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Late last year, we learned that the Chicago Cubs planned to partner with Arizona State University on the Cubs’ new Spring Training facility in Mesa, Arizona. In short, the Sun Devils would use the park when the Cubs weren’t, and the University would pay the Cubs some money for the use. It was a feel-good, money-saving story, and a particularly nice bookend to the long process of securing funding for the new facility.

We haven’t heard a whole lot about the partnership over the past few months, even as the grounds for the new ballpark and training facilities started to be clear (the official groundbreaking is in July). Maybe we weren’t hearing much because the partnership’s formation isn’t going so smoothly?

According to emails obtained by Arizona Central, the President of ASU, Dr. Michael Crow, has grown dissatisfied with what he perceives to be intransigence and dishonesty on the part of the Cubs, and has solicited the help of Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who helped put the financial deal together that kept the Cubs in Mesa for Spring Training.

“We accelerated our plans [to redevelop our existing baseball facility for other purposes, and] announced our intention to be part of the new ballpark,” Crow said of the planned partnership with the Cubs. “Since that time we have found ourselves dealing with a highly erratic Cubs organization and as of today we have been all but told that they want us out of the deal.”

“When you and I talked about this,” Crow continued in an email to Smith, “you indicated that we might need to invest a bit more to make all the numbers work. We agreed to do that and went back to our board for their approval of our leasing terms and the new capital improvements necessary for the project to fit into the city’s budget …. We were still operating under the notion that your partner operated in good faith …. The Cubs are not people of their word.”

That’s pretty harsh.

The Arizona Central article includes only a small, almost boilerplate response from Cubs VP of Communications and Community Affairs Julian Green: “We hope Arizona State will be part of the new spring training facility,” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. “However, our first priority is building a world-class facility for use by the Cubs year-round. This is what the voters of Mesa approved.”

The article goes on to include some political mitigation from Smith, who indicates that the Crow email probably came during a mere “rough spot” in the negotiations.

All in all, it sounds pretty bad, and makes the Cubs sound like an obstinate bully, one that lies and cheats to get what it wants.

Knowing that there are always two sides to a story, though, I reached out to the Cubs for additional comment. You know me – I hate to editorialize based only on one side’s view of an issue (and this one is a pretty limited view, at that).

Cubs’ PR and Marketing Specialist Kevin Saghy indicated that the Cubs and ASU continue to have discussions about what ASU expects in terms of usage of the facility, and if those expectations align with what the Cubs’ needs are for the facility year-round. Recall, the Cubs’ Mesa facility has always been not only their Spring Training site, but also a general training facility, a rehab facility, and a minor league training facility. In other words, the Cubs’ needs for the facility have always been intended to extend beyond Spring Training.

Saghy also offered Green’s full statement on behalf of the Cubs, which suggests that the Cubs aren’t particularly interested in bending to ASU’s needs:

The Cubs very much hope ASU will be part of the new Spring Training Facility. Our first priority, however, is building a world class facility for use by the Cubs year-round. This is what Mesa voters approved by referendum and what is at the core of our Spring Training development. We were able to reach an agreement with the Mesa, which benefits the Cubs and Mesa and we hope an agreement can be reached with ASU.

Beyond that, Saghy couldn’t comment any further at this time.

So, what’s the story here? I’m not sure there’s much more to it than a simple dispute about how much Arizona State can use the facilities, how much they should have to pay for that use, and how the two sides’ relationship is going to be governed going forward. With all due to respect to ASU, the partnership was never intended to be an equal share – it was more of a situation where the Cubs were allowing ASU to take advantage of a state of the art facility when the Cubs weren’t using it. Given that setup, I can’t really blame the Cubs for being reluctant to serve ASU’s needs before serving their own.

At the end, you have a local media outlet reporting a local story about a local university having trouble with a big out-of-towner. When I read stories like that, I try to make sure to keep my grains of salt handy.

But that said, you never really know what goes on behind closed doors. Maybe the Cubs are being unfair. Maybe ASU is being unreasonable. We’ll see how it plays out, but I would imagine all sides still want to get a deal done that helps everybody.

