Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And Thus, It Ends

Bruce Miles wrote up his game story today with the following opening line:

It might be too late for this year, but nobody wants to talk about next year on the Cubs.

Well, when Chris Iannetta homered in the 11th inning for the Colorado Rockies last night, the Cubs were eliminated.

All that's left to talk about is next year.

Even this season's last 5 games won't show much. Kevin Gregg and Rich Harden have been shelved, so there's no more scouting to see if they'll earn a new contract for next year (they won't). Angel Guzman is out for the rest of the year. Aramis Ramirez is likely done. Jake Fox has been hidden on the bench to keep any trade value he has from slipping away. Alfonso Soriano has been gone for months and Milton Bradley was never really here (even though he says he felt like $30 million).

If seeing Jeff Samardzija start excites you, well, perhaps there's that left.

Many of the the Cubs are already done for the year. Fitting.

Given that, and despite Bruce's intro, the focus from here on out is 2010.

As it has been since August.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Elimination Party

Today was the day. No, not the Cubs. Ivy Chat, from Bleed Cubbie Blue.
Time's up!
It must have been that 5th comment in 2009 that got Al's attention.

Someone please send a Banned by BCB/BTI card to Ivy Chat, please. I'm now in the club!

Cubby Occurence From The Angel

Just classic:

First baseman Derrek Lee scored the game-tying run ahead of Jeff Baker, whose two-out, two-strike home run off San Francisco closer Brian Wilson put the team in line for the win.

As Lee and Baker were mobbed by teammates in the dugout, relief pitcher Angel Guzman slapped the side of Lee's helmet, causing Lee to experience neck spasms that forced him to come out of the game for defense in the bottom of the ninth.

Lee has missed numerous games over the years with neck and back spasms, after initially suffering the injury in a home-plate collision in 2006.

After the game Thursday, Lee told team personnel that he'd be in the lineup Friday night, but the team's training staff could insist that he sit out a game or two.

The gods clearly think the Cubs are still contending. I guess the gods sell bus parts.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Final Steps

Crain's on the case:

Tribune gets OK for Cubs sale

A federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware has approved the Tribune Co.'s sale of the Chicago Cubs.

The judge on Thursday authorized Tribune to enter into transactions to sell the team to the family of billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade. The family agreed to buy a 95 percent stake in the team and its Wrigley Field home for $845 million.

The deal also needs approval from Major League Baseball.

The Tribune plan calls for a separate bankruptcy filing by Chicago National League Ball Club, an affiliate not involved in the company's Chapter 11 case. The Cubs bankruptcy should last only a few days but is needed to ensure that sale is free of all liens and claims, and that contracts can be assumed and assigned.

The owners will approve this via a conference call as quickly as they can. Any delay risks seeing the deal fall apart and the purchase price of the team fall.

And that would dilute the values of every other franchise.

This is going to be over very, very soon.


From the Chicago Tribune, all the objections to the sale have been cleared:

Former Cub Shawon Dunston had filed a handwritten letter last week seeking college money he said the baseball team owed him. On Tuesday, Dunston dropped the request.

And Delta Tau Chi was just hoping for a new pledge!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tax Chat

Our pal Corn Cob Dress at the Wax Paper Beer Cup blog is one of the few Cubs bloggers who follows the financial side of the Cubs as much as this site does. Yesterday, ccd linked to a fascinating article about Sam Zell, the Tribune, and tax dodging:

(It's estimated that the) Tribune would have about a $720 million gain — the $740 million, less 95 percent of the $21 million Tribune paid for the Cubs in 1981. At a 40 percent federal-state combined rate, the gain would generate about $290 million in taxes. Instead, that money would go to Tribune's creditors.

This is similar to the 2008 deal in which Zell unloaded 97.14 percent of the Long Island newspaper Newsday onto Cablevision Systems, walking off with $650 million in cash. “This is somewhat less egregious, but it’s still egregious,” said Willens, whose views are followed closely on Wall Street and in Washington.


It wouldn’t surprise me if the IRS challenges both the Newsday and Cubs deals. That would add a whole new dimension to the best-known phrase in Cubsland, uttered by the legendary shortstop Ernie Banks: "Let's play two."

