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monopoly bankruptIf I say that the comments have really improved after the registration requirement (truly, they have – I’m impressed), am I just begging for trouble? Especially considering what follows …

  • Jeff Passan has long been among the best national writers out there. He’s smart, he writes well, and he frequently breaks new ground. That’s why his hit piece on the Cubs’ offseason on Friday really took me by surprise. Not because it immediately makes me question Passan’s standing as a resident smart dude, but because, when the resident smart dude is saying these things, you have to take note and consider them critically.
  • The article, which was part of a series on each team’s offseason (still kinda early, no?), focuses on what Passan calls a “cheap,” “small-market charity case” that projects to enter 2014 with a payroll in the bottom five in baseball. Let’s be clear on some things: no one could, or should, argue that it isn’t deeply disappointing that the Cubs are where they are right now, in terms of big league competitiveness. We’re five years removed from the last relevant Cubs team, and a sub-$100 million payroll is, yes, a little ridiculous. But, outside of a throwaway line or two without explanation, Passan doesn’t seem to entertain the realities of the Cubs’ financial limitations right now (restrictive loan covenants that artificially depress spending, significant debt service payments, significant revenue-sharing obligations, delayed renovation, etc.).
  • Moreover, and more importantly, there are no specifics on what the Cubs should have done differently in the very offseason Passan is shredding. I don’t see too many contracts out there that made sense for the Cubs (and that’s assuming they wouldn’t have had to outbid the high bidder!). With a team that projects to be a high-60s-low-70s win total type, absent a spending binge that would be implausible for any team not in New York or LA, there was no playoff projection in the Cubs’ 2014 future. Hell, spending enough to get the Cubs to a 90-win projection – playoff caliber – could have set them up for the very same long-term problems they were facing back in 2011. You know, the problems the current process is trying to unwind. In other words, pointing to a shoddy payroll as evidence of “cheapness” is pretty meatbally and short-sighted. Spending just to spend is unproductive, and there’s no glory in 75 wins instead of 70. It’s not as if fans are suddenly going to be coming out in droves to see a $100 million loser in August instead of an $80 million loser in August. If the Cubs look poised to receive better internal contributions in 2015 when next offseason rolls around and they still don’t spend? Then this kind of piece would be appropriate (something Passan seems to acknowledge in the conclusion – like I said, he’s smart and all that).
  • In the end, Passan says some useful, accurate things – some of which are critical. But the tone of the whole piece feels inappropriately harsh, given the above. Credit to Passan: after the piece came out, he chatted with folks – some of them nasty – on Twitter for quite a while. When was the last time you saw someone do that after writing a piece that was necessarily going to enflame some passions?
  • You can see statements here from Alex Rodriguez, MLB, the Yankees, and Tony Bosch on the arbitrators decision yesterday to reduce ARod’s suspension to 162 games. The latter three are pretty much what you’d expect, and Rodriguez’s long statement is what you’d expect, too. It implies that he does, indeed, plan to challenge the ruling in federal court, as difficult and costly as that road is.
  • CubbieBubba

    Most teams, rebuilding or otherwise, still try to put the best team on the field possible. The cubs simply aren’t, for a variety of reasons, and Theo is content to collect his picks.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      This “we’re not fielding a competitive team” myth has gotten ridiculous. We did not field a “playoff caliber” but they were competitive (meaning we had the chance to dance around .500) at the start of the season. It was the “trade all the players” of the past two seasons that resulted in these horrible records. We are not the Astros, we are team that is not playoff ready and the FO has decided that any season where playoffs are not a possibility is a time to sell off all moveable pieces and gain a better draft pick vs finishing the season with 70+ wins. Now I can understand having an issue with that strategy and not signing more free agents, but to believe the Cubs haven’t “fielded a competitive team” (which is different from fielding a good/playoff team) is just wrong and I think everyone knows it. Have issues with the rebuild, the plan, and the direction but don’t create false narratives to support your disgust with the Cubs. The were competitive, but boy playoff good, before the trade deadlines.

      • Jason P

        In 2012 and 2013, I would agree that they fielded the best possible team they could have without going all crazy with the long term big money free agent contracts. This year, on the other hand? Not so much.

        4 of our 8 starters are Luis Valbuena, Darwin Barney, Junior Lake and Ryan Sweeney. 1 of our rotation starters is either Chris Rusin or Carlos Villanueva, and another one is a lottery ticket, high-bust potential guy in Jake Arrieta. That’s not a competitive team — that should be what the team looks like after the trade deadline. A couple of injuries, and Brooks Raley could make an appearance un the rotation.

        They have the payroll space to change that. There were plenty of opportunities to upgrade on guys who signed 1 or 2-year deals. I don’t know why they haven’t.

        • terencemann

          I think they’ve left the door open to upgrade 3rd by way of call-up and then move Valbuena to 2nd. I don’t see any upgrades over their outfielders who were available on short term deals who were not tied to compensation. Chris Young was arguably the best outfield free agent who falls into that category but they arguably filled that with Ruggiano.

          • Jason P

            Corey Hart, Juan Uribe, Chris Young, Eric Murphy, Franklin Gutierrez to name a few.

          • Jason P

            On the pitching side, Phil Hughes, Bartolo Colon, Dan Haren, Josh Johnson, Scott Kazmir, Tim Hudson.

        • Xruben31

          I don’t see Arrieta as high-risk anymore, he’s not getting a lot of K’s because he has been working alot on getting ground outs.

          • Jason P

            Then what do you see him as? Just plain bad?

            His career up to this point has been pretty terrible.

        • TulaneCubs

          The offseason isn’t over yet. Still time to sign guys on short term deals and I expect them to do so towards the end of the offseason. I’d be surprised if they didn’t sign at least 1 pitcher.

      • Scotti

        Competitive doesn’t mean “dancing around .500.” Historically, it means competing for the division title.

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          I highly doubt there is any historical preference to what “competitive” means. And that might be the problem many believe we should be fielding a team every year that is playoff caliber in order to be competitive, but for me it means the team is capable of having a chance to be successful and if things go right then playoffs are possible. The past two years we’ve done that but when things didn’t go perfectly and the playoffs were no longer an option we “sold all the players.” This is year is the first year being competitive by my definition is looking less likely (even with Tanaka) but the team drastically younger and less expensive. So if the pitching continues to look good and at the deadline we aren’t selling (which as of now we don’t have much to sell) and any of the prospects appear and make a splash the we might be more competitive than it looks right now. And yes that is a lot of “ifs” but that is the case with any team over the winter.

          My larger point is we are not the Astros, we are not putting teams together to fail into the first overall pick, we just lack the players needed to have playoff caliber team.

          • Scotti

            In Cub parlance competitive does have significant meaning. Andy McPhail’s stated goal was to be “competitive” every year. That didn’t mean a maybe .500 team that had a shot, if everything clicked, to maybe win the division. That meant to always be competitive in the division race. Of course “competitive” isn’t what the goal should be for the Chicago Cubs. It falls FAR short.

            I get that we aren’t Houston. But Houston is an historic lowwater mark. No other team has ever dared suck so bad for so long to reap draft benefits. No other team drafted first three years in a row. Saying we aren’t Houston isn’t saying much.

      • Kyle

        That may have been true last year, but this year’s team does not look .500-ish no matter how hard you squint. This team has a very good chance to compete for the worst record in the league heading into the trade deadline.

  • cavemancubbie

    It would seem that Mark Cuban, who I wanted to see buy the Cubs, had more financial smarts than the kids of Ricketts who got taken by Zell. Oh well.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the Ricketts kids weren’t smart – just that they really, really wanted the Cubs. And someone was going to buy the team, and MLB blessed the terms the TribCo was requiring.

      • Boogens

        How long are the Cubs subject to the terms of the restrictive loan covenants? Is their goal to use the increased revenue streams to pay off the loans or is it a contractual length of time that they’re obligated to operate under?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          That has not been reported, though Wittenmyer’s last couple pieces on the subject (dating back a couple years) suggest it’s another couple years, at least.

          • roz

            Another couple years from the publication of Wittenmyer’s pieces, or another couples years from now?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              The latter, though they were spread out over two years, and it was always an amorphous range of years. If I had to guess, it’s probably seven years from the sale (October 2009), but that’s truly no more than an educated guess.

              • Scotti

                Last year the IRS deemed the sale an actual sale (not the non-sale “partnership” that Zell claimed) and advised the Trib that they owed $200+ million in back taxes. Once that is done winding its way through appeals, my guess its that the Cubs are free to spend as they see fit.

                • CubFan Paul

                  This is true

        • fortyonenorth

          Someone who sounded lucid (his screen name ended in “cpa”) posted yesterday that it was a total of seven years.

      • cavemancubbie

        I understand the Rickett’s love the Cubs and have been loyal fans. That’s good. But in finance, falling in love isn’t smart, it’s emotion and clouds judgment. Is having an owner a big fan good? I don’t know, certainly the Trib bean counters weren’t all that great. I believe we will have to wait out history to see the value in Rickett’s having ownership.

