Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who Would Pay to Rename Wrigley?

All this talk of renovating Wrigley at the taxpayers' expense (and let's face it, no matter how the taxes are collected, bonded, spent, or repaid, it all comes down to people paying taxes through the nose) has stirred up a lot of conversation about other potentially disconcerting ways for the Cubs to bring in revenue. While we fans are still partial to the idea of selling 2011 Cubs World Series Champion memorabilia as an ideal money-making scheme, the likelihood of that is { }.

Cubs think tank members in blogging and mainstream realms agree that the most obvious way for the Cubs to collect some quick cash is to peddle their most attractive commodity: Wrigley Field. More precisely, the naming rights. Wrigley by any other name would still smell like piss, so let's get over the sentimental attachment to our former overlords, shall we? It wasn't named Wrigley before that family owned it, so why shouldn't the name change now that we're 2 or 3 owners removed from their gum-chewing legacy?

Even if the Cubs do decide to sell the naming rights to their North-Side shrine, they still need to find a buyer. I've come up with ten possibilities, and, in a departure from the norm, most of them aren't even sarcastic options. As far as I know, none of the companies I'm suggesting have naming-rights deals with other arenas, fields, parks, stadia, etc. Some with good reason. Let me know what you think about the prospect of watching the Cubs play in, say, Apple Field.

1. Apple
They've got the money. They don't typically shy away from extra publicity. Maybe it could come with a decent Wi-Fi package for the fans as well.

2. Frontier
Frontier Communications is an ISP/telecom provider typically in smaller suburban and rural communities, and they recently acquired a ton of customers from Verizon service areas. Somehow this resulted in an enormous dip in their stock value. Telecom companies typically like naming-rights deals because brand awareness is huge for them. The publicity of owning the rights to the field soon to be known as formerly-known-as-Wrigley would give them a much-needed competitive edge in the market. It's a bigger doubt, though, that this smaller player in the telecom game would be able to pay out big bucks.

3. BP
Don't laugh. Or laugh, whatever. But BP, we know, has the money. They also have a brilliant history sponsoring crosstown cups. What they don't have is anything to lose. Yes, BP Field would make Cubs fans mad and unhappy. But guess what? They already are. BP and Cubs fans have nowhere to go but up, so I look at this as a low risk, high reward venture.

4. Kraft
I don't have a real good reason for this one other than that they could use a stadium deal, they have a ton of money, and I think my sons would enjoy Cubs games more if the vendors sold Lunchables.

5. Mars, Inc.
Food/candy giant. Recognizable, well respected name. Unobjectionable products. Oh, and Wrigley is their subsidiary, so they could keep the field named Wrigley and finally pay up on the 30 bagijillion dollars of free advertising they get every year. Or they could sue the Cubs for trademark violation for desecrating their brand by tying their name to a urine-soaked frat house. I prefer the bagijillion dollar option, though.

6. Bank of America
Kiefer Sutherland tells me that Bank of America is a proud partner of the Chicago Cubs. This is only natural. Let's put that bailout money to work at Wrigley. I mean, at BOA Ballpark. But seriously, the banking industry is another one where name recognition means a ton. This investment would pay off.

7. Comcast
From what I hear, Comcast customers are just as tormented as Cubs fans, so this makes all the sense in the God-forsaken world. It's another huge, competitive market, and Comcast stands to benefit greatly. Couple that with the 25% stake the Ricketts family has in Comcast SportsNet Chicago, and it's a win-win for everybody.

8. Friends of Meigs Field
Meigs Field got destroyed in a midnight raid by Mayor Daley. I'm sure the group that mourns that loss would take some pleasure in bringing Meigs Field back home to Chicago in the confines of Daley's least favorite baseball franchise, even if they couldn't land planes there. But they have no money. So . . . yeah. No.

9. Geico
The gecko. The cavemen. The money with eyes. The dude from Brothers McMullen and She's the One who's not Edward Burns. There can be no doubt that Geico isn't afraid of brand saturation. Why not add the Cubs as just one more spokesman? I see no reason. Making the decision to redub the Friendly Confines Geico Park is so easy, even a Cub could do it.

