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wallet cashAlthough you can always leave yourself open to being pleasantly surprised, I’d like to encourage you to adjust to the financial reality of the Chicago Cubs’ situation right now: payroll will continue to be relatively low for the near-term future.

We’ve discussed it at length over the past seven months or so, and I think most attentive Cubs fans have understood this to be true for a while now. Going back to February, team owner and chairman Tom Ricketts explained that the $135 to $145 million payrolls of the late Tribune era were “unsustainable,” suggesting that the Cubs are affording what they can right now (which, at the time, looked like a payroll in the $95 to $110 million range). From there, a great deal of ink was spilled on the subject of Cubs finances, and whether the Ricketts Family was living up to its pledge to put every dollar that comes in the door right back into the organization.

By the end of April, we had a pretty good sense of what was what: every dollar of revenue the Cubs generate (revenue that is falling along with attendance) is going back into the organization after taxes and ownership’s debt service payments. With revenues on the way down, however, and debt service payments added to the picture (not to mention a stadium renovation to pay for), payroll was bound to decline, even if baseball operations was using every dollar allocated to their department.* The big payroll dollars weren’t going to come, it seemed, until after the Wrigley Field renovation was well underway and a new TV deal had been negotiated (hopefully the portion that expires after 2014, not just the portion that expires after 2019).

*In many instances, wisely: don’t forget that baseball operations has overspent on the last two drafts, hugely overspent in the international free agent market this year, expanded the salaried staff in the front office dramatically, acquired advanced data systems, upgraded minor league facilities, and helped build a state-of-the-art facility in the Dominican Republic.

Though we shouldn’t have needed any further confirmation that payroll could be relatively lean for a little while, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein offered it in an interview on The Score this weekend. The entire interview is worth a listen – it ranges in topics from specific players, to overall progress, to minor league developments, etc. – but the comments I’d like to highlight are as follows:

We are clearly taking the long view here. It is the right thing to do. Some of it is out of necessity, frankly, because we simply don’t have the payroll flexibility that we would need for a quicker talent infusion given some of the limitations and timing of our business plan and the realities of a lot of circumstances surrounding the ball club right now. We need to take the long view. It is not easy. I do enjoy the scouting. I enjoy the draft. I enjoy the player development part of it. I enjoy the young players, I believe in young players. But in an ideal world we would be doing both. We would be infusing a lot more, sort of ready talent in this situation, to speed up the clock a little bit with Major League players. We don’t have that luxury right now.

From there, Epstein goes on to note that, although the plan is to spend more money in free agency in the coming years, that is dependent on the renovation and TV deal(s) coming through as revenue-drivers.

I’ll grant a moment for you to put your hands in your pockets and kick some rocks.

Epstein saying that the baseball operations team does not have the money available to help speed along the rebuild at the big league level is the real bummer. The mere fact of saying it implies that there are or have been big league moves out there that he believes would align with The Plan, but that they cannot make or have not made because of a lack of money. The ability for this front office to sign anyone they believe is worth signing is probably not there right now. That stings.

That said – hands out of pockets, feet at attention – I’m not going to become too despondent for a handful of reasons.

First, given the money coming off of the Cubs’ books in the last year or two, a $100 million payroll isn’t going to cripple the front office. A quick and dirty review of the Cubs’ payroll obligations for 2014 – including generous arbitration raise estimates, and completely ignoring the $13.65 million the Cubs saved this year in trades – puts the organization somewhere in the $62 to $65 million range. Even if payroll is cut further to $90 million, that’s still $25 million to work with in improving the 2014 big league roster.

Second, even in the face of falling payroll and budgetary restrictions, it’s not like the Cubs weren’t able to go out and spend last year. Edwin Jackson was actually one of the bigger free agent signings of the Winter. The Cubs also committed more than $20 million to Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, and Kyuji Fujikawa. The Cubs signed Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo to extensions. These are guaranteed dollar commitments that could have waited if the only motivation at play was saving money in the short-term. This is all to say: there is money available to be spent. It isn’t Yankee or Dodger money – hell, it probably isn’t even Oriole or Giant money right now – but contracts can be signed.

Third, the 2014 free agent class is extremely weak, and likely wasn’t the way for the Cubs to improve their near-term roster anyway. You don’t just start spending like crazy because you want to bring payroll back up. You spend when it makes sense to spend, regardless of where payroll stands. This offseason, other than a player or two (Choo? Tanaka?), I’m not sure I see where it makes sense to spend big bucks.

Fourth, I really can see the synergy of the business and baseball plans that Epstein describes. Even if I’d prefer that the Cubs were competitive sooner rather than later – I have written about a terrible team every single day for almost five seasons now – I’ve always been on board with the rebuild. I can see the fruits of that effort down the road, and I can see when it’s going to make sense to spend big. It doesn’t look like 2014 is going to be that year (a season in which I’ve always said I hope to see a team that looks like a .500-ish team on paper going into the season), but we could see some real traction by 2015 from the farm system. That doesn’t just mean players breaking through in the bigs, but it also means trading duplicative pieces for Major League players. And, going into 2015, the Cubs will have secured a new TV deal for the portion of games currently airing at a bargain rate on WGN, and the renovation will have (hopefully!) reached the point where a couple large, revenue-generating signs will be going up in the outfield.

From there, a window opens where revenue begins to increase alongside a more competitive team. That, in turn, drives more attendance, and more revenue. That, in turn, drives more payroll flexibility … just at the time when it becomes the most important, on the opening of a long-term competitive window.

None of this is to say it is time to check out until 2015. Because I remain optimistic that the front office, with the resources afforded them, can put together a .500-ish team on paper going in 2014 (it’s easy to forget how close this year’s team was to being a .500-ish team in the first half, given the underlying metrics), you never know what could happen in the next 8 to 12 months. Maybe Starlin Castro turns it around at the same time Anthony Rizzo really breaks out. Maybe the one or two offseason additions are huge boons to the team. Maybe Jeff Samardzija fulfills the promise of ace-dom, and the rest of the rotation pitches as well as it has, generally, this year. Maybe Javier Baez really is ready by midseason. Maybe Kris Bryant is, too. The ability of the Cubs to spend big money in 2014 on payroll is not going to be the primary deciding factor in that team’s competitiveness.

If the Cubs sit out the spending this Winter, I’m probably not going to be too upset, given the reality of the financial situation, the reality of a weak free agent class, and the reality of various timelines.

Instead, I will continue to follow the renovation and TV deal story lines with as much vigor as ever. Because, even as I say that the ability of the Cubs to spend big money in 2014 on payroll is not going to be the primary deciding factor in that team’s competitiveness, I do recognize that, long-term, teams that can spend money tend to make the playoffs more consistently than teams that cannot.

  • Kyle

    Personally, I would have used “claimed” rather than “explained” for Ricketts joining the endless parade of sports owners to cry poor.

    That said, it is what it is. We’re functionally a mid-market team because of various bad decisiosn by consecutive owners. Oh well.

