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The line to offer your pity to the Ricketts starts over there
You won't need to social distance. There won't be anybody else in it.
Remember that scene in “All the President’s Men” when Deep Throat tells Paul Sullivan, “Forget the myths the media's created about the [Ricketts]. The truth is, these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.”
Wait, that might not be completely right. Oh, screw it, it still applies.
The fate of a 2020 Major League Baseball season currently rests on whether or not the ownership groups of the 30 franchises can bully the players into playing for a fraction of their salaries. On the surface, that seems like a sensible ask. They’re likely only going to play 82 games, or so, and why should the players get all their money to play half their games. But, oh, that’s not the issue. The owners want the players to accept a fraction of their prorated salaries.
The owners are counting on two things. They are counting on players at the bottom and middle of the pay scale—who outnumber the rich guys by quite a bit—to push to play because some money is better than no money. And two, they are counting on us, the fans, to be upset and vocal that “rich players” won’t play half a season for much more than any of us will ever make.
You know what? Screw those guys. And especially screw the guys (and Laura) who own the Chicago Cubs. We are saddled with these half-wit siblings whose daddy bought them a baseball team, and who are crying poor despite the fact that daddy sold the family business last year for $26 billion dollars. Even when they had every expectation of money rolling in this year they were already trying to convince us they were broke. They insist they can’t afford to keep the best players in a generation. Guys like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo because there’s just not enough money.
And we’re supposed to believe them. Because they’re all about honesty.
Like Todd Ricketts’ turn back the clock property tax scheme.
And Pete Ricketts’ turning the state he somehow governs into a Coronavirus hot spot by ignoring medical experts and refusing to allow meat processing plants to shut down despite a documented outbreak. And, come on, Grand Island is neither grand, or an island.
And then, there’s Tom Ricketts, hell bent on bringing back “the wet look,” who finally shaved off his awful drifter beard and went on CNBC to explain to us all just how poor the Cubs are now, and how we probably should set up a GoFundMe to help them out.
Tommy had a very sympathetic audience in interviewer Kelly Evans, and he even turned on that weird, shambling way he talks when he wants to seem folksy and get us to believe shit that even he knows we aren’t likely to buy.
Ricketts: “Ultimately, the league as a whole is looking at about four billion dollars of losses, and that’s particularly hard on teams like the Cubs. (Yes, particularly hard on teams who have seen their value quadruple over the past eight years.) As you say, we do get 70 percent of our revenue from tickets, parking, (What parking?) concessions, gameday activities (He just listed off the entirety of stuff Todd proved was too difficult for him to handle on Undercover Boss—especially if you include cleaning a men’s room with a hose to be a ‘gameday activity.’) and only about thirty percent of our revenue from media. And only part of that is national media, like the local television that we do, (The way he said that is a tacit admission that Marquee wasn’t going to be earning them shit even if we weren’t in the midst of pandemicpalooza.) and we’ve already lost half that season, so in a best case scenario we’re looking at recovering 20 percent of our total income, so that’s where the rub is (I do not want to hear Tom Ricketts talking about rubbing.) and that’s where the discussions roll (Roll? What?), will go with the players over the next couple weeks.”
Evans: “Would you even want a season under those conditions or would it be better for you to say this year Wrigley Field is a food pantry?”
Ricketts: “Hopefully it can be a no fan ballpark (Just like it was in 1982!) and a food pantry at the same time (A 1982 Wrigley food pantry would have been beyond depressing. A few half-melted malt cups, some flat Old Style the smokie links they left on the spinner at the end of the ‘81 season.) We’ll have to see how it goes, but we definitely would like to see baseball back. We’d like to see the team on the field. I know the players want to play, I know the manager wants to manage, and I know even if it’s on TV only people want to see baseball back.” (Yes, the players want to play, they just want to actually get paid for it.)
Evans asked him about the NBA and NHL resuming play with neutral site games and tournaments.
“The NBA and the NHL have a totally different set of facts. They got through about 80 percent of their season, so they can finish up with a tournament, or just play some games at one location and wrap that up. (Yeah, just wrap it up—you know, with the most important part of their seasons. He makes it sound like they’re holding a high school Christmas tournament.) We’re very different, we didn’t even start (All we got to do was fleece our spring training cities.), so the financial impact on baseball is even more than the other sports. But as you talk about the schedule, I think the league is being thoughtful and creative about ways to get us playing again with schedules that maybe involve less travel. But we want to play in our own ballparks. We don’t want to play in a tournament setting like the NHL or NBA are looking at. Those discussions are ongoing and hopefully we’ll have some resolution on that. (Once the players cave, the fans can get to the part of the season they love the most, calling Comcast and berating them for not carrying our channel.)”
