The Chicago Cubs' ownership has taken to bribing fans to attend games. First, it was the Best Buy Family Pak: 4 tickets, hot dogs and sodas for $80 (April/May dates only). Now it's the Bud Light Bleacher Series: Free t-shirt Mondays, $3 beer Tuesdays and dollar dog Wednesdays. Naturally, outrageous ticket prices still apply. No games blacked out, strangely enough.
There are two driving factors at work here. First, the Cubs are miserable with few if any marketable stars. They are 15-18 this season. Yes, that's only four games behind the division leaders, whom they host this week. But there's no reason to believe they will improve to the point of contending for the division crown. That is several years away and unlikely with this group of nobodies, save Starlin Castro.
The second factor is obvious: Cubs fans are beginning to realize the few advantages of paying top dollar to sit in an aging, decrepit dump of a ballpark for 3½ hours. Depsite the ownership's plans for some semblance of renovation, the fan experience at Wrigley Field isn't going to improve without a complete razing and reconstruction of the seating areas. That just isn't going to happen.
As attendance figures continue to deteriorate and fans either save their money or pursue other entertainment options (White Sox? Brewers?), Wrigley Field's reliability as a profit center for ownership decreases. Perhaps this is what it will take. Losing? It's too early to tell how much losing seasons bother this ownership. Decades of losing certainly didn't phase the previous two ownership groups. Yes, we congratulate the Tribune Co. for adding lights in 1988. But the Tribune never fought for the full 55-game night schedule the Cubs desperately need. Now, stuck with too many day games and a ballpark that is no longer a cash cow, perhaps the Ricketts are finally spurred to action. The next step: a retractable-roof ballpark, either near United Center on the West Side or Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. No night-game limits. No frozen bats. No offense-killing wind. Just championship baseball.