The article was written by Allan Sloan, Senior Editor at Large for Fortune Magazine.

I took the liberty and contacted Allan to ask him this question: "Any idea when the IRS would announce if they were challenging the deals? And what such a challenge would do to the timing of the closing of a Cubs sale?"

His response was, "I doubt it would happen before the closing. ... My guess is that we won't know for months, and if it happens, neither the IRS nor Tribune will issue any news releases."

What this means is that the Cubs sale would most likely close long before the IRS challenges the transaction. Such a post-close challenge would have no effect on the then-Ricketts-owned Cubs. The re-direction of $290 million in proceeds from the "transfer" (don't call it a sale!) to the IRS would hurt two parties - Tribune creditors and members of the Tribune ESOP.

Looks like this is only an issue for the Tribune employees and creditors who have claims in the Tribune bankruptcy. The Cubs would sail (not sale!) onward with no IRS issues from the transaction.

We Know Plenty

A truly troubling column in the Tribune yesterday from the new "In The Wake Of The News" columnist David Haugh. In the column, Haugh interviews Milton Bradley's mother. What she says is very disconcerting.

"There is more behind the scenes that bothered Milton and made him uncomfortable in Chicago," she said.

Pressed, Rector wouldn't give details to verify her claims. She only offered that it involved Bradley's 3-year-old son facing racial slurs at about the same time Bradley was complaining about what he considered a racist element of Cubs fans.

"Milton called me," Rector said, "and said, 'It's bad enough what I am going through, but I can take it and go to the ballpark and pray games don't last any more than nine innings. But my son?' "

Holy crap. What an unbelievable story.

And, by unbelievable, I mean unbelievable.

Now, let's throw in the standard caveats here. I don't think Bradley's mom is making things up and I believe that Milton Bradley thinks the treatment he has received is racial.

But did people really go after Milton's kid? Think about this. First of all, who in the stands would know that some random three year old kid was Milton's son? It's not like Milton has been here for years and has paraded the kid through the media like some have (read: Dusty Baker).

Second, it's amazing how a city that embraced Michael Jordan, Andre Dawson, Walter Payton, and Ernie Banks only had "racist taunts" for Dusty Baker, Jacque Jones, LaTroy Hawkins and Bradley. And wasn't Baker the toast of the town until the end of 2004?

What do Baker, Jones, Hawkins and Bradley have in common? They all sucked.

Isn't it possible that, instead of taking responsibility for their actions and lousy performance, these initially highly lauded individuals chose to handle their poor performances by deflecting on something that would make them look sympathetic?

That theory would certainly be applicable to Bradley according to Ken Munger, Bradley's high school coach:

"The Cubs suspending Milton doesn't really surprise me," Munger said. "The Milton I knew was talented but immature. He was never able to resolve conflict."

Sounds to this writer like he tried to find a way.

Yes, it's possible that Wrigley fans taunted Milton's toddler son with racist taunts. The only source of these accusations? Milton himself.

Not credible.

A very disturbing article, indeed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Get Lost

Milton, I think this is the end of a rotten relationship.And thus, the Milton Bradley experiment ends the way it began: Suspensions to bookend the season. In his Wrigley Field debut, Bradley was ejected for arguing balls and strikes and suspended. At the end, he was suspended for being a prick that wasn’t good enough at his job to make everyone deal with his prickishness.

What's interesting about the End of Bradley were the comments from his teammates. In short, they said, "Go away. Quickly."

"Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and realize maybe the biggest part of the problem is yourself and wanting to be here every day and wanting to have fun. It didn't seem like he wanted to have very much fun, from spring training." – Ryan Dempster

"If a guy gets suspended, I'm sure he did something to deserve it," – Derrek Lee

"If you don't want to be here, send him home." - Aramis Ramirez

But, perhaps the most interesting comment came from Reed Johnson:

Bradley told the Tribune in June he felt "isolated" in the clubhouse. Johnson, Dempster and others disputed that comment.

"From our standpoint, nobody was making an effort to isolate him from groups," Johnson said. "For the most part, that was his choice."