  • Curt

    I’d have to agree if the ricketts family overspent to but thd cubs put that with bad contracts and ignoring the farm system for years and bad ownership for years and a ballpark falling apart it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that a big market team has been turned into a mid to small market team myb it comes around in a few more years.

    • terencemann

      My earlier point was just that the Cubs only spent like a big market team a few years until they bloated the heck out of the payroll at the end of the Tribune/Zell ownership.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Make a note to yourself that when the Cubs do start winning the first thing your boy Ricketts will announce is a raise in ticket prices because he knows all you season ticket holders will pay up.
    I will not buy a ticket to a Cub game or buy a beer from a vendor until this new ownership announces an across the board drop in ticket prices in a % that matches the drop in payroll.
    We should pay for performance on the field and in the FO, not some promise from an owner who says just wait and see. I’ll still watch the games on TV, and I’ll pay the price on my cable bill should they start their own station in 2019, but I’ll not pay the per game ticket prices this owner is currently asking from a loyal fan base.

    • terencemann

      I certainly agree with the sentiment that ticket prices shouldn’t go up or at least they should not go up at the same rate other teams will increase them before next season.

    • cub2014

      Lou, I like what the front office and owners are doing
      in a little over a year they have turned our minor league
      system from 15-20th place to #1 or #2 and have eliminated
      these burdensome contracts. That being said they know
      they must field a competitive next year. I think they will.
      Besides if you dont like the product you have the power to
      say no to tickets and everything else that is the Cubs

      • Aisle 19

        They’ve had 2 winter trade meetings, 2 drafts and 2 International signing periods.

    • jkppkj

      Lou, your wish for a drop in ticket prices reminds me of a saying my grandmother loved.

      Wish in one hand and shit in the other, see which one fills up first.

      I’m not saying you’re wrong or don’t deserve a reduction in ticket prices, but I think the reality is that you won’t be going to games.

  • rich

    I guess were stuck with another alligator arms like Reinsdorf ! It’s a shame a big city with cheap owners , like Lou Brock said when they start winning Reinsdorf #2 will raise ticket prices !

  • cRAZYHORSE

    The days that Cub fans freaking out about payroll should be over. This team stinks by design. Little Theo is the perfect President of Baseball Operation for this team . Theo is a prudent man that can evaluate talent which makes him ideal for a rebuild, his name recognition should keep die hearts Cub fans salivating for promises of World Series titles.
    Eventually .the Cubs will be judge on the product that this current front office puts on the field and when that times comes is when people should buy tickets to watch the Cubs, not only play but compete with major league teams at a professional level.

    This Front Office get an F on the 25 man .roster The Coaching staff gets an D- cant blame the scapegoats when it comes to teaching and inspiring mediocre players to play professional baseball. The players on the 25 man roster i give them a C + – its a terrible feeling when you know your team is at best ,a top minor league team in the major league .

    I finally went to a Cub game this year. – bleacher were near empty, the crowd around the park was scarce. tickets could be bought for half price and lower . heck some people tried to give tickets away (free) but the group I was in had the illusion that we need to sit together hence the half price sale to our group. That was a mistake we could have sat almost every anywhere (in the grand stands… old term)
    Inside the park the crowd was boring the team was boring hmm the only thing that the Cubs seem to market was those damn BISON DOGS cant even get a real Chicago Dog at Wrigley- pure shame.

    It was, what I expected – sad . better days are ahead.

    On the bright side we did save a ton of money. When the Cubs Win people spend money in the park as well outside of the park but season like this – Saving money is just the Cubs way and its contagious even with its fans .

    A real bore.

    • #23

      Why do you call him “Little Theo”? He is a very accomplished and respected baseball executive. No reason to belittle him. He has done a phenomenal job so far.

    • http://www.hookersorcake.com Hookers or Cake

      Send in the clowns…

    • mjhurdle

      “This Front Office get an F on the 25 man .roster The Coaching staff gets an D- cant blame the scapegoats when it comes to teaching and inspiring mediocre players to play professional baseball.”

      so, the front office gets an ‘F’ because it failed to provide players capable of playing acceptable baseball, then the coaching staff gets a D- because they were not able to get the roster full of players not capable of playing professional baseball to play professional baseball?

  • Aaron

    Read Brett’s article and listened to Theo’s interview. I am more concerned now about the Cubs over the next season that I was before doing those two things. Yes I understand that spending money this off season on a few overpriced free agents is not the way to go. That train passed by a season or two ago. Now we are in it for the long run…drafts and player development. In the mean time, we are in a major market with some of the most expensive tickets in the majors. Their young players such as Rizzo and Castro are feeling the “heat” of carrying the team. How is that for their development?

  • TJ

    “I’ll grant a moment for you to put your hands in your pockets and kick some rocks.”

    Love the writing, Brett.

  • Kyle

    Also, I really wish Theo would quit saying we had a consensus bottom-5 system when he took over. It ain’t true.

    • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

      Why would he? That would defeat his own logical purposes to say he took over a trash dump, and now, the rose pedals of baseball glory are soon budding from the garden of prospects he and Jed seeded to the creation of the Uber Rose Garden of Baseball Farm Systems.

      You’ve heard of Prepare 3 envelopes tactic…
      1) Blame Predecessor
      2) Reorganize
      3) Prepare 3 Envelopes

    • http://obstructedview.com Aisle424

      What about that Cubs system that Theo inherited made it anything better than bottom-5 at the time? Technically, Baez and the rest from that draft were in it, but every team’s drafts look strongest when the draft is done. The players drafted haven’t had a chance to disappoint anyone yet. Hell, Hayden Simpson was appearing on Top Cubs prospects lists right after he was drafted.

      When Theo got here, he had a bunch of just-drafted question marks, a pile of crap, with Vitters and Jackson as the cherries on top. Who was worse than that?

      Also, when he talks about the farm system, I think he also is taking the actual developmental philosophies that were in place at the time, which were inconsistent at best and virtually non-existent at worst. Also, the scouting and development personnel were among the smallest groups in baseball.

      Barely any talent + no plan + not enough people for all the work = terrible, horrible, no good, very bad minor league system. Calling it “Bottom 5″ is being charitable.

      • MichaelD

        In January of 2012, Minor League Ball had the Cubs 20th.

        In March of 2012, Baseball America had them 14th. Mark Hulet had them 22nd.

        The only one at the time who was saying the Cubs had a bottom 5 farm system was Peter Gammons and he is not an expert on farm systems.

        • http://obstructedview.com Aisle424

          Like I said, that is looking at the talent at the time (which was bolstered by the latest draft and because Vitters and Jackson still looked useful). Looking back and knowing what we know now, that system was a dumpster fire rivaled only by the state of the actual major league team.

          • Kyle

            The fact that Javier Baez exists proves that what you just said is horsehockey.

      • Kyle

        “What about that Cubs system that Theo inherited made it anything better than bottom-5 at the time?”

        The fact that there were more than four teams with worse prospect pools?

      • Kyle

        So the prospects we thought were good but turned out bad don’t count.

        And the prospects we didn’t know for sure but turned out to be bad don’t count.

