There Are Increasing Signals That 2014 and 2015 Could Be Ugly

scared catThe Chicago Cubs’ front office is fantastic at message management. In a given week/month/offseason/whatever, you will hear multiple members of the front office offering the same bullet points, and there are rarely significant departures from what is clearly a well-crafted thesis at any given moment.

In the limited time we’ve had to observe them, the front office has borne out their messages in their actions. Whether it was seeking to build a foundation for sustained success (prospect acquisitions, minor league spending, facilities spending, etc.), or modernizing the baseball operations department (expansive hiring, new analytics software, new saber-inclined minds, etc.), or being unable to turn an ocean-liner on a dime (slow rebuild, no inexplicable large signings, etc.) – when there’s a cohesive message emanating from 1060 West Addison, it tends to play out.

So you can imagine my discomfort when the message started to sound a whole lot like 2014 and 2015 will be a repeat of 2012 and 2013.

In the last two weeks, we’ve heard President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein say something on the order of “the business plan and the baseball plan are still a couple years from coming to fruition.” This isn’t new information, of course, as we’ve known since earlier this year that the Cubs’ revenue wasn’t where it needed to be in order support aggressive additional spending at the big league level (something about not being able to leverage the large market advantage). We also know that the WGN TV deal (however it is renegotiated or sold off) will not kick in until 2015, and the Wrigley Field renovation will not begin until after 2014 (hopefully). We also know that the meatiest portions of the prospect steak will likely not break through – assuming they do – until 2015/2016 at the earliest.

That’s a couple years from fruition. We can easily see that, and Epstein isn’t saying anything draconian or terrifying.

But part of the reason we’re not scared to hear these kinds of messages is because there’s a presumption that, even if the best version of the team is a couple years away, there will be improvement at the Major League level, starting with this season, and taking root in 2015. There’s payroll room opened up this year, but, outside of Masahiro Tanaka, there aren’t a lot of compelling pieces on which to spend it. So, no problem. The next year – 2015 – will be the focus, and 2014 will be a step along the way. Heck, what’s “a couple years,” right? A couple years from 2013 is 2015. So we’re good.

However …

There are increasing signals that 2015, in addition to 2014, could be another slog. I fear that we’re seeing another message taking shape.

Ken Davidoff recently interviewed Epstein about a variety of things – mostly the New York/Boston rivalry – and Epstein offered a somber note about the GM Meetings last week: “[I]t takes time [to build], and a lot of that work is very enjoyable, but it’s also under the radar, which gives us space and freedom and creativity. But it makes for a different experience. Unfortunately, you can’t provide your fans with what they deserve along the way, which is teams that play meaningful games all year long and play until October. So we just have to take a patient, long view. It’s a different experience. But I’ve always enjoyed the scouting and player development aspects of the game, the investing in young players, more than any other aspect of it. So to that extent, it’s been really fulfilling. But it’s different. It’s different. It’s strange walking around the meetings and being a little irrelevant, because we’re not major players in some of these deals.”

Irrelevance is not a word I’d like to hear associated with the Cubs for much longer.

Adding to Epstein’s comments, Dave Kaplan had Jed Hoyer on his radio show late last week, and Kaplan asked if Hoyer saw a “major type move” coming this offseason. Hoyer’s response, in part: “We’re probably going to continue the way we have been, really trying to build up our base …. Where we are as an organization, we have a really bright future, and I think we’re a lot closer to winning a World Series than we were two years ago, but we don’t want to short-circuit that process ….”

So far, while the front office is clearly not going to say that spending big is in the cards this offseason, Epstein’s and Hoyer’s comments are equally consistent with not spending big this Winter, but maybe spending next year. That, in my view, would be an acceptable approach, particularly in light of the current free agent class and the 2014 strength of the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds. Still, the tone doesn’t feel very optimistic in the near-term.

And then Patrick Mooney reported this: “Where the Cubs had internally viewed 2015 as a breakthrough year last winter, now they are focusing more on 2016 in the big picture.”

Oof. Gut punch. Light bulb going off, and revealing only more darkness.

When the new front office took over, and we discussed a realistic timeline for a rebuild, I said that I expected 2012 to be terrible, 2013 to be not much better, and 2014 to be the first season that the Cubs fielded a team, on paper, that looked like a .500 team in Spring Training. That’s a team, as the Orioles have shown, for one example, that has a chance at making the playoffs based on some luck.

From there, it was fair to expect that the 2015 Cubs would be a playoff contender. That was the timeline. It wasn’t terribly aggressive, particularly in a large market that has never attempted a full-scale rebuild.

I’ve accepted that the 2014 Cubs will probably enter the season looking like a non-competitive squad. There are a number of explanations, from the unexpected regression of key big league pieces, to the overheated and undermanned free agent market, to the delays in revenue expansion, to the (ironic) impressive development of the Cubs’ top impact prospects (meaning that it makes more sense to wait). Next season is probably going to resemble the previous two, and, while I wouldn’t have liked it if you’d told me that’s what 2014 was going to be two years ago, I understand the reasoning behind it, and I ultimately support it.

But if there is talk of already sitting out 2015 – if that’s truly the message we are to be receiving – I will be very disappointed.

