Monday, January 20, 2014
It's been a pretty exciting offseason thus far. The winter started off with a bang when Robinson Cano surprised many by signing a 10-year deal with the Seattle Mariners, and then perhaps even more surprising, the Mariners continued to spend. The Braves announced they were replacing their stadium that is not even 20 years old with a new, $1+ billion ballpark community in suburban Cobb County. A year-long suspension was finally handed down to A-Rod. Recognizing that this will effectively end the productive portion of his career, he has chosen to sue anybody and everybody involved to get the most money possible out of this. And recently, MLB took a bold leap into 1998 by expanding instant replay.
But in my opinion, the most notable baseball news of the past 3 months has been the Chicago Cubs introducing their first mascot in the team's modern history - Clark the Cub. I should qualify this by saying, first "official" mascot, because I'm sure everybody who has been to Wrigley has seen guys walking around near Clark & Addison in a bear suit they found on clearance at a Halloween store. Now, I am very pro-mascot, so I am not all up in arms about the Cubs defying tradition as so many people seem to be. Let's face it, baseball is an entertainment business and can be a boring game to sit through, and mascots are just one things teams do to make the game exciting for everybody. No other sport has more prevalent mascots than baseball, and it is for that reason I think the Cubs could have done a little better. I mean, come on, look at this picture! Seriously, what unpaid intern designed this, are there not many great graphic design studios in Chicago? Somebody is going to have to explain to me someday why cartoon animals always wear shirts but no pants. This wreaks of Poochie from the Simpsons, and we all know how poorly that ended for Homer. The Cubs are a storied franchise with a long history, and thus could have gone much simpler, a la the "homemade mascots" that Cubs fans sport outside the park. It just needs to be a nondescript bear suit with a Cubs hat, that's it. I think the ad execs spent a little too much time on the bear's attitude, to the point where it comes off as contrived and scary. Maybe I am just upset because after 100 years, they went from nothing to this, or maybe I just like finding more ways to hate the Cubs. But I think it's also just another sign of how the Cubs organization is in the midst of an era of change, whether people like it or not. Many fans and Chicagoans in general are leery of all these big changes happening, not the least of which are the big Wrigley Field renovations slated to be happening in the coming years. For too long the Cubs have been naïve to think that they can keep selling the same product and the same rundown stadium and people will continue to come in droves, and Clark the Cub represents the adaptation the ownership and the organization has finally accepted needs to happen to remain viable for another century. Even though the mascot looks like something from a 1990s Disney cartoon, at least the effort is there.
Speaking of big changes at Wrigley, I am looking forward to my first visit to the park in 5 years to celebrate the stadium's 100th anniversary. Look for an itinerary of this and our other Tour 2014 trips in the coming weeks. 26 days 'til pitchers & catchers report!!!