What makes this so interesting is something Bradley said back in April:

"I never had a problem in my life until I started playing baseball. All of a sudden, there are all these things. I just want to be me. I just want to be that guy who plays baseball and enjoys his teammates and has a good time. That's what I do."

Bradley wants to enjoy his teammates, but he doesn’t actually spend time with them. He was isolated from them but the teammates didn’t do the isolating.

Baseball teams will endure all types of players under one condition: They are good at baseball. The better the player is at baseball, the more the team will endure. Just look at the allowances made for the previous right fielder wearing #21, Sammy Sosa.

Milton Bradley was not good enough at baseball for the Cubs to endure his lunacy. Looking back, 6 other teams made the same determination. But the 6 other teams also were smarter about Milton Bradley than the Cubs were in one key point: They never gave Bradley a multi-year deal.

There are only 2 remaining angles to the Milton Bradley story: What percentage of $23 million will the Cubs spend to rid themselves of the guy and will there be any repercussions within the Cubs management ranks for wasting this much money. There should be, and not for Milton's money alone. The wastes of money in terms of contract length on Alfonso Soriano, Neifi Perez, Aaron Miles, and Jason Marquis should be taken into account as well.

This will be the story of the Cubs from now until the Winter Meetings.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cash Burn

We'll get to Milton Bradley later. But first, by way of Switzerland, today's lesson on baseball economics:

To best understand baseball economics, think of the sport as similar to the investment banking business: a few large market firms (that have monopoly pricing power and cozy government relations) and then a lot of boutique establishments betting the franchise on some out-of-the-money option (Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano, and Alex Rios come to mind). The 2009 payroll for the Yankees is $201 million; for the Florida Marlins, it's $36 million.

Hat tip: Dave Pinto

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shawon Goes To College

Only one comment needed. I love how Reuters attempted to verify Shawon's signature:

Former Chicago Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston has objected in bankruptcy court to the sale of the team because it owes him money to pay for a college education, according to court documents filed on Thursday.


Dunston wrote to the judge to object.

"I, Shawon Dunston, being a former player of the Chicago Cubs from 4-9-85 - 10-5-95/4-5-97 - 10-4-97 am entitled to college scholarship funds obligated to me by the Chicago Cubs," said the three-sentence handwritten letter. "To date, these scholarship funds have not been paid to me."

The two-time All-Star was the first overall draft pick in 1982, selected straight out of high school. Major League Baseball's website lists his college as "N/A."

Dunston, who retired in 2002 and currently works for the San Francisco Giants, could not be reached for comment. The signature on the letter appeared to match Dunston's signature on sports memorabilia.

Leaving Early

Last night was only the second game of the year I attended. Both times, the Cubs fell behind by big margins early. Both times I left early. Only the first time did they come back to win.

Some observations from Section 228 last night:

- No shows were probably about 5,000 or more. Pretty big chunks of seats in the 100 level sections along the third base side an the 200 level sections on the first base side were clearly empty.

- When Milton Bradley looked at 4 straight pitches in his first at bat, the last three of which were strikes, he was soundly booed by the fans. The booing was nowhere near as loud as it has been in the past for Jacque Jones and LaTroy Hawkins, but maybe the no shows were a function of that.

- When Mike Fontenot batted next and tapped out, no one booed. This was surprising at first given Fontenot's miserable season. Then I remembered that Fontenot likely doesn't have the same problems with Chicago restaurant staff that Bradley does.

- The Cubs should have traded Rich Harden. No one is going to offer him a multi-year deal at big bucks and the Cubs will likely not offer him arbitration as they can't afford the financial risk that he'll accept it. It is possible that Harden could return if they successfully dump some combination of Soriano, Fukudome and Bradley and recover enough salary to pay for Harden. Hard to see that all happening prior to arbitration deadlines.

- Richard Dreyfuss? Really? I actually heard that in my car. Made we wish I'd stayed at the game. Or wrapped my car around an oak tree.

- Nice job installing the flat screens for the people seated downstairs who may have obstructed views. Now, get rid of the 4x3 monitors that remain. They really look tacky next to the flat screens and they are so old the picture is not viewable.