Disappointed in whom? The front office? Not entirely, if the resources aren’t there. If that’s the case, they’ve got no choice but to build up the farm and hope it pays off. Disappointed in ownership? Maybe a little, but those revenue disruptions came from outside the organization.

So it’s just … disappointing. Things would play out like this for the Cubs, wouldn’t they? A pile of disappointment and no one to blame.

By all means, stick with The Plan. Seriously: please stick with The Plan. Building up a young core, changing things at the organizational level as necessary, and then supplementing with free agents when the timing makes sense – that all still works for me.

But, to the extent there are elements of The Plan – whether front office-driven or ownership-driven – that already presume punting on 2015 (short of a miracle prospect wave breakthrough), I fear that’s a mistake. Fans will come back when the Cubs are winning. We all believe and accept that. But the longer the period of losing, the deeper the revenue losses (and resentment, meaning the slower those fans will climb back on board).

Hopefully I’m just hearing a message that isn’t yet being issued, and there are still eyes on a competitive team in 2015. Hell, hopefully 2014 winds up being a pleasant surprise.

If it takes until 2016 for the Cubs to field a competitive team, I’m not really sure what the landscape is going to look like at that point. It’s the final year of Theo Epstein’s contract. I don’t think anyone expected that Epstein would serve the full length of his five-year deal without the Cubs playing some winning baseball until the very end.

The good news? Baseball is very hard to predict year to year, and the Cubs have a crapload of young talent at this point. The long-term future still looks exceptionally bright. And, in the near-term? Nothing wrong with crossing your fingers, I guess.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

506 responses to “There Are Increasing Signals That 2014 and 2015 Could Be Ugly”

  1. Roscoe Village Fan

    I think the main question I have is who will be your starting rotation they makes us competitive in 2015? We don’t have nearly enough top tier pitching talent to expect to be competitive. The position players are exciting but the cubs will need to make FA pitching moves over next two years…drop some serious money otherwise the desired outcome is still a 2016-2017 conversation. And you can’t rush those kids up either…we’ve all seen what happens if your not a trout or Harper

    1. D-Rock

      Agree completely. This does not get discussed NEARLY ENOUGH.

    2. ClevelandCubsFan

      In a series of moves that will crush your prospect crushes, the Cubs are going to trade some young studs for some pitchers. It’s pretty much inevitable.

      Rizzo or Voglesbach will be traded
      2 of Castro, Barney, Baez, and Alcantara will be traded
      2 of Olt, Vitters, and Bryant will be traded.

      Outfield is more in flux and depends on who might be moved into the OF, but I’d guess that
      3 of Scheirholz, Jackson, Ha, Soler, and Szczur

      And that is how we will get pitchers. Pitchers are fickle. We don’t know which of these position guys are going to pan out best for our system, and we’re not ready to compete, so there’s no rush. But we will part ways with these guys, mark my words.

      And yes, we’ll part ways with a couple guys who go on to be studs.

      And yes, we’ll REALLY regret at least one of these trades.

      That’s baseball.

  2. Bea Arthur Jr.

    This piece is why I read BN every day. Honest truth that I don’t want to accept.

    My bigger question while they wait (and I can’t understand why they don’t start building parts of the reno that have no rooftop issues)…will Theo leave? Will they lose Jason? He is the most underrated piece in all of this. Maybe even Jed goes.

    And then what?

  3. salesguy

    With respect to the article, Brett, and most of the posts, I disagree with some of the interpretations and assumptions made. I think what you have here are two very seasoned professionals engaging in the age old tradition of underpomising and over delivering. You never let your real expectations be known, and that’s what we’re seeing here. I think they didn’t expect the reactions they got from Dale, so their bullish on Renteria, but internally they expect he will get way more from the players. I think they expect Castro and Rizzo to take that step forward, but you can’t put that put there full throatedly, because that could be incorrect. They have a timetable for Baez and Bryant, but internally they would love, and expect it to be exceeded. Given where the team is, I think you have to be careful how you sound, if you run around talking in optomistic pie in the sky phrases, the fans will lose confidence, and say “look where the team is, how can you be optimistic?” So, they choose to be aloof, and sobering, expecting the best, and planning for the worst. So given that, I disagree with the premise that they expect 2014-2015 to be throwaway years. So, that’s my rant against the article, Brett, and most of the posts, you may now continue with the Theo/Jed suck, they lied, cub fandom died thing.

    Enjoy!

    1. SH

      Just as the comments on this piece died down, a window opens for Kyle to hit that 200 post mark.

      1. salesguy

        I do so enjoy watching him respond, he’s wrong, and misguided, but he does defend it with a certain flare. :)

        1. SH

          Should ask him which brand of flare he uses

          1. Kyle

            It’s not about the brand, it’s about the number of pieces.

            1. SH

              1973584_f260.jpg

              That’s a lot of flares.

    2. wvcubsfan

      I’ve seen a whole lot of under promising, I’m sure looking forwarding to the over delivering to hurry up and get here.

      The one thing I’ve never understood is that a majority of fans, without knowing anything of the inner workings, are convinced that Theo and company were sold a bill of goods and that all of this is mean ole Ricketts fault. I’m not so sure this wasn’t Theo and Company’s plan all along that they sold to Tom.

      1. Professor Snarks

        ” I’m not so sure this wasn’t Theo and Company’s plan all along that they sold to Tom.”

