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.

  • walterj

    Peter Gammons with an interesting tweet for those who want the Cubs to spend big, “In the previous four free agent off-seasons, 8 players changed teams for contracts greater than $100M. None have a ring.” (h/t @mrubio52)

    • MightyBear

      That means absolutely nothing. So what? Sea Turtles live a long time. What does Gammons bullshit have to do with offseason spending. I can tell you that before its over, someone over 100 million dollars will have a ring. Also, I assume he’s saying a new ring because Pujols has a ring and it was after the Cards gave him 100 million dollars.

      • Chad

        Pujols did not switch teams for that ring or the 100 mil

    • YourResidentJag

      And the Twitter response: Seems like it sounds more poignant than it is.

    • Kyle

      If I’m not mistaken, however, every World Series winner has had at least one player in the middle of a nine-figure deal in that span.

  • Turn Two

    I think blaming ricketts makes more sense than Theo. If the rebuild properly done is taking until 2016 to see the kids. Then we could get plenty of talent on three year deals until then and have a window of decent teams before we get our waves of talent.

  • Mat B

    Disappointed? I suppose. Angry? Absolutely. I’ll be upset if they don’t win 78 games in 2014. I want to see tangible progress.

  • Craig C.

    Been saying since day 1 that its all Ricketts fault! Rebuilding way Cubs are is going to take 10+ yrs for it to work. Look at WSN/MON, MIL, PIT, KCR, SEA etc. Cubs are building like a small and medium market which takes them 10+ yrs before they finally hit on enough drafts and low tier FA to win. Cubs are Big Markets and should have been rebuilding farm WHILE trying to win at MLB through FA and IFA. There are many players that have signed 3 years or less deals that could have made team alot better. Instead Ricketts was being cheap and cut payroll by 50 mil while charging top NL ticket prices to make $. He a business man and only cares about making money. Which is great for him but sucks for Cub fans that care about winning. There been signals for 4+ yrs Ricketts has owned team that Cubs would suck under his ownership. Now bloggers just catching on. Guess what fans like me been saying this stuff for while now.

    • BobbyK

      Prospects should hit the big leagues when there is already a competitive team. That is that Cardinal way, which I hate being a Cubs fan living in St.louis. They field a competive team first and use their prospects to fill in gaps. They don’t leverage the future purely on prospects and they spend in FA but attempt not to overspend. It has obviously proven to be successful. Ease prospects into an already semi-successful team. That way the pressure on the prospect is minimized. Gain some confidence playing with a good team. Bat in a lineup where a former idol is now your peer and mentor. The way cubs are building we have a garbage team in big leagues with good prospects that we will put incredible pressure on to be the saviors increasing the already difficult transition. Field a competitive watchable team in 2014!! Ease a couple of prospects in. 2015 we can actually compete and have a chance. 2016 add the big FA (prob a #1 pitcher) to push over the edge. “Theo,Jed,ricketts plan” seems a lot less gradual of an approach like it’s all gonna happen at once. The worst to first thing doesn’t happen that often. Continued success needs to start with some success.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Someone please explain to me how the team with the third highest revenue in baseball, has a president of baseball saying, “we had hoped to leverage our financial advantages sooner.”
    I spoke with a baseball writer from the St. Louis area over the weekend. He said the Cubs were the talk of all the baseball people over the meetings in Orlando. As in, where the eff is all the money going kind of talk? As in how could a team with the revenues they have, possibly have a problem locking up a 28 year old stud pitcher like Samardzija? As in why would they be shopping him when he still has value, as though they were the Tampa Bay Rays? As in how can a team with a quarter of a billion a year in revenue, with long term contract commitments of only 25 million in 2015, be claiming poverty and salary limitations?
    The consensus was that the Ricketts deal was far worse than many thought when they bought the club, and the franchise is suffering those effects greatly.

    • SH

      Again, though — why would MLB allow an ownership group to agree to terms that would hamper their ability to be competitive? Even if the Ricketts family thought they could rely on Wrigley reno/TV deal/etc., I would think that MLB would balk at the risk profile.

      Maybe I’m overestimating what MLB looks for when clearing new owners — more interested in avoiding Mark Cuban’s inappropriate behavior than something like this — but it seems odd.

      • Bacboris

        Could a Jeff Loria exist in the NFL?