  • MichiganGoat

    Yeah, well bite me AZ. :)

    • calicubsfan007

      Ouch Michigan, I have family living there! But never did I say family that I like living there! (=

  • Pat

    What? Crane Kenney lie to get a deal pushed through? Unpossible.

  • Spriggs

    Well, apparently ASU isn’t the only one having problems dealing with the Cubs. It also came out over the weekend that the City of Mesa and the Cubs are also butting heads now on some of the costs. It really does sound to me like the Cubs are tough to deal with.

    http://www.azcentral.com/community/mesa/articles/20120612cubs-mesa-dispute-stadium-spending.html

    • cubs1967

      the cubs also lied about “developing’ the area around the new park into a wrigleyville west entertainment district with restuarants, hotels, etc. they are now waiting till the ‘economy” gets better……….so cubs fans will continute to spend money in scottsdale, old town and tempe. NICE Ricketts family. there are becoming too many of these stories………

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks for passing that along, Spriggs. That one sounds a little more like the kind of dispute you expect to see pop up when two parties are dealing with the nitty gritty of an $88 million agreement.

  • MightyBear

    I hope the Illini kick their ass in football this year.

  • http://www.JayTheJoke.com Bill McCormick

    Go to http://www.cubsaz.com/ and then scroll down to the part about the Sun Devils. That 40 games a year would mean a lot to a new stadium.

  • MightyBear

    This is in response to a previous post regarding Reed Johnson and Soriano but I am sick of players talking about how hard they work. They play baseball for a living. Hard work is stacking brick by hand at a brickyard for 8 hours, coming home and working on the farm until dark and then going to work loading trucks at night, all while helping to raise six kids. That’s hard work. (What my father did before he died prematurely at the age of 49.)

    • CubsFanNYC

      Hard work is not getting up at 6am daily to train, being away from your family for a large portion of the year, and being one injury away from having no salable training for the rest of your life, all in the name of entertainment for people who despise you if you have an off day or two?

      Your version of ‘playing baseball everyday’ might be a lot of fun, but let’s not pretend that these guys aren’t working very hard at what they do.

    • Bails17

      Mighty Bear….you have no idea what it takes to do what ball players do everyday. Period, end of story!

    • ProfessorCub

      This is way off the topic of this post by now…

      Mighty Bear – I’m sorry to hear about your father, and I respect that he worked hard to provide for your family, but I think there’s a common misconception that the only things that count as “work” are things that require hard physical exertion and are “observable” actions. Chopping wood or carrying rocks is hard work, no doubt, but only one type. Let’s be honest, someone that is doing that type of work is 100% replaceable – anyone walking off the street could do the same job equally well (provided that they are physically capable). These tasks require nothing “unique” or “individual” from the person performing them. On the other hand, other types of tasks such as philosophizing, analyzing, or writing are just as hard – even though they may not be physical or observable. These types of things require a unique contribution from the individual, so the people doing them aren’t replaceable by just anyone.

      In the same way, we don’t see much of the hard work that professional athletes put in to perform at that level – especially on the mental side of the game, which may be the hardest part of all. Moreover, these athletes are certainly not replaceable by just anyone who walks off the street – and that’s obviously why they are paid so well.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The other issue is that people confuse “game” and “playing” with “recreation.”  Playing a professional sports game is not recreation, it is very hard work.  Playing guitar in a concert is not recreation, it is very hard work.  Does it look like fun to someone who does not watch all of the hours of tedious practice?  Sure: you are thinking of a beer league softball game or a garage band.

      As for myself, I am a research scientist.  I routinely put in 70 hour weeks when I was younger doing something that a lot of people do for fun: looking at fossils.  I never lifted a damn thing heavier than a few pounds except my brain.  And it was very, very hard work….

      • JasonB

        Well said – for anyone who thinks professional sports isn’t “work”, go through their offseason training program, spend five months a year away from your family and friends like these guys do, or board am airplane at 2:00 in the morning for a cross country flight. If professional baseball wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.