        That’s an awfully convenient set-up you’ve got there.

      • mjhurdle

        I think that sums it up fairly well.
        Probably not a bottom 5 system pure talent wise, but combine the lower resources with the perceived lack of any sort of plan, and add too it a lack of depth and you get a pretty bad system. I guess it would depend on how exactly each person defines ‘system’.

        Theo should have hedged and just said ‘bad’ and removed the ‘consensus’. That way he wouldn’t have opened a door for people to nit-pick the statement.

        • Kyle

          When people are referring to “consensus system rank,” they are clearly referring to the prospect rankings put out by various publications.

          Nobody ranks plans and infrastructure.

          It’s not nit-picking. He’s just exaggerating to make himself look better.

          • mjhurdle

            “Nobody ranks plans and infrastructure.”

            i doubt that very much. just because they dont package it in a public and easily consumable way does not mean that the Chicago Cubs have absolutely no way of knowing how their minor league payroll, scouting departments, facility maintenance, etc stack up against other MLB franchises.

            I would be very surprised to see the Cubs, or any franchise, acting that much in the dark as to what other teams are doing.

            • Kyle

              Consider the word “consensus.”

            • Kyle

              Although Epstein has said in the past that he was shocked at how bad the Cubs’ infrastructure were, so that says that he didn’t know that much about other teams when he was in Boston.

              • mjhurdle

                like i said earlier, it depends on how you define ‘system’. neither way is wrong.
                i look at it as him saying the complete system was a mess. that, among front offices it was considered pretty bad. was top 5 an exaggeration? maybe, but not by much. if he had said bottom 10, would that change his statement that much?
                if you look at it as him saying that they were bottom 5 in that year’s Baseball America’s rankings, then it was a much bigger exaggeration. i can see that line of thought, although i dont necessarily agree with it.
                if you then also choose to believe that baseball front offices operate in complete seclusion from each other, with no teams having the slightest idea where they stand in terms of payroll, size, talent, etc to the other teams, and your support for that is that Epstein was shocked at just how bad the Cubs infrastructure was; then you might be spending too much time with Diehard

                • Kyle

                  You are twisting *very* hard to make Epstein sound better.

                  • mjhurdle

                    agree to disagree then.
                    i choose to believe that baseball front offices consider more than the latest edition of fantasy prospect rankings when considering the strength of their minor league system.
                    if that is twisting, then i agree, i am twisting.

                    • Kyle

                      You are dodging the point. We aren’t talking about what they consider. We are talking about what he was referring to when he used a common phrase.

                • mjhurdle

                  * :)
                  forgot to add a smiley at the end

  • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

    What amazes is that the Cubs are still ABOVE the MLB average for attendance with this losing club – especially, at home (27-43), only Houston is crappier at their home park (22-48). The Cubs lost over 3,000 fans per game – in 2013.

    2009: 39,610 (46-34)
    2010: 37,814 (35-46)
    2011: 37,258 (39-42)
    2012: 36,158 (38-43)
    2013: 33,095 (27-43)

    What this displays:
    2009: coming off a playoff – packed house in 2009.

    2010: About 4.5% decline in attendance as the Cubs were under .500 at home/overall. Lose those ‘fair weather’ fans…

    2011:Surprisingly 2011, only lost a somewhat meager amount 550 or so. Pretty decent home record helped for a 71-91 overall posting.

    2012: again, lose fans, 1,100 – 2.9% from the prior year. Remaining fair weather….gone.

    2013: Cubs defeats at home has eroded the next tier of the fan base, the cynical and fed up with losing ones…(which changes from day to day – bipolar types these are.)

    So, do the Cubs maintain this fan base with abysmal play in 2014? (MLB average crowd here we come if we post a crap home record.)

    Are Cubs fans like Linus??? Yep.

    [img]http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/7/74/GreatPumpkin.jpg/220px-GreatPumpkin.jpg[/img]

    • MichaelD

      Attendance numbers are tickets sold, not the number who actually attend. The season tickets put a floor on the number of tickets sold. Not as many people are going, but it is not hitting the Cubs bottom line as dramatically as it would if people stopped buying season tickets.

    • http://obstructedview.com Aisle424

      Season tickets account for about 25,000 per game in attendance without one single game ticket being sold.

      If the Cubs refused to sell tickets to anyone but Season Ticket Holders next year, and added no more Season Tickets to the pool, they would still announce attendance of 2 million for the season. As long as the Season Tickets sell (and there is still reportedly a wait list), the Cubs literally can not sell less than 2 million tickets. That’s almost 2/3 of total capacity.

      This is why they can do what they are doing. They have that money, they know they have that money, and they don’t feel compelled in the slightest to deter from their plan to appease people who aren’t bright enough to stop spending money on something they should know will be terrible.

  • Bea Arthur’s Deceased Husband

    For months after Gordon wittenmyer did his big reveal about the debt, I tried to believe he was wrong, cynical, angry, and bitter. Looks like he was right. And as long time season ticket holder, I so get why people are frustrated here. I want a winner.

    However, I have complete faith in the baseball side. Not as much in the business side.

    Why are people getting so snippy with Brett? He wrote a balanced and honorable piece. It’s what seems to be the reality. I don’t think he bought the team with so much debt. How about giving some praise for writing 1500 words of honesty? IF you don’t like it, don’t go to games. Don’t watch. That’s your choice.

    But unlike say, Rick Morrissey’s story today (which lacked nuance), let’s support Brett. Or at least I do.

    • http://obstructedview.com Aisle424

      “IF you don’t like it, don’t go to games. Don’t watch. That’s your choice.”

      YES! EXACTLY! A MILLION TIMES THIS!!

      Nobody is forcing us to watch this stuff. If you don’t like how your head feels when you slam it into the wall repeatedly, just stop slamming your head against the wall. At least do it less. But if you feel compelled to continue to voluntarily slam your own head against the wall, I have no sympathy at all.

      • Aisle 19

        well 500,000 fewer this year than 2011 have done just that.

        • http://obstructedview.com Aisle424

          There are still 11 home games left, so tack on another 280,000 or so to the current total and they’re only down about 200,000. Not bad for back-to-back-to-back 90+ loss seasons.

          • Aisle 19

            that would be down 200,00 from last year.
            This year will be down to the 1998 level.

      • Brains

        Great analytical and well researched article by Brett, I think most of us agree.

        But these “don’t watch if you don’t like it” kind of comments are just atrocious and rude. Don’t watch if you want the team you’ve been cheering for your whole life to do well in spite of clear problems? That’s a disgraceful position for someone to take in a discussion about the good of the team.

  • Chef Brian

    Yeah well I have stuck with the Cubs for over 30 yrs, through ownership changes, regime changes and through the highs and mostly lows and you know what I always will because they are MY TEAM by choice. So rather than shout myself hoarse at my computer screen or television screen, I will simply say with Shakespeare(with a twist) “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the Ivy wall up with our Cubby Passion! In the Offseason there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of the Season blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the Bear.” A little lightness to break up the doom and gloom. We all visit this sight because we are fans and we care about our team. “It’s always darkest before the dawn…” We are seeing something special being built here, a team that will produce pipeline of talent, we have some of the brightest, best minds in baseball at the helm. I will fall with them before I’ll abandon this team. Have a great day chaps!

