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Some further thoughts about fans in the stands in Wrigley and other ballparks in 2020

This isn’t a good idea to begin with. But there’s something else about this idea I wanted to mention.

Al Yellon

It didn’t take too long after MLB announced its “imposed” 2020 season for some teams to start hinting they might want fans in the stands this year.

The Cubs were one of those teams, as I noted here Thursday, quoting Cubs President of Business Operations Crane Kenney:

[Kenney] expects the rooftops overlooking Wrigley Field to be open for the Cubs home opener. The rooftops will still have to abide by city regulations, which will likely limit the number of fans and promote social distancing.

“Even now with the mayor’s phasing of the city’s reopening, we would be allowed to open the rooftops,” Kenney said.

Kenney also said he hopes that at some point in the season, Wrigley Field itself will be able to open its doors to fans, albeit at a reduced capacity.

On that last part of the quote, hang on just a moment, please, says Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot:

Not so fast, Lightfoot said at a news conference later in the day. “First of all, that’s a discussion that we have not had with any of the major sports teams in that level of specificity,” she said.

While Gov. J.B. Pritzker this week released a plan for phase four of the state’s reopening that includes attendance at outdoor sports venues at 20% of stadiums’ capacity, Lightfoot has so far been noncommittal about allowing that.

“As I understand it, (Kenney) talked about 8,200 people in the stands at Wrigley. That’s a lot of folks, and it absolutely, obviously exceeds both city and state caps on venues and capacity,” Lightfoot said. “But fundamentally, whether it’s 8,000 or 800 or 80, there’s got to be a plan for safety. And we’re happy to engage in that discussion with all the sports teams.”

“Obviously there’s no bigger sports fan than me,” the mayor added. “And I want to be able to enjoy live sports in the stands myself. But we’ve got to do it at a time when we know that that’s appropriate under the public health guidance. And we’re not there yet.”

So... if you think you’re going to be in Wrigley Field this year... hold your proverbial horses. Cubs spokesman Julian Green further clarified Crane Kenney’s comments:

“As a sign of things getting back to normal, I think this was just a case of a reporter not accurately reflecting Crane’s comments on the Score and ESPN 1000 this morning,” Green said in a statement. “While he suggested he was hopeful and believed we’re at a point to safely bring some portion of our fan base back into Wrigley Field, at no time during the interviews did he state we were planning to have 8,000 fans in the ballpark.”

Of course, everyone is hopeful. I miss baseball terribly and I’d love to be back in the bleachers on a nice summer afternoon or evening. But that just doesn’t seem feasible right now, or anytime in 2020.

On the other hand, some other teams are “full speed ahead”:

Major League Baseball has asked the team for a bit more time to study whether it would be prudent to allow fans into the stadium from the start of the season or to slowly phase them in, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed Thursday.

That, of course, is subject to the same quote above from Mayor Lightfoot. It should be noted that she’s a Sox fan, but any decision she makes regarding fans at the city’s two ballparks will apply equally to both.

“Right now, obviously, we’re under the guidelines of the city of Milwaukee,” Schlesinger said. “Those guidelines do not permit us to have fans at the games. The one thing that we have done is been in close contact with the city of Milwaukee — health officials, Mayor [Tom] Barrett and all the folks who have the health and safety of our population as their No. 1 priority.

“If there is an opening of the city and if there’s a way to accommodate some fans, we absolutely would love to do it. I don’t anticipate that we’re going to have an opportunity to have the stadium full in 2020. But even if we have a limited number of fans through appropriate social distancing and other health and safety protocols, it would be certainly an aspirational goal of ours, in conjunction with MLB and the city of Milwaukee. If we can make it happen, I’d absolutely love it.”

Now THAT is the best idea I’ve heard so far. Teams could charge a small amount for the cutout, per game. I’d do this. Then maybe they’d let fans keep them at the end of the season. The Brewers note that they’d consider doing the same thing.

I just wanted to let all of you know what I’ve seen regarding fans in the stands. Clearly, much of that is wishful thinking. The season itself might be wishful thinking if COVID-19 outbreaks keep getting worse, and sadly, that seems to be the case in many areas of the country. It might not be safe to play baseball at all this year. The NBA is already keeping an eye on things in Florida:

In my view, the NBA (and MLB) ought to define that line, and soon. But beyond that, I did want to bring up one other point regarding potential ticket sales for MLB’s 60-game season.

Did we not just spend more than a month listening to owners and players bickering over how much players were going to be paid this year, with owners claiming they’d be losing 40 percent of their revenue because they didn’t have fans in the stands? And isn’t that why we now have a 60-game season imposed by owners, rather than MLB and the MLBPA coming to an agreement? That’s the way I remember the last few weeks, anyway.

And now we hear that some teams want to... sell tickets to games. You know, pocket some revenue for those games, potentially 30 home games per team.

Obviously, even if that happened, fans buying tickets and going to games, it’s not going to make up all of the 40 percent of revenue (approximately $4 billion) owners claim they’d be losing this year. Teams are playing 37 percent of games, and maybe we’re talking ticket revenue from a third of those games, and not sales as they’d normally have them. So let’s say — a “ballpark figure,” ha ha — maybe teams might make back 10 percent of the revenue they would have banked from ticket sales in a normal season, perhaps $400 million, if they can have fans in the stands.

Kindly let me know when MLB players see any of that money.