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Reason for higher prices insulting
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/2/2007 2:17 AM

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You wake up on a Saturday thinking the only thing that will irritate you all day is the approaching winter storm.

Then you read something in the newspaper that gives you morning sickness and makes you want to beat yourself over the head with a Louisville Slugger.

"Big jump in Cubs' ticket prices for 2008," the headline said.

Listen, we're all sensible human beings here. Teams are allowed to, and will, charge as much as possible for their product.

I wouldn't pay $45 to sit out in the cheap seats for something called a "Prime game," but good for the Cubs if some soon-to-be-poor saps will.

All anybody should ask is that the Cubs don't insult a fan's intelligence along the way.

"We took a year off (from raising season-ticket prices)," said Crane Kenney, identified as the Tribune Company executive who oversees the Cubs.

First of all, I admit to being a bit prejudiced here. I simply don't trust anybody who answers to "Crane Kenney."

To me, he probably was born, say, Cosmo Winkelsnapp and changed his name after making his first million dollars.

Second, it's frightening to hear that a guy working for a struggling media conglomerate like the Trib is overseeing a baseball team.

Third, going a single year without increasing ticket prices isn't anything to boast about.

Could it be that a 66-96 record in 2006 had something to do with the Cubs being kinder and gentler enough -- to say nothing of embarrassed and humiliated enough -- to freeze ticket prices?

Winkelsnapp, er, Kenney proceeded to point out that the Cubs "put more than $300 million into the team last year, and re-upping (Carlos) Zambrano at the end of the year and re-signing (Kerry) Wood, we're into the $400 million range."

Perhaps because Kenney isn't a baseball man, he didn't add that the Cubs had to do all that because of previous mismanagement.

The Cubs had to sign Alfonso Soriano for $136 million and agree to other generous free-agent contracts because their farm system hadn't sufficiently developed quality players.

Kenney was quoted as promising, "We're taking the (player) payroll above last year's number ... We're going to address a couple of deficiencies to improve the team."

In other words, if you can't be smarter than the competition, shop until you drop and pass the Visa bill on to the fan.

The Cubs seem to be emulating the Red Sox, who won the World Series with the major leagues' second-highest payroll.

Maybe the Cubs should try emulating the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Indians -- the other teams in baseball's Final Four -- whose payrolls ranked in the mid-20s among the league's 30 teams.

I mean, if the Cubs are gouging fans to build a winner, it's out of necessity born of earlier mistakes. Or maybe it's out of the urgency to indicate to the next owner that he isn't inheriting a team about to go an even century without winning a World Series.

Anyway, a friend e-mailed me Friday: "Just got my bill for two season Cub club outfield boxes: $10,000. Getting out of hand."

My response: "Use the money to buy an entertainment system and watch at home."

His response: "Better yet, listen on the radio and read the paper the next day."

Hey, if enough people do that maybe we can raise the price of a newspaper to a dollar.