        Would a Dinosaur/relic like Reinsdorf be able to keep a successful and passionate potential owner like Mark Cuban from purchasing an NBA team?

        The MLB has long permitted bizarre financial situations to persist. Rather than facilitate the Rays move to Charlotte or Vegas, they petition a broke city government at the height of the rescission.

        Each team sale since 2000 has included more debt (leveraged buy-out) with greater debt-financing apparently being drawn from team revenue. A blind man could have seen that the tribune’s shenanigans with Zell were not in the cubs interest (as even the IRS would attest to). I wish I still had a document that laid out the last 10 MLB teams sold, the amount of debt at acquisition, and their forecasted debt burden to net revenue (for the next 10-20 years). All said, its a mess, anyway you cut it.

  • Tommy

    I’m surprised the Cubs wouldn’t try to put together a winner in 2014 to help get the best T.V./radio deal possible. If they’re playing better ball, I’d have to think that would increase their earning ability in those venues.

    • Brett

      Since the deal is being negotiated this offseason, that ship has sailed.

  • willy

    if the cubs keep draggin their feet with empty promises they’re not goin to have a fan base left .ive been a cub fan since 85 ,and don’t know how much more I can take .sooner or later u have to throw the fans a bone or they’re gonna start eatin some where else

    • JL

      Once your a fan of a team and a true fan. You can’t just say hey they have sucked for so long. I think I’m going to be a cardinals fan now. To me those aren’t true fans. Look how long the Pirates have sucked. What did you see this year when they had a good team. A sold out stadium. Once the cubs are good that’s what you’ll see at wrigley too.

      • Caryatid62

        Is there some kind of award for being the “truest fan?”

        I’m sure casual fans enjoy the wins as much as the diehards, but they just don’t agonize over the losses as much.

        I don’t understand the supposed honor that comes with being a “true fan” or “diehard.” If one believes themselves to be a diehard, they are. There are no arbiters of fandom and, as such, the badge of honor that comes from being a true fan pretty much exists only in that fan’s mind.

        • mjhurdle

          i agree halfway with your statement.
          I think people over-use “true fan’. Most of the time it gets thrown out in reference to opinions, such as “if you like Theo/hate Theo then you are a Koolaid Drinker/Contrarian and thus not a true fan”.
          But i do think there is something about someone that sticks with a team thick and thin, good times and bad that qualifies them for being a higher fan status than someone that only pays attention when the team is good.
          I would say someone that quits the team when it is bad (like right now) is less of a fan than someone that stays with the team and agonizes through the down times (like Die Hard, even though he is crazy)

          • caryatid62

            My point is: Who Cares?

            If a fan drops the team right now, doesn’t watch a game until they’re back in the hunt for a playoff spot, does that mean they’re not allowed to take part in the fun? Is there someone who comes down and says–“Noooope. Not True Enough. You can’t enjoy this as much as someone who has paid attention over the last five years.”

            They’re still going to enjoy the wins, and no one can really stop them. Their joy is not regulated by some kind of True Fan gestapo. The whole concept of “true fans” seems to exist only for those who need a reason to keep watching a terrible team.

            Watch the team, don’t watch the team, who cares? You don’t get any rewards for being some kind of uberfan.

            • mjhurdle

              “You don’t get any rewards for being some kind of uberfan.”

              well, besides self-respect and pride, i guess you are right.

              • Caryatid62

                If one’s self-respect is derived from his allegiance to a sports team, then he’s got bigger problems.

                This is entertainment, not something that actually has meaning.

                • mjhurdle

                  perhaps, but, and just my personal opinion, people that abandon a team whenever it is going through tough times typically are the type of people that abandon other things when the going gets tough as well.
                  Like you said, sports is a small thing that really matters very little in the long run. Why would it matter enough to constantly change allegiances based on a team’s level of success?
                  I am a Cub fan and a baseball fan. I will always enjoy watching well-played baseball, which lately doesn’t involve the Cubs unfortunately.
                  However, I will always be a Cub fan, regardless of whether they are good or bad. i feel no reason to change that if the team is bad, because it doesn’t change how i feel about myself or the game of baseball.

                  • Caryatid62

                    Who knows? Maybe because it’s more fun to celebrate victories? Maybe because the person just doesn’t care enough to form a bond with a specific team. Maybe because he/she just likes players rather than teams. Maybe because the uniforms are cooler. It doesn’t make that person’s enjoyment of the game any less valid.