    • TheDondino

      [img]http://i39.tinypic.com/33wppjl.jpg[/img]

  • wilbur

    This is all to say: there is money available to be spent. It isn’t Yankee or Dodger money – hell, it probably isn’t even Oriole or Giant money right now – but contracts can be signed.

    I agree with this, although I think it is probably close to or better than Oriole or Giant Money.
    It also can be close to Dodger and Yankee money if the Cubs can get out from under the banana republic media deals the tribune corp saddled them with, then they can act like a full big market team, they already are one in terms of attention.

    Wasteful spending now just trying to act like a big market team now would be foolish and only lead back to the kind of false hope and repeated failures of the past 4 or 5 decades. Do Cubs fans really want big splash free agents signed to albatross deals, like soriano? I don’t . And I don’t think hitting some high dollar payroll mark is how you should evaluate the cubs, it is stupid way to look at a team. Steve Stone tried to tell cubs fans repeatedly that Jim Hendry spent more money, close to a billion dollars in all, than any Cubs GM in history and had less to show for it. If that is what season ticket holders need to make them feel good about buying a ticket and going to a game, then the cubs need to renovate the season ticketholders too.

    I think most of the comments and complaints about the payroll size and not being a large market team aren’t coming from cubs fans. Most real cubs fans can see the progress and know things are headed in the right direction for the first time in a long time.

    Time is often more critical for a plan’s success than money. Anyone worried about attendance is a joker, in two or three years the ticket demand will be off the scale. When the cubs are competing for a title, fan and media attention will be unprecedented. Ricketts are laying the ground work for the players, and the stadium, and the media deals, the complete organisation to manage and to capitalize on what will be the greatest sports story of the millenium. Enjoy the ride Cubs fans!!

    • http://bleachenation Sacko

      I continue to think Castro and Rizzo will be all right given a better team. Look how Sori took off and continues to produce now that he has a reason to show up everyday on a winning team. I still think FO need to make a few more moves that will inspire Shark to sign longer.
      If they are going to recycle the money it’s no brainer to get some people in the stands. I’m not going to underestimate the sounds of the conservatism, the money will be there for 1 position player and a pitcher. In addition to some tradable pieces. One being Barney, Steve Stone has quoted that a lot of teams want him.

    • 1060Ivy

      Or Ricketts will sell the team in 4 – 6 years with: a newly renovated stadium, on the verge of renegotiation TV deal(s), and a team of home grown talent with a fairly low payroll.

      Given the current state of the team and the development pipeline, if the team is competitive or the drop in attendance may be less critical factors to the team’s valuation than these other factors.

  • Rebuilding

    As someone pointed out last night – Let’s not forgot that “baseball operations” includes principal and interest paid to the Ricketts family trust and the salaries paid to every Tom, Dick and Harry in the Ricketts family they have stuck on the board (which could be any amount as we have no way of knowing what the salary is for their hard work). If any of us had been told that they were going to cut payroll to the $80-100mil range would anyone have been in favor of their bid winning? Given that the franchise has surely gone up in value since their well timed purchase – what would be the harm in running a bit of a “loss” the first couple of years? Mark Cuban almost certainly would have…and probably why Selig was so against him getting the team

    • http://odu Greenroom

      This ^

    • baseballet

      I agree!

  • Die hard

    Memo to Theo: no more free agents until Club is over .500 at All Star break Memo to Ricketts: lease all new signage to Facebook and watch the young fans flock to the confines

    • jon

      Memo to die hard, take your medication

      • another JP

        Uhhh- Diehard has some method to his madness with that take. Best ideas I’ve heard from him yet- especially the one about no more FA signings. And an exclusive Facebook marketing agreement would certainly turn some heads in MLB & Wall St… bravo, Mr. Diehard for some great thinking outside the box. Or universe as some may have it.

  • Steve

    The Cubs should win tonite even with a lineup that is slightly better than the lineup of a TRIPLE AAA team.

  • Brains

    Poor Brett, he has to face this near-mutiny because we have no voice in the organization itself. :)

    It’s only going to get worse as we sink further and neglect another offseason. In some ways it doesn’t seem like we’ve even begun to rebuild.

  • Gutshot5820

    Well all MLB teams are getting an extra 25M from MLB TV contracts to spend next year, so if Ricketts was telling the truth, we should have an additional 25M added to our payroll right…right…right?

  • Sean T

    So the Rickett’s aren’t receiving one dime of the money made by Cubs revenue? I find that hard to believe. I doubt they are sinking every penny back in the team. So the 4 Ricketts family members don’t receive any compensation such as a salary or any such thing. Yes they could definitely just live off their TD Ameritrade wealthy they bring in, very comfortably, but I just find it so hard to believe they aren’t receiving any compensation.

    • Rebuilding

      No one here knows those details. The interest rate on the loan from the family trust could be anything and the salaries could be anything. The Ricketts could be siphoning off $50mil a year in those ways and the “every bit of revenue is going to baseball operations” would technically still be true. Since it is all private organizations we have no way of knowing

      • Sean T

        Rebuilding: Thanks for the clarification. I would love to take a look at the MLB’s books. It definitely would be interesting.

  • Sean T

    Does anyone know when the Ricketts will be completely done payoff the complex debt structure for the Cubs from Tribune? I know the debt structure is very complicated because of the Tribune was trying to avoid higher taxes. Is it going be fully paid off in the next 10 years or so?

  • Sean T

    I’d be pretty interest to hear what the Cubs think of Tanaka. I’m sure there is interest but more of question how much are they willing to spend to get him? From what I’ve read he’s not as good or have the upside of Yu Darvish but is much better then Dice K. But in a bad FA market he/or the posting team could land a pretty penny for his services. I just hope we aren’t the team to overpay…Edwin Jackson….

  • MoneyBoy

    Brett… I’m really late getting to this. Wonderful work. This is presented in an even handed and rational fashion… as always.

    This never was going to be easy. The city is a pathetic joke, the alderman is an especially egregious example of a politician ‘representing the interests of his constituency’ while snickers and legend insist he’s lining his own pockets.

    Zell, doing what he always does, made it so miserable that many other potential buyers backed out of a chance to buy the team. The family, led by what I know to be a dyed in the wool fan, signed on. You have to wonder now if they really knew just how bad the circumstances were.

    You have to give them credit. As you stated, they’ve upgrades systems, personnel, and facilities here and in the D.R. Spent an average of over $10 million in 2011-13 – per year. Nearly $8mm this year in the IFA market.

    To close – you talked about Bryant and Baez being here by 2015. Just me – but I suspect Bryant will be ready sooner – simply a matter of age *and* talent. We’ll see. Thanks again for a really good read!! JJN

  • Deacon

    There’s another way to acquire players that involves spending money — acquiring players pricing themselves out of small markets. Why is that never mentioned by Brett et al? It’s not free agency…or nothing. Simplifying to such binary reasoning as because it’s a bad free agent class the Cubs should make no significant moves is the height of faulty reasoning.

