell take a chunk of that for himself.

Posted by Byron at 10:07 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Wrigley Field - through the lens

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I attended the Cubs game last night and took some pictures. I'll review the Cubs Luxury Box experience later, but here are some particularly artistic photos I took of Wrigley and it's environs. (All of these were snapped from the Luxury Box.) For game action photos, see my GROTA post.

Wrigley Field Scoreboard
The Wrigley Field Scoreboard at Sunset

Wrigley Field - On the outside, looking in
Wrigley Field - On the outside, looking in

Wrigley Field with Green Highlights
Wrigley Field, Green, Black, and white

Wrigley Field at dusk
Wrigley Field at Dusk

Wrigley Field with Brown Highlights
Wrigley Field with Brown Highlights
Posted by Byron at 9:26 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Andrew Zimbalist agrees with me

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I've had a little unreasonable hero worship of Andrew Zimbalist, the sports economics professor, since I saw some of his work while writing an International Baccalaureate Extended Essay as a senior in high-school. Today, the deified professor was interviewed by Stephen Grocer of the Wall Street Journal blog, "Deal Journal". The premise of the interview was: Does Winning Mean a Higher Price for the Cubs? There's some good questions and they explore the issue in some detail, but the kicker for me was at the end.

Zimbalist: "I do know that certain perspective owners of the Cubs have talked to the people on the Red Sox about reworking the park. And it’s one of several reasons why I think the best deal for Cubs going forward is for the owner of the team to own the park."

This is good to hear from a learned man and helps to reinforce my smug sense of superiority as I've been telling anyone who will listen (not very many) that selling the team separately from the ballpark is in the long term disinterest of every stakeholder in the team, save possibly Sam Zell and the TribCo employees.

Posted by Byron at 11:12 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

The Lou Piniella Song by Jeremy Round

I was poking around one of my advertiser's sites (Click here for Chicago Cubs Gear) and found one of the greatest gems ever discovered on the interweb.

The Lou Piniella Song - by Jeremy Round

My favorite stanza is:
Im getting good vibes from kerry wood
Whens the last time the Brewers were any good
The cards are such a weak teama
I mean Who starts Yadier Molina

Posted by Byron at 8:00 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Sam Zell: Tribune to retain a minority stake in the Cubs

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

From an article in today's Tribune, by Phil Rosenthal:

Denver is where Zell said nine potential buyers, preapproved by Major League Baseball, are awaiting release of the team's financial data, which should be sent out soon. He also revealed that Tribune Co. won't completely let loose of the team, carried by WGN-TV, WGN America and WGN-AM 720.

"In all likelihood, the company will keep some kind of minority interest in the Cubs," Zell said, as he reiterated his interest in letting a new owner take over.

"An asset like that is an extraordinary asset for ego gratification and identification, none of which the Tribune took advantage of … nor do I think they were capable of doing that," he said. "It belongs in entrepreneurial hands and I think that would benefit the team, the city and, for sure, Tribune."

It was not immediately clear what percentage of the team Tribune looks to keep. Tribune Co. would realize some tax benefits in such an arrangement, but the small stake would protect its TV and radio assets' long-standing—and financially beneficial—links to the team. A company spokesman declined to expand on Zell's remarks.
Link: Zell on Cubs, Leno on last leg of tour

Oi, this sale process is more unnecessarily dramatic than Monday night's Cubs game.

Wasn't the point of TribCo selling the Cubs because Sam Zell had a conflict of interest with his White Sox investment? I'll have to research if that's still an issue, but why should one person have minority investments in two teams?

Regardless, I can't help but feel Cubs fans are going to come out worse for the Sam Zell era decisions, but hey, I'm generally wrong about these sorts of things... and a World Series trophy would help heal a great many wrongs.