                    As to your first point, considering that sports teams aren’t nearly as important as, well, pretty much anything, I find it hard to believe that the level of allegiance one has for his entertainment says much of anything about his loyalty to actual important things.

                    There’s nothing wrong with remaining loyal to a team, but at the same time it also isn’t some badge of honor by which to judge others as unworthy because they aren’t “true fans.”

                    • mjhurdle

                      “I find it hard to believe that the level of allegiance one has for his entertainment says much of anything about his loyalty to actual important things.”

                      This is where we have to agree to disagree i guess. i feel that how people treat the “small” things in life often says more about them then how they treat the things that everyone knows are important.
                      And to be clarify my position, I have friends that don’t claim allegiance to any specific team, and I have no problem with that. I was referring only to the people that pride themselves in being fans when the team is good, then disappear/change teams when it is bad.

                    • Caryatid62

                      Well that’s a fairly arbitrary rule to have.

                      Let’s say you’re a Brad Pitt fan. After hearing the terrible reviews for Meet Joe Black, should you be criticized for not going to see it? Does that mean you’re not a “true” Brad Pitt fan? Should your loyalty I important matters be questioned because you didn’t see his movies when they were bad?

                      Placing this arbitrary importance on sports as some kind of analogy for life is what gets people into a lot of trouble. It’s best left where it belongs: in the sandbox with the other toys.

                    • mjhurdle

                      like i said, we just differ on this.
                      The movie example doesn’t work for me, mostly because, if you were a Brad Pitt fan, you would probably still see a movie he was in, even if it got bad reviews. And even if you choose to skip that one, you would probably see his next one.
                      If you only went to see Brad Pitt movies that got great reviews, then you are not a Brad Pitt fan, but rather a fan of good movies in general.
                      Again, if you are willing to shift loyalties for something as trivial as sports, why about that should lead someone to believe that other times, when it was important, you wouldn’t?
                      horrible off the cuff analogy of my own:
                      If you steal $5 from me, but then say “look, it was only $5, i would never steal money from you if it was a larger, more important amount”, im not going to trust you again, even though the $5 is basically meaningless.

                    • Caryatid62

                      You’ve committed the slippery slope fallacy.

                      I think you’re missing the point of my analogy–if I claimed to be a brad Pitt fan, but didn’t see one of his movies because of bad reviews, does that make me disloyal or untrustworthy in other parts of my life? That’s what you’ve implied.

                    • mjhurdle

                      i understand what you are saying, but i disagree that is slippery slope.
                      if you claimed to be a Brad Pitt fan, but only saw Brad Pitt movies that got great reviews, then how do you say you are a Brad Pitt fan? At that point, you are a fan of good movies, not Brad Pitt in general.
                      Also, i am not the one implying anything about trustworthiness. The person that changes loyalty, even about something as silly as sports, is the one that sets that standard. If someone does that, they themselves are saying that loyalty is important, for situations that they feel are important. How do I know what situations they feel are important? How could I say with any confidence that, when a situation is important to me, that person will also view it as important and thus maintain their loyalty/trustworthiness?
                      Im not implying the shifting standard, that is spelled out as exactly what is happening. The only question left is then where does that sliding standard shift from things we think are un-important (movies, sports, $5) to something that is important.

                    • JayPaul

                      You say this, but my response would be this simple….i believe someone who sticks through anything in life thick or thin would absolutely derive more happiness in the good times as they have experienced much greater heartache during the bad. It means more because…well it always means something. As in this type of person has probably had an emotional connection to the Cubs since youth and not always due to a simple baseball game. Generations of
                      families have lived and died with the Cubs and memories made, for those as myself when the Cubs do reach the pinnacle, words like happiness and enjoyment will not be enough to quantify the emotion.
                      If you’re happy when the Cubs win, good for you. I’m happy to have them as part of my life period, bleeding cubbie blue.

    • santos toupe

      being a cubs fan is similar to being a drug addict. you just can’t quit that easy.

  • Jesse Ervin

    I could be dead in two years!!!

  • hansman

    Anyone find it interesting that theo pushed the timelibe back a year now that the renovations were stalled?

    Tom was banking on getting construction started this offseason, never counted on public financing but went through the pony show in an effort to get more public support behind him and keep Tunney off his back. He just never realized the level of dluchery that Tunney would sink to.

    This was fun to read through though.