10. TD Ameritrade
Ever heard of synergy? Of course you have, and your psyched about the opportunity to see it happen for the Cubs. The Ricketts family is no stranger to paying for Cubs business with TD Ameritrade money. Okay, actually, everyone else in the world but the Ricketts is a stranger to that. Synergy. This is unbreakable. This is inevitable.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Purpled Wrigley

Image by @WNUR_Sports
A lot of people seem distraught that the Wrigley Field marquee has been repainted purple for the upcoming Northwestern football game. I don't mind so much. The scoreboard treatment was a little more shocking, though.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Goodbye Cubscast (Am I Allowed to Type That?)

MLB may never get it. 
If you've been following this blog for long, you know I'm a big fan of Cubscast, the godfather of Cubs podcasts. And if you followed the link to Cubscast, you know that Lou, Sheps, and Sneetch have cast their last pod. The fact that this groundbreaking podcast met its demise saddens me greatly; the way it happened makes me RAGE ANGRY HULK SMASH!

Call it credit or call it blame, Cubscast is the reason I started blogging about the Cubs. I was spending so much time and energy contributing to their message board, I figured I might as well move my verbose ramblings into my own lonely corner of the Interfrontiers. At that time, I wasn't aware that there were 254 batrillion Cubs blogs clogging the virtual plumbing. I knew Cubscast. That was it. And that was enough.

One of the things that made Cubscast great was that they produced the show like professionals but steered the content like fans. They deftly walked the tightrope between hope and frustration, criticism and cheering, being opinionated and open minded. It was a well crafted show and a good show in every sense of the word. They weren't out to make anyone look stupid. They just made being a fan of the Cubs that much more fun. I often disagreed with their opinions, but they set a tone on their broadcast that prevented disagreements from ruling the day. They never lost sight of the fact that baseball is a game and that the game was meant to be enjoyed.

So I enjoyed their podcast. They were and are great Cubs fans. Which makes what MLB did (MLBAM, to be precise) so mind-boggling. Here's an excerpt from Lou's parting words explaining how they were bullied into submission (my words, not his) by the object of their affections:

Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM from here on out) sent us a cease and desist letter demanding that we immediately stop using the domain name. The letter also said compliance meant to immediately transfer our domain name to them, or else. A few weeks later we found out that MLBAM did not want us using the name "Cubscast" for our show, either.
MLBAM is the Internet/Interactive/Idiotic arm of Major League Baseball. They suck. They're the ones responsible for trying to charge for the use of public-domain stats in fantasy baseball, streamlining the secondary ticket market through StubHub, and assuring the entire world that they never see a single baseball highlight anywhere but through, which they own and crap all over.

Remaining true to their greedy, senseless monogamist prison rape of their own brand, they decided that fans who wish to promote and enhance the engagement with the Major League Baseball product should not use the name of their favorite teams anywhere in their domain, program name, or any other place where such usage would make total sense for any fan looking for another way to express their appreciation FOR THE STUPID TEAM!

Deep breath. Let's continue.

We have pursued every angle possible in trying to find out exactly why this happened and how we could resolve it amicably. We have had several phone calls with MLBAM to gather the facts and state our opinion on the matter, which is that our site is not deceptive in the least and does not cause confusion (we have had a disclaimer at the bottom of our site for several years), among other things. We outlined our position in a letter back in March. We didn't hear much in response, and then several months passed before MLBAM got back to us, basically sticking to the language in their original letter, asking us to fully comply, and to call them if we had any questions.
Yeah, I've got a question. WHY DO YOU HATE YOUR FANS?!? Whew. Another deep breath. One more. Okay, carry on.

Somewhere in the middle of this ordeal we discovered that a major league team besides the Cubs found one of our sister podcast websites and didn't like that they didn't own it, which seems to be the genesis of this ordeal. We offered to immediately shut that site down and transfer the domain to MLBAM, but that is not good enough. MLBAM wants everything, including Cubscast.
That major league team is the twins. Attention all twin fetish porn sites: prepare to be shut down unless you take the word twins out of the domain.
Sorry, couldn't resist commemorating this event with one big sizzling pile of copyright-abuse irony.