      • necusfan

        I agree that pro musicians and athletes expend a tremendous amount of effort and make manny sacrifices to perform their duties, I believe they generally enjoy what they do. I don’t know any pro baseball players, but I do know a few pro musicians and what they go through to eek out a meager living could only be done if they truly loved what they are doing. Horrible traveling conditions, crappy lodging, getting stiffed by club owners, etc. I think when folks complain (not me BTW) about these pros not “working”, they mean their definition of work. “Work” to many means being forced to do a job that one hates due to economic circumstance. I think. BTW got my BS in Geology all I remember about fossils is that platystrophia is guide fossil for the silurian age, I think. (knowledge I’ve never used since the test in ’95).

        • DocPeterWimsey

          I know a few musicians, and they do a lot of stuff that they find tedious.  However, they find the “moments” make it quite worthwhile.  It almost certainly is much like that for professional athletes.   The problem is that we see the moments and not the tedium.  To be honest, it is the same in science: the novelty of looking at a fossil went away awhile ago, but the “buzz” from getting cool patterns out of those data never goes away.

        • Leroy K.

          I agree with all of this. I am a Soldier. I sit at a computer all day (Human Resources), but I work hard every day. Do I work as hard as the infantry guys that are out there climbing mountains? Probably not, but just because it isn’t manual labor doesn’t mean I don’t work hard.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      There was an article in the St. Louis newspaper, where Matt Holliday was bitching about the team having to play 21 days in a row. He said the union needs to get something in where a team gets a day off at least every 10 days.
      This from a guy who gets 5 months a year off, and earns over $100,000 a game, guaranteed by the way for the next five years, even if he had a career ending injury now. Flies charter and stays at the best 5 star hotels in America.
      While the skill level of modern ballplayers is excellent, I find it amazing how lazy so many of todays big leaguers are. I go to ball games and see them wait till the last second to come out of the dugout between innings, and just slowly walk out to their positions. I believe the movie term was “lollygag”. That is today’s major league player.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Big leaguers used to get pretty much every Monday off, so the modern schedule that often has 2+ weeks of non-stop playing is fairly new.  I’ve flown business and first class a bit, and guess what: it gets old.  I’ve spent a lot of time in hotels: they suck.  Again, that all sounds nice: but try doing it even 1/10th of the amount that these guys do, and you’ll find that it gets old quickly.

        So, what you’ve just done is listed a bunch of reasons why playing professional sports (or being in a touring rock band or any number of other “fantasy” lifestyles) is a heck of a lot more tedious than it appears at first blush.

        • Terrible argument

          But they play baseball! I love playing baseball with my buddies, drinking a beer on the bench. I should be able to get paid millions to do that.

        • https://www.facebook.com/chris.siuty Chris84

          I played in a touring rock band and unless you’re at the top it’s never comfortable and the pay sucks. On the other hand, you discover all sorts of new and exciting smells and meet all sorts of “interesting” people.

          Seriously though… even the most successful musician is totally exhausted from travel. Most bands on their way up often tour 10 – 11 months out of the year. It might look like a bunch of smelly slackers in a van, but the pull into town-load in-play for 30 minutes-load out-sleep on a stranger’s floor-drive to next town routine is rough.

      • FromFenwayPahk

        I think we’ve got a bit of survivorship bias here. How many men try to turn this sport into a profession? There just aren’t that many Holliday’s. There maybe hundreds of (thousands of?) guys for every one success story. But they all, to some degree, are living the baseball (tough) life–forgoing a more conventional life for a while. Most do not get the payout cubfan outlines.

        It is like seeing a gangsta with gold and a lavish lifestyle without seeing the thousands of impoverished or dead who think they can shoot it out until they are the one at the top. So I guess baseball is a bit like a drug cartel…or Amway. (props to Chicago’s own Steven D. Levitt. I think the Amway flourish is his)

        • DocPeterWimsey

          heh, or Wall Street or academia or the entertainment industry or the rest of the business world….

          But you are absolutely correct that we are seeing major survivorship bias, and that the criteria that some fans want to see in players are not traits that were relevant during the culling to get to this level.

