Indecision Dooms Cubs Before Season Has Even Started

Indecision Dooms Cubs Before Season Has Even Started

I can only imagine how difficult it must be for Tom Ricketts to go grocery shopping. 

Because whether it’s paper, plastic, or eco-friendly reusable: the Cubs owner clearly has no sac(k).  From his passive-aggressive stance over the ongoing battle with the rooftop owners to the wink-wink, nudge-nudge talk about searching for a new home, Ricketts’ tired rhetoric is looking more and more like verbal masturbation. And believe me, I know more than a little about that. 

But as far as the Cubs and Wrigley Field are concerned, this whole offseason is turning into a you-know-what-swinging contest in which neither party is willing to drop trou.  And the funny thing is that, despite being nearly emasculated by massive debt, the Cubs look like Ron Jeremy in comparison to their neighbors across the street.

The whole argument comes down to a battle over the rights to sightlines into the ballpark.  Because, as everyone knows, the rooftops are populated by die-hard baseball connoisseurs who desire nothing more than a birds-eye view of the game they love.  No, sir, there is no bacchanalian revelry to be found up there; no one goes for the all-inclusive food and booze.

But lest I paint the Cubs brass in a light reminiscent of Caravaggio, it should be noted that have not been the most gracious neighbors either.  After all, if you leave your blinds open for the peeping Tom across the way, you can’t really get mad when he starts inviting his neighbors over to watch.  And so the Cubs settled for 17 percent of the rooftop rake in exchange for not further soiling what was already a crappy view.

Then Tom Ricketts and Co. proposed a jumbotron in left field and another sign in right, and relationship with the neighbors, whether symbiotic or parasitic, soured.  As David Kaplan revealed here, section 6.6 of the voyeurism pact would seem to favor the Cubs. 

Listen, I’m no lawyer (though I did consider taking the LSAT for fun), but “Any expansion of Wrigley Field approved by governmental authorities shall not be a violation of this agreement” sounds pretty ironclad.  Then again, that could all depend on what your definition of the word “is” is.

Okay, enough prelude.  The Cubs have been dancing around and throwing verbal jabs at the rooftop owners, but have yet to show any real mettle.  Maybe they’re just doing the rope-a-dope, dragging this thing out until the rooftops cave. 

But when it comes to the viability of Wrigley Field, they’re dealing with a finite period of time.  They need to be less like Muhammad Ali and more like Mike Tyson.

I’m not saying that Ricketts should imitate Lou Brown’s treatment of Roger Dorn’s contract, but rather that he needs to have confidence in his deeper pockets and decided leverage.  Who needs whom more in this situation?  He needs to either buy the roofers off or just put up his video board and then high-arm the neighbors in a veritable “What?!”

Of course, that would invite the possibility of even more bad PR and a court battle.  After all, the threat of marginally decreasing a bad view doesn’t carry nearly as much weight as what both the rooftop owners and Wrigley purists fear the most: an all-out move. 

You want to hit ‘em where it hurts?  Threaten to move out to the ‘burbs with Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher.  And it’s not enough to just name-drop a town that’s amenable to offering public funding.  Put an offer on a plot; that’ll stop the haggling in a hurry.

Why, then, do the Cubs continue to trifle with mud-slinging, particularly when the man doing much of it, President of Business Operations Crane Kenney, throws like the former mayor of Cincinnati

They’ve shown little regard for nostalgia and tradition thus far, having already cut ties with Old Style and, likely, WGN.  Those decisions might not be popular, but at least they were decisions.

Likewise, springing Clark the Cub on the unsuspecting masses was bad PR, but at least it was tangible.  I still say the team should have named Ronnie Woo Woo the official mascot, then have Clark step in for him after an injury.  Clark would then have been the toast of the town.  I mean, it worked for Josh McCown.

The Cubs’ decisions haven’t always been popular, but at least we all knew score.  But like Dale Sveum’s inexplicable platoons and lineup changes, Ricketts and his minions’ inability to put their collective foot down is preventing the team and its fans from moving forward. 

And since the organization seems unwilling to fix the falling concrete, medieval plumbing, or substandard player facilities until the signage is up, something needs to be done.  Now.  Actually, yesterday.

And whether you believe it or not, the team’s not going to back off of the notion that it needs additional revenue streams before the payroll increases.  That means a video board and more advertising.  The rooftops will deal with it.  The Wrigley purists will deal with it too.

Why?  Because sometimes you need to tear down nostalgia in order to build something better.  The fans in Boston aren’t decrying the fact that Fenway is festooned with video boards and advertising.  No, I’m reasonably sure that the denizens of the only MLB ballpark older than Wrigley are quite happy with their three World Series titles.