    • Pat

      Except that doesn’t really make a ton of sense. There’s little chance they are going to have more money while doing the renovations. Those additional revenues are going to have to be used to pay for the renovation costs.

      If anything they should have more money available this year, since they were able to push the renovation costs out a year.

      • hansman

        Easy, the jumbotron would have been there.

        • Pat

          Along with the costs to renovate the rest of the park. Having a hard time seeing that as a net positive for cash, especially since you have the initial cost of the jumbo torn as well.

          • Scotti

            The rooftops offered $20 million in ad revenue per year to the Cubs and the Cubs turned it down the same day without even entering negotiations. This means the Cubs believe they can generate WAY more than $20M with their own ads. $30-50 million per year pays for the loan on the rehab construction ($300 million) and as many video boards and see-through ads as you can fit and then some.

            The $200 million office building and hotel/retail space/ad space not only pays for itself from day one but is a completely separate enterprise from the Cubs.

            • Pat

              Please link. There is no way they made that offer. They offered to put up signs and split the revenue, there was no dollar amount attached. The Cubs will be lucky if the actual jumbotron brings that much.

              • Cubbie Blues

                The rooftop association announced their plans at a news conference claiming the advertising should bring in between $10-20 million annually to be split between the Cubs and the city of Chicago. The rooftop owners would see no profit from the advertising.

                They proposed to let the Cubs sell advertising on their buildings that would been seen on several digital screens. The rooftop owners hired a marketing consultant who calculated that rooftop signs would generate $10 million to $20 million in annual revenue.

                Those were the first two hits I found on a google search.

                • Pat

                  So essentially, the rooftops did not offer 20 million. They came up with a plan that one person estimated might be worth between 10 and 20 million, only part of which would go to the Cubs. As near as I can tell from both articles, the total guaranteed amount to the Cubs was $0

                  • Cubbie Blues

                    No, the Roof Tops had the study done and before any negotiations could get under way, the Cubs said that it wasn’t even worth the time to use that low of a number at a starting point.

          • The Logos

            I also think it’s not really about having a “net positive” of cash. The Ricketts are billionaires … they have money. It seems to like they just don’t want to put all that money forward until they have everything straight.

            At the On Deck event, Crane Kenney quoted Tom Ricketts as saying he does not want to write a $500 million check while he still has $25 million a year “leaking out” to the rooftops.

    • caryatid62

      I think you overestimate (a.) the level of power Tunney actually has, and (b.) the speed with which the renovations would likely begin to bear fruit in terms of revenue.

      And I would place a decent amount of blame on Ricketts for being unable, in four years, to lay the groundwork for a smooth financial and legal process RE: the renovations.

      There’s only so much “Oh the poor Cubs! Look at all the bad people who are making it so hard for them!” one can stomach. They’re a billion dollar company and don’t need people making excuses for their lack of efficacy.

      • hansman

        Tunney holds the power over the rooftops which are are holding up the show right now

        Such is the machine that is the chicago political scene when you have an owner that doesnt want to be the one that moves the cubs from wrigley (and all the positive things that come with that) should his bkuff be called.

        • Hawkeye

          Rickets holds the cards as there most certainly should be money available to attempt to field a competitive even without the “added revenue” from a renovation. This whole strapped for cash thing is unbelievable as I’m pretty sure the Trib wasn’t losing money when they were spending $160 million on payroll. Unless he bought the cubs using a Discover Card at 19.99% APR the terms of his purchase can’t being strapping the team anywhere near what he would like us to believe. To me his ownership has never been about baseball and always been about increasing the Ricketts family net worth.

          • hansman

            The trib NEVER spent $160M on payroll. NEVER EVER NEVER EVER NEVER.

            The high water mark was $145M that was surrounded by two $135M payroll seasons.

            We know that winning = greater profits. We know that it is easier to win with a larger payroll.

            Why, then, did the Tribune NEVER spend like a big market team?

            • SH

              ’09 and ’10 we were a top 3 payroll. Hard to say that’s not spending like a big market team. ’08 and ’11 we were 8th and 6th respectively. And because why not I have a calculator: our ’13 opening day payroll was 60% of the 2010 peak — not accounting for inflation.

              • YourResidentJag

                But over the past thirty years….where we were. Hardly where you suggest.

                • SH

                  Just rebutting the assertion that Tribune never spent like a big market team. I’ve no comment beyond that, really.

