The Nub

The Political Wrangle Over Renovating Wrigley

(Posted: 5/21/12; e-mail update 5/22)

 It was author Roger (“Boys of Summer”) Kahn who told of, sale as a boy, reporting to his grandfather that Babe Ruth had hit a dramatic home run.  “Is that good or bad for the Jews?” his grandfather asked.  Chicago’s NL team boss Tom Ricketts doesn’t have to ask whether his father Joe’s involvement in presidential politics is good or bad for the Cubs. Tom and sister Laura, also a Cub official, want to see the political wrangle caused by their father to go away.   

Joe Ricketts picked a bad time to be the potential financer of a head-hunting anti-Obama ad campaign. The low-bridging effort would use paid media to link the White Sox fan in the White House with the incendiary racial statements of the skipper’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.

Why would the timing be so bad?  Aren’t partisan attacks part of every presidential contest?  In this case, the revelation of Joe’s possible willingness to pay $10 million for the ad campaign comes as sonTom is asking the city of Chicago to use tax money to help renovate Wrigley Field.  In any case, the answer should be no; even more so, says ChiTrib columnist David Haugh, under the circumstances:

“How many people living in a state suffering from chronic unemployment can relate to an owner asking for public funding when his family has enough capital to commit $10 million to take on the president?”  

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, once a key Team Obama player, will surely not let Tom Ricketts’ repudiation of father Joe’s hit-to-right political game influence his decision on the Wrigley subsidy.  But whether that subsidy will be sidelined is by no means certain.  Baseball teams have been remarkably successful in extorting public money for new stadiums or improvements – usually by threatening to move of they don’t get what they want.  The strategy has scored tens of billions for MLB teams over the past two decades.  The Miami Marlins are the latest beneficiary, getting $475 million from the city and county to build their retractable-roofed ballpark.

To his credit, Tom Ricketts has not talked of shifting the Cubs to New Orleans or Charlotte or Portland, Oregon, if he isn’t helped in upgrading the rickety shrine Wrigley represents to the baseball world.  That should count for something.

As for the race-tinged attack on Obama to which this father was linked, there’s nothing that can stop it from appearing under new auspices.  The Citizens United ruling has cleared the way for some other billionaire to pick up the tab.  Esquire’s Charles Pierce sums up the situation this way: “There is practically nothing anyone can say about this president in public as long as he’s rich enough not to give a damn.”
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Dodger-Time: It’s way past time to take the Dodgers seriously (but they’re so far away).  Consider, however, that they have:  won five of seven since stud Matt Kemp went on the DL, just swept the once-high-flying Cardinals, moved seven games ahead of the Giants atop the NL West, and are a remarkable 19-4 at home this season.  

The Cardinals, with a long injured list of their own, have meanwhile lost four straight and seen their margin over the Reds in the NL Central shrink to a half-game.  

Inter-League Sweepers:  White Sox (over Cubs), Mariners (over Rockies)

Streakers (at least five decisions): Rangers +5, Cubs – 6

Attention, Please:  Has anyone else noticed the sloppiness slipping into baseball broadcasting when three people are doing the game in the booth?   One member of the team tends to tune out of what’s being discussed, then repeats exactly the same information.  It’s happened more than once on ESPN broadcasts.  A recent non-ESPN example during a Reds-Yankees game:  John Flaherty, doing color with David Cone and play-by-play man Michael Kay on YES, was talking about Cincinnati reliever Arnoldis Chapman.  He said the Reds had groomed Chapman to be a starter during spring training until newly signed closer Ryan Madson suffered a season-ending injury.  Once Flaherty finished, we heard the identical story from the normally sharp Cone.  Either he couldn’t hear what was said, or he wasn’t listening.  Whatever the explanation, we sensed silent sounds of embarrassment emanating from the booth. 

The problem exists, albeit less pervasively with two-man broadcasting teams.  On NESN the other day, color man Jerry Remy repeated almost word-for-word what Don Orsillo had just said about a Red Sox roster change.  Maybe Vin Scully has the right idea: go it alone and avoid having to worry about an inattentive partner.

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Commentsto are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

About Richard Starkey

Dick Starkey handled media for former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and many other office-holders and candidates. He was sports editor of the Paris-based Herald Tribune. Perfect Pitch partner Robert Sullivan was the first to adapt focus groups to politics and has been called by Cuomo and others one of the "best" pollsters in the country.