        THIS.

        Very well said.

        1. SH

          It’s really not.

          1. wvcubsfan

            Care to expound on that thought?

            Was there a typo? Was it the fact that it was typed and not said?

            1. SH

              Nothing about it is particularly “well said.” It’s baseless speculation that seems to conflict with the evidence.

              I suppose it has a pleasant cadence to it, though; to the extent we’re discussing how it was said/typed I’d say it’s at least average.

              1. Professor Snarks

                “It’s baseless speculation that seems to conflict with the evidence.”

                I would love to hear your evidence.

                1. SH

                  Ah, this classic tactic. “[Something absurd]” –> “Er, that’s absurd.” –> “Prove it.”

                  1. Professor Snarks

                    No, the classic tactic is you deflecting the comment.

                    You said:
                    “It’s baseless speculation that seems to conflict with the evidence.”

                    I asked for the evidence. What’s the problem?
                    Unless, of course, you are admitting your reply to wvcubsfan was factually inaccurate.

                    1. SH

                      Here’s what I’ll do — I’ll list the litany of ways in which it seems clear that possibly the premier baseball FO thinker did not jump on board with 5 years of abysmal professional baseball embodying a philosophy he himself has explicitly rejected.

                      Or, I’ll save the effort of “disproving” absurd points and just point out that they’re far from “well said” when they’re made.

                    2. bbmoney

                      so…..no evidence just your opinion.

                      Good. Glad we cleared that up. Because I was curious.

                    3. Edwin

                      Man, people are quick to break out the knives today, all this talk about people using “tactics” with their comments.

                      Saying the equivalent of “I think it was Theo’s plan all along to go cheap on the Cubs” is speculation. It might be true, but there is very little, if any, evidence to support this claim. Since wvcubsfan made the claim, I would think it would be up to wvcubsfan to support the claim, and not the responsibility of SH to have to find evidence to disprove the claim.

                    4. SH

                      http://espn.go.com/chicago/mlb/story/_/id/9149645/chicago-cubs-begin-same-story-every-opening-day-one-failure-hope

                      “That’s an unrealistic panacea because not all prospects work out,” Epstein said. “You can’t over-leverage your organization on the hopes of two or three prospects. That doesn’t work out. You have to look at every day, every player, every draft, every waiver wire, every game-on-the-line situation in the ninth inning as a way to get better as an organization and win some games.”

                      I’m walking out of this conversation at this point because I took the bait and responded to Glenn Beck (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgwgwsGcdJM) with facts; I won’t be dealing with the “well he didn’t mean what he said, he meant what I think he said that I have no other evidence to support and all reason rejects” that always follows demands for evidence.

                    5. bbmoney

                      Mehhh….. that’s kind of the point I was trying to make. It’s all just speculation in regards to what Theo knew before he came over. There is no evidence or proof.

                      SH and WVU and Snarks can all have different opinions and I could not care less. But when someone specifically says someone else’s opinion is goes against the evidence…I get curious as to what this evidence is they speak of because I haven’t seen it and if it exists I’d like to see it.

                    6. SH

                      @Edwin

                      I backed myself into this corner with the “evidence” comment. To think it all started with “it’s not well said” and then devolved into such a place. We can all happily disagree, but I think it’s a pretty strong claim to make re: Theo and it’s not well-substantiated enough to go against pretty simply reason and comments we’ve heard prior. Sorry for the testiness, WV and Snarks, but demand for evidence is usually some cat-and-mouse game that is sort of frustrating.

                    7. Professor Snarks

                      bbmoney…
                      exactly.

                    8. Scotti

                      The “It’s Theo’s plan” argument may be speculation but so is the “Theo is too smart for this to be his plan” argument. Once teased out, the former is FAR more logical. “Smart” Theo really signed a 5-year deal thinking he would have big market money to spend then, BAM, the team told him, Sorry, no cash? On what planet would that make sense for Ricketts to do? “Hey, I’m going to lie to you–screwing with your reputation–and then entrust my entire operation to you!” Somehow Ricketts was smart enough to tab Smart Theo but dumb enough to lure him into a situation where Theo is guaranteed to despise Ricketts? Makes no sense.

                      On the other hand, the two had coffee, Ricketts was honest about the cash situation (albeit perhaps off by a year or two), Theo pitched an idea that seemed to be the best possible solution (at the time) and Smart Theo was offered the job pending the resolution to the Boston contract. Simple, logical and makes sense.

                    9. YourResidentJag

                      Or @Scotti “smart” Theo never realized how tough of a process it is to negotiate through the waters of Chicago politics and why should he have prior knowledge of this? And then smart Theo went public with the notion of needing extra streams of revenue to set out and accomplish what he and Ricketts envisioned in the 1st place. That makes just as much sense. Whether or not he should be upset with the Ricketts, it’s anyone’s guess.

                    10. Scotti

                      Jag, that theory at least has TR being honest about revenues with Smart Theo. Smart Theo signed on to the deal knowing that, at minimum, the first two off-seasons were not going to include big free agent spending. Politics happen. Sure. Add a year (or two) because parties are entrenched, Rahm is a weak mayor, etc. It’s still obvious, based on logic, that Smart Theo knew the score coming in.

                      The notion that Theo should be upset with TR is just nutty.

