Cubs

Cubs pushing Wrigley Field into 21st century

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Cubs pushing Wrigley Field into 21st century

This will bother the traditionalists, but might appeal to anyone who cant put down their BlackBerry. The Cubs always seem to provoke strong reactions whenever they make changes to Wrigley Field.

Trying to steal some business away from the surrounding rooftops, the Cubs will build a patio deck in the right-field bleachers and install an LED board thats roughly 70-feet wide.

Team executives unveiled the plan on Saturday at the Cubs Convention and expect everything in place by Opening Day. The LED signage will show game information pitch count, player pictures and statistics but probably not instant replay.

President of business operations Crane Kenney said it would be challenging to play video there. Budweiser, the patios name sponsor, will be part of a rotating series of advertisements. These changes will not require approval from the city.

This isnt touching really a landmarked feature, Kenney said. The contours of the bleachers arent really impacted and it really doesnt touch the scoreboard or the ivy or any of the other aspects that are protected.

The Cubs intend to collapse six rows of bleachers into three and raise the seats, to improve the obstructed views into center field that slowed ticket sales there.

Marketing chief Wally Hayward said the area will be available for corporate outings and birthday parties and can accommodate up to 150 guests. The tickets will include food and drinks.

This reconfiguration wont change the distance to hit a home run and shouldnt impact wind patterns. These arent exactly the Green Monster seats dropped on top of Fenway Park. The bleachers will stay at the same height.

The Cubs will also experiment with dynamic pricing in the bleachers this season. This is a method used in the airline industry, where the earlier you buy your tickets, the better deal youre going to get. The team wont allow it to drop below the season-ticket price.

Chairman Tom Ricketts said the Cubs are not lobbying to add more night games to the schedule, though they would like to get some flexibility from the city that would allow them to play on Friday nights.

Approaching the ballparks 100th anniversary in 2014, the Cubs still havent secured the financing for their grand renovation plans. In the meantime, the Ricketts family recently purchased the McDonalds lot opposite the Wrigley Field marquee for a reported 20 million.

We just decided that property in Wrigleyville doesnt come up for sale that often, Ricketts said. I think one of the things the previous ownership (Tribune Co.) maybe missed on was making sure they bought some of the land around Wrigley to better control the environment.

The restaurant will remain there for the time being. Long term, Ricketts said he wont know what his familys developers will do with the land on Clark Street until the stadium renovation plans are finalized.

It could be everything from parking, shopping, dining, hotel use, Kenney said, all the things that we think (are probably) a gap in the Cubs ecosystem for new amenities.

Until Wrigley Field gets renovated, the Cubs do not expect to be awarded an All-Star Game. With a few modern touches, the place wont look the same in April. Team officials know Cubs fans wont be shy letting you know what they think.

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season. 

Joe Maddon speaks out on Wednesday night's Marlins-Braves brawl

Joe Maddon speaks out on Wednesday night's Marlins-Braves brawl

Much has been made about Wednesday night's brawl between the Marlins and Braves, which started when Braves young star Ronald Acuna was nailed in the elbow with a 99 mph fastball from Jose Urena. The strangest part of the whole situation was that it seemed like Urena was unprovoked by Acuna or any of the Braves players prior to plunking the former No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.  

The ever wise Cubs skipper Joe Maddon was asked about the incident prior to Thursday's game, making it clear he felt plays like these needed to leave the game entirely. 

It was announced Thursday afternoon that Urena would be suspended just 6 games for intentionally throwing Acuna, which means the Marlins starter will likely only miss one game for trying to hurt Acuna. The good news is that Acuna did not sustain any serious injuries, but Joe Maddon is right there is no reason for people to be hurling nearly triple-digit fastballs at players. Whether provoked or not, intentionally throwing at players is something that needs to be phased out of the game, and its safe to assume Maddon would agree.