::: Urp! :::

The Cubs beat the Mariners 6-4 at Mesa today, snapping a three-game losing streak, in front of a sellout crowd of 12,842.

Good things today: Aramis Ramirez returned. OK, so he went 0-for-2 with a walk. But he's back. Daryle Ward hit a pinch-hit, two-run HR -- sounds like he's going to be just fine. Kosuke Fukudome legged out a double, walked and scored. Carmen Pignatiello threw yet another scoreless inning and has to be getting Lou's attention as possibly the second lefty in the bullpen.

Bad: Carlos Marmol couldn't throw strikes in the ninth inning, even though he finally settled down and finished things off. Ted Lilly allowed two runs, walking the first batter he faced and then allowing a HR to Yuniesky Betancourt. (Lilly did settle down after that and gave up nothing else, striking out four.)

But the reason for the strange title to this post is this USA Today article -- and thanks to my dad for sending me the link -- about new all-you-can-eat sections in major league parks this year. This was pioneered by the Dodgers in 2007, but in 2008 no fewer than thirteen different teams will be offering such sections. It may sound like a great idea, but:

"It's disgusting," says Christine Gerbstadt, a registered dietitian and national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). "Why can't people just enjoy the game and eat sensibly?"

Mark Tilson, vice president of sales and marketing for the Kansas City Royals, says it's up to fans to eat responsibly.

"We're not making anybody purchase these seats, or eat seven hot dogs," says Tilson, whose team has 500 seats in its all-you-can-eat section. "We saw plenty of healthy families enjoying it responsibly."

He acknowledges that some fans try to "set personal records" during their first game in the section. By their second or third time in such seats, Tilson says, they eat like they normally would at a game.

And beyond that, there's another problem:

Not everyone's a fan. Author Neal Pollack calls all-you-can-eat seats "the worst American culture can offer." He says he sat in the Dodgers' section last year and it "was a gluttonous orgy of stupidity.

"The smell ... was unbearable," Pollack recalls. "By the end of the game, it was like sitting in a sewer."

Ugh. If I haven't totally ruined your appetite yet, gorge yourself on these stats:

So how much food do fans in these seats consume?

Ron Ranieri, general manager of concessionaire Aramark at Atlanta's Turner Field, calculates that a typical all-you-can-eat customer downed: 3.35 hot dogs; one 20-ounce soda; one 7.9-ounce bag of peanuts; one 3-ounce order of nachos and 32 ounces of popcorn.

Those numbers are "insane," the ADA's Gerbstadt says. They equate to more than three times the daily recommended calories and carbohydrates, four times the saturated fat and sodium, and seven times the fat suggested by the Agriculture Department's 2005 diet guidelines.

That's not counting the beer and desserts many fans also polish off. Those who eat even close to such amounts on a semi-regular basis, Gerbstadt says, are at added risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and erectile dysfunction.

Well. That ought to be enough to give you pause. The Cubs don't have one of these sections. Yet. Here's a list of those that do, if you want to plan an all-you-can-eat baseball trip this summer:

Among the clubs with all-you-can-eat seats for the first time this year: the Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks. Besides the Dodgers, Rangers and Royals, those offering them for at least part of last season were the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles.

Enough. Also of interest this afternoon, comments from Cubs CEO Crane Kenney about the naming rights controversy, and also the potential sale of Wrigley Field to the ISFA. Some important new information from Kenney:

The Cubs have postponed building what has been called the "Triangle Building" on Clark Street next to Wrigley Field because of the cost. That building would house all non-game day, non-essential club activities, and there is potential to create a lounge at the back of the grandstands.

"It has to get built," Kenney said of the building. "It's holding us back, it's holding performance on the field back. We don't have adequate player facilities. The fact of the matter is the facilities here [in Spring Training] are better than the ones in Chicago."

Kenney said the Cubs are very much aware the sky boxes need improvements, as do the rest rooms in the ballpark and the food. There is still netting in place in some parts of Wrigley Field, to prevent concrete from falling onto the concourse.

  • The Cubs now have 30 home night games, and would like to increase that number. Kenney said he talks to Cubs manager Lou Piniella and the players about the importance of night games. "That is a performance issue as much as it is a revenue issue for me," Kenney said. The league average is 54 home night games. "I know we won't get that many," Kenney said. "As a negotiator, there's room between 30 and 54."
  • The Cubs will not add a video scoreboard or Jumbotron to the existing scoreboard.
  • The Cubs have moved eight games from WGN TV to Comcast. The team will be paid twice as much for the Comcast games than the WGN games. "Money means payroll and payroll means championships, in my view," Kenney said.
  • The Cubs are moving toward their first-ever Spanish language broadcast, and hope to launch that by the All-Star Game.
  • Major League Baseball has completed background checks on the four to six groups interested in purchasing the Cubs. The first step is to complete the ISFA deal; then the books on the team will be distributed to prospective buyers. The sale of the team is expected to be completed this year.

There! That ought to give you enough to chew on, er, discuss, before tomorrow's televised game vs. Arizona (there's also a split-squad game vs. the A's at Phoenix tomorrow).

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