          • Scotti

            The Trib only spent big market money when Zell was trying to sell the team. And they only paid out $20 million for the team (decades ago) and NOTHING to rehab Wrigley. The Ricketts have to service the debt on $850 million AND come up with a way to finance $300 million in repairs to Wrigley. The Trib ALSO made backdoor money (and still does) via the WGN TV/radio deals.

            Zell was offered one billion dollars straight up for the team so you know that the fact that $850 million was the winning bid means that the terms of the deal are quite onerous. The speculation that the team cannot go into debt (for tax/sale purposes) to run the team (payroll) would fit right in there with onerous.

        • Caryatid62

          He has no power over private businesses. They do what they want.

          If the team actually can’t afford to defend itself from a legal challenge waged by a few ticket brokers and a bar owner, they’re in worse financial shape than we imagined.

          • YourResidentJag

            I don’t think that’s the problem though. The problem is the opposition finding the right judge in the legal system and dragging it further via injunctions.

            • Caryatid62

              The appeals system makes that pretty unlikely. In the meantime, they likely could have bought out most of the rooftops back in 2010 during the housing crisis if they had more foresight.

              • YourResidentJag

                So, if there’s appeals doesn’t that delay things as well? I guess my point is the overall legalities of things–what’s the delays on things like appeals, injunctions? Little help here.

                • Caryatid62

                  Sure it delays things, but not likely enough to make the “we’re not doing anything at all until we get a guarantee of no lawsuit” a reasonable alternative.

                  • YourResidentJag

                    Just curious because whether you knew it or not, you’ve just made the exact same argument Wittenmeyer did a couple of weeks ago when he went on WSCR the Score.

                    • Caryatid62

                      Didn’t realize that–not really a Wittenmeyer fan in general, so now I feel icky.

              • mjhurdle

                I agree that the Cubs should have bought out the rooftops by now. That seems to be a tremendous oversight (obvious caveat that I don’t know if the rooftops were selling, or whether there was some sort of agreement between the rooftops to not sell out to the Cubs seeing as it would decrease their power).
                However, I don’t blame the Cubs now for not going forward with an expensive renovation with the threat of litigation.
                If they started construction, all it would take is one favorable judge to block all outfield signage and the Jumbotron until the suit is resolved to make that renovation even more costly. And that litigation *could* extend on for years.
                If we feel that the Cubs are tight with the wallet now, how much tighter would they have to be if they were footing the renovation bill without most of the revenue generators associated with it?

                • YourResidentJag

                  Well, that’s how these things seem to go with this organization. A problem arises, a solution seems ahead except it creates a further, more complex problem, and that gets vigorously debated when then leads into various subdivisions of other problems with opposing views. At this point, it just seems to me to be never-ending.

              • BT

                You really believe the rooftop owners are going to sell based on the property values as opposed to the value of their business? The housing market crashed in 2008-2009 which coincided with the Cubs having the best record in baseball and leading the division in August respectively. In 2010, the rooftop owners were still doing good enough business that they weren’t going to sell because Zillow told them their property value had fallen. It’s easy to sit back now and say they should have sold, but there was no reason for them to think that they weren’t going to be profitable for the near future at the time.

              • Scotti

                The housing bubble bursting affected the rooftops BUSINESSES no more than it affected the business at Wrigley Field (that is to say NONE). It is easy to armchair QB but come on.

                • caryatid62

                  Actually, at least two of the rooftops filed for bankruptcy in the years after 2008, citing the housing crisis and the lack of revenue from ticket sales.

                  Since then, ticket sales have often been relegated to discount retailers such as Groupon, demonstrating a continual lack of profitability. None of this is armchair QBing–it’s just fact.

                  • Cubbie Blues

                    Or, it could also have something to do with the product on the field since 2008. As the Cubs’ record has gone down so have the 2nd hand ticket prices. With more (non-STH) being able to purchase tickets in the stadium at lower prices I would propose that they in fact have done just that and are no longer purchasing tickets across the street.

                  • BT

                    Those rooftops (as far as I can tell it’s actually only one) were most certainly NOT for sale in 2008, but rather filed for bankruptcy this year, which proves the point Scotti is making. It wasn’t until people stopped coming to Wrigley that bankruptcy became a problem.

                    • caryatid62

                      No, they filed for bankruptcy in 2010 (hence the “years after 2008”). These facts are not in dispute.