                    11. SH

                      @SCctti

                      I certainly never said “Theo should be upset with TR.” I simply said that the baldfaced statement that this was the baseball side’s plan all along was far from “well said.”

                      I don’t think you’re right, Scotti, but I think you make strong points in support of the idea that maybe it was. I still think it’s far more likely, however, that Epstein didn’t think things would hit this level. More likely imo: he knew the risk but assumed that one of the most prominent franchises in baseball wouldn’t be relegated to small-market status. And I think you’re quite wrong that Epstein would cry foul if this came at him unexpectedly (or somewhere on the scale of unexpectedly). “Boy wonder can’t deal with changing landscape” isn’t a headline he wants to see. [In before snarky remark: obviously it's unlikely to be a headline, but it certainly sends a message along those lines.]

                    12. YourResidentJag

                      @Scott Then, you’ve never listened to recent interviews with Theo. He’s very frustrated with the extra revenue timetable. Again, being upset with Ricketts, don’t know about that. Being frustrated in general–def know that. You also assume that he would be ok with the politics at play here with no prior knowledge. I say this because the politics of the whole thing didn’t rear its ugly head until well after Theo got hired. And you’re also suggesting two years of below average teams. Well, once tenured, Theo came to the realization it was more than two years. That wouldn’t get some upset.

    3. Cheryl

      I think that most of us are reacting with deep disappointment. Because most cubs fans are optimistic it hurts to think that 2016 nay be the time we’re finally competitive. I’ve always given Theo & Company rave reviews on turning the farm system into what it should be, But I didn’t count on such a flawed major league team. Renteria, like Sveum, will not have much to work with the way the team is so far. Anybody would want a competitive major league team. We’re not asking for the moon in that category. But what it appears we’ll get is a team that’s even worse than last year’s. It is extremely difficult to follow such a team. As for the prospects, it’s going to be tough for them and for what fans are left after 2014 and 2015.

    4. Adventurecizin' Justin

      Salesguy…well said. At this point, the Management Sucks Club might as well root for someone else for awhile. These guys are methodical…and it is gonna be frustrating if you need it to turn now. It has never been easy being a Cubs fan…never an ounce of sustainability. I still believe they will be sustainably successful someday. Guess I don’t as much to be in such a hurry!! This article doesn’t bother me.

  4. Teddy Ballgame

    The year is 2015 guys

  5. DAN

    Spending doesn’t mean winning -

  6. Randy

    Well, as the seats become more vacant I hope Ricketts will be a happy F-N camper. I am so sick of this crap. You can bet your ass Theo had no idea this shit was going to happen. Its hard to say the kind of job he is doing with his hands tied behind his back. I would tell Ricketts to screw off.

    1. Professor Snarks

      are you sure?
      absolutely positive?

    2. wvcubsfan

      From the article attributed to Theo:

      “I’ve always enjoyed the scouting and player development aspects of the game, the investing in young players, more than any other aspect of it. So to that extent, it’s been really fulfilling.”

      Again I’m not so sure this is Theo with his hands tied as much as it’s Theo doing what he wanted.

      1. Rebuilding

        That quote really validates what Kyle surmised long ago: that’s the part of being a GM that Theo really likes. And because of that I’m not sure anyone has a clue if he would be doing what he’s doing even if he had access to a $200 million payroll

    3. Scotti

      “You can bet your ass Theo had no idea this shit was going to happen. ”

      Theo is dumb? Theo signed a five-year deal blindly? Theo got screwed and he hasn’t done anything to clear his reputation? He’s never once said to the media “This isn’t what I signed up for but I’m going to make the best of it that I can.” If he was LIED to about the finances then he would be sure to get that out there (loudly and often).

  7. D-Rock

    Wait till next, next, year…and then maybe the year after that too…man, it’s depressing being a Cubs fan…

  8. Cyberhog

    I’ve never bought into the notion that 2014 would be the year that the Cubs would field a competitive team. And to be honest, I don’t know why anyone would think that given the state of the organization when Theo and Jed took over. When I was told this would be a long, protracted, laborious process, I never once thought that pointed to 2014 as the year we start seeing progress. If you look at where all the new talent is and what it’s comprised of, 2016 is the year one would expect to see an 80-85 win team. And given the state of the NL Central and the time it takes for all that young talent to coalesce together as a team, 2017 is the first year one could realistically expect to see a playoff contender. I’ve always thought that and everything I hear coming from the front office has been consistent with that.

  9. The Logos

    I gotta say, Brett, this sounds way too much like a rallying cry. Much too early to start gathering the troops, to be honest.

  10. MightyBear

    Boy, the K-Man is in rare form today.

    1. On The Farm

      This article is Kyle-nip

      1. Kyle

        I think Brett was getting low on ad imprints and knows he can rely on me.

  11. Cub Lifer

    I’m starting to wonder if this is going to turn into the 1987 nightmare all over again…where Dallas Green finally got fed up enough with the Tribune Company that he abruptly quit. At some point Theo Epstein has to be getting disgusted with the inability to support a real payroll right now. I’m sure this is NOT what he signed up for two years ago when he agreed to take over this clusterfu*k of a mess.