    • roz

      Cuban backed out of the deal because he didn’t want to take on all of the debt that Zell was demanding. It has nothing to do with having the financial smarts so as to not get taken by Zell, he wasn’t backing down. Cuban wasn’t going to get around his restrictions, nor was Ricketts.

      • gary gaetti

        Explain this to me. How does a seller require/demand that a buyer use debt? Why would they?

        • cubzfan

          I’m sure I could google more details, but the basic story is that Zell wanted certain terms to reduce his tax burden from the sale of the club. The Tribune retained 5% ownership of the team for a period of time, and the use of debt was a way to spread out the gains to that ownership share.

          • hcs

            Thank you for stating this more eloquently, and factually, than my stumbling statement below, Way to show me up before I’ve gotten that first cup of coffee into my system!

        • hcs

          To spread out Zell’s tax hit over a much longer period, if I remember correctly (Always a bit suspect).

        • roz

          It reduced Zell’s tax liability from the deal. Basically, instead of selling the Cubs and Wrigley Field, he put them into a partnership and transferred 95% of the ownership from the Tribune to Ricketts. There’s a much better explanation here:

          http://money.cnn.com/2009/09/21/news/companies/zell_tribune_chicago_cubs.fortune/

          • Boogens

            Thanks, Roz!

          • D.G.Lang

            According to that article after Zell changes the corporation from a “C” to an “s” when he purchased it the clock started ticking on a ten year time frame where he couldn’t sell the team without incurring a huge tax bill.

            Therefore, if we subtract the years Zell owned the team before he sold it (3 years?), we are left with the 7 years from the time of the sale until the Cubs could possibly be free from the 10 year restriction Zell was operating under which he had to impose on the Rickets.

            Perhaps someone could verify if Zell did own the team for three years leaving the remaining 7 year constraint.

            It seems like the IRS didn’t but his tactic anyway and is/was investigating the sale. Zell might get hit with the tax bill anyway so I wonder if the terms of the sale might be voided due to the tax evasion fraud and the Rickets might be released from those restrictions early.

            • Scotti

              In 2013 the Trib stated that the IRS deemed it a sale and, thus, back taxes are due now. I’m sure the Trib appealed but, once that is done, I don’t see where the team has any restrictions under the former terms.

        • BenRoethig

          Legally, they didn’t sell the Cubs, they expanded the ownership group. The new owner has 95 though.

      • 5412

        Hi,

        I know Cuban backed out because he realized that Selig and Reinsdorf were going to blackball him. Reisndorf prides himself on saying he was the only NBA owner who voted against Cuban when he bought the Dallas team.

        Cuban realized he was being used and all he was doing was helping Zell if he stayed in and just bid the price up higher. Whatever he bid, someone else was going to be given the opportunity to get close.

        Cannot tell you my source; however I have told Brett the entire story.

        FWIW, Mark Cuban also was a believer that the Cubs should win every year with the revenue advantage they had in the central division. That is working it’s way through now. I read last year where the city is costing the Cubs over $100 million a year in lost advertising. Couple that with a new TV deal and they should be in a much different financial position.

        regards,
        5412

  • cooter

    If 2015 is the same song and dance then I don’t know how that will go over with the fans. Remember in late 2012 the team got hot for a little bit and the f.o. said we may be competitive as soon as 2013?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      If there don’t appear to be legitimate, long-term-focused reasons for not spending (as there are this offseason), this stuff will not fly next offseason. Heck, even if there are good reasons for not spending, it still won’t fly with most fans.

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        It’s not flying very well this season either. When a guy like Passan gets on that band wagon then somebody should listen. It will be interesting to see how much attendance suffers this year.

      • 5412

        Hi Brett,

        I cannot make a judgment on whether the Cubs are cheap or not…..yet! To me cheap is when you have a good team and let players go because you don’t want to keep them.

        The 1985 Bears are a perfect example. There was no salary cap in at the time and Michael McCaskey was not about to spend to keep the team together.

        A couple years later we listened to a post game interview in late November and the reporter asked Ditka if he was going to return as his contract expired at the end of the season. Ditka responded, “That depends”. Bottom line is he said he would only return if there was one goal – to win the Super Bowl. I told my wife at the time Ditka will not return, that has never been the goal of the McCaskey family and never will be.

        Ricketss has a stated goal of building a consistent winner and, as you and I have discussed, they are going about it the right way. I asked Ricketts what his biggest surprise was when he bought the team was and he said “The farm teams were in much worse shape than we thought.” He contended they knew it was bad but not THAT bad.

        When they start putting a competitive team on the field and need to spend money to get them to the top and stay there; that is when we will see if they are committed.

        Right now they are happy to pay their debts and break even. They have planted the seeds and are waiting for them to grow. Hopefully new advertising and TV revenue will allow them to put a better team on the field and stay competitive for many years.

        As far as any reporter calling them cheap. Easy to do, let the reporter put up over a billion dollars and put his money where his mouth is.

        Best regards,
        5412

        PS: Calling them cheap is only going to make things worse for the moment. Ricketts is goal oriented and they have put together a good plan that takes time to work. Keep bitching about cheap and knock a few hundred thousand off the attendance is not going to help anything.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      The 2013 team should have been about .500. Somehow, though, they managed to underproduce on offense and melt down in the bullpen to the point that early in the season they were about ten games under their pythagorean w/l. That is extremely rare, hard to do, and unlikely to happen again.

      • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

        Yup see my reply above concerning the myth of “fielding a competitive team” above.

        • YourResidentJag

          I’m not sure fielding a competitive team was the right approach for 2013 though if it to you it’s a myth. The Cubs should have planned last year’s offseason like this one. #4 pick is nice in this upcoming draft–#1 or#2 would be even nicer.

      • Patrick G

        I agree. Look at how many games early in the year that the bullpen(mostly Marmol) blew for them. The offense underproduced, especially Casto. The rotation was very solid up until Feldman/Garza were moved. Weren’t they like 8 games under .500 around late June? But once trades happened, that’s when it all started to fall apart. I believe if the offense bounces back and Edwin Jackson pitches better, the bullpen looks a lot better, they can be somewhat competitive.

        • http://bleachernation.com woody

          Don’t forget about Camp.

        • hansman

          The failures on April were solely the fault of the offense that was scoring somewhere well south of 3.5 runs per game.

          The bullpen wasn’t good but it didn’t put the Cubs 10 games below pythagorean estimates.

      • TTH

        The bullpen didn’t “meltdown” it was awful to start with.

      • Voice of Reason

        Lukas:

        The 2013 cubs team should have been .500?

        That’s the craziest statement of the year.

        The bulls should be in first place.
        The bears should have won the super bowl this year.
        The white Sox should have been a wild card team this year.

        We can make a ton of statements, but thats silly.

        • JadeBos

          The Cubs were +1 in run differential on July 9th sporting 40-48 record still a week after they’d traded Feldman. The plus one run differential suggest they could’ve been around 500 if not for some bad bullpen luck with Marmol/Camp early and our BU closer Fujikawa having TJS.
          Of course we were already 14 games back behind the 3 best teams in the NL which all happened to be in our Division. So they sold off Garza/Soriano/Dejesus/Harriston and stumbled to the finish, going 26-48 the rest of the way.

  • rabbit

    i thought darvish and ryu both made sense for the cubs

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      They did.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Of course thy did but we didn’t win the bid/contract, why is Darvish always where fingers get pointed? It was a blind bid and nobody came close the the Rangers who really over bid because it was a blind bid.

      • YourResidentJag

        Because Theo should have a versed expertise in contracts, given that he has a doctorate in law and has done this sort of thing for how long???

        • baldtaxguy

          What does that have to do with a blind bid process?

          • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

            Exactly no level of expertise gives a person x-Ray vision to see what other teams had in their envelops.

            • YourResidentJag

              What does that have to do what the estimation of a bid and being accurate about a player’s value? Wasn’t it hansman who said that the Cubs were reported to have finished 2nd in the bid for Darvish? Seems to me that Theo knew how much it would take to get him, he just went the more conservative route because of the team’s finances.

              • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

                The rumors also said that the Ranger’s bid dramatically over the 2nd place bid. Was Theo suppose to know what the Rangers offered? The best mind in the world can estimate what it takes to win a blind bud but it doesn’t mean they are flawless with those guesses, and that’s what a blind bid is a well educated guess. We guessed wrong the Rangers thought it would take 50M+ to win the other teams didn’t. How can you fault not winning a blind bid? Are you saying Daniels/Ryan are better because they won a guessing game.

                • YourResidentJag

                  First of all, I’m not finding fault. Secondly, I think you’re missing the point. He was accurate and intelligently able to come in with the 2nd place bid. To the exclusion of other facts, which by the way you don’t have, Theo sure seemed to know what was in all those other envelopes, except for the Rangers. Daniels and Ryan were just smarter. You know by the way industry insiders now highly regard that contract in terms of future increased spending for FAs.