                    • caryatid62

                      CORRECTION: one was in 2010, one was in 2011.

            • Brains

              the problem is that they’re terrible owners

              • BT

                Yeah, bring back Zell. No wait, bring back the Trib. No wait, bring back Wrigley, no wait….

                • Brains

                  i dunno, the trib’s “spend money now” approach seems preferable to the “spend money never because it’s all mine” approach of the ricketts.

                  • BT

                    Pretty bad summations of both regimes spending philosophies, otherwise, good point.

                    • Cubbie Blues

                      At least he shows consistency.

                  • terencemann

                    The only reason the Tribune/Zell spent a lot of money at the end was because they were trying to get revenue up to sell the team. They didn’t care about the long term effects of not spending on the draft because they weren’t going to own the team much longer.

                    • Brains

                      so what, we’re worse off now with this approach. we traded rotten sewage for particulate matter.

          • hansman

            The money has nothing to do with it, they don’t want to lose and have the judge force something that would be terrible.

            How quick would you be to divorce or sue for custody if you knew it meant you would only see your kids one week every two months? Or if the courts could jam the rooftops down your throats for the rest of eternity?

            Like it or not, Tom is a long-term owner. Everything he does is because he thinks that it will greatly assist the organization 10 or even 50 years from now.

          • hansman

            You grossly underestimate his power and stature in that community.

            • Mike F

              Hmmmm if you’re an Alderman elected by a lot of people in a large Illinois home rule community I would be more inclined to believe you on this. You’re a bright guy, but unless you are an Alderman here in Illinois, you are not correct. Yes Alderman indeed have a lot of power, but in this case as bright as you are, he’s right. Tunney is a sob, but he’s serving them and their lawyers aren’t going to let them unilaterally give up their right to sue without more money. He’s just pandering and beating a loud drum. All of this including the incompetence that brought it originally can be laid at the feet of Kenney. You my friend are blaming the wrong people

              • Scotti

                Tunney IS them. The rooftops, bar owners, restaurant owners (Tunney owns one a few blocks from Wrigley) ALL benefit from stalemate.

                • caryatid62

                  Not true at all.

            • caryatid62

              We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this. Knowing what I know about both the neighborhood and the political situations in which the city operates, I can guarantee that Tunney does not have the type of power you think he has.

          • hansman

            You think Beth Murphy will ever sell her rooftop? Not a chance in hell.

            And they did buy a couple of the rooftops back then. Problem was, during the housing crisis, the Cubs were good and the rooftops had good business.

    • ssckelley

      Yes, I posted this on the first page. I speculate that the FO and owners want to put out a winner the year Wrigley is to reopen. Every time we hear the Wrigley renovations getting pushed back we hear the Cubs rebuilding getting pushed back.

  • zbo

    Forgive me if this has been mentioned and also forgive me for relying on my memory. I seem to recall, I think from Terry Francona’s book, that Theo used to talk about how cool it would be to just forgo the FA market altogether and build a winner from scratch- totally homegrown.

    I’m not saying this is the plan, but I thought it deserved a mention. Even if so, I doubt Cub fans or ownership would allow this.

    • terencemann

      If Ricketts, Epstein and Hoyer built a winning Cubs team largely on players drafted or signed post 2011, there would be no debating who was responsible for that team.

      I’ve said it a million times but executives are very motivated by the idea of building their own brand and legacy.

  • Die hard

    The Ricketts will not commit one dime until the IRS issues a letter absolving them of all liability … The Rooftoppers issues are secondary

  • Reality Check

    the theo-ricketts combo is the perfect storm for them; and a total albatross-con job for the cubs fans. rickets accepted the worst financial deal possible just to own a team and baseball threw out the higher bids just so tommyboy could own the team.
    forbes and Bloomberg have the cubs in top5 of revenues; who can both be wrong?
    they can’t.
    rickets wants to renovate Wrigley before he wins. he wants a 60M payroll. for profits. for daddy.
    theo already won 2 titles. what is his motivation if he wins spending money. would be the same as the red sox; money won; not theo. theo is a boston guy. that meant something. he’s not a Chicago guy. a WS winner won’t come from the heart like the bosox did.
    but; if he can do it from scratch; over a long tampa-pitts-KC rebuild; mostly homegrown; then he could prove to the baseball world he is a boy genius. his ego is in the way. the same ego where he left the red sox the 1st time he thought he was not getting his due.

    so rickets is a cheap ass. theo wants to build from the ground up. and they are. and cubs fans are looking at a maybe 2016 team be competitive; if we find pitching; after we let 2 under 30 yr olds leave in cashner and Garza. heading toward a 3rd in smardz. and blew 2 shots at under 30 in sanchez and ryu.

    this is the plan. cheap and home grown. while even a shit team like the last 2 yrs draws 2.5 million. and rickets made 32M in 2012. I expect higher in 2013.

    go cubs go………….2016 or bust.

