Cubs set 2012 ticket prices at Wrigley Field

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Cubs set 2012 ticket prices at Wrigley Field

The Cubs are already looking forward to the buzz Theo Epstein will bring to their franchise and what that could mean at the box office.

The timing happened to work out perfectly. Renewal forms were already scheduled to be sent out to season-ticket holders on Friday, just as team executives were finalizing the details that will bring Epstein to the North Side.

The Cubs announced Friday that prices for season tickets will be essentially flat or reduced when compared to 2011. Season-ticket holders will also get a break, paying on average 1-to-2 less than what it costs for individual-game tickets in the same location.

The Cubs are now requiring a 10 percent deposit on season tickets in November, with the remaining balance due in January. In exchange, fans will be able to visit Wrigley Field and personally pick out a new location if theyre looking to change seats.

Perhaps sensing how it looks on television, management has responded to the empty seats seen across the bleachers last season.

The Cubs say that season tickets in the bleachers are decreasing on average by 14.3 percent per ticket. Prices for individual games will drop 10.3 percent on average next season. But it will be more expensive than last year to sit there for the 13 marquee games.

The Cubs did not add another pricing tier for 2012. Marquee remains the most expensive designation, which is reserved for: Opening Day; weekend series with the White Sox, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals; and high-traffic Saturdays in the summer against the Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cincinnati Reds.

The Cubs say season tickets within the seating bowl will remain flat compared to last year.

Individual tickets depend on the game category, and its a wide range. When the 12 percent amusement tax is factored in, it will cost around 128 for an infield club box seat on a marquee day. Its only about 9 to get an upper deck reserved outfield seat for a bronze game.

The general manager definitely cant take credit for this streak, but the Red Sox counted their 700th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park last month, a reflection of the winning teams assembled by Epstein.

In the months ahead, well find out what a new direction means at Wrigley Field.

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”