                  Theo also claims to know statistically how many wins (within a reasonable stat variance) his team will have by the end of season. Maybe I’m changing my mind about him…maybe he really is that good. Not flawless, but good.

          • YourResidentJag

            So, you’re saying that Theo doesn’t know what a conservative or overvalued bid would be on this player? I find that hard to believe with his background, blind bid or not.

            • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

              Yes he did, his guess was better than most other teams but the Rangers surprised everyone.

              • YourResidentJag

                Or realize how to get ahead in the market in terms of big IFAs?

              • Bill

                More likely Theo knew exactly what everyone was going to bid, including Texas. He didn’t want Darvish but he had to put up an appearance, for the fans, that he did. Hence, the 2nd place bid. Theo/Ricketts have been going on the cheap from day one. Theo wants to build this team via the draft. He stays awake at night dreaming of an entire lineup filled with players he drafted. He doesn’t want FA’s except to flip them for prospects. Theo doesn’t plan to put a competitive team on the field until 2017/2018, at the earliest.

                • Geech

                  Why is that more likely? If everyone’s bid was such common knowledge beforehand, why did any team but Texas even bother submitting a bid?

                • Cubsleeram

                  How exactly would Theo know how much others are bidding? It’s blind bidding. Texas shocked everyone by bidding what appeared to be a fairly high amount (which now seems reasonable, in retrospect).

                  Theo made a bid — taking into account factors such as projected years of competitiveness, team’s financial situation, Darvish’s perceived abilities, etc. — which ultimately came up short. To say that he made a bid just to appease us fans is wrong in my opinion.

                  • Scotti

                    “Texas shocked everyone by bidding what appeared to be a fairly high amount…”

                    Texas bid just a hair over what Theo himself had bid several years before for Dice-K. There was nothing shocking about what Texas bid.

                    • BT

                      So the bid on Dice-K was now the official going rate for any pitcher coming out of Japan? The fact that Dice-K had 2 good years, then nothing was part of the reason the bid on Darvish was shocking. The fact that Texas’ bid was twice everyone else’s was shocking. Context matters. That there once was another bid comparable to the Darvish bid is utterly beside the point.

                    • Bill

                      Great point, Scotti. The Texas bid shouldn’t have been a “shock” and I honestly don’t believe it was to Theo. I truly don’t think he really wanted him, at least not at market value (what Texas paid).

                      We aren’t talking about top secret information the gov’t is trying to keep from China. Guys in the FO talk. If Theo wanted to know Texas price he could have found out or at least got a ballpark figure of their number.

                      Theo has only signed two players at a value that turned people’s heads. One, was Jackson, and Theo is now saying it was a mistake. The other was Gerardo Concepcion. Most scouts/baseball people were like WTF. The guy had terrible reports and he’s been worse than bad for the Cubs. While they way overpaid for Concepcion, Theo looked at this signing as still cheap in comparison to MLB FA’s, it gave the appearance that he was doing something, and it might have helped in their signing of Soler (his real prize).

                      Theo has done a great job with the farm system but he gets a D- for what he’s done with the big league club.

                    • BT

                      Right Bill. It’s not top secret information. Guys in the FO talk. If they want to know the price, they could have found out. That’s why Texas bid TWENTY MILLION plus more than anyone else. Because it’s so easy to find out what the other teams are bidding, and everyone knew what everyone else was bidding, but Texas really really liked the Ham Fighters, and thought they would slip them the extra 20 million or so, just to be nice guys.

                      simply astounding.

                    • Scotti

                      “So the bid on Dice-K was now the official going rate for any pitcher coming out of Japan?”

                      Since it won the last two Japanese TOR pitchers, it would appear so. Context matters.

                      “The fact that Dice-K had 2 good years, then nothing was part of the reason the bid on Darvish was shocking.”

                      Dice-K had two good years and then got i n j u r e d. Pitchers get i n j u r e d. Dice-K and Darvish were both excellent deals from a team perspective. If you don’t like losing free agent money to pitching injuries then A) draft your TOR pitchers and B) have a six-man rotation (the extra day allows for recovery a la Japan and college)…

                    • baldtaxguy

                      Way too much grassy knoll shit. It was a blind bid, one wins, the rest lose. It can be just that simple.

                    • Scotti

                      “If they want to know the price, they could have found out. That’s why Texas bid TWENTY MILLION plus more than anyone else.”

                      That’s because they WANTED him $20 million more than anyone else–including Theo. Again, Dice-K went for $51,111,111. Darvish–the better pitching prospect between the two (one year younger at the time they signed, better build, better FB)–posted for $52,703,411 (an additional million, the lucky #7, Nolan Ryan’s #34, Yu Darvish’s #11).

                      Also, PRIOR to the bidding, Tim Dierkes (owner of MLB Trade Rumors) posted this:

                      “Last week, I polled five agents and one team executive about Darvish’s potential posting fee and contract. Guesses on the posting fee ranged from $30-55MM, with the team executive making the highest prediction.” Dierkes goes on to say the average was $45 million.

                      $52,703,411 wasn’t “going nuts.” It was south of where a different team exec figured Yu Darvish would go. Turns out that exec was less than $2.3 million off. Find that guy and give him a job.

                      What Theo did was to toss out a bid that would have been an incredible bargain for the Cubs had the post won. That post failed. By, reportedly, $20 million. Missing out on Céspedes was reasonable that year because of the contract he demanded (just four years). Missing out on Darvish is thoroughly regrettable if the resources were there.

                    • Jason P

                      Diasuke had only one good year based on ERA, and even that was a huge aberration caused by him vastly outpitching his peripherals. The injury had no impact whatsoever on his stuff or velocity.

                      Quite simply, he was never very good.

                    • Scotti

                      “Diasuke had only one good year based on ERA…”

                      Aside from the fact that ERA alone is sketchy, Matsuzaka’s rookie ERA+ was 108. Pretty good. For reference Darvish’s rookie ERA+ was 112–not much difference there. Matsuzaka’s 2nd season was 160 to Darvish’s 145. First two seasons for both (an identical 61 starts) has Matsuzaka at 126 and Darvish at 127. Two solid seasons. Very solid and getting better.

                      “…and even that was a huge aberration caused by him vastly outpitching his peripherals.”

                      No. That year he led the league in H/9 (by nearly a hit per 9 over the 2nd place guy, had a 0.6 HR/9 (4th) and 8.3 K/9 (5th). You do that and you can walk a few guys (ask Kerry Wood). His WAR for pitchers was 5.3 (6th) and his Base Out Runs Saved was 4th. His peripherals were what you’d expect to see for a guy with a good ERA.

                      “The injury had no impact whatsoever on his stuff or velocity.”

                      Right. Other than the fact that, through the rest of his contract, he averaged only 14 games per year and 22% more hits per 9 IP than his first two seasons. And 33% more HR/9. And nearly a full K per 9. Injuries had nothing to do with it.

                      “Quite simply, he was never very good.”

                      Except for his first two years.

                    • Jason P

                      Yes, he had a singular good peripheral. On the aggregate, though, he way out pitched his abilities. His xFIP in his so called “best” year was 4.64. He walked a *ton* of batters! had an *extremely* high strand rate and a very low HR/FB ratio. Not to mention he had a .258 BABIP against.

                      The WAR you cited was bWAR, which is based off results, not peripherals.

                      His rookie year was slightly better, but still mostly average.

                      The recurring injuries kept him from consistently producing 30 starts, but it did little to effect his performance when he was able to go.

                  • Bill

                    Yes, BT. It’s unthinkable to fathom that Dice-K’s price wouldn’t be in the ballpark. As Scotti correctly points out, Dice K wa good for the first two years, then he got hurt. It’s not like Darvish was a junk baller, he threw a fastball that would rank as plus. But, you’re right, it’s incredible to think he would go for a price that Texas offered.

                    You think a guy like Assman knows who’s going to be traded (like when we were talking about Garza last summer) and who’s involved but it’s impossible for Theo to have an ideal of what Texas would offer. Now that is truly amusing.

                    Spending money on a young player like Darvish and Tanaka makes sense. You aren’t paying MLB FA price, you don’t have to give up prospects via a trade, and you don’t lose a draft pick.

                    • BT

                      Bill, you are saying that the Cubs front office should have KNOWN what every other front office was bidding on Darvish. Not only that, but you are insinuating that they purposefully overbid everyone but the Rangers, so as to come in 2nd. That’s absurd almost beyond comprehension. If those numbers were so freely available, they should have been available to the Rangers. And if they were, the Rangers would not have overbid by such an enormous amount.

                      Assman knows who might be traded because those things are talked about BETWEEN FRONT OFFICES. Blind bids, by definition, are not. They literally could not be more diametrically opposite.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      Daniels himself admitted that he was pretty sure that the Rangers were going to bid much more than any other team. Remember, a lot of Rangers’ fans were very upset that he did not magically know that he could bid $25Mless than he did:and that money might have retained Hamilton.