    • Brains

      most accurate post of the day

      • BT

        So now we “let Cashner leave”? And that’s probably the least non-nonsensical part of this post.

        More internet posters, “telling it like it is”.

        • terencemann

          Top 10 payrolls in baseball:

          New York Yankees $228,995,945
          Los Angeles Dodgers $216,302,909
          Philadelphia $159,578,214
          Boston $158,967,286
          Detroit $149,046,844
          San Francisco $142,180,333
          Los Angeles Angels $142,165,250
          Texas $127,197,575
          Chicago White Sox $124,065,277
          Toronto $118,244,039

          Only 4 of them made the playoffs this season. Tell me again about why dollars = wins?

          • caryatid62

            Because you used a tiny sample size.

            If you look at records over time, it’s pretty clear that teams with higher payrolls consistently contend more often than teams with low payroll. The first eight of those teams have been in the playoffs at some time in the last three seasons, for example.

            • Cubbie Blues

              They are also regarded as having goo farm systems every year (except the Yankees right now).

    • bbmoney

      This is my favorite line of the day:” theo is a boston guy. that meant something. he’s not a Chicago guy. a WS winner won’t come from the heart like the bosox did.”

      Guys….it’s official, Theo is lacking TWTW in Chicago because it’s not Boston.

  • Kramden

    Someone help me with this one….

    How does the word “rake” equate to hitting well?

    Who coined that word in regards to baseball?

    Why did it catch on?

  • Frank

    Everyone knew 2012 and 2013 were going to be crappy years with 2014 maybe being so so. Now they hint that 2015 might get flushed down the toilet also? Nothing is going to get them going unless ALL Cub fans make a concerted effort to start boycotting the games. Once the attendance drops below 2mil, they might wake up.

    Remember what Theo said about the 2.9 mil fans that went to the games this year.

  • Bwa

    Hopefully we get all star caliber players out of Baez and Bryant. 50 homers can turn around an offense quite a bit.

  • Cheryl

    Tunney could care less if the cubs have a good team or not. He has the power to delay things as long as he wants. There is only one way that Ricketts can win this stalemate against the Rooftop owners and Tunney and I’m sure Ricketts must know it by now – and that is to move the team. He knows it but will probably never take the step because he doesn’t want to be labeled as the one who moved the cubs. So who pays for what the cubs have become? In the short run and maybe in the long run – Ricketts?

  • Jason P

    Funny how “progress isn’t linear” has such a nice ring to it in theory, but when progress actually isn’t linear, people freak out.

    Rizzo and Castro most likely will be better in 2014. Castro only has 1 way to go after his disaster of a season this year, and Rizzo’s BABIP/other various metrics suggest he will also see significantly better results.

    Barring getting a prospect like Archie Bradley, trading Samardzija would be an unnecessary panic move, an overreaction to his desire to pitch closer to free agency. If he continues to pitch like a number 3 starter, he will eventually take number 3 starter money. If he turns into something more, it’s all for the better.

    Assuming no trades, 3 of the 5 rotation spots are set. If we manage to land Tanaka, that’s 4. If Arrieta works out, that’s 5. If he doesn’t, 1 of Johnson, Zastronymy, Blackburn, or Edwards likely will. Plus there are always other free agents.

    The bullpen will be significantly improved next year. Not in 2015. Next year. Parker, Strop, Russell, Grimm, Rusin, Rivero, Lim, Fujikawa, Rondon, Rosscup, and a few others — there’s a lot of quality arms there, including at least 4 who can crank it up to 95 mph or higher.

    A lot would have to go wrong for 2015 to look like 2012 or 2013.

