A League of Her Own

Thursday Headlines: When Is An Earmark Not an Earmark?





Did I hear you right? You want more debate about the proposed Wrigley issue? Well, we've got it for you, in spades. Jon Greenberg over at ESPNChicago.com has done a bang-up job of looking at the entire issue from all sides. It's a long article, but well worth the read. We'll look at a few bits here, starting with who's issuing in the bonds and how they'll be repaid.

As the proposal stands now, the bonds likely would be issued by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which owns U.S. Cellular Field, but no one's sure who would be the guarantor on the loans if they aren't repaid as expected.

"Ultimately we have to work with the state to come to some kind of conclusion that works with that," Ricketts said. "The fact is the increase of amusement tax revenues should support the bonds pretty well. To go to the markets we might need a state agency to issue them for us.

"The dollars that go to support these bonds are paid for by Cubs ticket buyers," he said later. "The state needs to issue these bonds because we can't issue them on our own behalf."

You may have heard a thing or two about old Papa Ricketts and his work to eliminate earmarks from Congressional spending bills (Check out Aisle 424's post on this). Not only is he an anti-earmarker, but he's also member of a group that doesn't want public funds paying for stadiums (stadia, if you're into Latin).

Illinois political blog TheCapitolFaxBlog.com reported this the other day, and also noted that Joe is on the board of conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, which decried funding stadiums through tax subsidies in its magazine in 2008.

But Tom doesn't see a problem in the field of earmarks vs. Wrigley Field debate.

"An earmark is something that's appended onto a federal bill which is never debated, never discussed, just thrown in," Tom said. "The fact is, what it does is it jeopardizes the integrity of the federal budgeting process. You can tell by the people in the room today this isn't a private process we're going through. We're trying to be as open as possible. This is a decision that will be made by elected officials and the people in this room."

There is much more in that article, and it's pretty dense, but well worth your time. Go check it out.
In other news, Micah Hoffpauir is hoping to become the next Matt Murton.

The Cubs' top priority this offseason is to acquire a first baseman but Jim Hendry will leave the general manager meetings in Orlando with nobody there on the depth chart because Micah Hoffpauir is going to play in Japan.

Carlos Zambrano ain't goin' nowhere.

"Carlos has not asked the Cubs to be traded nor have the Cubs asked Zambrano to waive his no-trade clause," Zambrano's agent Barry Praver said Wednesday at the MLB general manager meetings in Orlando, Fla.

Lace up your skates and find your sequined jumpsuits, it's almost time for ice skating at Wrigley!

For the second year, skaters can glide next to Wrigley Field at The Rink at Wrigley. It will open Dec. 1 and continue until Feb. 28. You can skate Monday through Thursday from 3-10 p.m.; on Fridays from 3-11 p.m.; on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m.; and on Sundays from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.



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57 Comments

Doc said:

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I hope Carlos Zambrano likes playing on a shitty team...because unless he allows a trade, the Cubs won't have money to make this team any better. If he were traded, he'd probably get to be on a team with more potential and it would make the Cubs better too. Bastard.

FrankS said:

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Maybe Carlos will accept a trade near the deadline. But you are forgetting that the Cubs were 24-13 under Tom Riddle, I mean Mike Quade, and the team wasn't playing its best baseball. The Cubbies are going to win 120 games this year!

Doc said:

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You just go on thinking that if that helps you sleep at night. :)

flyball said:

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that little bit of back pedaling and "clarification" by the senior Ricketts almost makes me want the Tribune back as our overlords

Doc said:

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As of right now...the Ricketts family is fumbling around much worse than the Tribune company ever did.

The thing that is really pissing me off about the Ricketts right now is that the have refused to put a baseball person in charge of running this team for them. And, honestly, it is showing right now. This team is turning into a disaster.

flyball said:

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Sam Zell is the only thing that makes me not want to go back to those days

JulieDiCaro said:

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I have sensed (and no, I'm not going to tell you why I feel this way) that there is some tension between the Ricketts family and Cubs organization. I know they have their own PR people, etc. I get the feeling there's not a lot of communication going on between the two parts of the whole.

sloan peterson said:

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It's very appropriate to have figure skating at Wrigley: the Cubs are on thin ice, and the Ricketss keep falling down and make clowns of themselves...

baturkey said:

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Well put.

berselius said:

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The Cubs are getting started on selling tickets early this year

http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/chc/ticketing/holiday_packs.jsp

Doc said:

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That's a really shitty Christmas gift.

"Merry Christmas! I got you tickets to watch a really shitty team in a really shitty stadium with really shitty and expensive concessions. Enjoy, asshole!"

Edelweiss said:

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The best place to watch the Cubs is at Miller Park.

