Thursday, April 17, 2008

News Flash: The Cubs Have A Good Business Plan and a Terrible Baseball Record

A recent article from the Cincinnati Enquirer: Wrigley has Reds green with ivy

This is not going to stand. I will not go quietly into that blogged night.

Wrigley has Reds green with ivy

On a 50-degree Tuesday night with the wind blowing 20 miles an hour, the Chicago Cubs played baseball in front of a full house at Wrigley Field. On a 60-degree Thursday afternoon in the full sunshine two weeks ago, the Cincinnati Reds worked before a crowd of 12,000.

Well, that sucks. It's too bad that Daughtery will not mention that 2.8 million people live in the incorporated areas of Chicago, while 332,000 live in Cincinnati. Even if you divide the Chicago fans evenly between the two teams [and that's a generous split for the Sox], that's 1.4 million per; approximately four times the number of sheer people available to go to the game.

Thursday afternoon, the finale for the Reds in Chicago, the bleachers at Wrigley will fill like a suitcase on a trip overseas. Half the people packing the seats won’t know who wins. Or care.

Paul- get a clue. This is a bad thing. This is the reason that the Cubs have lost for a century: their fan base does not hold them accountable for winning.

The following night in Cincinnati, the Reds will host the Milwaukee Brewers. If 25,000 show up, we’ll throw a parade.

This is not true. Paul is exaggerating.

Cubs ownership might have lucked into mastering the biggest factor in drawing big baseball crowds now.

There is no "might". It happens that the "relatively undeveloped area" around the ballpark when it was built in 1914 is now a relatively developed neighborhood with a fair amount of affluent people around it.

Or they might have drawn up a detailed plan and executed it like an around-the-horn double play.

They didn't. Cub ownership is, to put it frankly, stupid. Ernie Broglio.

Beats me. It doesn’t matter.

Yes, it does. You're about to argue that the Reds need to mimic the Cubs' model. It does matter.

The Reds are at an interesting crossroads. They have an engaged ownership that wants to win. Ownership has hired bright, enthusiastic people to push the product. But winning takes money and money means ticket sales and these days, ticket sales means attracting people who wouldn't know Johnny Cueto from Johnny Appleseed. It's what they do at Wrigley Field.

If this was true, the Cubs and Yankees would win a lot more World Series. But, as we know, winning doesn't take money. Ask those asshole Marlins who flaunt their rings around to the seventeen fans who came to their games.

Where does baseball rank on a trip to Wrigley? In front of a pilgrimage to Murphy's Bleachers, or behind? Ahead of a Ferris Bueller afternoon, or a distant second? The Cubs could finish out of the money every year for a century and still fill The Friendly Confines. In fact, they've done exactly that.


Going to Wrigley is about seeing your Cubbies win, but only tangentially. It's more about the neighborhood, the Old Style, the ivy, the bleachers, Waveland, Sheffield, celebs singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," day games, sunshine, the lake, Harry Caray's ghost, memories of Sammy and The Hawk and Ernie Banks. Let's drink two. At least.

Ugh. This is making me ill. I'm proud to say the Cubs have gotten their shit kicked in every time I've gone to Wrigley and I've enjoyed the schadenfreude thoroughly. Going to Wrigley, for me, is about seeing the myth of Cubs-fans'-fun die a miserable death at the hands of real baseball teams. And I'm not the only one:

This is exactly the atmosphere the Reds have to cultivate to succeed.

Not true. Not true at all. It's simply not true that you have to cultivate a culture of ignorant-but-disposably0-wealthy fans to win games.

Because here is a hard truth in Baseball Town: The game's not enough anymore.

I like the name Baseball town. I'd rather have my city called Baseball Town than Crumbling Stadium With Generally Losing Team That's Fun To Go Watch Town.