    • mjhurdle

      I love it!
      why pay for players under longer contracts with prospects or free agents with $$$ when you can find players that cost you both prospects and money!!
      genius i say!!!

      ps. this idea has been mentioned 1,987,342,651 times regarding David Price.

  • Die hard

    Don’t be surprised if Bud gives Ricketts permission to either bring in as partner or sell outright to a whale such as Ballmer, Cuban et al which would then allow the team to compete with the big boys so it can then act as a big city team rather than bud lite

    • Rebuilding

      Why would Selig want that? Do you think he wants the one team in the Brewers division that could dominate it to be competently run? We had such a prospective owner in Cuban – a guy who was willing to make a 1.2 billion bid (as opposed to Ricketts $950 mil) with far less debt. A guy who said he wouldn’t siphon ANY money off, none, and Selig wouldn’t even sit down and meet with him. Selig told the Trib flat out that Cuban wouldn’t even be considered

      • Die hard

        Impeach Bud and sign him up for trip to Mars

      • mjhurdle

        “the one team in the Brewer’s division that could dominate it”

        the Brewers as a franchise have 1 AL pennant, and 2 division titles in 43 years.
        I dont think you can limit the teams that dominate the Brewers to just one….

        • Rebuilding

          I guess you missed my point. There is one team in the NL Central who has the ability to dominate the way the Yankees have done from the standpoint of financial resources – the Cubs. It’s a lot different being the Brewers saying if we could only run our team better we could have a chance or saying we have to be the Rays to even have hope

          • mjhurdle

            “or saying we have to be the Rays, or Boston, or the Orioles to even have hope”

            fixed that for you.

            • Rebuilding

              Boston is the #2 payroll team in baseball. The Orioles were bad for 20 years. If you don’t get the point I was making then we can just leave it there

  • http://It'searly Mike F

    Highest respect for Brett, but too many have over-reacted to some vague statements from Theo. If indeed Theo was stating they are in a difficult strait and his hands are tied, he would be putting himself in a difficult situation with his owner. For a moment, let me say, I don’t think Ricketts is a genius, but I don’t think he’s stupid here either. I simply believe people read into the things he said what they want combined with normal whispers and speculation. I believe if the Cubs want players in fa they will have the resources to go get them. If that is not true, Theo is not nearly as sharp as most of us think and Ricketts is dumb and likely slimy. I don’t think any of that is the case. He didn’t come to Chicago to lose and have his hands tied by an idiot owner. Again, nothing but respect to Brett, I just think Cub fans always expect and fear the worse. I really believe the cubs are in the process of turning the corner and too much microscope gazing by too many of us who don’t know what we are looking at. It will all take care of itself.

    • mjhurdle

      “I just think Cub fans always expect and fear the worse.”

      this is very true,
      hence all the “OMG THE CUBS ARE BROKE!!!” and “Ricketts is simply shuffling millions of dollars to his family and calling that baseball operations” posts.

      • MichiganGoat

        Yup if some fans have nothing to bitch about they don’t know how to be fans

        • Rebuilding

          Should all fans be happy about consecutive 95+ loss seasons while cutting payroll by over $50 million. Letting useful pieces like DeJesus go for nothing but $2.5mil in savings? Should we all get together here and talk about beer we like and post meme-generators. This place is a place for discussion – why are some of you threatened by discussing the bad with the good (like the farm system?)

          • mjhurdle

            the DeJesus trade was brilliant. i was very happy about that. I couldn’t believe they were able to get 2.5 million for a month and a half of a 4th OF.

          • Hansman1982

            Yes. Sit down, shut up and be happy.

          • willis

            No. The amount of losing that has happened the last four years is ridiculous. Especially for a “big” market team which is now a “middle” market team. It sucks to see the results at the big league level where they are and I think most of us are pissed about it. Watching this team suck year after year having more resources than any team in the division.

            But, it’s the direction that was chosen (or forced if you buy what Theo was saying). So we have no choice but to realize this isn’t a big market team anymore.

          • MichiganGoat

            It’s not about being happy it’s about being realistic and not letting a couple of down seasons during a total rebuild cause everyone to go all Veruca Salt and scream SIGN ALL THE PLAYERS I WANNA WIN NOW DADDY. NOW OR I’M GOING TO THROW A FIT.

            If you didn’t understand this is what the rebuild would bring you have t been paying attention or just love to scream and be frustrated with life.

            • Caryatid62

              That depiction is an utter caricature and ignores the real concerns people are raising.

              • MichiganGoat

                We get the concerns the MOAR THEO HAS NO MONEY RICKETTS IS CHEAP AND BROKE WE WON’T WIN FOR YEARS aren’t new and nothing is being added to that “discussion.”

                • Caryatid62

                  Man, when you go for the strawman, you just embrace the hell out of it.

                  • MichiganGoat

                    Your concerns have been voiced over and over and over… we get it. It sucks not to be able to spend freely, it sucks to lose, it sucks to have to jump through flaming hoops of bullshit to get the okay to remodel you house, it sucks that we lost the blind bid for Darvish, it sucks that Puig signed with the Dodgers, it sucks – I GET THAT. But saying how much it sucks and searching for someone to blame with very little evidence is not discussion it’s frustration blinding you.

                    I’ll gladly discuss but when the goal of your discussion is for me to agree with you we are no longer having a discussion- that is ESPN Skip Bayless Debate and it’s happening on here way to frequently.

                    • Rebuilding

                      Brett posted an article reacting to Epstein’s comments on finances. Some found his mood/tone a little more dour than usual and now we are discussing the implications. Why does that upset you so much? Feel free to skip over it

                    • Caryatid62

                      You’re not interested in discussing anything that questions your allegiance to the ownership group. You’ve only demonstrated a willingness to caricaturize and berate those who are not as supportive as you.

                      If you believe these criticisms to be what you claim them to be, feel free to ignore them. No one is forcing you to respond. But I don’t think you do think theres more than a little truth to them, which is why you can’t help but go over the top in your defense of the organization.

                    • MichiganGoat

                      Look guys I agree it sucks that we don’t have the money to spend as freely as everyone wishes. I get that. But what are we discussing? How much it sucks? It sucks pickled donkey balls. But we less than a fraction on the motivations of Theo stating this and the realities of the Cubs financial situation. I can’t discuss a horribly incomplete equation. Instead we are just wildly speculating on letting frustration cloud rationale discourse. There just isn’t much to discuss, hearts were broken and questions will never be answered- so instead of shaking fist and being angry I choose to continue on the ride and enjoy the journey.

                    • Jeff

                      I’ve just estimated that we have 30 Million dollars to spend in the off season to get us to a 95 million dollar payroll, how do you say that is lacking in finances.

                      I for one would like to see the plan to improve this team from what we currently have and with 30 million to spend, we should be able to add some impact to the roster.