  • Tarheel Cub

    There should be some accountability for outrageous salaries and low productivity. And fans have every right to boo what they see as non-hustle – after all, it is the fan who foots the freaking bill for this GAME – yes, game! Ball players should consider it a privelege to take the field. If you don’t like it , GET A REAL JOB !

    • CubsFanNYC

      I started to type a response, but there are so many things wrong with your comment that I thought the better of it.

      • JoeyCollins

        Yeah i just typed a long drawn out response on how ridiculous that comment was, not to mention way off topic Then decided some people will never be able to understand and will alyays hate on others.

    • MichiganGoat

      Sure you can be a a-hole to whoever you want. But why do you feel it’s a privledge? Why would you want to be a jerk to someone just because you want to? We can and should be better than that, right?

      • https://www.facebook.com/chris.siuty Chris84

        Because training, conditioning and spending a large portion of your life working hard to get out of the Dominican and be a ball player is apparently a privilege.

        Everyone knows Hendry over paid for Soriano. I’m pretty sure even Soriano knows Hendry over paid for him, but if someone is going to offer you a high salary and job security (no trade), are you going to say no? Probably not. I wouldn’t.

        I’ve never been a fan of Soriano’s contract, but I can acknowledge that.
        I agree 100% that as a fan base, we should be better than that. You know how you hold players accountable? Don’t go to the games. Don’t buy tickets. That’s what I did last season.

        I can’t help but wonder what the O.P.’s definition of “real job” is, because I have what some would consider a “real job” and I can honestly say that I don’t work nearly as hard as pro ball players do everyday.

    • JulioZuleta

      If you don’t want to “foot the bill”, don’t buy a ticket. It’s pretty simple. I have always hated that argument. Look at all the FREE entertainment the Cubs bring you: you watch up to 162 games a year, you read articles on websites that don’t charge any fees. Anyone that acts like they pay some absurd premium that allows the Cubs to operate is absolutely out of their minds.

      • cubs1967

        here’s a business lesson for ya ; the great Julio Zeleta:

        the TV is not free unless you are using rabbit ears and cubs games are only on half the time now on WGN; so either you miss it or pay a cable/dish bill.

        the websites are not free; you are paying for internet service thru your phone bill, cable bill or smartphone cell bill; somehow that “free” stuff is becoming readable.

        and i have not bought a ticket since ricketts took over or even attended when offered “free tix”; cuz the gas, parking (unless you drive around forever) is not free for such a lousy owner to date.

        i think tarheel cub is entitled to his opinion and can keep the “cub” in his name; last time I checked julio zuleta was a lousy player; funny you have lousy opinons too.

        • BeyondFukudome

          Since you’re so concerned about money, why don’t you buy yourself some tissues? They’re a lot cheaper than internet service.

        • Stinky Pete

          True, I pay for cable. But The Cubs are on cable whether I watch the game or not. I don’t pay extra just for the Cubs.
          True I pay for internet, but I don’t pay specifically for this website.
          And finally, Who drives to Wrigley?

          • hansman1982

            I do and park about 2 blocks west of the stadium…FREE PARKING if you get there early enough…

            No wait, the city paid for paving that portion of the street so its not free.

            • Stinky Pete

              And I’m sure Soriano appreciates you paying his outrageous salary with the money you spend in gas.

  • @cubsfantroy

    I wonder how much of this is because of Ricketts being a pain in the backside and not just his legal team or whomever else may be working on it.

  • RoughRiider

    Through out it all they all have said they are sure it will get worked out. ASU hasn’t always been above board in all things either. They have always thought higher of themselves than the rest of the world does. Just so you don’t think I’m an ASU basher I’m not. I’ve been a fan since the Frank Kush, Bobby Winkles days.

  • Steve

    Hehe…You said Kush….