Chicago Red Stars Logo

In other news, Chicago's women's soccer team was named yesterday in a ceremony at Toyota Park... and the name is: Chicago Red Stars! I'm very happy about the name as I thought it was the best in the fan voting contest. Red Stars edged out 'Wind', '1871', 'Riot', and 'Blues' among a cadre of other names. Inaugural season ticket packages go on sale tomorrow starting at $99. I'll probably buy a voucher packet and get some friends to go out for a game or two when the weather's nice next summer.

Posted by Byron at 9:52 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

Wrigley Done Right - A Review

Monday, June 2, 2008

Twice now in the last month, I've had the opportunity to take in a game from the Wrigley Done Right Rooftop. Both games were quite enjoyable, and I even remembered to bring my camera the second time, so I figured a review was in order. (Disclaimer: I count the owners of this Rooftop as pals, so it might not be the most objective review.)

Anyhow, for the uninitiated, the Wrigley Rooftops as they're collectively known are basically auxiliary seating for Wrigley Field. Each establishment has it's own flavor, but most of them offer all you can eat and drink plus a view of the field for a hefty fee. Of course, the price of admission is generally about the same as your typical blearcherite drops on a ticket and alcohol, so really they're pretty much a wash... except you're not drinking Old Style and Bud Light... unless you really want to.

Wrigley Done Right, or WDR as I'll refer to them is well named. They're steps from the CTA, and you enter through the back (by the alley.) They have parking if you really need it, but it's pricey and you're likely to see Porsches and Aston Martins. As always, I recommend the El.

At the door, you give your name to the doorman, he checks to see you're on the list, and you're in. You climb up to the third floor and there's a large bar in there with a good selection of beer, soda, and other alcohol. If you get there early, you might be able to Shanghai one of the bar stools and park yourself in front of the windows overlooking the park. Here's the view.

Wrigley Done Right 3rd Floor View into Wrigley Field
The view from the Wrigley Done Right 3rd Floor Bar

Since I was more interested in watching the game than hanging out in a bar, I went up to the rooftop. (This may be an unfair critique, but most of the people who were hanging out inside seemed more interested in talking with their friends than watching the game.) The rooftop is where the real action is, because it's awesome. Right as you enter, there is a food and beverage area where you can select from a good variety of food. I've had their hot dogs, bratwurst, and Italian beef... all were excellent. My friend had the hamburger. He thought it was tasty as well. So the verdict is that the food is good.

In back of the bleachers, there is also some seating for people who want to take a break from the game, take a phone call, or just hang out in the shade. If you continue to the front of the rooftop, toward the field, there is a large set of bleachers that can probably sit around 100 people. The view into the stadium is very good. You can see pretty much everything except the last 20 feet of right and right-center field. Here's the view.

The view from the Wrigley Done Right Rooftop

And since still pictures don't give you a great idea of the whole view, I took a little video while I was up there. Here's Aramis Ramirez getting plunked by a pitch and then a sweep of the view.

Alright, now for the bad news.
• The mens' room is small. I think there's two cramped urinals (and a flat screen TV). If you need a toilet, there's one in the all-comers bathroom next to it, but that line moves pretty slowly. By the late innings, there is a line for the bathroom.

Yup, that's it for the bad news... a pretty short list if you ask me. (Update: WDR also doesn't have an elevator currently, but they're planning to install one after the 2008 season.)

In other news, I went to the game (in the stadium) on Sunday. For my post-game write up, catch it at GROTA. The Cubs won their seventh in a row, running their record to a Major League Best 36-21. 15 games over .500. Unbelievable. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Cubs post-season odds are at 80%. I think this just might be the year!

Oh, and I almost forgot. I'm working on a little project and needed the Cubs seating capacities for the last few years, so I finally bought my 2008 media guide, pulled my old media guides from storage, and presto! presenting TheCubdom's Official Wrigley Field Seating Capacity page. Enjoy. Tell your friends. Go Cubs!

Posted by Byron at 8:00 AM | Bookmark and Share | | BallHype: hype it up!

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