              • mjhurdle

                id say Goat nailed his depiction very well.

                discussion is one thing, but coming on to cry about imaginary flaws you see (usually due to the always reliable ‘eye test’) and then call anyone that disagrees with you an apologist seems to fit Veruca Salt very well.

            • Gutshot5820

              And here comes the three stooges Theo/Ricketts apologists… get ready for him and the rest of the Brady Bunch to crucify anyone that has a different opinion than him and dare anyone to say one negative thing about his highness…

              • Hansman1982

                Ooo, can I be Moe?

              • MichiganGoat

                And hear comes the crying child of BN that never believes that anyone can disagree with him.

                • Gutshot5820

                  I’m convinced you are a psycho. I have no problem with people with differing opinions. I do have problems with pompous asses like you that have no other reason to live than be on BN and crucify people that have one negative opinion of your worship.

                  • MichiganGoat

                    Um I’m not the stalker that loves to go after me anytime I say anything that doesn’t completely agree with your doomsday beliefs. Don’t reply to me I won’t reply to you… mkay

                    • Gutshot5820

                      Step off the ledge, psycho Goat.

                    • mjhurdle

                      gutshot must be related to Annie somehow.

                    • MichiganGoat

                      Oh gunshot thanks for proving my above point… stalk away kid

                    • Gutshot5820

                      Good grief, so says the psycho that keeps trolling through this discussion and berating everyone who has a disappointing opinion of the Cubs current state of finances. I think many people have already told you to bug off and leave them alone so I’m not going to continue to beat a dead horse of what is so apparently obvious now.

            • Rebuilding

              What a silly reply. Questioning why payroll has been cut so drastically is not SIGN ALL OF THE PLAYERS. It is a legitimate question. Asking whether Epstein can actually go after the players he wants to is a legitimate question. Asking whether this was actually “the plan” or whether it became the plan because of financial constraints is a legitimate question

              • willis

                Yes it is. But you aren’t going to win that argument with some. And that’s fine, it’s different views. But I’m with you, I don’t think these financial restrictions were part of “the plan”. But they are now.

          • cms0101

            I’m with you on the discussion thoughts. That’s what this place is for. But enough about DeJesus already. They haven’t missed him AT ALL. The OF production has been as good or better since his departure. Forget about the $2.5mil savings. They let him go because they wanted to see other OFs play every day. Bogusevic, Sweeney, Schierholtz, and Lake are getting his at bats, and they are doing more with them than he did. Yes, DeJesus was a likeable guy. Sure, he was good in the clubhouse, or so we hear. And yes, his wife is hot. But he’s not an everyday player. He hasn’t been for 3-4 seasons. I don’t mean to be taking shots at you on this, I’m just tired of the irrational DeJesus love in Cubs Nation.

            • Rebuilding

              No irrational love of DeJesus at all. Just think its unfortunate that the Nationals got a prospect for him and we didn’t given that he’s a productive player on a cheap contract

              • cms0101

                The Nationals were in a better position down the waiver claim chain to make that happen. The Cubs did the best they could by saving that money and clearing a roster spot. The Nationals took a chance on a guy they didn’t need, hoping to be able to flip him to someone else. There is still a PTBNL attached, so we don’t know what they’ll get for him. Even if it’s another $50k, that’s great. They desperately tried to trade him before the deadline and there wasn’t a whole lot of interest. What the Rays gave the Nationals, an A-ball reliever if I’m not mistaken, is not a big loss one way or another. I don’t view this as an error by the Cubs. It’s just a good move by the Nationals to take advantage of where they sat in the waiver claim process.

            • Rebuilding

              You missed the point. I don’t disagree with you about DeJesus at all, but we are rebuilding and the Nationals got a prospect for him and we didnt. That shouldn’t have happened.

              • cms0101

                The Nationals were in position to get that prospect and the Cubs weren’t. What were their options if the Nationals were just going to claim him? Keep him and pay the $2.5mil to watch him walk away in the offseason. Once the Nationals claimed him, the Cubs made the best of the situation and took the savings. The alternative would have been what, keep him and pay the $2.5 mil for the rest of this season and the buyout? Why? So he could take at bats away from guys that are legitimate options for next year? They were never bringing him back for $6mil next season. Once the Nationals stuck their nose in the DeJesus waiver process, what they did was all the Cubs could do.

                • Rebuilding

                  I understand how the waiver wire works. My point is that he should have either been moved before the waiver deadline or in the offseason if he was worthy of a prospect. If I would have suggested before the season that we would get nothing but salary relief for moving DeJesus I would have been laughed off the board

                  • cms0101

                    You don’t think they tried to move him before the deadline? I cannot imagine he wasn’t widely available at the deadline. The Cubs were probably willing to even eat some of his salary for a better prospect. But a deal was never close enough to happen. Why cave just to dump him for a low level middle reliever when you know he can be moved via waiver claim in August? The $2.5 mil is more likely to be worth more than what the Nats got in return. The Nats were just clever in creating value for themselves where there wasn’t for the Cubs. The only people “laughing” you off the board are the irrational DeJesus supporters.

                    • Rebuilding

                      Well, the Nats got a prospect and paid zero salary. He was our chip and we got nothing but salary relief. The Rays obviously wanted him – so either their situation changed after August 1 or the Nats found value where we did not. If it was the former then I would have rather have held on to him and tried to deal him this offseason. If it was the latter then that was a mistake. Either way it’s not a huge deal, but does give us some indication of the money situation as most big market clubs don’t generally dump useful pieces/trade bait for salary relief

                    • Hansman1982

                      The Cubs had no intention of picking up DeJesus’ salary and clearly there wasn’t interest at the deadline or he would have been traded the. (He was just coming off injury) After Aug 1 DeJesus had another 2-3 weeks to prove he was healthy and the Cubs were stuck trading with only 1 team.

                      It’s just the way it worked and I doubt they’d pick up his option to trade him the winter, seems like quite the dick move.

                    • Rebuilding

                      No need to explain – I know what happened. Like I said, it’s no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but my opinion is that there was value to get for him. Given that the option didnt vest with a trade we could have moved him to anyone for a prospect by picking up the salary prior to Aug 1 (someone had to be interested in a free DeJesus, even as a 5th OF). They chose not to that and just save money which concerns me

              • another JP

                Dejesus was never going to net the Cubs an impact prospect anyway… best to just save the money and move on with Junior Lake and/or Sweeney. The PTBNL would have most likely been organizational chaff.

          • MichiganGoat

            Always complaining about what a rationale fan knew these two year were going to look like is not discussing. If all you want to do is complain about being unhappy to ahead but I guess I should try to tell everyone to f**kin relax- we knew this was coming.

            • Caryatid62

              No, we did not know this was coming. We did not know this team would be unable to be a real player in the international free agent market. We did not know that they would be unable to make moves throng office wanted to make due to financial limitations. We did not know that, three years into the ownership group’s tenure that they would have been unable to secure a successful renovation plan. We did not know that they would not be able to maintain a competitive payroll unless they had that renovation (per their own words).

              To raise questions about these realities is not irrational.

