The Brewers drubbed the Cubs today at Wrigley, 11-2. Perhaps coincidentally perhaps not, the Milwaukee club was outwardly dismayed when their game against the Cubs on Saturday May, 20 was canceled and rescheduled for today, which was supposed to be an off day.
On that day, it was raining at 11:30 a.m., when the Cubs made the decision to postpone the game. It cleared up shortly thereafter. “Clearly, the Cubs were looking at a weather forecast that made them think it was going to rain,” Brewers GM David Stearns told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Our weather forecast did not indicate that. I think there were five or seven other forecasts that also did not indicate that. Ultimately, it’s the Cubs’ call.”
Brewers manager Craig Counsell, the former utility journeyman who I have on good authority still cuts his own lawn despite making over $20 million as a player and being signed through 2020 as Brewers manager, had jokes: “First time, for us, that we’ve had players treated for sunburn after a rainout.”
While there were no outright accusations that the Cubs manipulated the schedule, there were a couple obvious motives. The prior day, the Cubs’ bullpen had pitched six innings in a day that had two hours of delays. Furthermore, concession and merchandise sales are going to be a lot higher for a packed house in July than for a dreary May day.
It’s tough to estimate what the attendance difference would have been. Today, the Cubs drew 41,576 people. On Friday May 19 against the Brewers, they said they drew 36,923. Assuming it would have been equal attendance the next day, if you hold spending constant and assume that the average fan spends $40 in merch and concessions, it’s a difference of about $186k. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s hardly a major difference maker for a money powerhouse like the Cubs.
However, I’d argue that a fan this week is likely to spend significantly more money than a fan on a cold day on May 21st. This is a week where a lot of professionals are on vacation time and tourists are in town. Moreover, fans consume more beer when it’s 85 and sunny than when it’s cloudy and the temperature is hovering between the 50’s and 60’s.
This exercise is inherently unknowable — it’s not like the Cubs would tell us — but it seems possible the club pocketed over a million extra dollars. If you estimate that the average fan on a day like today spends $60, as opposed to the $40 on the cold and cloudy day, with the increased attendance you’d get nearly $2.5 million in extra revenue. $10 beers add up fast. These aren’t all profits, of course, but the Cubs’ margins on concessions and merchandise are quite high.
But, the Brewers got the last laugh for now, as they find themselves with a 4.5-game lead in the division as we are headed toward mid-July.