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April 12, 2010

One-Hoppers

Where the Buffalo Burgers Roam

by Bradford Doolittle

Tom Ricketts arrived at Wrigley Field at 6 a.m. this morning. He spent the next few hours posing for pictures and doing interviews. He was on CNBC's "The Call" explaining how the introduction of bison products is going to rally the Cubs to their first world title since the Teddy Roosevelt administration. Well, he didn't exactly put it like that, but he is confident that the denizens of Wrigley Field are going to love the buffalo burgers being served downstairs. I, myself, am very fond of buffalo burgers. I may get one after the game.

The acquisition of the Cubs and Wrigley Field by Ricketts family ends the unwieldy era of corporate ownership in Chicago baseball, nearly three decades of it. There was some success during that span, but I'm generally against corporate ownership of anything, especially baseball teams and stadiums. I could explain why, but you should just head to hulu.com and watch the documentary called "The Corporation."

I'm going to write a feature on Ricketts for Sunday's installment of Inside the Park. I'm not exactly sure what the hook will be. One thing that I keep thinking about is how many times I've watched a Kansas City Royals game and imagined what I would do if I had the wherewithal (ie., dollars) to buy the team. Most of these flights have fancy have involved an imaginery firing ceremony and the installation of myself as the general manager and field manager. Then I snap back to reality and wonder if I have enough cash to buy another beer. Well, Tom Ricketts is the guy who has made it happen. He owns his favorite team. I participated in an on-field interview with him a couple of hours ago. My early impression is he's a guy that appreciates the position he is in. He also mentioned the fact that he virtually "lived" at the Sports Corner, a pub at the intersection of Sheffield and Addison across the street from the ballpark, about 20 years ago. If I'd made a few billion dollars instead of becoming a writer, I could be Tom Ricketts. So could you, if your father founded Ameritrade.

Before I write that feature, I'll be finishing up a piece from the Twins-White Sox series of the weekend just completed. I meant to write about Minnesota's attempts to compensate for the loss of lockdown closer Joe Nathan. That's still in there, but I keep finding Ron Gardenhire popping up as the central character in the tale. I didn't mean for that to happen, but he apparently had some kind of effect on me. I'm not sure what that effect might be, but I can say that he's not at all what I expected him to be from watching him on television. Like Hemingway, I get the feeling that people are moved to call him "Papa".

***

On a personal note, let me take a moment to introduce myself. Hi, I'm Brad. My work here will appear under the byline Bradford Doolittle, which I use in my professional life. No one actually calls me Bradford. I guess I don't look much like a Bradford. I look more like a guy that's not very fond of shaving. Anyway, you might recognize the name from other outlets in the Prospectus empire like Basketball Prospectus and, well, that's pretty much it. If you're from Kansas City, or a fan of the Royals, you might recognize the name from my work at The Kansas City Star, which tended to slant towards quantitative analysis, though I did chip in with a few features and some straight news stories. Before that, I wrote on the Royals and baseball with my brother Brian--a Cardinals fan--at a couple of now-defunct blogs. We still have a blog together, but it's not really about baseball, so I'll spare you the promo.

I'll be contributing bi-weekly features for Prospectus under the column title "Inside the Park." A feature story is any article that probes an issue in depth, may or may not have news value and, preferably, involves a fair amount of storytelling. My intent is to do a little storytelling, a little interviewing, a little analysis, a little commentary and put them all together in one piece that isn't quite like anything else currently being done at Prospectus. I've been reading Prospectus online and in print for a decade and have always been a huge fan of the work that appears here. It's my intent to augment that work and not imitate that which others are already doing so well. The direction the column takes will largely depend on the feedback I get from BP readers, whom I've noticed aren't, ahem, shy about providing honest feedback.

My first piece looked at the issue of strike-zone command in young hitters and how it can help sort out those who successfully transition from the minors to the majors as opposed to those who can't seem to get over the hump. But, really, it's just about a pair of young Indians hitters on the opposite sides of this issue: Michael Brantley and Andy Marte. It's not easy to do features on visiting teams because you're trying to tease out sincere thoughts and feelings from someone you don't know and who probably doesn't trust you. You only have a couple of days to do this, but that's better than the NBA, where you only have about 45 minutes if you're lucky. I'll do my best. I'm no Bob Costas when it comes to interviewing. I just try to ask intelligent questions and hope that I get intelligent answers. If I make it through the season without assaulting a TV reporter, I'll consider that a personal victory.

I'm really happy to be here. Actually, that understates my feelings. I could not be more excited to be writing about baseball for what I know to be such a high-caliber group of readers and to be included among so many talented writers and analysts. I can only hope that excitement comes across in my work.

(A side note for readers of the hoops side: My baseball work for Prospectus is in addition to, not instead of, my basketball stuff. I'm a man with two sports passions. Two passions with a pretty heavy overlap for the next couple of months, which is bad news for my wife and my body's desire to sleep a few hours every day. But it's all good.)

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bradford's other articles. You can contact Bradford by clicking here

Related Content:  Tom Ricketts,  Ricketts,  Work,  Prospectus,  Bradford Doolittle

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Transaction Action: Go... (04/11)
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One-Hoppers: MLB Shoul... (04/15)
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Premium Article Under The Knife: Mount... (04/12)

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