Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: The Mayor's Office Grabs Some Leverage, But a Deal Will Likely Still Get Done

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Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: The Mayor’s Office Grabs Some Leverage, But a Deal Will Likely Still Get Done

Chicago Cubs

We all wish the Joe Ricketts/President Obama/SuperPAC/attack ad/etc. flap hadn’t happened. Our reasons for wishing it hadn’t happened are varied, and personal. I’d rather not get into those, and would again admonish you not to talk about politics here. It’s a viable conversation, but this isn’t the place. We’re all Cubs fans. Remember that.

That said, as far as the Cubs are concerned, it was unfortunate, and it has impacted the team’s efforts to negotiate a shared Wrigley Field renovation funding arrangement with the city of Chicago. As you’ll recall, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is the former Chief of Staff for the President, and a close political ally of President Obama, who hails most recently from Chicago. An attack on President Obama, therefore, could have political fallout in the city for anyone doing the attacking. So, we have to talk about the Wrigley renovation part of the flap, and then, hopefully, after today, we can leave it all in the past.

In the days since the story originally broke, Chicago Cubs Owner and Chairman Tom Ricketts has distanced himself from the (rejected) political attack plan of his father, and Cubs’ board member Laura Ricketts (who is a big President Obama supporter) has also offered a statement. First, from Tom:

As chairman of the Chicago Cubs, I repudiate any return to racially divisive issues in this year’s presidential campaign or in any setting — like my father has. I shall have no further comment on this or any other election year political issue. My full-time focus is on making the Chicago Cubs a World Series champion, preserving Wrigley Field, and making the Chicago Cubs a great corporate citizen.

Seems like the right approach, and about as wise as such a statement goes. “We don’t like what that proposed plan said, we have nothing to do with it, and we aren’t getting into all that political stuff.” The end (with a few more salient comments to the Sun-Times). Fine with me.

Next, from Laura:

All of my family members and I love this country and are passionate about doing what is right for the country. That love of country was instilled in us by my father. We have different political views on how to achieve what is best for the future of America, but we agree that each of us is entitled to our own views and our right to voice those views.

Though we may have diverse political views, above all we love and respect each other. My own personal view is that President Obama has been a great leader in very difficult times. He has been leading us to an economic recovery; served with great honor as commander-in-chief during a time of war; been a strong proponent on issues important to women and just last week he exhibited great courage in endorsing the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian Americans.

Very calculated, and, again, fine with me (not the politics of it – because, again, that simply isn’t my business in one direction or the other – but the wisdom of it). Laura, you’ll note, introduced Kerry Wood at his retirement press conference on Saturday. I doubt very much that was a coincidence.

Mayor Emanuel also reacted to the flap in both public comments, and in private statements. Publicly, Mayor Emanuel said, “America is too great a country with too great a future for the content that they’re talking about. And it’s insulting to the President. It’s insulting to the country. I don’t think that’s fitting in a campaign of any nature. You can have disagreements without being disagreeable.” Emanuel added that he would have “conversations” about the Wrigley Field issue at a later time.

Privately, Emanuel was said to be very angry about the issue, per an anonymous aide: “The Mayor was livid when he read that the Ricketts were going to launch a $10 million campaign against President Obama — with the type of racially motivated ads that are insulting to the president and the presidential campaign. He is also livid with their blatant hypocrisy.” The aide added that Emanuel was not taking calls from the Ricketts at this time.

Here’s the thing about those anonymous comments: they were repeated to a number of news sources, for example here in Crain’s and here in the Washington Post. Given that the quotes are near word-for-word copies, it’s clear that this was a calculated message coming from the Mayor’s Office, released “anonymously.” There was a conversation, a strategy session, and a decision was made to place these quotes in the media.

Why? Leverage.

We all know that the Mayor’s Office and the Cubs remain in a back-and-forth about the city’s involvement in the funding of a renovation of Wrigley Field. The Mayor’s Office has now just “anonymously leaked” that it is “livid” about this flap, and it is cutting off communications. I can only assume that the Mayor’s Office hopes folks – citizens, fans, political entities – will express outrage about the issue, allowing the Mayor to turn the heat back up on the Cubs when they, inevitably, come back to the table to resume funding negotiations.

It’s a deeply political maneuver, and not all that subtle. But it sure makes sense, doesn’t it? Obviously it’s bad news for the Cubs, because it’s clear that, whether the Mayor is actually outraged or not, he’s going to use this to his advantage. And every dollar that he’s able to reclaim in these negotiations is a dollar that comes out of the Cubs’ pockets. React to that how you will.

An ancillary (or primary) benefit of Emanuel’s approach is that it creates pressure on Joe Ricketts (theoretically applied by his kids and his own desire to save some scratch) to see that the controversial attack on President Obama is scuttled, and to see that similar lines of attack are more carefully scrutinized in the future. It’s one thing for Emanuel to come out and say publicly, as he did, that the proposal was insulting and below-the-belt, but that, alone, isn’t going to move the needle. Leak statements suggesting you’ll pull the rug out from under the Cubs on hundreds of millions of dollars? That’ll move the needle.

Fortunately for the Cubs, the Sun-Times cites sources in City Hall who expect that, ultimately, a funding deal for Wrigley Field will still get done, even if the flap emboldens the Mayor to drive for a better deal. The flap could also slow the process down, which was in position to see construction start as early as this Fall.

Hopefully, then, this whole mess is soon behind us.

Like I said when the story first came out: it’s all just icky. I don’t even want to be talking about it, frankly. But I consider it my obligation to (1) offer you the news, (2) think critically about how things legitimately impact the Cubs, and (3) offer to you my thoughts. I don’t expect you all to agree with me every day. I do the best I can, but you have to remember: I am not a journalist. I am not impartial. I am a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan, and everything I say and do will be colored by that reality. I do my best to shoot straight, but I can never completely divorce myself from my fandom. I want things to turn out well for the Cubs.

At least I’m honest about it.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.