MILWAUKEE – The Cubs Way is all talk. At least that’s how it sounds when the team has the worst record in the majors and the Wrigley Field renovation turns into a PR nightmare.
Anthony Rizzo voiced the growing frustration inside the organization, around City Hall and on Cubs fans’ Twitter accounts, responding to the broken promises and idle threats that have fueled the Wrigleyville drama.
“They told us, again, that we were going to get approved and it didn’t get approved,” Rizzo said Friday at Miller Park. “So I know a lot of guys are not happy about that. It’s kind of a shame, because we get excited about it.
“They’re working their tails off. But, again, it got shut down. It’s kind of a bummer, because we all thought it was going to happen. And now it’s kind of just wait-and-see.”
President of business operations Crane Kenney has done a media tour this week, first laying out the blueprints for the $575 million development with selected reporters. And then going into the spin zone after Mayor Rahm Emanuel called out the Cubs for not clearly outlining plans to relocate the bullpens and alter the ivy-covered brick walls.
Emanuel clotheslined Cubs officials running toward the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, denying their request for the June 5 hearing while pushing for a July groundbreaking.
“I’ve only been here a few years and guys before me have heard it before – changes were going to happen,” Rizzo said. “I don’t know what’s going on. Obviously, it’s not my job to do it. Obviously, we all want it. But when guys are promised that things are going to happen and they don’t happen, they’re not happy about it.
“Now it’s just kind of: ‘OK, when it gets done, it gets done.’ We’re not going to have our hopes up for anything.”
Clubhouse veterans were skeptical when chairman Tom Ricketts released a six-minute video last week, preparing for a legal fight with the rooftop owners over a 20-year, revenue-sharing contract.
“I think it’s great that it’s happening,” said Jeff Samardzija, the longest-tenured player on the team and the biggest name on the trade market. “But, you know, we’ll see.”
The new target date for the bigger, modern clubhouse is now 2016. Then again, those upgraded amenities were supposed to be ready by Opening Day this year. At least that’s what ex-manager Dale Sveum told Carlos Villanueva before the swingman signed a two-year, $10 million contract in January 2013. It was all part of the vision for Theo Epstein’s baseball operations department.
“The guys that are guaranteed to be here for the next couple years are really excited about it,” Villanueva said.
Rizzo has $41 million guaranteed through 2019, making the face-of-the-franchise first baseman one of the few current players who might actually have a locker in that new clubhouse.
“We’ll have all the top-notch stuff and the new clubhouse is going to be the best in the game,” Rizzo said. “I know we’re going to do everything first-class, because that’s the way the organization is. It’s just that we’re kind of sick of hearing it’s going to be done. We just want to see it get done.”
Breaking off negotiations, Ricketts essentially told the rooftops owners: “See you in court.” A second video board, seven outfield signs and new light towers guaranteed that. Rizzo doesn’t believe the facilities have held the team back, but the organization’s business/baseball plans revolve around future TV deals and a renovated stadium.
“You come to the park, you have to prepare,” Rizzo said. “You have to do your best and be ready to play. I don’t know if it (prevents) guys from signing here. I’ve never been a free agent. (But) I don’t know who wouldn’t love to play in this city at Wrigley.
“It’s just to the point where we want it to be kind of done with and (stop overshadowing) everything. Just get it going.”