AndCounting said:

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It's a genius move. Even though everyone will see through it as a ploy to sell tickets for a subpar team, a lot of people won't be able to resist anyway (myself included).

JulieDiCaro said:

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do i get to pay 20% more this year, too?

AndCounting said:

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I'm pretty sure it amounts to a discount. 4 games starting at $92 Depending on the taxes and fees that go along with that and where the seats are, $23 a seat might be a break. Or it could be nothing but an advanced chance at some seats at a nominal markup. I'd have to see what sections they're in and what the ceiling is on the price.

JulieDiCaro said:

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I just saw the offer--seems like a good deal. I mean, if watching this team play baseball is something you want to do.

Doc said:

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I'm fairly sure most people don't want to watch this team play baseball. Most people aren't that stupid.

But I am.

Dmband said:

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Reported on the SCR-

Big Z was at wrigley today and had no idea that a football game was being played there. I wonder how long it took him to notice...

JulieDiCaro said:

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Oh hahahahahaha! I love Z so much.

Doc said:

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I don't.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Cubs are considering giving Marmol an extension. Are you KIDDING me? They should be trying to move him, not add yet another unmoveable contract to our roster. I love Marmol, but there's no point in having a big-time closer unless you have the rest of the team to go with him. . and we don't, and likely won't, for several years.

gravedigger said:

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I'm pretty sure I've never disagreed with you any more than I do here.

Doc said:

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Actually I disagree with this as well. Normally I would be all for trading a guy with high value like Marmol has right now, but in the end, Marmol hasn't won any award and still has some bouts of wildness...he isn't going to break the bank. On top of that, his track record probably won't bring in a whole hell of a lot on the trade market. Most relief pitchers don't.

We should assume that Marmol has yet to have peaked as a closer as well...if the Cubs haven't become competitive in 2 years, Marmol's stats might be even better increasing his value on the trade market.

Keeping him on the team for a couple years of rebuilding isn't going to be a big deal and hopefully he will still be effective by the time the team is competitive again. This organization has had a hard time finding a solid closer from year to year. I think doing everything possible to keep Marmol is a smart move.

Now the Marlon Byrd trade rumors that are floating about...that is another story. His trade value will never be higher and it shouldn't be that difficult to replace him.

(I'm sure all of our SABR geeks will love to chime in on this one.)

Edelweiss said:

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Since they traded all their other popular players, they should trade Byrd and Dempster.

gravedigger said:

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Oh for fuck's sake. People who bitch about earmarks usually have no idea what they really are or do. I will try not to get on my soapbox, but political ignorance just drives me fucking nuts.

JulieDiCaro said:

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i'm not bitching about it. i just needed a title.

Doc said:

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I hate bitching about the bitching about the definition of what an earmark is.

Someone just give the Cubs $200 million already and get this renovation going! Julie...you got that kind of money, right?

flyball said:

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unm, didn't the Ricketts think about the $200 mil in renovations before buying the team? isn't it like buying a house, you know it needs a new roof, buy the house anyway, and then asking someone else to pay for it?

its called due diligence people, freaking call Tiger Home Inspection or something before you pay a billion dollars for something

Doc said:

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I made this comment yesterday at Aisle 424...

I think the Ricketts family was a bit blinded (due to their love of the team and the ballpark) at the true extent of the condition of Wrigley Field. I also believe that when they bought the team they had a plan that would allow them to do $10 to $20 million in renovations every year. After a season, and after $10 million in work to the ballpark that resulted in no betterment of the fan or player experience, they came to realize that more drastic measures to the ballpark were indeed needed. That was something they didn't plan on.

All along they had talked about doing renovations like those done at Fenway Park. The Red Sox never spent more than about $20 a year working on the park...renovations that have taken almost 9 years to do. Now the Ricketts family is looking at doing much more in a much shorter period of time.

No one else has mentioned this, but I'm almost positive all of those pretty drawings that were released the other day aren't new. They were the same drawings the Tribune Company used when they tried to get the state to buy Wrigley 3 years ago as part of the "Wrigley 2014" project. I don't think they've been thinking about this for very long and only came to this decision at the organizational meetings that were held 2 weeks ago.

The truth is, this is just so ridiculous. They should call up the Tribune, and see if they can get the big piece of land they own out in Schaumburg (where the WGN radio transmission tower is) for a cheep price and see if they can get some nice tax breaks from the City of Schaumburg and threaten to move the team out there. Wrigley Field is not worth it. The neighborhood is not worth it. This was the plan the Tribune was thinking about doing back in the mid-80's, and they probably should have followed through on it.

HackWilson09 said:

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Here's what kills me - let's say you gut and renovate an apartment building. What could you spend, maybe $150K tops? Or you build from the ground up. What do you spend on say, a 3-flat with a retail space in front. $300-350K in labor and materials?

