Tip of the cap to Ken Rosenthal. He led off his latest piece at The Athletic (subscription required) comparing Shohei Ohtani to Taylor Swift in the sense that both are 'cultural phenomena'. It's what makes his foray into free agency unlike anything the sport has ever experienced before - and lays bare just what's at stake for the teams, including the Cubs, still in the mix.
You're bidding for more than the on-field production which, in and of itself, is historic and unmatched. The team that signs Ohtani will be weaving invisible strings throughout every aspect of its short and long-term identity because he can be marketed in ways that other players, simply, cannot.
In that piece, Rosenthal goes through, team-by-team, breaking down the opportunities an Ohtani signing would bring. When it comes to the Cubs, he notes that Tom Ricketts' longstanding wildest dreams center around Wrigleyville becoming a year-round destination and, with the Cubs' ownership stake in Marquee Sports Network, tapping into a global market with Ohtani is certainly a tantalizing thought.
Cubs need a major attraction back at Wrigley Field - and Shohei Ohtani would be the team's biggest this century
Last summer, after several painful years of a large swath of Chicagoland Cubs fans being unable to watch the team on Marquee, an in-market streaming option came to fruition. It is in the team's best interest (and that's putting it mildly) to give people a reason to shell out their hard-earned cash for Marquee if it's not part of their current cable or streaming packages. Nothing would drive revenue on this front like bringing in The Man.
As Rosenthal points out, Ohtani would be the biggest star the Cubs have had in decades - dating back to Sammy Sosa's peak with the team in the late 1990s. The faces of the franchise during the 2016 run pale in comparison to Ohtani, especially with how many of their respective careers have played out since that fateful season.
The allure of Ohtani in the baseball world is certainly comparable to what Swift has done during her record-setting global Eras tour, becoming a must-see event at every stop. It's been a long, long time since Cubs baseball felt that way and you're seeing the effects of that, with lower attendance totals at Wrigley, disappointing subscriber numbers for Marquee and a decades-old season ticket waiting list that's now a thing of the past.
The days of acting like a small market organization need to be a thing of the past. Bring on Ohtani - and the champagne problems that come with what's likely to be the largest free agent contract in history.