                      Daniels was very clear, however: he needed to add one more out to his team, and he thought that Darvish would do that. He did not intend to compete: he aimed to blow the other bids out of the water. So, clearly he didn’t expect other teams to put in DiceK bids, either.

                      As always, the “Other 28 GMs” rule comes into play here: it wasn’t just the Cubs and the Rangers, but 28 other teams. The Jays in particular *thought* they were posting a competitive bid: but their bid plus the Cubs’ bid (probably) still didn’t match Texas’ bid.

                      So, the three top bidders all expected the 2nd highest post to be much less than DiceK’s price: and it seems likely that 29 teams thought that the winning post would be less than half of DiceK’s posting fee.

                    • Bill

                      A trade is between 2 teams, yet Assman knows. Come on. Even the guy who’s got a buddy in Twins org knows and the Twins haven’t been involved in these talks.

                      It’s a blind bid, but Theo doesn’t say, “oh, I’m going to submit this bid and not let anyone in the organization know the figure”. People talk. You know the old saying about loose lips.

                      As for your first point, who knows. Maybe Texas got word the Yankees were going to bid $45M. In other words, they might have gotten bad intelligence, happens all the time, but I bet they had an idea what most teams (who were legit contenders for darvish) were going to bid. Maybe not down to the dollar, but in the ballpark. Hell, I’d be pretty disappointed in the Cubs FO if we didn’t do some “Intelligence gathering/spying” on other teams.

                      Oh, and the bottom line is your utter shock that Texas would bid so high for Darvish ignores what Theo was willing to pay for Dice K. There were people who like Darvish better than Dice K, because he had a legit plus MLB fastball, he didn’t primarily rely on gimmick pitches, like Dice K.

                      So, why didn’t Theo bid Dice K money? Forget about the other teams. I thought Theo was supposed to be smarter than the other GM’s, so let’s hold him to a higher standard. Finishing 2nd doesn’t win you anything. Oh, and that’s if they really finished 2nd, because like you said, these were blind bids.

                    • Bill

                      I take what Daniels said with a grain of salt. GM’s are like politicians, they lie. Let’s say Daniels got word the Yankees were going to bid $45M, that’s why they went $50M. He’s not going to admit to totally screwed up and could have had him for a lot less money. He’s better off just sticking to the party line that “we were planning to blow the competitors out of the water”. He doesn’t lose credibility and the fan base loves it that he pulled a Yankee type move in spending.

                      I don’t care what the other 28 GM’s did. Ricketts didn’t pay Theo the highest salary to do it just as good as the other 28 GM’s. No, he paid him the big bucks because he was supposed to be better, smarter, than the other GM’s.

                      Also, I don’t want to hear what the 3 top bidders did. We don’t know who bid what. People keep telling me it was a sealed bid. For all we know the Cubs could have bid $1M on Darvish. We have lip service that they came in 2nd, but it’s nothing more than lip service.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      The Rangers’ fan base did NOT love it. They felt that Daniels should have anticipated that the bidding would be in the $20M range: after all, don’t all the FO’s have a good idea what the others are doing? (They recycled the same conspiracy nonsense that you are spouting currently.) That extra $25M might have retained Josh Hamilton: and although that sounds like a dodged bullet now, 12 months ago Rangers fans were very upset that millions of dollars that could have been used to retain Hamilton instead got burned in a colossal over-bid.

                      As for the bids, it was not lip-service: the reports on how much teams bid leaked out of Japan. The Japanese teams and players union all were very much interested in this, too.

                      At any rate, there would have been no “word” on what any other team would have bid: that would have been a closely guarded secret. Yes, there was word on who was going to bid heavily, and that proved to be largely accurate in terms of the ranks. However, everybody had to guess. This is utterly dissimilar to a trade situation simply because nobody but the top people in one organization need to be in on discussions: no 2nd team is involved, no agents are involved and no players are involved. Other teams most definitely did NOT want other teams to have any idea how much they were bidding. Indeed, any supposed “leaks” would have been dismissed as a team that was not actually interested just trying to get another team to waste money.

                    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

                      Well stated Doc this conspiracy over Darvish is ridiculous. Nobody knew that the Rangers were over bidding this much, there was no conversation between teams, no agents leaking details, and no way Theo knew what the winning bid would be regardless of the Dice-K bid. We (and 28 other teams) lost a blind, sealed, and secret bid- there is no conspiracy.

                    • Scotti

                      I Don’t know about conspiracies. I do believe this was either a competency issue (bidding significantly lower on Darvish–a better prospect–than you did on Matsuzaka) or simply an issue where the Cubs had X to offer and they offered what the budget could afford.

                      The excuse that, “Oh, my, no one could have possibly known” just doesn’t fly. They didn’t need to know–they needed to make their best, most educated guess. They either did (and failed) or they never really had the cash needed to beat the Rangers in the first place.

                      And, as I said above, PRIOR to the bidding, Tim Dierkes (owner of MLB Trade Rumors) posted this:

                      “Last week, I polled five agents and one team executive about Darvish’s potential posting fee and contract. Guesses on the posting fee ranged from $30-55MM, with the team executive making the highest prediction.” Dierkes goes on to say the average was $45 million.

                      Again, either Theo needs to hire someone to keep an eye on mlbtraderumors.com or he never had the resources in the first place. Losing the bid, when he set the market for TOR Japanese pitchers, just wouldn’t be acceptable.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      When 10 or more bidders make blind bids and one bids twice as much as the 2nd and 3rd combined, then, yes, there were competency issues. The team that bay overbid clearly badly misread the market OR was acting highly irrationally.

                      The latter is the more likely and more probable hypothesis. The Rangers had just lost two WS in a row, the most recent of which was probably the most excruciating postseason loss in baseball in a quarter of a century. They believed that they were buying a WS with Darvish: so they badly overvalued him.

                      It comes down to this: 1 team was incompetent or over half a dozen other teams were. One answer is much more parsimonious here than is the other.

                    • Scotti

                      “It comes down to this: 1 team was incompetent or over half a dozen other teams were.”

                      Obviously the one team that came away with a 25-y/o Ace pitcher for $111.7 million (total) over six seasons ($18.6 per) was the most competent team in baseball. In so far as the Cubs front office goes, as I’ve said, they either failed in gauging what it would take to win the bid or they were never given the resources necessary to to bid properly.

                      I suppose a third option exists–the front office didn’t believe that Darvish was worth $111.7 million over six years but I have a have time buying that!

                    • Bill

                      Doc, what is easier to believe? Texas bid $20M+ because they just wanted to piss money away, or that they had a legitimate reason to believe other team(s) were going to be in the $50M range. Based on what Scotti has provided we know at least one GM believed Darvish would get $55M, and 5 other agents believed he would get around $45M.

                      Contrary to what you are saying, everyone wasn’t running around saying it will only cost $20-30M to get Darvish.

                      If you look at the Dice-K contract, it makes perfect sense Darvish contract would fall in that range.. Citing “the other 28 teams” is irrelevant. They didn’t win him. The only important bid is the winner and was it reasonable for Theo to believe that would be the bid. I think Scotti and I have clearly illustrated that answer is an obvious “yes”. Theo dropped the ball.

                      Forget the conspiracy angle, I’m saying the GM is was supposed to be smarter than the other 28 teams, actions could be seen as incompetence.

                      You give Theo kudos for coming in 2nd, but what he did was make a terrible “guess” that wasn’t even close. I’m sorry, this doesn’t qualify as great competence on his part “because the other 28 teams didn’t bid any more”. Winners finish in 1st, not 2nd.

                      LOL. You are claiming Tex was the incompetent one because they didn’t bid what the other idiots bid. Yes, getting an ace pitcher for that price was true incompetence. Again, MLB rumors had one executive saying the price would be $55M, and 5 agents giving the avg price at $45M. Maybe the Cubs should fire Theo, the incompetent one, and hire the executive who said the bid would be $55M. He was the competent one.

                      Again, let’s remember where Theo was limiting his money. DIdn’t want to spend big money on aging FA’s, they are past prime and might cost draft picks. Also, don’t want to trade away prospects for players.

                      So, they have the chance to spend money and acquire an ace (or number 2 starter), something the Cubs have nowhere close to available in the farm system (at the time of the Darvish deal). It wouldn’t cost the Cubs prospect, draft picks. He was young, plenty of years before he hits his prime. Scouting reports were that he had very good stuff, including a plus major league fastball.

                      Given all of that Theo can summon up all of $20-30M to bid on Darvish. Oh, and the payroll was scheduled to be declining rapidly as lots of big contracts were coming off the books.

                      Sorry, you can rationalize it all you want but Theo blew it. When you are being paid more than anyone else, these are the decisions you are supposed to get right.

    • dunston donuts

      I thought Sanchez made the most sense. Ryu and Darvish were both unknowns and the blind bid on Darvish was not going to be won. We would have had to over pay to obtain Sanchez but instead went with a cheaper Jackson.