Yeah, I'd like $200 million from the state, sure... I could have my nuts encrusted with diamonds for that.

JulieDiCaro said:

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that seems like it would be . . heavy.

flyball said:

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do you want a real answer on how fast $100k can get chewed up? construction can be really expensive when you're talking multi family housing or anything commercial

HackWilson09 said:

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The Ricketseses are just working within the framework of what already exists for sports franchises everywhere in the US right now. The Bears got money, the White Sox got money. So the Cubs are supposed to not even try tapping into all that cash just because it's unpopular right now?

We're in a Corporatocracy right now where business is so tied to government that they have become inseparable, and all they care about is bringing money to the city, and a wonderful benefit of all this is that it stimulates the economy even more on the North side and creates some temporary and permanent jobs for people who really need them.

They are multi-millionaires. Multimillionaires spend a lot of time giving money to politicians, and getting favors back. If anybody doesn't like that, they can join the tiny throngs of lunatics with teabags hanging off of their hats.

sloan peterson said:

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I'll trade you CA's economy for Illinois'..:)

ELRaythar said:

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I'll trade you anything for Arizona.

JulieDiCaro said:

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the problem is that the Bears and Sox got their money during the go-go 90s, or at least before the economy went completely off a cliff. Now we have state workers who have gone months without paychecks, and it's just a no-win PR situation to ask the State to give a corporation $$$ for a luxury item before paying people who are currently on unemployment.

The timing just sucks for everyone.

HackWilson09 said:

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Julie, can you think of a moment when the timing didn't suck for the Cubs?

Merkle's boner. 1908.

The greatest break the Cubs ever received in the history of the franchise, and the name of it sounds like an embarrassing incident over at grandpa's nursing home.

flyball said:

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have you heard the song? it comes up on pandora every once in awhile

JulieDiCaro said:

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LOL--okay, good point.

gravedigger said:

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oh, i know YOU weren't.

sloan peterson said:

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Nobody looks good with anything dangling off their hat except the late Minnie Pearl and Keith Richards....

Dmband said:

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RE: The Bond Issue

I actually think that its only because the state, county and city are currently extremely broke that makes this a bad idea. Otherwise, in terms of a revenue bond issue, this would in theory be a great investment. I mean, you got a corporation of the highest quality with a VERY predictable consistent revenue stream.

Sadly, we cant think long term because we are broke now. Otherwise this would be a great investment for everyone involved.

Dmband said:

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Also, people should stop referring to this as a handout. The cubs have a repayment plan, a handout is something you dont have to pay back!

Doc said:

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That's a very good point. Most stadiums are built with public tax dollars...usually some sort of sales tax...and the team never has to repay it.

The Cubs, who are currently paying money to the Amusement Tax would just use some of that money to repay the bonds.

In reality, the Cubs are the ones issuing the bonds, but they don't have the authority to do so and that's why the ISFA is to be involved. The only thing here is that the State would be the guarantor if the Cubs couldn't pay off the bonds in time.

jarowcliffe said:

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I am really on the fence about this issue...

On one hand I say screw them its a business and this is their problem...on the other hand, I would like to see Wrigley modernized and this is probably the best chance.

Doc-I dont like to think of the Cubs paying the amusement tax...they add the tax into the ticket so Cubs fans pay the tax not the team. That is like saying Marlboro pays the cigarette tax or Wal-Mart pays sales tax...they lump it into the price of goods, its not coming out of their pocket.

JulieDiCaro said:

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so basically, we all wind up buying a stadium for the Ricketts. the state gives them the mortgage, we pay the mortgage back, and, in the end, they reap the benefit.

jarowcliffe said:

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thats the way I look at it...if there is one thing I know about corporate America it is that they will get theirs. All this talk about a "family" owning the Cubs drives me nuts, it doesnt matter if "The Waltons" own the Cubs they are still not going to do it for free, they are going to maximize profit! Hopefully they will realize the way to max profits is to win.

Dmband said:

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ps. If Marmol still has more upside, I feel sorry for the rest of the league. Ive never seen batters more confused and silly looking. I want him on my team regardless.

Doc said:

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I might be way wrong on this...but I really thought there was ample room for him to improve yet.

sloan peterson said:

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Marmol still is 2-3 years away from either going to the level the Cubs needs or panning out. One thing the Cubs need to learn is when to let go of a player-other teams like the Dodgers/Angels have the same problem. Marmol is not THE CLOSER right now- and may never be....

Doc said:

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I'm kinda wordy today.

Carl Heartscubs Gierhan said:

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I find that I'm rarely wordy enough, so it balances out.

Dmband said:

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You may argue that its the lack of good quality long term investments like this bond that got us into the current economic state we are in. Bad pun intended.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Bear Down!

ELRaythar said:

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Go Wildcats!

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