Of all the things an organization with such great resources as Major League Baseball can do, this seems like a low note and a waste of talent to me. I love baseball, but I wish they would move quickly to embrace fan involvement, fan communities, and technology. Other leagues such as the NBA are setting the bar high, and baseball has some serious catching up to do. Watching a great sport like baseball is one thing, but being connected to other fans makes watching and experiencing a season a thousand times better.
THIS. I know MLB probably desires to see the postseason ratings plummet even further to prevent people who haven't directly subscribed to from being able to discuss the World Series without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball, but come on! Why would any organization seek out and shut down the efforts of their own fans and customers who are trying to promote their product? It is beyond stupid. It's like baseball is their girlfriend and they don't want anybody looking at her or referring to her by name . . . unless they're the ones who can whore her out privately.

Maybe I'm not the foremost expert on social media marketing, but this seems counterintuitive. I wish I could say it was old fashioned, but I can't remember a time in any era when any entity expressed such contempt for their own supporters.

Anyway, we are complying with MLBAM's request and shutting down the Cubscast site, effective immediately. I'm doing my part in this despite having my doubts about the legality of MLBAM's claim. I understand that they own the mark "Cubs" and I'm not a legal expert by any means, but in my opinion the jury's still out on whether or not using a mark to describe a fan club is actually an infringement or not. In our case using the word "Cubs" is simply the most accurate way to describe what we are. We host a free podcast about the Cubs. It's a shame that nobody including us ends up having enough fearlessness (and money) to see a judge rule on this issue. It would undoubtedly shed some light on this matter.
There are two things to discuss here: the law and the logic. Legally, either MLBAM is completely out of bounds or there are a lot of blogs who should be getting really nervous right about now. Bleed Cubbie Blue (sorry, you've got "Cub" in there). Another Cubs Blog. Twinkie TownMetsgrrl. YankeesBlog. Ray's Boathouse, Cafe, and Catering at International Talk Like a Pirate Day. They're all walking a thin line. Sadly, MLBAM will probably go after only those sites/blogs/podcasts that are too small to mount a legal defense. Whether they have legal grounds or not becomes moot when they're big enough to bully an underdog who lacks the resources necessary to challenge the biggest ball of collusion in America.

So yeah, legally (or at least logistically) MLB can tread all over a podcast that dares include the name of the team they discuss and cheer for. Logically, this move is a huge pile of fail. What does MLB gain from this exercise? An image even more tarnished than it already was? A brand that smells like armpit? Fewer fans? Less interest? A more solidified sense that no one under the employ of Major League Baseball has the slightest sense of ethics, decency, marketing, or social awareness? Yes, they gained all that and more.

Congrats, MLB, you managed to attain brand new levels of suck. I have the utmost faith that you can do even worse in the years to come.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ryne Sandberg, Dues Payer

His number is flying on the freaking flag pole. But, yeah, Sandberg needs to pay his dues.
When the news broke yesterday about Ryne Sandberg's departure from the Chicago Cubs organization, a grand total of 0.00 people were surprised. But Kevin Goldstein (and at least 10 other people who felt the urge to retweet the sentiment verbatim) deemed Sandberg's rejection of his old job as manager of the AAA Iowa Cubs to be a petty move, even for a Hall-of-Famer.

Sandberg spent just 4 yrs as minor league mgr and quits because he doesn't get the MLB job. Insult to those that actually paid their dues.

What's truly insulting is the insinuation that Ryne Sandberg has not paid his dues to whatever association is currently collecting that payment. If it's the fraternal order of minor league baseball managers, four years isn't a ton of time. Still, if it doesn't qualify as paying his dues, Sandberg's four-year stint has to at least cover the initial registration fee.

Or did he not pay his dues to the Chicago Cubs? Fifteen seasons. Ten as an All-Star. One MVP. Nine Gold Gloves. Seven Silver Sluggers. Sixty-two wins above replacement. I'd say the four years managing in the minors was overkill as far as his Cubs dues are concerned.

No, I'm sure what Goldstein was getting at must have been the dues required to be a major league manager. So I decided to take a look at the current roster of managers and see who has paid what, especially in the currencies of minor league coaching/managing, major league coaching, and major league playing time before landing their first full-time MLB managing job.