      • Geech

        Sanchez had no intention of ever signing with the Cubs. The reports at the time clearly paint a picture of Sanchez using the Cubs as leverage to get his preferred contract with the Tigers. Jed and Theo went with Jackson because he was actually willing to sign with the team. Jackson was the plan B.

  • hansman

    It’s not what that article is about it is that “resident smart dude” half – assed an article that brings a lot of folks out of the woodwork ti comment and read it with minimal effort.

    It stinks of mediocrity and of someone just needing to get an article up to get an article up.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Yup this article reeks of “what can I write that will 1-will rile a divided fan base up more 2-can that increase my visibility and readership 3-AND is it a piece I don’t have to do much research to write.” I think Passan can sit back and realize he was successful.

    • TTH

      “It stinks of mediocrity and of someone just needing to get an article up to get an article up”

      Reminiscent of some roster building we’ve seen lately.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Dave Kaplans April 25 2013 article on Ricketts poor judgment says it all

  • Adventurecizin Justin

    Kyle, whom I totally respect, does the same thing. He & Passan shred the Cubs for how they are looking for 2014, yet they never counter with a wise, alternative strategy.

    Since Theo & Jed signed on, the CBA has changed and the upper tier of free agency has gotten completely insane. 2014 may not be pretty, but I’ll take another high draft slot in’15. In summary, I’m glad they haven’t wasted much money on FA and I hope to see progress & promise in ’14.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Agreed

    • JacqueJones

      There have been many good free agent signings out there by teams since Theo took over, so to say all free agency is a waste is silly. The problem with saying Cubs should have done X, Y, Z is that all of that would be in hindsight so duh. In retrospect they should have offered more money to Cespedes and Puig. A good case could be made for not signing concepcion and using the savings to up the offer to Cespedes. A big market team should be able to beat the A’s offer.

      • willis

        I think that was kind of the point, or the main point, of the article. I think he probably went a little hard and then came around in the end to reference that there are some good things on the way. But I read it to say that we all should be disappointed as fans because Ricketts has taken a big market, high revenue team and turned it into a small market joke. So no, we shouldn’t expect (at least in the short term) to beat offers from teams like the A’s. Much like with Tanaka, there’s no way in hell they match or exceed what others will throw at him. Right? Wrong? I suppose the next few years will tell.

    • Kyle

      We’ve been over this a few times.

      Heading into 2012, I offered alternatives. After 2012, I offered alternatives. Some of them were quite detailed.

      But there gets to be a point where the asymmetry in effort gets to be ridiculous. It takes quite a bit of time and patience to put together a detailed alternative history. The sort of time and effort that isn’t particularly worth it when people who demand it will just say “nuh-uh, I like what Epstein did better because the future is amazing and I love prospects.”

      Don’t ask me to do more work than you are willing to do yourself.

      • DarthHater

        What we need is a “Kyle’s Classics” message board with re-posts of his great treatises of the past, so that future generations can benefit from his recorded wisdom. :-D

        • Kyle

          We may have to cut some stuff for space. That “Switching Jeff Samardzija to a starter isn’t a good idea” chapter looks a bit dated.

          • DarthHater

            Yea, sounds much too lengthy. :-P

  • bobdawg78

    I’m satisfied with what the Cubs have done or not done this off season thus far. Like Brett wrote, who has been signed in FA, that would have changed our fortunes for the 2014 team? The Cubs need to play as many young unproven players to see if we can’t find some long term keepers in the bunch. Just a couple years ago, Samardzija was a descent RP, who when given a chance has proven to be a good SP, with potential to be far better than that. Castillo was not thought highly of to be a potential starting C for us.

    I hope that we play more of our kids this season, to see what they can or can not do. Like I’ve posted before, Barney doesn’t really have a future with us, and I’d like to see him traded sooner, rather than later. He won’t bring much of anything in a trade, but his absence from our roster would allow Valbuena to take over 2nd, and create an opening at 3rd to allow us to start playing the kids sooner, rather than later.

    If Olt proves descent in ST, I’d like to see him take 3rd for the Cubs, so we can see if he is a keeper or not. Just as I would like to see Vitters make the squad as a player who can back up the corner IF, backup the corner OF, and pinch hit. This opportunity would allow Vitters to get enough AB’s for us to see what we have or don’t have in him.

    • half_full_beer_mug

      I’m not sure if Barney has a future with the Cubs or not, but to suggest that Barney doesn’t and Valbuena does is a stretch IMO. As nice of a player as he was last year (because we had no one better) LV doesn’t “block” anyone from a position. Furthermore, having Barney on the team doesn’t “block” anyone with more total upside from taking over the starting second base position.

      I understand that many are upset with the lack of offense production from Barney, and many of those same people are enchanted with players that have never hit above AA. Even if any of those players were ready to start at second base out of Spring Training this year, I’d still like to have a player of Barney’s ability on the bench if nothing else than late inning defensive replacement.

      • bobdawg78

        Valbuena has more use to this team right now than Barney does. Valbuena could prove to be a descent 2nd whom we may keep, Although I am holding out hope that one of Alcantara or Baez eventually take it from him, or Castro if Baez stays at SS. My main reasoning behind wanting Barney gone, is so that he’s not taking any at bats away from one of our young guys we bring up to play on the left side of the IF.

  • Voice of Reason

    After they rack up another 95+ losses in 2014 this team will have to invest in a free agent or two just to appease cub fans.

    I understand the cubs game plan. Its kind of like you have to get really bad before you can get really good. They are letting the kids get seasoned so they can contribute at the night league level and when it comes time to add free agents or trade for veterans then there will be a ton of money to do so.

    That said I don’t care what some sports writer or player agent thinks.

  • itzscott

    Maybe it’s just me and I’m delusional, but a plan was laid before us that I understood by the Cubs organization which I agreed with and continue to agree with.

    I’d love to know who Passan thinks the Cubs should have spent their money on and how much differently their results would have been? Would they have made the playoffs? In the very unlikely event they miraculously did, would they have likely made it to the WS?

    In my mind, with who was available for the Cubs to buy and their overall needs, nobody they could’ve acquired would’ve made them more than a .500 team.

    Stay the course Cubs, stay the course.

    • Adventurecizin Justin

      I’m in full agreement! I’ve liked the plan from Day 1. Amidst changes & challenges, they have stayed the course.

      One thing I like entering the ’14 season, we have zero stupid, burdensome contracts. Once the obstacles for renovation are removed & we start plucking from our plush garden, I really think this plan can lead to a dynasty. Yes, I’m crazy & krazy-hopeful!!

      • Pat

        It’s pretty easy to have zero stupid or burdensome contracts when you only have two or three long term contracts in the first place. The only players signed for at least three more years are Castro, Rizzo, and Jackson. While none of those are terrible, none of them look great after last year either.

        It’s pretty easy not to fail if you don’t even try.

  • Carl9730

    The biggest issue that I have is the lack of transparency about any ” handcuffs” they have on, with respect to debt ratios, etc. are they prevented from discussing it by terms of the deal?

    Ricketts has gotten by , thus far, by pushing this idea that money is of no concern when the time and/or player is right. This focus on Tanaka seems like a way to set up themselves up for failure , while telling fans they were willing to make a 9-figure commitment. Do you think Epstoyer ever really thought they had a shot with the desecrated state of the ML team? This blind faith in the “plan” by certain segments of the fan base needs to either be rewarded or given an explanation/timeline , as to when things’ll change. One point that Passan makes that resonates is why allow yourselves to be held his rag by a couple penny -ante rooftop owners on a $500 million project that will transform the whole org? THEY NEED TO COMMUNICATE BETTER!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      “why allow yourselves to be held his rag by a couple penny -ante rooftop owners on a $500 million project that will transform the whole org?”

      How should the Cubs not allow themselves to be held up? If they start construction without a no-sue deal from the rooftops, the rooftops will probably push for, and might just get, an injunction barring construction. Then he’s caught in a legal battle that would probably take longer than we’ve spent waiting so far.

      If the choice is between build-and-get-sued and reach-a-deal, then the second seems like the safest, fastest course to the renovations.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      Why would or should release his private financial information? Would you?

    • D.G.Lang

      I seem to remember that everyone who bid on the team had to sign a nondisclosure statement. I am under the impression that the exact terms of the sale and restrictions of the sale and the reasons for them was also to be kept confidential.

      It is now pretty well known about how Zell was “creative” in the “sale” of the team to avoid paying taxes on the proceeds. I would imagine that reason the exact terms of the sale being kept secret was/is to avoid getting the IRS involved and questioning the sale.

      At this time I believe that the IRS is/was investigating the sale and the need for Zell to keep the details as secret as possible leads him to exert pressure on the Rickets to obey the terms of sale or suffer some retaliatory action which Zell might prove very costly.

  • rabbit

    Our bullpen is improved which was what really cost us so many games especially in the first half. It really all comes down to whether Rizzo and Castro can bounce back and if Jackson can have a turn around year (which I believe he will). Tanaka would be nice but I don’t see him coming to a rebuild over ready to win clubs like LA and NY. I kind of miss the old posting system.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Even with rebound seasons, I think this team could have some trouble scoring runs. Not a lot of OBP on that roster right now, and that means there won’t be as many at bats with runners on base.