              To pretend like this was all part of some mat rebuilding plan is the worwt type of polyannaism and, frankly, utterly ridiculous.

              • mjhurdle

                “We did not know this team would be unable to be a real player in the international free agent market”

                does not landing Puig, Cespedes, and Darvish means we weren’t real players? and if so, does that mean no one but the A’s, Rangers, and Dodgers were real players?
                And why do we get no credit for Soler, Fujikawa, or Lim?

                • Caryatid62

                  Because, aside from soler, none demanded a real financial outlay.

                  Darvish, cespedes, Ryu, puig, aoki, etc all represented real upgrades that would have sped the rebuilding process. Financial limitations prevented real attempts to sign those players. So, the answer to your question is yes.

                  • mjhurdle

                    gotcha, just making sure that only players that support your opinions count.

                    • Caryatid62

                      Reading is a skill.

                    • mjhurdle

                      i pointed out 3 players that weaken your statement. You respond by telling me they don’t count because apparently the Cubs paid them with Monopoly money or something else that isn’t legal tender.
                      Then you tell me a hindsight opinion like it was fact.
                      “represented real upgrades that would have sped the rebuilding process”
                      those players represented serious risk for serious money. See Concepcion, G for example.
                      Now that you have seen them play all of a sudden they were sure things.
                      Then you end your thread with an old-school ESPN message board troll post.

                      man, i really don’t get why people dont like having “discussions” with you.

                    • Caryatid62

                      If you honestly believe that two mid thirties relievers from Japan, signed to short-term deals, constitute significant free agent pick ups, I just don’t know what to tell you. Or if you feel that a 5 year, 6 million dollar deal (concepcion) is “high-risk,” then we’re at an impass. I’d love to give you more of a response, but if you truly feel that way, I just don’t think there’s a middle ground. It’s just wrong.

                    • mjhurdle

                      no, im not looking for more of a response from you. i simply wanted clarification that i was correct in my assessment.
                      I understand your post, because i see it all the time.
                      I get that you are going to complain about international free agents, list 3-4 that the Cubs didn’t get, ignore all the ones they did, and act like the Cubs didn’t do anything.

                      That is your right. and you are welcome to it, but like i said, it makes having ‘discussions’ difficult.
                      Everyone is just going to move on when they understand that your idea of a discussion uses the same rules as the game ‘I Win’ from the movie Big Daddy.

                      take care

                    • Caryatid62

                      Well, you weren’t, because, once again, you seem to demonstrate an inability to engage with the underlying point of my post.

                      If you’re that upset, you didn’t have to reply in the first place. Sorry to make you so perturbed.

                  • Hansman1982

                    I think you are grossly underestimating how easy it is to get from the $138M average salary level of 2009-2012 to the $107M we are at now with just the infrastructure and personnel upgrades and additions not to mention the increase in IFA spending and draft spending.

                    Not to mention the possibility that the $138M level was truly unsustainable and would have been more reasonable at $130M.

                    I hate to break it to Cubs fans, but outside of one year in the last 2 decades, the Cubs have never acted like a big market team.

                    • Caryatid62

                      I’m not sure it was as unsustainable as you think. Given inflation and team market value, I think even a reduction in salary (in 2012-2013 dollars) shouldn’t be as dramatic as 30-35%.

                    • Hansman1982

                      Even if it was sustainable, it’s really easy to track where the money went and none of that involves lining Ricketts pockets.

                      Inflation and team value have nothing to do with anything when your revenue has remained flat.

            • Gutshot5820

              Dammit. you are borderline freaky scary with your fandom-ness. I think they made a few movies that resembled guys like you. You are like a broken record… just stop berating people for having a different opinion and just add your own thoughts on the financial situation? Nobody is saying Theo is stupid or Ricketts is a thief… If you want to close your predjudiced eyes and act like the “loyal sheep” that’s fine. But leave the other people with their opinions the hell alone.

            • willis

              I don’t think we saw the financial part coming. I think we all loved the hire of Theo and the fresh start, but I don’t think anyone on here realized how bad off the team was/is financially. We got spoiled by the trib’s spending and now are paying the price for that. But I don’t think anyone knew the money would be so tight.

              • mjhurdle

                i agree that we got spoiled by the Tribune. And that i dont think that anyone was totally prepared for what a rebuild entailed.

            • Rebuilding

              You knew they were going to cut payroll this far or go this long into a full rebuild? Sorry, I call bullshit on that. No one knew they were going this full blown when it started and I would venture to guess that includes Epstein and Hoyer

    • Caryatid62

      Epstein has said the same thing several times (re: financial limitations). I don’t know how many times he has to say it before people believe him.

      This ownership group has had, amd continues to have, financial difficulties, plain and simple. It has prevented this team from contending sooner and is likely going to prevent them from contending in the next 2-3 years minimum.things do not look good right now.

    • Hansman1982

      Excellent post. Wait…does this mean I’m doing nasty baby making things to Theo now that I don’t think he’s an idiot?

      • MichiganGoat

        Yup you are the king of theo baby making ;)

  • Jeff

    I have calculated that the Cubs will have an approximate 65 Million Dollar payroll next year, that includes salaries for Soriano and Conception, raises for arbitration eligible players, including bringing back Navarro with a slight raise but it does not include all the FA, including Gregg and Sweeney.

    That being said, if we agree to a minimum of a 95 Million Dollar Payroll, which is less than the 106M form this year, that gives Theo an approximate 30 Million Dollars to spend on free agency in this upcoming off-season.

    I fail to see how you can’t take 30M and not improve this team next year from where it is today.

  • Stogie

    The truth is, this team would’ve been so much better if Mark Cuban had been allowed to purchase this team. He and Theo would bring stars to Chicago. Instead, they’re gonna be the Rays (if we’re lucky).

    • mjhurdle

      Cuban would definitely have been more entertaining as an owner.
      Not sure how successful he would have been though. The Mavs aren’t exactly powerhouses right now, and the MLB isn’t the NBA.
      But he would have been fun to watch. I was on board for him to buy the Cubs, but i wasn’t too upset when Ricketts got it.

  • Stogie

    If Cuban’s Cubs didn’t see success, it wouldn’t be a lack of willing to spend. Cuban doesn’t shy from spending money. We’ve been led to believe that this rebuilding will culminate with us spending like a big market team when the young players are succeeding. We’re slowly being told the truth, that the Ricketts’ are never going to spend big. With the emergence of the Pirates, along with the Reds being contenders, and no sign of St.Louis getting weaker, the Cubs chances of being more than an 85 win team in the next 5 yrs is dim.

  • http://It'searly Mike F

    I thought Cuban would be great, but he’s not here. Ricketts is not limited, people ignore the whole appreciation he has from incredible market changes. The LA deal alone, combined with the new TV deal are always ignored and Rickets has had windfall gains in equity. Also, with the 2014 TV negotiations, combined with attendance, I assure their model isn’t lose as much as they can.

