At the top of the Baseball Operations side of the Cubs organization, you’ll find an (evolving?) trio of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod. On the Business Operations side, outside of ownership, the guy at the top is Crane Kenney, and it has been for a while.
And although we don’t hear from him too often during the actual season, the Cubs President of Business Operations joined 670 The Score earlier today. There are a few items we wanted to highlight, and you can otherwise eventually catch the full interview at their website, I reckon.
Paraphrasing Kenney on the few big points …
- Things are changing with the arrival of the Marquee Sports Network, and the partnership with Sinclair. The new channel will be lighting it up in February. Big advantage will be all the games in one place for fans. It will make it easier for Cubs fans to find us (compared to the mix of ABC-7, WGN, NBC Sports Chicago, etc. right now).
- How about getting carriage on all the cable and satellite networks in the region? Well, history probably tells us the carriage negotiations tend to involve lots of brinksmanship, and unfortunately, the nature of these negotiations is that they typically come down to the last minute. We hope it doesn’t happen in this case, but we’re prepared if it does. None of that slows down what we’re doing. The studio is under construction. We’ve been hiring up our team – all the folks that we’ll need to have the network up and running by February.
- In the past, you’ve suggested this could be a big boost to revenue – how will this impact revenue? We plan for a year in advance. There’s some uncertainty for all the subscribers to come on board, and that will have to play itself out. The Ricketts family supports a payroll in the top 2-3 of baseball anyway. I don’t anticipate us having any changes on the downside because of the network.
OK, now from Kenney’s comments to my own …
- You’d certainly hope that second part is true, though you can definitely do some creative parsing of the language Kenney chose to use if you’re a nervous nelly:
Crane Kenney expects #Cubs to have one of baseball's highest payrolls again next season: "I don't anticipate us having any real big changes on the downside to our baseball spending going forward because of the (Marquee Sports) network."
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) September 18, 2019
- Let me bold some words for emphasis, and to remind you that there’s a lot of play in there: Kenney doesn’t anticipate any real big changes on the downside to our baseball spending going forward because of the network.
- In other words, very strictly speaking, all Kenney is saying is that the Cubs’ overall baseball spending (read: not the same as payroll) likely won’t go down a LOT because of the new TV deal. Could the payroll go down a lot because of an effort to get back under the luxury tax? Could the spending overall go down a little bit because of the TV deal? Could payroll be negatively impacted in some surprising way going forward? Well, again, very technically and strictly reading the comments, Kenney did not precisely answer any of those things. (Sometimes I can’t help my former lawyer self.)
- That said, Kenney did mention the top 2-3 payroll thing, so in the broader context, I do think it’s fair to come away from the interview feeling like there is not currently an expectation that Marquee – or carriage issues – will negatively impact payroll going forward. Right now, as of this moment? I don’t think you should be too nervous.
- As for whether the new TV network can provide a *spike* to payroll, that remains very much to be seen, and probably depends on how well the carriage negotiations go. More on that side of things here.