    1. Pat

      There are a whole bunch of things people were convinced Theo had as requirements for signing here. “There’s no way Theo would sign here to work with a mid-market payroll”, or to lose for several seasons, etc. I don’t really feel like gng through all the posts at the time he was signed, but if you were reading here (or anywhere else) at the time, you know that’s the case.

      Two years later, many of those “no ways” have been proven false. You can believe that Ricketts screwed him, or that he knew exactly how it was going to go and accepted it. If I’m going to pick one as more likely than the other, I’m going to go with Theo knowing what he was getting into, but there’s no reason to put one as tremendously more likely than the other.

  12. RIck

    well maybe the ricketts can buy up the roof tops when people stop going to the cubs games!

  13. ari gold

    When Theo took over we had an aging overpaid roster that won 72 games the year before and exactly ZERO impact players in full season A-ball. How can anyone believe it would only take 2 or 3 years to turn it around?

    1. terencemann

      That’s kind of my point, too. If you’re going to build around some drafted players, they will take at least 3-4 seasons to make it to the majors under the old CBA. The new CBA helps some since they get to play a lot more baseball at the minor league level in the season they’re drafted.

    2. wvcubsfan

      Just so we are clear, is that zero impact players at that time or using hindsight?

      I also like the caveat of full season A ball, so that you can exclude Acantara, Baez, Vogelbach, etc.

      1. ari gold

        Yeah the reason why I said full season A ball is because those impact players like Baez, V-Bomb, Alcantara, would be 3 or 4 seasons away from the majors, meaning this rebuild was always going to take a while. It wasn’t like these guys were sitting in AA waiting to bust lose into the majors.
        When Theo took over you could say maybe 2 guys in the upper minors had potential for impact (B-Jax and maybe Mcnutt).

        1. wvcubsfan

          Cashner, and Vitters also come to mind.

          1. ari gold

            Cashner was with the Cubs in 2011. Vitters I don’t think was on anyone’s top 100 in 2011.

            1. wvcubsfan

              So is it three or zero?

              I know it’s the popular theme here that Hendry was the sole reason that the minors was a wasteland devoid of any talent whatsoever, but that’s not reality.

              1. ari gold

                Well you asked if it was at the time or hindsight. I’d say only 1 player (B-Jax) was a potential impact talent. Obviously with the benefit of hindsight it’s a big fat ZERO. So obviously that has had an effect on the rebuild. Regardless if it was Hendry or not, it was still devoid of any talent above full season which was the whole point of my argument.

    3. YourResidentJag

      The problem is that Brett did though.

    4. Funn Dave

      Zero impact players in full-season A ball!!?!? Well, I’m sure Theo woulda just thrown up his arms and walked away had he known somewhat relevant, oddly specific stats like that!

      1. ari gold

        Obviously meant full season A ball or above.

  14. cubmig

    Here’s the thing. All of what we see, hear, read and speculate over has pretty much identified the weaknesses, needs and “good-to-go” players going forward . Even posters here have made arguments on how the Cubs could be competitive in the short term. Now this……..The waiting has hit a new high reading this article. I’m pissed.

    Fuck it.

  15. Rebuilding

    I’ll play contrarian even though I’ve been saying 2016 for a long time. Next year at some point we will be adding two MVP caliber bats to the line-up at 3b and 2b most likely. Those are rare commodities. I truly believe that Castro will get back to the Castro of 2011-2012 now that they aren’t messing with him. Rizzo is slightly above league average (would love to see Bryant play some first against tough lefties). That’s a really solid nucleus in 2015. The pitching is really the problem. But I expect us to draft a college arm this draft that may be ready by mid-2015. If we were to sign Tanaka then you might have a WC challenging starting rotation with him, Shark, Wood, Jackson, Arrieta. And if Edwards can stay a starter and is ready by mid-2015 that’s icing

    1. Edwin

      I missed the part where the Cubs sign two MVP caliber bats at 3B and 2B.

      1. Rebuilding

        Bryant and Baez

        1. Edwin

          projecting MVP performance seems a tad optimistic. Did I miss the sarcasm font or something?

          1. Rebuilding

            Nope. People who do what Baez did at AA at his age become superstars. Bryant, for my money, is the best hitting prospect in the game. You can call it premature if you wish, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and say MVP caliber bats

        2. MichaelD

          I think the problem is that Bryant and Baez almost certainly won’t be MVP bats from day one in the majors (assuming that they ever will).

      2. Funn Dave

        I missed the part where he said they would “sign” two players, and not “add,” which includes promotion.

  16. anonymous-ly

    Ricketts Mtyh/Lies Exposed

    There is plenty of money to build the farm and field a competitive team at the same time. The Ricketts are holding back money by choice, They certainly don’t need any addt’l cable money or tv deals to have a top 5 payroll. They are the most profitable team in MLB right now. After six years most of the debt they incurred in the purchase of the Cubs can be potentially paid off.