  • Tarheel Cub

    I say if I pay a hundred dollars for a ticket, a guy making 18 million a year doesn’ hustle one out, I have every right to make a booing sound. I am not promoting violence on anyone. Doesnt every sporting event in the world involve cheering and booing? He didn’t make his bed with one play anyway, it came from a pattern over several years. People get tired of it. Also, My use of the word privelege is pretty self explanatory to old schoolers who respect the game. And I certainly respect the guys on the field who play the game like it is supposed to be played; it was out of line to insinuate these guys don’t work hard for a living. It’s the ones who have the sense of entitlement that gripe me.

    • Kyle

      Of course you can boo. But it’s interesting that you probably won’t boo every single time a player doesn’t run out a play. If you did, you’d find yourself spending pretty much the entire game booing and not having much time to do anything else.

    • Ogyu

      Your use of the word “privelege” is pretty self explanatory to old schoolers who know how to spell.

  • Steve

    So, let me get this straight. The Cubs are supposedly the Scut Farkus of MLB???

    • https://www.facebook.com/chris.siuty Chris84

      You couldn’t tell by the yellow eyes?

  • Tarheel Cub

    Hey Zuleta, if you think it’s free try to walk in the front gate without a ticket… or better yet don’t pay the cable bill and see if the TV still comes on. Why not walk into your sporting good store and ask for a “free jerset”? Do you really think the game goes on without the fan? Free my ass…

    • JulioZuleta

      Don’t buy apparel, don’t go to the game, and watch games on WGN. Free.

      • JulioZuleta

        Oh wait, I forgot about the $1.75 a season you will pay in electricity for having your TV on. My bad. Screw the Cubs and entertainment!!!

  • Tarheel Cub

    WGN not free on my cable package Einstein….

    • JulioZuleta

      I’m deeply sorry. Luckily fans that do appreciate the work the players do, and the tradition of the Cubs will continue to pay reasonable amounts of money to enjoy a product we all love. Have a good day Sir. Maybe take the “Cub” out of your name.

      • Ogyu

        Julio, you need to read that fine print on the back of your tickets: “The ticket purchaser/holder (“Holder”) may say or do whatever the f___ he wants before, during, and after the contest, no matter how obnoxious, because he paid for this g______ ticket. However, Holder voluntarily assumes all risk of property loss and personal injury arising from getting the snot beat out of him for being an almighty douchenozzle.” ;-)

    • hansman1982

      Ok, so if you get the WGN package on your cable bill and 100% of that goes to the Cubs you are now paying for…1/2 of a game’s worth of the pre-game food table…

      STICK IT TO THE CUBS TARHEEL!!!!

  • Tarheel Cub

    WGN not free on my cable package Einstein…. If you want to disrespect the average fan, or what the fan base means to the game in general, that’s your business. This game has been built on the dollars of the fan, and remains only because of the fan. I also have every right to expect maximum effort from a major league player on a regular basis, and I don’t have to sit in robot-fashion if I see something I don’t like. And if you think it’s all corporate money that pays for baseball, where do you think there money comes from?

  • mudge

    What he actually said was, the Cubs are not “people of their world.”

  • Tarheel Cub

    Good point ogyu..got me there. I am certainly no spelling teacher. I do have a lot of heart and passion for the game. I played for many years and tried to do it what I thought was the right way. Unfortunately I have a lot less brain than heart.

  • Tarheel Cub

    I respect your opinions as well, and still stand behind the fans right to boo Soriano for not running to first. Perhaps you should add “loveable loser” to your pen name. I will remain a cub and cheer for effort, and certainly boo the lack of it.

    • K Rock

      If you are really talking about his line drive play he didn’t run on, and also claiming to have baseball knowledge, than that is blasphemy. Christ even Dale said no one runs that out…… It was a fluke play. To be honest, a nationally televised game, listening to the commentators talk about how the fans were boo-ing…. Was pretty embarrassing as a Cubs fan

      It’s a tough year yes, but come on people

  • KB

    Back to Cubs vs. ASU…this hits me right in the heart, as the Cubs are my favorite sports team of any kind, yet I’m an ASU alum, taught at the university, and have lots of family still in the area.
    I’m prolly one of the few on this website hoping for a fair and honorable outcome, but I do hope things can be worked out.

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