    • DCF

      At least at the start even exponential growth is kinda linear. So if you can’t see any improvement at all, than it’s because there isn’t any.
      Don’t get me wrong, I really do appreciate the whole building-up-the-farm approach, but sitting around waiting for the farm to spit out all-stars is not enough. The team that is fielded has to grow simultaneously, year-by-year, otherwise half of the rebuild is missing.
      And while I remain hopeful that 2014 and 2015 will deliver in that regard, I also have to say that 2013 was a bit of a failure there.

    • ssckelley

      You bring up some good points. If Rizzo and Castro return to hitting like they did in 2012 I believe that adds 6 wins. So the Cubs are at 72 wins before making a single move. The Cubs need a starting pitcher to replace Garza/Feldman (about 2.5 WAR) and a right handed slugger to replace Soriano (about 1.0 WAR) in the outfield. They can add wins just from not having Camp, Bowden, Loe, and Marmol in the bullpen anymore.

      It would not have taken much to make last years team a .500 ball club. Just making a few moves this off season can get them close and then the prospects start graduating.

      • terencemann

        If they can finally catch lightning in a bottle in the bullpen, they could easily add 5 wins there by way of not blowing leads.

        • terencemann

          Also, WAR doesn’t really work linearly like that because there’s a lot of sequencing and other things that have to lineup. Keep in mind that it’s still an estimate at the end of the day. The Indians only had 36 WAR total this season but made the playoffs even though there were teams with more cumulative WAR than them.

  • BobbyK

    Is the refusal to field a competitive team leveraging technique for getting renovations/tv contract? The poor me routine seems like a tactical approach to get best tv deal and get the renovation negotiations finalized. Like listen we can’t win until these are done they way we want.

  • Pouncey

    Paying star GMs is cheaper than playing to win. So theo somehow gets a pass on 4 years of losing? The cubs are bad entertainment.

  • Pingback: Supplementing Yesterday’s Concerns About 2014 and 2015 – I Didn’t Say What Some of You Think | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary()

  • Chicago4life

    I hate to say it, because it sucks for Chicago baseball, but if the Cubs aren’t ready to win and field a playoff team I don’t want them to spend money. Why would you spend money to add 20 wins end up in 3rd or 4th place and still not make the playoffs? It will stunt our player development. Be patient, get the best talent you can and when they feel we are busting at the seems with young studs, you spend the money and go for the playoffs. Why is everyone so hungry to win 78 games? Great, we get to see slightly better baseball that isn’t good enough to play any extra games and get this city excited.

  • Napercal

    Don’t blame Theo. The Ricketts kids are members of the lucky sperm club. They have no idea what they are doing. The old man bought them a toy. Two of the kids are bored with the toy and are now off running Dad’s other toy – some conservative political SuperPAC. Tom can’t get squat done with the City of Chicago. He does, however, do a nice job making sure he and his wife get their picture plastered all over the Sun-Times Style section attending all of the local charity events. Next year we’ll all sit here listening to how 2016 may not be so good, money will be tight, someone or other will have a setback, blah, blah, blah. Listening to the radio talk shows and watching Comcast here, it is clear that the Cubs are quickly becoming a non-story. The fans are supposed to be excited about the big birthday party that ownership is planning for Wrigley Field. I’ll pass on the cake of you don’t mind. I have spoken with 2 people in the past week who two years ago were told they were 30,000 on the list for season tickets. The call went something like this: ” This is so and so from the Chicago Cubs! We have great news! We are now able to offer you season tickets! Can we arrange for payment over the phone at this time?” Response: “You’re kidding. I have no interest. Please don’t bother calling me again until you put a major league team on the field.” Not one, but two people received this call and bothe turned it done. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

  • Dan

    I believe all you need to see/know about this team can be found here:

    -Highest operating income of 2013

    -4th Highest Revenues

    -Player expenses dropped for the first time in a while this year

    -Value of the club has only gone up


    As many have mentioned, the team is focused on shoring up the business side of things before making any major (Free Agent) player investments. We won’t see any major league team/player investments from Ricketts until the business is shored up, which means: rooftop rev share ending, new advertising revenue from signs coming in, and construction completed. THEN it makes sense for him to go out and drop $300mil (which he has) on a guy like Cano.

    But like others… when they called me for season tickets all of a sudden… I told them that I’ll come pay in a few years when it’s going to the team’s success. Not financing Rickett’s pocket on a bad deal he made buying the team in the first place.

  • Pingback: What a Difference a Year Makes and Other Bullets | Bleacher Nation | Unofficial Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary()