This story is part of ESPN The Magazine's September 29 Fansourced Issue. Subscribe today!
Last year's ranking: 117
Title track: 112
Fan relations: 104
Stadium experience: 88
Bang for the buck: 121
While the Cubs' focus may be on rebuilding with prospective talent from here and abroad, fans are tired of paying a pretty penny ($73.99 average cost per game) to watch a losing squad. Veteran club members are scarce, particularly after the team traded pitchers Jeff Samardzija (whose 3.14 ERA as of Sept. 4 ranked among the top 25 pitchers in MLB) and Jason Hammel (4.98 ERA in the AL) for young position players. The former is having his best season yet and the latter is pitching well, both for the likely postseason-bound Athletics. Meanwhile, the Cubs emerged from the All-Star break at 40-54, the worst record in the NL Central.
But the good news is, with 64 wins through Sept. 4, the Cubs are on pace for their best record since at least 2011. And then there's Wrigley Field, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Chicago has rewarded fans throughout the season, giving away decade-themed bobbleheads (as part of decade-themed homestands) and throwback toys like a Cubs-themed Rubik's Cube. The Cubs Charities foundation has teamed with Magellan Corp. and 47 local nonprofits, celebrities and artists to create the Centennial Seats program, in which 50 custom-made pairs of ballpark seats have been placed on North Michigan Avenue, then auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting Cubs Care and partnering organizations. But even amid the celebrations, Wrigley isn't selling out: the 41,159-capacity ballpark is averaging 32,649 fans. Recently, the Cubs received approvals to begin the restoration and expansion of Wrigley, including new seating, outfield signs and lighting. Most of the work will start postseason and should be completed by Opening Day 2015. Perhaps a fresh look can also mean a fresh start?