  • GoCubs

    Brett…

    “But, outside of a throwaway line or two without explanation, Passan doesn’t seem to entertain the realities of the Cubs’ financial limitations right now (restrictive loan covenants that artificially depress spending, significant debt service payments, significant revenue-sharing obligations, delayed renovation, etc.).”

    When the Cubs were sold, as a fan, I was not left with an impression that the financial limitation was part of the deal. On this front, I can not defend the current ownership in any way, shape, or form.

    • roz

      So despite the fact that evidence of restrictions has come up since then, you still refuse to believe that ownership isn’t just being cheap?

      • half_full_beer_mug

        If they’d only had a press conference to tell everyone how mean ol’ Sam Zell was and that they wouldn’t be able to spend big bucks for a few years the day they bought the team fans would have been much happier.

        Where’s that sarcasm font?

        • roz

          Well heck, all Ricketts needs to do to appease us is just give all of us complete access to the Cubs financial records. Is that too much to ask?

      • GoCubs

        roz…I think you misunderstood my intent. When the Cubs were bought by the current ownership, I thought, finally, the Cubs will have management which will be smart and financially flexible. This management is smart, but the lack of financial flexibility for all these years is not excusable.

        • roz

          Except there’s a plausible explanation for the lack of financial flexibility, which you seem to be ignoring.

        • aaronb

          Exactly,

          The blaming Sam Zell has been an easy excuse for acting like a poor mans Kansas City Royals since Ricketts bought the team.

          People love to demonize Zell as an excuse…But there have we seen ONE single document that states the ZELL has imposed these restrictions?

          Payrolls after Zell were

          09: 135 mil
          10: 144.5 mil
          11: 134 mil
          12: 103 mil
          13: 97 mil
          14: under 80 mil
          What kind of contract could Zell have imposed that payroll would have to drop to such an extent? Why the Zell would Sam Zell care/ OR EVEN DESIRE the Cubs to be the worst team in baseball over a 5 year team?

          This whole new fad of demonizing Zell is just another ploy for the Ricketts apologists to pass any criticism away from their empty suited hero.

          And Brett, while I do live your site and respect you as both a fan and a writer. You seem to fall squarely into the “It’s everybody’s fault except the people who are really at fault camp”.

          I hope you at least take this criticism into account going forward. And maybe not be so obtuse with the people who make up valid criticisms over the current state of Cubbie affairs.

          • roz

            The restrictions very easily could have been on new payroll once Ricketts took over. Zell can’t really do anything about the contracts that were already there. Not saying that this is true, but there are certainly plausible explanations for the restrictions that work with the payroll numbers you listed. Also, if you think Brett’s being obtuse with people like yourself, you’re not paying attention to this site or his Twitter. He hasn’t vilified ownership like some have here, but he has offered criticism when he thought it was appropriate. He’s been fairly level headed, which a lot of people could use a lesson in.

        • hansman

          These 3 long and arduous years!!!!!!!!!!

    • terencemann

      As early as 2011, the Cubs were in violation of MLB’s debt service rules:

      http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-06-02/sports/ct-spt-0603-mlb-cubs-chicago–20110602_1_club-debt-cubs-debt-issues

      And they were still out of compliance in 2013 except Selig publicly stated that he didn’t think it was a long term threat to the team:

      http://www.suntimes.com/sports/baseball/cubs/19219877-573/bud-selig-cubs-debt-not-a-problem.html

      So it is plausible there is some compliance with MLB’s rules on their part with trying to get back into compliance.

      Also, from this Tribune article, the signage (lack there-of) at Wrigley looks like a bigger issue than I originally understood:

      http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-06-03/sports/ct-spt-0604-cubs-mlb-debt-service–20110603_1_ricketts-family-cubs-tom-ricketts-ownership-group

      “Sources said the Cubs also are challenged because the lack of signage at Wrigley Field and undervalued media contracts Ricketts inherited from Tribune Co. adversely affects their operating income.”

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Isn’t Zell’s tax avoidance scheme at the heart of this matter. I thought Cuban had offered more money but he didn’t like the terms of how Zell insisted that the transaction be financed in a way that allowed him to take advantage of loop holes. I don’t know for sure, but I read that somewhere.

    • Boogens

      I’m too lazy to find a source but I remember it the same way as you. I remember Cuban bowing out early on because he would never agree to the structure of the deal (and it was also obvious that MLB didn’t want him). That being said, I wasn’t pro-Cuban; I’m glad the Ricketts now are the owners.

      • terencemann

        From Cuban’s Reddit AMA:

        Reddit: Hey Mark, how close did you come to buying the Cubs?
        Cuban: not close at all. When I couldnt get the owner of the Cubs to sit in a room with me that pretty much told me it wasnt going to happen. I never made a final formal bid.

        http://deadspin.com/5971118/mark-cuban-answered-questions-on-reddit-about-trying-to-buy-the-chicago-cubs-being-rich-and-more

        So, according to him, it wasn’t so much the price as Zell would not work with him? Wikipedia says he was not selected for the final round of bidding.

        • hansman

          And at the time there were a lot of concerns about his ability to get approved by MLB.

          People really need to get off the “IF ONLY CUBAN HAD BOUGHT THE CUBS!!!! 1! 11!1!” trip. It didn’t happen move on.

  • rabbit

    I have trouble believing that Theo was unaware of the Cubs financial problems before he signed on. He must have either a. believed it didn’t matter in the time frame of the rebuild or b. wanted the extra challenge or both. I mean the renovations have hit a few bumps in the road, but we really won’t be ready to spend until next free agency or the one after that unfortunately anyway. The Cubs have been spending a lot of money on rebuilding the farm system and facilities etc.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      He did, however, get hit with a CBA he wasn’t expecting that cut into his preferred draft strategy. I don’t think anyone was expecting the new draft rules to be as restrictive as they are.

      • Boogens

        Luke, do you have any feel for how the new CBA is viewed by MLB’s GMs and owners? Is there any desire or momentum for changing the draft slotting system in the next CBA?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          I’m pretty sure there is desire, but I don’t know where it will rank.

          If there are higher priorities for the owners, they may not push on this one. I’m not at all sure of the attitude among the players, either.

      • BenRoethig

        That, he didn’t expect Castro and Rizzo to take steps back, and he didn’t expect the fight from the Wrigleyville neighborhood. Ironically, like the Ricketts family, I think the romanticization of the opportunity outweighed the real world situation.

        Ricketts needs to decide what he wants and make a business decision by opening day. He needs to make it clear that the rooftop owners need to immediately get out of the way or he’ll build a new Cubs park elsewhere. He needs to set a date and stand firm with it like he should have done last year. If they still do it, call their bluff and commit to move and give Beth Murphy a view of a museum. Because there are other places in the area who would heaven and earth for the Cubs.

        If there isn’t a firm, unshakable plan in place by opening day, Theo needs to make the decision to walk after his 5 years are up. And we fans need to put pressure on the Ricketts to sell the team, but cause they’re too nice/fan-ish and not savvy enough of the business side of baseball to own a team.

      • Pat

        I find it extremely difficult to believe he wasn’t expecting the CBA that went into effect right after he signed with the Cubs. The CBA is an agreement between the owners and the players. That means his bosses with the Red Sox knew what the deal was going to be, and more importantly, Ricketts knew what the deal was going to be. To think he was blindsided by it indicates that not only was he not asked for his opinion in Boston (unlikely, but possible), but that Ricketts knew what his plan was (which he would have had to lay out in the interview), and decided to hire him, but not let him know that his plan wasn’t going to work.

        The CBA wasn’t delivered by aliens descending from Mount Sinai, it was negotiated by ownership with input from the front offices.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          If the front offices were expecting penalties that severe, then they managed to keep that expectation from literally everyone who had been digging away at info for months before the deal was announced.

          That there would be restrictions and a stiffening of the slot system was expected.
          That there would be severe financial penalties for breaking the slot system was expected.
          That the Type A and Type B system would be abandoned or significantly revised was expected.

          That teams would forfeit a first round pick for exceeding slot by 5%, and could forfeit multiple first round picks if they went much beyond that was not expected.

          And I doubt a single front office in baseball would have agreed to it in advance had they been asked (except possibly the White Sox). Penalties that severe crushed the draft plans of a bunch of teams, small and large market alike. I don’t know what other concessions the teams got in exchange for that restriction, but I have absolutely no evidence to believe that anyone was expecting draft pick penalties in advance, and many, many reasons to believe that provision was a surprise.

          • Pat

            So you think the owners didn’t even consult their front offices in exchange for something you can’t even guess at? Compelling argument to be sure.

            I’ve worked for or with some fucked up companies, but to believe that the majority of 30 highly successful businesses made a decision without consulting the major stakeholders sure sounds like revisionist history to me.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              In the immediate aftermath of the new CBA, there were reports of numerous front offices being very pissed by the changes.