Listen, a few more signs aren’t going to make the Cubs competitive.  But they sure as hell won’t hurt.  At the end of the day, Tom Ricketts just needs to do his best Joel Goodman impersonation and just say “What the (expletive), make your move.”  And if that culminates in a ride on the El with Rebecca De Mornay, so much the better.

But, more likely, it’ll end with the Cubs getting their way and the rooftops pounding sand whilst still managing to pull in money hand over fist.  Guess what?  A winning Cubs team is a win-win for the team and its neighbors. 

So pull the trigger, Tom.  And whether it’s paper, plastic, or green, just sac up.


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  • I don't know if it's as simple an analogy as he Cubs leaving their blinds open. They didn't care when a few shirtless guys set up lawnchairs on their roofs to watch games. The problems arose when some enterprising business owners bought those buildings and started constructing massive bleachers on the buildings, then charging money to watch the games. It went from being a charming part of the Wrigley experience (even spawning a Sports Illustrated article) to just another bunch of leeches who think they have rights to what isn't theirs. Now
    of course the Cubs signed that contract all those years back and they shouldn't have. But Ricketts did not sign that deal. It was signed by a corporate team owner that was looking to maximize profits and had no thought of renovating the park. Ricketts knew the contract and bought anyway so that's on them, it's just not as cut and dry

  • In reply to Mikethoms:

    Ricketts drew the comp of someone peeking in and watching his Homeland. That went out the window when they got into bed with rooftops.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Ricketts was forced into bed with the rooftops due to the contract previous ownership signed. Let's face it no matter what the Cubs ownership does, play nice guy or hard ball, they will get criticized.

  • In reply to Rbirby:

    True, Ricketts is a great guy from all accounts. However, he has Kenney as RH guy and he brokered that deal.

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    In reply to Mikethoms:

    Well, of course it's not that simple, but analogies are, by nature, a way to distill a more complex situation into something that's more easily understood. And it's a bit of a cop-out to say that Ricketts didn't sign the deal; he bought the team, partnerships and all, and knew what he was getting into. He will indeed be criticized no matter what he does, but he needs to DO something.

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    Indianapolis Cubs has a very nice ring to it. Time to leave the unfriendly confines behind, and by confines, I don't mean just the ballpark and the neighborhood. Over-taxed and over-regulated, the city, county and state all are. As long as they're at Wrigley, it's always going to be something. Shrug, the looters and moochers of the People's Republic will never leave the Cubs alone to conduct their business.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Hey, I'll take 'em in Indy. I'll support the team no matter where it is, but they need to crap or get off the pot. Indecision can be worse than bad decisions.

  • I agree with you Evan, whatever Ricketts thinks he wants to do, it's time to do it. Throw your chips in, see what happens, doing nothing but arguing and rehashing over and over the same stuff is not enabling the organization to move forward even a little bit. A whole lot of people are growing weary of this fiasco and if there isn't some sort of movement toward something positive soon I can just about imagine how weary Chicago's going to get. These are smart people, the law side of Ricketts org., they know the score, have all along, they're already the bad guy so get over it and get on with it, can't imagine many owners being dictated to about their business and basically taking it. Tom Ricketts.. take your balls back from the RTO's my friend and ' let it happen cap'n .'

  • Word is meeting on Monday looms large.

  • Great article and I completely agree. The Ricketts need to start acting like they are the ones in charge and stop acting like they are waiting for someone to tell them what to do. This passive crap is getting old quick.

  • Nice article, Evan. As someone who did take the LSAT once, I can legally say that it was well-written.

    This does seem really particularly strange. The Ricketts family is obviously good at business -- they made enough money to buy the Cubs. But this has seemed for a long time now like some pretty poor negotiation skills and business dealings. If only we could combine the Ricketts' love for the Cubs with Sam Zell's "F everyone but me" attitude...

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    In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Boom! Thank you and I agree.

  • Let's hope the squeeky wheel get's greased come Monday if that's what it takes. If it can be amicable that's cool, but I 'spose somebody's going to feel like they got ripped no matter how much money Ricketts has to throw his/her way, que sera' sera'!!

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    Excellent article. Couldn't agree more - let's quit fooling around and get something done already. The RTO are making the Cubs look incompetent and weak. We've had enough of that already.

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    In reply to sleepy1:

    Thank you. I'm getting tired of the threats and the "well maybe" stuff. The bars, stores, rooftops, real estate there all depend on the Cubs. If the threat of moving actually became real, the rooftops would fall in line in a hurry. After all, 83% of nothing is, well, nothing.

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