Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ rhetoric is proving costly for his team this winter.
This is kinda getting old talking about baseball losing money in the midst of a pandemic that has torn the country apart, left many regular Joes without jobs and generally razed the psyche of the nation to a shell of its former self. And yet, there seem to be more financial dots to connect in this terrible offseason for the Cubs. Forgive me, but just know that I side with baseball owners on almost nothing.
So, we’re all familiar with the Tom Ricketts’ line from the early summer where he discussed how baseball was losing gobs of money hand over fist. Semantics aside, they weren’t losing a ton of money, they just weren’t MAKING a ton of money in 2020. That fact seems to have been glossed over at the MLB owners’ meetings, but it was not and has not since been lost on just about every fan of baseball in this country. Ricketts, in his defense of the owners while the league was trying to get a half season started, even went so far as to say that the staggering losses owners were facing were “biblical” in nature.
Say what you want about the Ricketts family, their political involvement or what kind of owners they’ve been in Chicago. The problem with what Ricketts said, amidst the last couple years of offseason decisions on spending and then the early departure of Theo Epstein, is that every other MLB team could smell blood in the water. Granted, most teams were probably facing the same kinds of “losses” as the Cubs, and yet, they weren’t nearly as publicly vociferous about money they were or weren’t losing.
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Everyone and their mother knows that most businesses in the hospitality, entertainment, or food industry have been unable to make the amount of money they usually were expected to any other year due to COVID-19. However, because of a unique confluence of storms that has become the Chicago Cubs offseason, Ricketts did his club and new President of Baseball Operations, Jed Hoyer, no favors by opening his mouth.
With Schwarber signing a one-year deal with another National League team (so he isn’t just a DH to everyone) for more than he was projected to get in arbitration, and the heightened rumors surrounding Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and even Kyle Hendricks now, it’s clear the jig is up and the news is out: Cubs players can be had for cents on the dollar in a post-holiday blue light special down at good ol’ Wrigley Field.
No one made a deal for Schwarber because they called the Cubs’ bluff and let him hit the open market. No one wanted to give up top prospects for a guy who was just robbed of the NL Cy Young this past year so Hoyer got what he could from the Padres.
Would it really be a huge surprise if Kris Bryant were traded to the Mets for a Coney dog and Brooklyn Brewery lager just so the Cubs could dump his almost $20 million in payroll?
That’s what I thought.
I understand running a business in these times is next to impossible. However, MLB franchises are extremely lucrative investments, even if as owners say, they’re not as profitable year after year. The problem is, when you come out and say you’re losing lots of money, you’re doing two really dumb things in one statement: your fans aren’t going to sympathize with your billionaire backside “losing” money and other teams will take that as an admission of overspending, fiscal weakness/instability, or an imminent firesale.
Regardless of Ricketts’ intention when he defended owners over the summer, he ultimately allowed his team to be low-balled or called on every offer, trade proposal, and decision Hoyer has and will make this offseason. I could be wrong, but that statement will probably end up costing him millions at some point along the way. Ironic, isn’t it?
The sad thing is, even if that statement does end up costing Ricketts millions, the biblical profits he will make upon selling the Cubs should soften that blow.