    Chicago Cubs
    Payroll 2013 $104,150,726 Rank #14 Attendance 2,642,600 Rank# 12 Avg Ticket Price $44.55 Fan Cost Index $298.20 #3 Draft Allowance $10,556,500 Int Draft $10,319,800

    Chicago White Sox
    Rayroll 2013 $124,065,277 Rank #9 Attendance 1,768,413 Rank#24 Avg Ticket Price Fan Cost Index $26.05 $231,18 #8 Draft Pool Allowance $5,301,600 Intl Draft Pool $2,168,300

    Cincinatti Reds
    Rayroll 2013 $110,565,728 Rank#13 Attendance 2,534,369 Rank#15 Avg Ticket Price Fan Cost Index $21.35 $165.39 #27 Draft Pool Allowance $6,046,700 Intl Draft Pool $1,862,100

    The Cubs made an estimated savings of approximately $9,700,000 off their opening day payroll in 2012 and $13,650,000 in 2013 through mid-season trades and sell-off of Major League talent.
    The money spent on Int’l free agent Jorge Soler wasn’t in the form of a bonus, rather a contract to be paid out in multiple years. They also signed Int’l free agent Gerardo Conception to a five year deal worth $6M of which $3M was a signing bonus and the rest to be paid annually. So neither contracts required any significant outlay of cash against the 2012 payroll.
    The Cubs made one-time capital investments into a modern computer and video system and partially offset some of those expenses by leasing a fleet of cars and cutting per diems.
    The Dominican Academy was a one-time expenditure that cost a paltry $7M by MLB standards.
    Their new Mesa Spring Training Complex is being entirely paid for by the City of Mesa, a $99 Million freebie from the taxpayers of Mesa, Arizona gained by threat of exodus from the Ricketts family. The Cubs are only responsible for a profit-making business venture “Wrigleyville West” complex.
    MLB negotiated $1.5 Billion in national TV revenues per season that will go into the MLB Central Fund starting in 2014. That’s $750 Million more than the recently expired contracts and has been reported by multiple sources that the money will be distributed equally to the teams to the tune of $25 million annually starting in 2014. That’s $25 million more to be added to the owners’ pockets or if they choose, towards baseball operations.
    The Cubs agreed not to block the rooftop views in exchange for 17% of the rooftop owners’ gross revenue. That worked out to about $4 million last year.
    In comparison, media revenue for the Cubs should match or exceed that of White Sox because of their shared venture in Comcast Sports Net and contract with superstation WGN. The Cubs outshine the Reds and their $30 Million annual contract with FOX Sports by tens of millions.

    Average ticket price represents a weighted average of season ticket prices for general seating categories and does not include pricing of premium seats, in which the Cubs have a decisive pricing advantage over their competitors.
    The Fan Cost Index provided by the “Team Marketing Report” comprises the prices of four adult average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two least expensive, adult-size adjustable caps.
    Highlights include;
    1. In Year 2013, the Cubs are comparable in payroll and attendance with the Cincinnati Reds. Cubs attendance 2,642,600 vs Reds 2,534,369. Cubs Payroll $104,150,726 vs Reds Payroll $110,415,277. If you include the season ending sell-off by the Cubs (-$13,650,000) the payroll difference is decisively more advantageous for the Cubs. Cubs Payroll $90,500,726 vs Reds Payroll of $110,415,277. Using the Fan Cost Index provided by “Team Marketing Report,” the difference in projected total stadium revenue is startling. Cubs $197,005,830 vs Reds $104,789,822. Almost double the revenue of the Reds at $92,216,008. The difference in total payroll spent in 2013 plus projected stadium revenues culminates into a mind-blowing difference of $112,130,559.

    2. In Year 2013, the Cubs had a decisive advantage against the White Sox in both starting payroll and in attendance. However, both clubs dumped significant payroll at the end of the year. Cubs Payroll $104,150,726 vs White Sox Payroll $125,065,277. Cubs attendance 2,642,600 vs White Sox attendance 1,768,413. Using the Fan Cost Index provided by “Team Marketing Report,” once again the difference in projected stadium revenue is startling. Cubs $197,005,830 vs White Sox $102,205,429. The difference in starting payroll plus projected stadium revenue adds up to a whopping difference of $124,119,980.

    3. Additional costs for expanded infrastructure cost the Cubs a negligible sum in comparison to revenues.

    4. The Ricketts have maintained the third highest ticket and vending prices in all of baseball, while lowering payroll into the bottom half of the MLB. Essentially, charging Cub fans ultra-premium prices reserved only for the largest markets and teams that bump their payroll up to the payroll cap or into luxury tax territory. Curiously, in 2013, the Cubs spent even less on payroll than small market teams such as the Reds.

    5. Even taking into account lower attendance figures than in successful years, the Cubs earn nearly twice as much as their competitive counterparts in stadium revenue, potentially distancing their rivals by as much as $125 Million.

    6. Outside of the attendance drop, Ricketts have actually increased revenues significantly since their initial purchase by an increase of 10% in ticket prices the first year, new advertising in and around the ballpark, revenue from rooftops, concerts, hockey games conventions, etc. Without knowing the exact numbers, it would still be safe to assume the total would be in the tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue since the initial purchase of the Cubs.

    7. Expenditures on the draft have been limited by the new CBA. All of their International free agent commitments were mostly lengthy contracts with little to no initial cash outlay needed.

    8. The Ricketts will receive an additional $25 Million next year from MLB TV contracts.

    1. gocatsgo2003

      … and it makes absolutely no sense to spend the additional $25MM mentioned in point 8 nor the revenue from infrastructure in point 3 BEFORE either of those revenue streams actually kick in.

      1. MightyBear

        Why not?