    Many of you are true pessimists. I’m am not kissing Theo’s ass or anyone’s else. But too many have taken vague statements from a baseball guy who is always positioning things, and determined the sky is falling. It isn’t and many of you did the same to Hendry, Baker, and Lou. Theo is not here to lose and isn’t stupid. He’s not God, but he’s not nearly as dumb as far too many seem to have determined. It is unique to Cub fans to always expect the worst….

  • chrisfchi

    Obviously I don’t own a baseball team, but I do know one thing:
    REBUILDS TAKE TIME!
    Anyone out there witnesses a ball club go from back to back 90+ losing seasons to 1st in there division and win world series? Didn’t think so. In all these comments it seems like there are three groups:
    1- those who believe we should go all out on FA and SIGN ALL THE PLAYERS!
    2- those who believe the Ricketts are in it solely for profit and nothing more
    3- those who know that you can’t SIGN ALL THE PLAYERS! and know that the Ricketts took over this team from a corporation that ran it into the ground.
    I’ve always been #3. I don’t believe Theo is the second coming of the baseball gods. We cannot sign every international FA and run out there and just destroy the league. Ricketts has to pay out of his own pocket to fix everything Zell and the Tribune company ignored so they could line their pockets.
    Seriously people. It sucks. I hate losing just like all of you. Have faith. Be patient. Unless your 100 or your going to be dead by opening day next year there’s no need to throw a $250 million payroll out there and end up 3rd in the division.

    • MichiganGoat

      Well said… now duck because patience is now a word of blasphemy.

      • chrisfchi

        Thanks goat. I don’t want to see my cubbies turn into the Angels.

    • Kyle

      There’s a whole world that doesn’t fit into those three groups.

      • chrisfchi

        Yup, there called soccer fans :)

        • Andrew

          I’m a soccer fan and fit solidly into your group three. :D

  • Reality Check

    let’s do some quick math for the rickets family or is it the McCaskey family or is it leftover from p.k.wrigley family with all this crying poor BS.

    2012=32M profit for the cubs per forbes magazine.
    2013=payroll is 20M less; shall assume a higher profit
    2014=25M more monies from national tv baseball package plus payroll estimated 90M or 15M lower than in 2013
    2015=monies from new WGN tv deal or it’s replacement; right now it’s worth 25M ; should at least go up to 50M; maybe 75M; let’s go with 65M or another 40M.

    jumbotron and renovations=no ideaof revenue ; but huge amounts of monies is a fair guess

    i’m seeing lots of millions here; like upwards of over 100M; so wtf is theo talking about?
    tommy boy??? bueller……….?? Virginia maybe????

    (and let’s remember i’m sure the cubs are taking a HUGE paper depreciation cost on Wrigley itself; which is a paper loss; NOT an actual loss that forbes penned profits at 32M).

    3rd largest market in baseball
    3rd highest ticket
    despite tanking 2 seasons; they’ll draw about 2.65M this year

    I call bullshit on Theo’s comments. same goes for Kenny crane and tommyboy.

    2015=time to act like “big boys” and add quality FA. (no; not the 80M spent on ejax, baker, fujukawa, stewart, concepcion,hairston); actual quality; assuming theo can.

    • Northside Neuman

      Reality Check, I honestly don’t think the payroll is the expenditure that is the impediment that holds the team back. Rather it’s the cost of the ball park renovations. I think the business as structured currently is operating well in the black. It’s the future costs of capital improvements along with the debt from buying the team that’s screwing up the on field product.

      The team is picking up around $26 million next year from FOX, TBS & ESPN from the national broadcast deal along with whatever they can squeeze out of WGN. I figure they can increase cash flow from WGN probably around $10 to $15 million a season. Remember the WGN contract is for less than half the seasons broadcasted games, $10 million seems probably about right with the current shitty ratings of the team. This increase of say $36 million I figure at the minimum offsets the revenue decline from ticket revenue and concessions.

      The issue that everyone seems to be ignoring is the debt load any major league team is allowed to carry from year to year. We know the Cubs are above what MLB typically allows teams to have in regards to outstanding debt compared to team value. So the big question is how does the team raise capital for a $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field (The hotel development is a seperate LLC from the Cubs) when the commissioners office has already declared the team in excess of MLB mandated debt limits? Is it possible the team is currenty trying to hoard cash so as not to have to carry as much debt to fund capital improvements?

      I think the the ultimate solution to all of this is going to be the sale of the Cubs 20% equity stake in CSN Chicago. In 2009 the 20% stake in CSN network according to Forbes was valued at $145 million, what is the value 5 years later? I would imagine if the Cub want to create their own network or partner with another broadcast network other than Comcast, such as FOX Sports they’ll need to sell their ownership of CSN Chicago anyways. That could bring a lot of cash in to pay off debt or fund renovation construction.

      • 1060Ivy

        One issue regarding the debt servicing: wasn’t most or all the debt for the Cubs purchase from the Ricketts’ family trust?

        If so, then the debt servicing basically pays themselves back for loan the Cubs ownership – the Ricketts – took from themselves.

        The purchase transaction was complicated – and made overly so by the Tribune’s demands – but my understanding was that one of the rationales for MLB OK’d the higher leverage as Ricketts’ trust was providing the financing for the deal.

        It’s still debt servicing but at least to me it makes a huge difference when someone points out that the debt was taken from an entity’s left pocket and paid back from the entity’s right pocket.

        OK now others can point out that the Cubs ownership involves more than the Ricketts family, eg Tribune and other parties but the vast majority and face of the franchise is the Ricketts family.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Depends on whom you ask, but I’ve seen figures that have the family trust loan portion at about 1/3 of the total debt (with bank loans accounting for the rest).

          • Gutshot5820

            Well I have to disagree that 1/3 is even remotely close. The Ricketts paid only 171M and borrowed 674M. I’m not a big fan of Bud Selig, but to even suggest that he would allow an entity to buy a MLB team with only about 20% down is ludicrous. Even adding in 1/3 of the family trust amount is less than 50% and far less than the the threshold debt ratio allowed for MLB teams. The only reason he allowed the sale is because the majority lender was the Ricketts Family Trust and all things considered the Family Trust and the Ricketts ownership of the Cubs are one and the same. Conclusion should be that any debt service payment made by the Cubs to the Family Trust is a farce,

      • Rebuilding

        Very good post that lays out most of the issues. The problem with selling the CSN stake is sell it to who? It would most likely have to be to Wirtz, Reinsdorf or CSN itself (I’m sure there are rights of first refusal if not outright barriers to sale). Not sure why any of those parties would the Cubs portion with the value likely to go down if the Cubs leave

        • Northside Neuman

          I would imagine if Comcast were to partner with the Cubs on a new network they would buy back the 20% with very little argument. The Yankees just sold their entire ownership rights in the YES network back to their sports network partners for a long term and highly lucrative television deal.

          • Northside Neuman

            And just to add to this, how many other regional sports networks have 4 pro teams broadcasting from one sports Network? I bet CSN Chicago is probably one of the most profitable regional network channels in the country especially when you factor in the resurgence of the Blackhawks and the always high ratings of the Bulls. I bet Comcast would be eager to swallow up a larger piece of the pie.

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