Column: Boston Red Sox rookie Wrigley Field 1-star review strikes a nerve with the Chicago Cubs

The owners of the Chicago Cubs have spent more than the last decade trying to emulate the Boston Red Sox.

Whether it’s hiring Theo Epstein as president of baseball operations, renovating Wrigley Field the same way Fenway Park did, signing free-agent pitcher Jon Lester, creating his own television network, or exploring buying a Premier League soccer team League, there has rarely been an idea from Boston that the Cubs couldn’t borrow.

If they could have played “Sweet Caroline” during Sunday’s 4-2, 11-inning loss to the Red Sox at Wrigley, you know the Cubs would have done it in a heartbeat.

“There’s something flattering about it,” former Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino once told me of Cubs impersonators. “If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then we will accept it.”

So it must have been a blow Saturday for Cubs President Tom Ricketts and President of Business Operations Crane Kenney when Red Sox rookie pitcher Josh Winckowski gave Wrigley a negative review.

“A little disappointing,” Winckowski said after being charged with the loss. “Fenway has a presence. I didn’t really get that here, to be honest. I told my mom last night, this place is very standard.”

Wrigley Field? Disappointing? A run-of-the-mill, “stock standard” ballpark?

That’s the worst insult that can be thrown at the Ricketts family, who claim to have spent $740 million to renovate the ballpark in their Project 1060. The Cubs called it the “preservation” of Wrigley and even posted a photo of Fenway Park at their renovation presentation to show how their video board would integrate seamlessly into the stadium.

Skeptics saw all the changes as a way to rationalize skyrocketing prices, just as the Red Sox owners did at Fenway.

But even with all the changes catering to the Cubs’ sponsors and ultra-expensive top-tier clubs, Wrigley Field is still considered the mecca of baseball, a piece of American culture and – at the very least – kind of a cool place to watch a game.

That’s why Wrigley is on so many people’s wish lists.

Comparing it to Fenway Park, the only major league ballpark older than Wrigley, is silly. I love both places, and any objective baseball fan who has been lucky enough to visit both should feel the same way.

Fenway bills itself as “America’s most beloved ballpark,” which sounds a bit pretentious because it is. But just like Wrigley, it’s a wonderfully unique place with plenty of history to chew on during a four-hour game.

Whether he is superior to Wrigley is in the eye of the beholder. Winckowski apparently prefers the Green Monster to ivy-covered walls, which is his prerogative. Of course, he’s never had a chance to extend to the left-field basket, like Epstein recently made during a “last hurrah” at Wrigley before returning to the East.

After Red Sox reporter Chris Cotillo of tweeted Winckowski’s comment on Saturday, the Cubs’ Twitter account responded by tweeting a photo of a Cubs fan in the center field bleachers while drinking beer. a shoe.

I’m not sure what message the Cubs were trying to convey, other than that Cubs fans don’t mind a little foot fungus with their $14 beers. But it was definitely anything but disappointing.

The shooting of Wrigley by the obscure 24-year-old pitcher obviously struck a nerve at the Cubbieplex, the nickname for the building that houses the Cubs’ offices. Other organizations might have ignored the snub from a 26-inning rookie. But as the Cubs’ marketing slogan says: “It’s different here.”

So kudos to the Cubs’ Twitterati for defending their turf, even if a simple middle finger salute would have sufficed.

On the other hand, is it possible that Winckowski is right?

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Wrigley has adopted many of the standard items seen in most major league ballparks. It was the last stadium without video in the majors until the giant video board came to left field in 2015. The video board is popular with fans, who like to see themselves on it, but it’s a disappointment for those interested in seeing creative content from time to time.

While the video board forever changed the way Cubs fans watch games, that’s the price the Ricketts family paid for valuing advertising revenue over the unique qualities that made Wrigley a unicorn among ballparks. baseball.

Don’t look now, but the next Red Sox idea the Cubs are likely to copy is his recently launched independent streaming service for NESN, which streams Red Sox and Bruins games at the price of $29.99 per month. Sure, that’s a lot higher than what Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streamers charge despite having a lot more content than NESN. But the Red Sox seem to know what fans who cut wires to see their team will pay.

The Cubs may not be able to charge $29.99 a month for this particular team, but if president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer can persuade Ricketts to sign free agent Aaron Judge in the winter, who knows how much they’d pay. fans to stream Cubs games. ?

Regardless, Winckowski’s “meh” review of Wrigley was the talk of the ballpark on Sunday. The comments were even backed up by some fans, particularly those who live on the South Side. Wrigley is not for everyone. Some of my best friends won’t step foot in it, and that was before they knew Cubs fans were drinking beer out of their shoes.

But it will always be a special place, which is why the Cubs could draw 40,185 fans on Sunday despite being out of contention since May.

As long as the ivy and center field manual marker remain intact, the essence of Wrigley will remain the same, no matter what Winckowski tells his mother.

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