      2. terencemann

        It’s 25 MM from MLBAM but teams probably won’t use nearly 100% of that money. When you look at some of the best teams in baseball, a lot of them are spending money they saved in years when they were bad. Even the teams who spend a lot.

        Just a reminder, the Detroit Tigers:

        1. Spend a lot of money now
        2. Are really good
        3. Set a record for worst single season in history before they became this good
        4. Flipped an all-star center fielder for prospects even when it looked like they were building a good core because they were able to get a great deal for him

        It’s not just the Rays or A’s who build teams like this

        1. CubFan Paul

          It’s $52M

  17. Jason P

    Not to make them a scapegoat, but the rooftops threatening to sue is starting to have a more than tangential impact on the timeline of the rebuild. If the Cubs FO was more confident the money would be there in the near future, would we be bigger players for tanaka? Or ellsbury or Choo?

    1. Pat

      I’m pretty sure the risk of a lawsuit from the rooftops is being used as an excuse for he fact they only signed one major sponsor so far. Despite the popular belief, they don’t really intend to spend much of their own money in this.

      Either that or Crane is way more incompetent than I give him credit for. You’re never going to get someone to flat out promise not to sue you without seeing the effects of what their action brings. More importantly, no one can possibly believe that telling someone “promise not to sue me or I won’t do the thing you might sue me for” is any kind of legitimate plan. Why would the rooftops care if they don’t build? That’s their preference anyway.

    2. Brains

      i’m pretty sure the rooftops have no effect on anything anywhere anyhow. it’s simply an attempt to monopolize the neighborhood without connecting with it. don’t like the rooftops? buy them. it’s just another dog and pony show while the owners ruin our team.

      1. Roscoe Village Fan

        You have no idea what you’re talking about

        1. Brains

          if you live in roscoe village and you support the new owners, who are ruining our team, more than people in your neighborhood, you must be a yuppie.

  18. OlderStyle

    No, sir, I don’t like it. But it’s what I’ve been expecting for awhile. At least now, since Brett has legitimized it, maybe I won’t be trolled for being upset with the length of The Plan and the lacking in Team Theo’s genius. Playing with MiLB tinker toys might be fun, but dangit, I want to see a competitive MLB team fielded.

  19. CF

    If the Cubs have any intention of going for it in 2015, they’ll likely need to sign one of Ellsbury/Choo this offseason. The list of FA for 2015 is as weak for OF as it is strong in pitching (if those players actually make it to FA). Even assuming the infield solidifies with some combination of Baez, Bryant, Olt and Alcantara, the OF is lacking possibilities in that timeframe.

    1. ssckelley

      nah, they got Vitters to try out next year. Plus signing one of those players might cost us a high draft pick in 2015.

  20. wilbur

    This is why they call it “re” building. It’s the re part, as in doing it over again. How many players moved up from AAA ball to the big league team this year to support and bring the rebulding a year closer to fruition? Mcnutt? Jackson? Vitters? Who? How many of the young players on the big league team took that step up to where they can carry a big league team? Castro? Rizzo? Shark? Who? How can anyone expect to say the rebuild gained any traction and moved forward at the big league level this past season? That should be obvious, and if that means a year longer or a delay in someones pollyanna plan then why should anyone be surprised or disappointed. Hype and splashing a few free agent dollars around aren’t going to change this, Fan expectations won’t change this either, not in 2014, not in 2015. When the FO says the players will tell you when they are ready to move up and ready to contribute, they aren’t blowing smoke, that is exactly what will have to happen. Buying players like choo and ellsbury will just move things back to 4 and 5 years from now, and placate the stupid with false hope and promises, you know what the franchise rested on in the past. I don’t need to see that again. 2015 will have the promise of prospects, something we haven’t seen for a long time.

  21. ssckelley

    Well heck, might as well leave Baez, Bryant, and others in the minors until 2016 then. No sense wasting seasons they have them under control.

    I guess now I change my argument about losing a 2nd round pick to sign a free agent. If you are not going to win until 2016 might as well take a chance on a prospect.

  22. Bill James

    I’m honestly all on board for the rebuild but I honestly don’t know if this fan base will tolerate that many losing seasons! The Theo/Jed honey moon is almost over. The only thing keeping them safe from fan ridicule is our awesome farm system specially; Javy Baez, kris Bryant, Almora and Soler. The moment one of those prospects reaches the bigs and struggles for an extended period of time people will start to question them.

    1. gocatsgo2003

      And, given that rebuilding the farm system has largely been their focus, don’t they at least get some credit for doing what they’ve been focused on doing?

      1. SH

        Are they not getting credit? Last I checked they’ve fielded one of the worst runs of baseball on the North Side and are still considered among the best in the game at what they do.

        1. Bill James

          SH: I couldn’t agree anymore. You make a great point . Theo/Jed are getting the benefit of the doubt only bc of the farm system. They made some ok minor signings that have worked out and also some nice sign and flip for prospect trades but overall the win/loss record is what it is

      2. Bill James

        Gocatsgp2003: if we aren’t competing by 2015 I’ll put more blame on ricketts then theo/Jed. Ricketts will NEED to spend money eventually in the next upcoming years. IFC what their debt problems are. They bought the team and new the financial restrictions they would be under, so if they aren’t spending big by 2015-2016 bc of financial problems still then they better damn be spending out of their own pockets bc I’m won’t spend a dime till they do.