“It really comes down to how quickly and efficiently the league and the union can get together and kind of hack through the issues. (Just hack through little things, like not paying the players their regular per-game salary because we don’t have the same revenue we would in a normal year. And, us ignoring that when we have revenues that exceed our projections we just keep the money and don’t pay out any bonuses. It’s a great business model where the only time the employees are expected to have contracted salary adjusted due to revenue fluctuations is when the revenue goes down. Hey, Todd’s got French bikes to buy.)”
Evans: “Right, and maybe how much the players are willing to accept to show up and so on and so forth, we know the damage…”
Ricketts: “It’s certainly one of the issues, yeah.”
Evans: “Yeah, and the financial losses, those are going to be issues for another year, but they’re certainly going to be a big headache.”
Tom stepped in it by interrupting her there. She’s clearly on ownership’s side and was wrapping it up by basically saying it’s up to the players to “show up” to get the season started, as though the owners aren’t trying to use this as their own spring training to get in shape to screw the players over when the CBA reopens after next season. Instead, by butting in, he broke up her point and took the steam out of it.
Clearly, Scott Boras was watching, because he chimed in on Thursday in an email to his clients by saying the players have already given enough by agreeing to only get paid for the games that are played. But he addressed the Cubs franchise by name:
“Throughout this process, they will be able to claim that they never had any profits because those profits went to pay off their loans,” Boras pontificated. “However, the end result is that the Ricketts will own improved assets that significantly increases the value of the Cubs — value that is not shared with the players.
"Remember, games cannot be played without you. Players should not agree to further pay cuts to bail out the owners. Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept or let them borrow against the asset values they created from the use of those profits players generated."
Boras is a lot of things, but in this case he’s not wrong, at all. The owners hiding their revenues is a tradition that, as Harry Caray would say, goes back to the days of high buttoned shoes. They have a monopoly on professional baseball in this country with the anti-trust exemption to prove it, and because of that they never have to actually prove how much money they make or lose. So when they stand there with the linings of their pants pockets pulled out, shrugging like the United Center security guard who beat Michael Jordan in pitching quarters, claiming that they’re all broke because they’re going to have a shitload of unrealized income this season, it’s impossible to feel sorry for them. One year of actually taking a loss isn’t going to offset a millennia of shuffling numbers around a balance sheet to make it look like you’re barely breaking even.
And this is just the start. The owners are willing to hold an entire season hostage and shoot it in the head if need be as a warning. Most of them have been sitting out free agency for years now for this very same reason. They want cost control. Not on how much they charge us—let’s not get crazy—just on how much they pay the guys we actually come to see. They’re going to be bemoaning the financial impact of this season long after it’s reasonable to do so.
The Cubs already want to offload any of their young veteran players who dare suggest they should be paid market value, and all this will do is give the Rickettses another bullshit excuse when it happens. They weren’t going to actually pay Kris Bryant what he was worth in the first place and now they’ll just blame it on this. In two years when Bryant’s a Dodger, Baez is a Yankee and Rizzo is wondering why he ever agreed to go back to the Padres, it’ll be COVID 19, Cubs fans zip.
But we’ll know the impact of the pandemic will not be the real reason, because that was all going to happen anyway.
It can feel hard to pick a side in a labor dispute between millionaire players and billionaire owners, especially when a pseudo-intellectual like Trevor Bauer takes to Twitter to argue on behalf of himself and all of his fellow baseball player friends (total number of membership in those two entities combined is one), or when the players torpedo their very real concerns about their health and safety by offering to play more games than even the owners suggested so they can keep more of their salaries.
But it’s really not that hard to pick a side. Just look at whatever side the Ricketts are on and walk the other way. They have proven to us over and over and over and over again that we can’t trust the things they say and we can’t stomach much of the things that they do.
As the good woman says, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
You don’t have to like the owners to love the Cubs. Hell, the team hasn’t had a competent owner since 1932 when William Wrigley died.