              • Pat

                Well, yeah. It’s kind of a nice built in excuse, isn’t it? That doesn’t change the fact that at the time Theo interviewed for the Cubs” position that Ricketts had a damn good idea what the deal was going to be. So I’ll ask you the same question I put to Luke, do you think he flat out lied about it, or just intentionally withheld the information. If he was truly surprised by it, it has to be one or the other.

          • Pat

            And that’s ignoring the fact that even if the front offices were kept in the dark, Ricketts, as an owner, damn sure knew what the deal was going to be. Is it your contention that he flat out lied to Theo, or intentionally withheld that information when Theo was presenting his plan for fixing the organization? It has to be one or the other, which one are you asserting is the case?

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              My contention is that the portion of the CBA that covers the draft was one of the final parts that came together, that no one knew what it would like before it came together, and that Selig agreed to a tougher level of restrictions than the teams really wanted (possibly, and this is guesswork, as a tradeoff to eventually get an international draft). Ricketts would not have known what the CBA was going to look like any more than Theo would have.

              Keep in mind that the actual negotiating team was small. After the deal was struck Selig had to sell it to the owners just as much as the union had to sell it to the players. The owners weren’t dictating terms.

              But if you’ll take the time to look up the articles that came out after the deal was announced, you’ll see exactly what I was talking about. No one expected the draft pick penalties.

              • Pat

                Ricketts had to vote on it. I’m fairly certain that allowed him to read what was in it. The timeframe was pretty tight between Theo’s hiring and the announcement so I sincerely doubt the parameters changed significantly, especially with no notable benefit to the owners coming back in return.

                I’ve seen the articles, and to me they read like “This is going to make our jobs more difficult, so we should get more credit if we do well”.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                  There were a few days of closed door negotiations right before the deal was announced. So far as I can tell, that’s when the draft stuff was taken care of.

                  • Pat

                    Perhaps. But if the draft parameters changed significantly, you would think there was something going back the other way, and I don’t see any surprises to the teams benefit. Franchise crippling changes are not usually thrown in and agreed to at the last minute. I see no reason to assume that was the case here.

              • Pat

                Also keep in mind that this is a zero sum game. There is literally no rule you can institute that hurts all 30 teams, short of driving players to other sports entirely. And even then, there is still an existing talent pool they can pull from, and those players are going to sign with one team or another. It’s literally (the original definition, not the one added this year that also means figuratively) impossible for it to be bad for the majority of teams.

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                  There were articles after the deal was announced that speculated that two-sport athletes would be driven to other sports as a result of the draft penalties. I never bought that argument myself.

                  And not all teams were equally harmed. The White Sox, who hated draft spending and did as little of it as they could get away with, benefited tremendously.

                  • Pat

                    The Sox still have to spend to spend to slot or risk losing the player, something I’m pretty sure has not happened to them in recent memory. In fact, I think Joe Borchard had one of the highest signing bonuses ever when he was drafted. If you have examples to the contrary, I’d like to hear them.

                    As far as two sport athletes, I agree. There are very few who could really excel in both leagues, and of the few few examples they are split pretty evenly as far as which sport they chose.

  • Pat

    “And a bunch of minor league deals. Like, 14 of them.”

    It would appear that Jeff doesn’t realize this is something EVERY team does. I wonder why that would be.

  • Jon

    I ask this, if circumstances dictate a bottom 5 payroll, how can they, in good faith, justify a top 3 ticket price?

    • GoCubs

      A fair Q.

    • fortyonenorth

      Ticket prices are set to maximize revenue. If you don’t like it, you have other options. In fact, for the price of an MLB.TV subscription, you can patronize any team in the league and watch every game of the season. If the Cubs ownership and FO is so stupid and unpalatable–as they obviously are to so many posters–just move on.

      • GoCubs

        I am sure your logic can be applied to any business–including this blog. :)

        • fortyonenorth

          Absolutely. I use the Apple analogy: why would I obsessively bitch and moan about my iPhone if I thought it sucked and management didn’t have a clue? There are other games in town. If, on the other hand, I believe in the long term vision, I suck it up and support the effort.

          • GoCubs

            Since when does “complaining” once in three+ years equate to “obsessively bitching?” I think you have jumped to so many conclusions on my post that I should be offended, but I’ll let it go. :)

    • Blackhawks1963

      Simple. The irrefutable principle of supply and demand.

      • GoCubs

        Hmmmmm….Well, I if that is the yardstick, then I guess demand has fallen off quiet a bit and hence the price should have come down. Right?

        • Boogens

          It depends. The org conducts many analyses to weigh out the balance between higher vs. lower ticket prices and their impact on attendance and revenue. There’s some kind of hypothetical equilibrium point that they probably haven’t hit yet with the attendance decline. It could also be that the team perceives the current state as temporary and that the losing will not have a long-term negative impact on attendance so they’re willing to maintain the status-quo in proces until the team improves through player development, thus returning attendance levels to prior years.

    • gocatsgo2003

      Because there are about a hundred other variables that go into ticket pricing.

  • Cubbie in NC

    I think that where Passan misses his mark is in his comments about Theo and Ricketts. I think the success or failure of this project is all on Theo and Ricketts has very little to do with it.

    I believe that after his experience in Boston and with the changes in the rules that the Cubs are operating exactly how Theo wants to operate.

    With the money he is saving he can pretty much do whatever he wants in 2015 or 2016. Sign a free agent, money is there, build from within, we have options that can help, trade for someone, there are assets to get that done. He will have no bad contracts to hinder him or block spots.

    I have two concerns with this strategy that time is the only way to tell.

    Will the players that the Cubs need be available when the Cubs need them and will the Cubs be able to get them? Starting pitching at a more elite level is my biggest concern.

    If you look at the process that he has followed to acquire talent if the Cubs are very good then how does he keep things rolling? If Theo knew of another way than a total rebuild wouldn’t he be doing it right now?

  • Blackhawks1963

    The crux if the matter is that the Ricketts bought into something that has been way more complicated then they could ever imagined. My Lord, just look at the lengthy nightmare that has been this Wrigley renovation as but one example.

    Tommy Boy is in way over his head as the leader if his family’s interest. He’s a milquetoast man trying his best, but it ain’t working.

    The problem is how much longer does Theo tolerate this handcuffed mess before he pulls a Dallas Green and abruptly quits in disgust? That’s my fear.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      Bingo! Theo leaves could be a future headline. Zell laughs all the way to the bank. A mass of Kool-aid addicts head for rehab. Extra, extra read all about it.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    My fear with this strategy is that a culture of losing has been established. A lot of pressure was put on Castro and Rizzo last year after they recieved their extensions. In a normal environment you have a core of veteran players whom have enjoyed success to mentor these young guys and deflect some of the exposure to the media etc.. As things stand at this moment Castro and Rizzo are in the same position as last year with the weight of expectation upon their shoulders. So I guess Renteria is going to be the guy that keeps their heads on straight. We need a team leader to emerge soon. Samardzija is a guy with some fire in his belly, but he’s on the trading block. Maybe Baez or Bryant will be that guy. A guy that takes losing seriously. Seems to me we have a culture that plays to stats and not wins. So Castro or Rizzo can say look at my stats they are good and never mind that the team loses 90 games again. We need some swagger and some grit in there. If we can get north of 70 wins this year it would be a success.

    • baldtaxguy

      “So Castro or Rizzo can say look at my stats they are good and never mind that the team loses 90 games again.”

      Just a wrong statement.

  • Jon

    Can I also state that I think tax cheats like Zell should be thrown in prison next to the murderers?

    • hansman

      He didn’t cheat the tax code he simply avoided the taxes. Gigantic difference the size of the milky way galaxy

      • roz

        Well to be fair, last we heard he was being investigated by the IRS for the deal.

    • baldtaxguy

      Simply a gray area of the Code. It is a transaction that must be legally adequately disclosed on the tax return of both parties, which undoubtedly has been done, and in doing so, Zell would be 100% expecting it to be challenged by the Service from Day 1, which it has been. It is not evasion, just minimization, with risks, and those risks have been realized. He designed the transaction full aware of the risks, legally. Tax cheats are those who, through fraud or negligence, perform and/or report tax transactions illegally.

  • mrcub1958

    I have felt all along our payroll is a product of timing of rebuild and quality available. Take Theo at his word. If u don’t get Tanaka it better be because of his personal strong preference.

    This is interesting this am…
    A National League GM predicts that one of Masahiro Tanaka’s many suitors will “come in and blow everyone away. There’s going to be a dance where everyone is in the same boat and then there will be a team that breaks the bank for him.”

    Your Chicago Cubs. What will this board knock when we swoop in and front load $25-30/ in the early years to knock the Yankees out?

  • Rebuilding

    I really wish people would stop talking about the financial covenants, Tom Ricketts and Sam Zell at this point. They were relevant 2 years ago when we had a $110 million dollar payroll and maybe couldn’t add someone if we would have needed to. At a $75 million payroll it’s become apparent that Epstein and Hoyer decided to completely strip this thing bare and build up the farm system with high picks and deadline trades.