        I want reiterate. I’m all on board for the rebuild up until a curtain point . They can lose all the games they want next season in order to get the highest draft pick possible but after next season my patience might be completely worn off

        1. wvcubsfan

          I’m not sure how anyone on this or any other blog unless they have first hand knowledge of the conversations that go on between the ownership group and the front office can “put more blame” on one party over the other.

          I’m also fairly sure that if disagreements exist neither side would air their dirty laundry in public. So what we are left with is opinion and speculation. Not that’s it’s a bad thing, but there is no way to “prove” one side or the other.

  23. Bill James

    I’m not going to lie if Ricketts doesn’t spend big by 2015 offseason I will be pretty outraged. The moment most of the big 4 are up in the bigs and play (*if they pan out*) and they don’t have high priced FA’s (of course I mean the right fit FA) paired with the young kids then I’m straight out done attending games . I will not spend a dime on cubs merchandise. I will sit and watch the games from couch. If they are waiting for the new tv deal to spend money then they can kiss my you know what

  24. Tom Ricketts - Not

    [Ed. - Don't impersonate people.]

    What can I tell you. We invested nearly $900 million to buy this franchise in a highly leveraged deal. Our debt service is kicking in big time. By now, our business plan contemplated unleashed revenues coming from the ballpark. The Wrigley renovation plan is key to our financial ability. Unfortunately, we underestimated the difficulty in hammering out a mutually beneficial deal with the city of Chicago and localized interests. We’ve been quite adaptable, to include scrapping the original plan to lobby for amusement tax funds. Our current plan calls for a $500 million investment that won’t include a single dollar of taxpayer investment. Yes, we have recently secured a tax break on the ballpark that will save us several milion dollars a year. Yes also we have worked with the city and building owners to also secure additional footprint space on Sheffield Avenue. But overall it should be clear to the public that we are very serious in our commitment to Wrigley Field.

    We will continue to prudently manage the financial elements of this business. In addition to funding our daily baseball operation significant investments have been made in our new Arizona facility and Dominican Academy. Likewise we have been one of the most aggressive clubs in signing international talent since Theo and Jed arrived.

    I continue to ask Cub fans to trust the process. In Theo and his leadership team we have one of the best and brightest front office staffs in Major League Baseball. I can tell you that they work tirelessly on doing the spade work and heavy lifting to build the baseball operation. As many of our good fans are well aware, our minor league system is now ranked among the best and deepest in baseball. As Theo has said on many ocassions, it is those wise investments in scouting, player selection and player development that shall serve as the foundation to our winning at the big league level. We have already made very meaningful progress, with even more on the way. To steal a quote from Theo, “there are no shortcuts.”

    Best wishes to you and your families on a safe and reflective Thanksgiving holiday.

  25. SH

    Brett I hope you can verify the above.

    1. ssckelley

      Perhaps a letter that got sent to season ticket holders?

      1. SH

        That would be a disappointment. First Jed last week, now Tom? Moving on up!

        1. ssckelley

          I missed that, when did Jed post on here?

          1. SH

            Jed mentioned reading the site at an event, did not post. Sorry for the confusion :)

  26. cubmig

    “I continue to ask Cub fans to trust the process.”

    Best joke line ever. I wonder how the Sveum hiring helps one to believe that?

  27. MightyBear

    I think if Tom Ricketts really did post on BN, Brett would be doing cartwheels right now. That would be cool though, especially if he responded to Kyle. LOL

    1. ssckelley

      Responding to Kyle would be a waste of his time.

  28. caryatid62

    From my email this morning:

    “Hello,

    I had tried to get in contact with you a few weeks ago to introduce myself as your official contact with the Chicago Cubs. I wanted to give you the great news that your number has officially been called and you will be able to join the Cubs Season Ticket Holder Family this season!”

    Yeah, no thanks. I’m going to spend my next five years “rebuilding” my bank account and not wasting on a terrible product.

    1. MightyBear

      Bad move. In two years, you’ll wish you had them.

      1. caryatid62

        Nope, pretty sure I won’t.

        They’ll barely be a .500 team in 2015, I won’t have wasted $10,000 on awful entertainment, and given the attrition rate of the current season ticket holders, won’t have any time buying in at that point if I feel like it.

        There’s absolutely no reason to waste your money on this product at the moment. It’s simply not worth it.

    2. mjhurdle

      More people in front of me need to do the same.

      Keep the line moving!!

      1. caryatid62

        Judging by where I was on the list before this season (21,000), it’s moving quickly.

      2. Pat

        There was a guy posted over at BCB that he was told he could pass on his place in line (which came up) to someone else. If you’re interested, I don’t think anyone took him up on it yet.

  29. Die hard

    No complaints …. As long as Theo is a good captain and goes down with the ship…or is he just laying groundwork f

  30. Die hard

    For a contract extension on basis more work to do? If so then

    1. Die hard

      This move should be rejected by the Ricketts family as deceptive and bordering on fraud in inducement as Theo was the expert taking advantage of the novice owners and as such

      1. Die hard

        Created an adhesion contract where it takes unfair advantage resulting in representations that he should be bound by under equitable principles

        1. DarthHater

          h9991358_001.jpg

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