It must kill the Reds' marketers to see the Bengals sell out entire seasons when the football team generally stinks and its marketing plan consists of printing schedule cards and opening the gates. In the midst of yet another unsuccessful season, the Bengals last season drew the two largest crowds in the history of Paul Brown Stadium.

The NFL has eight games and a salary-cap. Not a useful comparison at all in this situation. I am getting pissed off. This is a terrible article.

But unless the Reds succeed at making GABP a destination for entertainment first and baseball second, they will lag. This is why vetoing the Broadway Commons site always will be the biggest sports mistake the team and town have ever made. With its proximity to a then-thriving Main Street bar district, Broadway offered a vision of a Wrigleyville South: Come for the party, stay for the game. Return to the party.

Now, Daughtery goes back to the 1996 vote where Hamilton County taxpayers selected a Riverfront site over a slightly-uptown site. He has a point about developing a sustainable neighborhood around a ballpark. That is a good thing. This could have been a reasonable article about creating sustainable development around GABP.

But no, it was an ode to ignorance. The Cubs have built a culture of losing, Paul. The Reds need to avoid that. At all costs. I'd like to see another World Series title in Cincinnati. I don't want to wait eighty-two more years.


CitizenX said...

I actually agree with the poorly made underlying point, which is this:

The point of a baseball franchise isn't to win a championship, per se. The point of a baseball franchise is to make money, entertain its fans and serve as a cultural draw for a particular municipality. Winning is obviously a big part of that, but I would be a happy owner if I sold out every game to happy fans and never made the playoffs.

Angelo said...

I like that the comparison between a night game and a day game suggests struggling attendance figures. It was during the work day and only 12,000 people came, but it was such a nice day! I got paid to watch the game and write a stupid article about it, and now I'm going to complain about other people not skipping work . Also, according to ESPN, weather was 48 degrees and cloudy for that game, while the first game in that series (a night game) was 57 degrees and a sellout. Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

I agree with X above. I happen to be a Marlins fan and I wouldn't recommend following our business model. While rolling in dough doesn't guarantee wins, it sure makes it easier. The proper thing for the Reds to do (if possible) is follow the Cubs model, except hire non-dumb asses to run the team. Look at the Red Sox as an extreme example. Their bandwagon fans are filling the seats and as a result the amount of baseball knowledge in the stands is lower than it used to be. That frustrates both us and presumably the smart Red Sox fans out there. But ownership is overjoyed to come up with gimmicks like Red Sox nation, because its more money for them. Part of that gigantic profit lets the Red Sox smart baseball people run the team exactly how they want. The average bandwagon Red Sox fan may think SABRmetrics is dumb, but their management doesn't. Both sides win.

Jarrett said...

Where to begin? As your FireJay and NL Central colleague, this article is awfully fishy. Blaming the marketing department for poor attendance is a sore spot for me and my marketing degree. The biggest factor isn't your ad campaign, but if the team is any good. The Cubs have a loyal fanbase full of rich people. Owning tickets to a game is a status symbol as opposed to desire to see the Cubs lose again. See Colorado Avalanche hockey.

And I wholeheartedly agree with you about the area around the venue. Busch Stadium II parked up against a giant dirt pit that was supposed to be condos and bars for next year's all star game here. Instead, it will be a giant dirt lot because everybody else pulled out like (insert high school prom joke of your own taste level here). St. Louis was going through a city-sponsored renaissance until the housing bubble kerploded and now downtown St. Louis is the ghost town it has been since suburbs came to be.

And to anon - I really doubt that "Red Sox Nation" is an internal creation. I'm sure that the team markets the shit out of it now, but the area around Missouri is "Cardinal Nation" thanks to 1120 KMOX. I'm sure that you get it on the radio 1 hour after sunset central time. The Cardinals ownership plays into that by moving the flagship station to 550 AM in St. Louis, which I can't get if I go underneath an overpass.

larry b said...

Goddammit Jarrett, if you're going to write a three paragraph comment, just make a post out of it.