    They are trying to build a monster to compete with the Red Sox and Cardinals on a yearly basis, not win 85 games and then scramble for the next overpriced Jacoby Ellsbury. You can agree or disagree with approach, but it is what it is. This is Theo Epstein’s plan and its either going to lead to a decade of domination or a lost decade with an ugly fallout.

    Personally I’m all for it. By next offseason we could have the most exciting young 2b and 3b in the league being paid the minimum. Young SS and 1b both cost controlled. A crop of outfielders right behind. Our payroll will be so low that we can literally buy an entire starting rotation and still have an under $100 million payroll. And younger prospects that have become duplicative and can be traded for more pitching. I really believe we only have 1 more year of misery before a long, sustained run of success

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You are correct that the restrictive covenants are probably not keeping payroll below $80 million.

      But in the context of why the Cubs aren’t inking $200 million deals right now, they remain relevant (because deals build on top of deals – one big signing doesn’t make sense from a strategic standpoint, and many big signings aren’t possible for the financial reasons discussed).

      • Rebuilding

        Understood. But if you take them at face value on Tanaka that they are willing to spend $120 million + on the “right” free agent then the covenants aren’t the problem, the available FAs are.

    • YourResidentJag

      The problem is that, while you as an intelligent fan understand the concept of not going for it to win 85 games, the avg fan often doesn’t. This has led, as Kyle as has stated, to decreases in season ticket sales and lost revenue in advertising. I’m also not too sure how this will negatively effect any future TV deals coming up in 2014, but it very well may.

      • Boogens

        I don’t know that the average fan is really clued in on the number of wins. I see it as more of a weather vane / wind sock barometer. When it’s blowing in the right direction attendance will pick up and the fans will be able to be part of a party atmosphere and be able to sing “Go, Cubs, go!” at the end of the game. Not that any of that is bad but it seems like most people are only aware that either the Cubs are good or bad at any given time.

        • YourResidentJag

          Well, that’s debatable. The Cubs have been bad historically for most of the past 30 yrs. Hasn’t stopped people from packing the ballpark. So, now that Theo is building for the future and it’s out there in public what the plan is….people are aware. Historically, not so sure I agree with your premise.

          • Bill

            Packed crowds? When? I haven’t seen a lot of those the past 2-3 years. I’ve seen a lot of empty seats, but not a packed Wrigley Field. Now, if you are talking about other ballparks, yes, I’ve seen a lot of them in the past couple years, but not Wrigley.

            • YourResidentJag

              For the last 2-3 years or over the accumulation of the last 30? I’m referring to latter.

      • DarthHater

        Let me see if I get this straight … Fans are stupid and will rebel against any attempt to spend intelligently, thereby dooming that attempt to ultimate financial failure. So the only path to success is to appease the stupid fans by spending stupidly, confident in the fact that the increased spending by stupid fans will financially support the stupid spending.

        I kinda like it. :-P

        • YourResidentJag

          Well, that’s the Yankees this yr in a nutshell, isn’t it? Not that it’s going to work long term, mind you.

  • Blackhawks1963

    The very hard questions need to be pointed at the Ricketts at this stage. Not Theo and his administration. That is the heart and soul of the matter. Can they get the renovation going? Can the secure a new TV deal? What is the unvarnished truth as to the debt issues?

    • roz

      As much as I disagree with a lot of what you say, you’re pretty much spot on here. The renovation and the TV deal are the biggest non-baseball things concerning the Cubs right now, and the quicker the deals get resolved, the quicker they can start having a positive impact on the club.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I am hopeful that they will be discussed candidly this week at the Convention.

      • baldtaxguy

        Yes, and both of these situations are extremely complicated, and deal with facts that are not typical to most teams. I think it is fair to say they are difficult for any owner and/or FO to deal with.

  • Cubz99

    The Ricketts have to shoulder the majority of the blame for the team being cheap. I refuse to believe that Theo and Jed enjoy floundering every season. If given the resources, I believe they would have been in on the bigger free agents in the past few years and at least made the team competitive.

    The popular theories are that they are purposefully trying to tank, or that they are somehow being more fiscally responsible.

    1. If they are purposefully trying to tank, they are failing at it. The Cubs have yet to get the top draft pick and this year aren’t picking until #6. If you are going to target the top of the draft, go all in.

    2. The Cubs are in a major market. The huge advantage about being in a major market is the flexibility that the payroll gives the team and the ability to pay market value or even overpay a player in free agency. The Yankees and the Red Sox have been extremely successful at this approach. Hendry found success with this approach with the Cubs, he just wasn’t able to balance the farm system.

    I’ll reserve judgment on Tanaka until he is signed by the Cubs or another team, but I would not be surprised to see him go to a team that has a chance to compete this year and not pick the Cubs. It is one thing for a player to be enticed for playing for the Cubs if they have a chance to go to the playoffs and break the curse, but without that possibility money is really all there is.

    The biggest lie out there right now is that some fans are expecting the Cubs to get better over night. Most people think that if they attempted to get better each season since the Ricketts tenure, the Cubs might actually be a destination that free agents would still want to come and they could be close to being competitive. Imagine the rotation if the Cubs signed Darvish and A. Sanchez. Both were players that realistically could have been signed by an aggressive front office and both would have left plenty of money under the payroll to sign a few relievers or a couple position players to improve the roster. There are many other players that could have been picked up and made a difference. My guess is that the payroll is just simply not there and all of this value contract talk that we are hearing from Theo and Jed is cover for the Ricketts.

  • ssckelley

    I have no issues with the Cubs not going all in on free agents that are on the wrong side of 30. This is the kind of spending that gets teams into trouble and has gotten the Cubs in trouble in the past. The exception is Tanaka, this is a rare opportunity to invest in a free agent that does not require a draft pick and is on the right side 30. The past 2 free agent classes have been horrible and I do not remember very many of those top free agents in last years FA class making a huge difference. When and if the Cubs do spend money I hope it is on players that still have value towards the end of their contract.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    No one can deny the job that Theo has done with the farm system. And the money being spent on development is very wise. I can’t remember heaaring of the team assigning personl trainers to the players in the off season before. I don’t know what the totals are, but Rizzo and Castro and I think Vogelbach have had that asset available to themselves. And I am of the opinion that the Tanaka situation has taken a turn for the absurd. I agree that the FA market for pitching has been sparse this year. We could have had Sanchez or Liriano last year, but that didn’t happen. We got Jackson instead. I wonder if there will be a potential TOR type pitcher available this year with the 4th pick? And if we suck as bad as everyone says we will then we have another potential stud in 2015. But beyond that something has to give. This year will test The FO’s skill at identifying core players as Rizzo and Castro look to rebound. What happens if they turn out to be mediocre players? Projecting to 2015 opening day there is likely going to be 5 position players on the roster that are starting this year in MiLB. And probably a few pitchers to boot. Nearly one third of the future 25 man roster in the minors now. It should be a very interesting season.

    • RoscoeVillageFan

      Totally agree. I don’t want tanaka for $175 mil. Crazy. If you’re paying that money, you’re trying to win now.

  • CubsFanFrank

    While I personally agree with the Cubs current course of action, we “smart fans” seem to lose sight of the fact that professional sports is in fact above all else entertainment. While we may frown upon the “meatballs” who demand a spending spree, there are likely more fans out there who simply want to see the team win and worry about the future when it happens. With this in mind, like all entertainers, they need to keep the audience happy.

    I’m not saying that they must go on a Hendry-esque spending spree, but they should be at least trying to win as much as reasonably possible to keep the fans interested. While we are becoming accustomed to July 31st being Prospect Christmas, come August 1st when the roster is filled with AAAA, the attendance is dwindling, and as the years go by, fans lose interest earlier and earlier in the season.

    Obviously, this causes them to lose money, some people don’t see how much. Obviously, there’s ticket sales, leading to empty seats. While many of those empty seats have been paid for months in advance, empty seats don’t buy over priced concessions and memorabilia, which is a huge revenue source that fans don’t take into consideration.

  • Kyle

    ” (restrictive loan covenants that artificially depress spending, significant debt service payments, significant revenue-sharing obligations, delayed renovation, etc.)”

    You forgot “plummetting attendance due to the failures of the baseball ops department.”

  • Boba

    Hey Brett, Sorry off topic, but wasn’t sure if you would check the podcast article again.
    I can’t seem to download the podcasts. The hyperlink doesn’t work. any help?

    Also any other podcasts that you can recommend on the Cubs or baseball in general that you like?

    Thanks!

    • Jorbert Solmora

      I like the Baseball Prospectus Fringe Average podcast. A little more r-rated than our BN podcast, but entertaining and very informative.

      • bbmoney

        That is a good one. As you mentioned, I’ll stress that it is R rated.

        BP also has a daily podcast, “Effectively Wild”, which is pretty good and much more family friendly, but not as good as the less frequent Fringe Average.

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