I have four tickets for the game on Friday, October 2nd. I wonder if I go or eat these? I guess it will be a weather-based game time decision. Might be fun just to count the empty seats that day.

Funny On Many Levels

Bruce Miles has the inside scoop on how So Taguchi became a Cub:

Taguchi was at his home in St. Louis on Tuesday night when he got the call. At first, he ignored it.

"(The call) was from Chicago, and I don't have any friends in Chicago," Taguchi said. " 'Maybe this is a wrong call,' and I just ignored it. After maybe two hours, my agent finally called me. He said, 'What are you doing?' I'm just sitting on the couch. I had no idea about this number.

"'It's the Cubs? Why now?'"

Why now, indeed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All Equal Contracts Are Not Always Equal

Yesterday, we discussed the reasons trading Carlos Zambrano made sense: The Cubs will be cash strapped in 2010 due to Jim Hendry’s insane contract structures and trading Z will alleviate the most salary and bring back the most in trade. What’s missed in the Cubs thinking about the cost here is this: Trading Zambrano will make the team worse and bad Cubs teams no longer generate the high level of fan interest as they used to.

A bad Cubs team means lower attendance and lower TV ratings. Even if tickets are sold at the beginning of the year, don’t think the Cubs really don’t care if you let the ticket rot in your desk. There’s a lot of profit in $7 beers. And TV viewers are also key. Advertisers expect decent ratings and part of the Cubs strategy is to launch their own TV network. That gets hard to do if the team stinks and no one is watching.

The Cubs risk that the cost savings of trading Zambrano could be partially offset by lower revenues. Trading Z could potentially cost the team more in cash flow than dumping Alfonso Soriano and eating half his salary.

What’s even more disturbing about thinking about trading Z is that Zambrano’s contract isn’t a killer contract. Even if Zambrano himself is overpaid, the fact that he’s a starting pitcher means that the cost measurement is not of the individual starters, but the rather that of the entire rotation. People think Z’s bad at $18 million per year, but that excess cost is covered by the $500,000 in salary paid to Randy Wells. Would Z make more sense if he was paid $9 million, but Wells also made $9 million? Having a high priced starting pitcher doesn’t prevent the team from getting more starting pitching. You don’t have to free up his specific roster spot to improve the rotation.

Compare this to the Cubs outfield. Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley are virtually untradeable given their contracts, abilities and/or histories. Further, no general manager is going to allow these guys to spend a whole season on the bench. In order to get better in the outfield, you have to get these guys off the roster. Zambrano doesn’t have to go to the bullpen for the Cubs to improve their rotation.

One dimensional position players with large contracts are a much bigger problem that starting pitchers with equally large contracts. For that reason alone, trading Zambrano doesn’t make a great deal of sense. When you add in that he’s actually good at what he does, it makes close to no sense whatsoever.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Next Meaningful Game Announced!

Somehow, the phrase, "The new phonebooks are here! The new phonebooks are here!" keeps coming to mind now that the 2010 Cubs schedule is out.

News From The Ballpark

As the Cubs on field actions are only mildly interesting, Paul Sullivan spends the bulk of his game article discussing front office baseball. Tom Ricketts, despite not yet closing on the sale, is not only helping shape the 2010 on-field Cubs, he's following the system of Andy MacPhail: Tell everyone in advance what you are going to do via leaks to the media. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss:

Now that Hendry is assured of returning in 2010, he'll have to decide which players to bring back. Dempster, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal last winter, is assured of returning. Zambrano, who signed a five-year, $91.5 million deal in August 2007, is not.

Despite the fact that Zambrano has a full no-trade clause, the Cubs plan on shopping him this off-season, sources said, believing he'll waive the clause to go to the right team, as Jake Peavy eventually did when the Padres consummated a deal this summer with the White Sox.


While he has won only eight games this season, been on the disabled list twice and was suspended six games for "inappropriate and violent actions," the Cubs think they can find a taker, shed the contract and get some quality players in return.

First piece of news: Hendry is coming back. Not terribly unexpected given the money he's owed and the debt that will tie up the Cubs. But certainly a problem if his boss remains Denny Crane Kenney. The past shows that Jim Hendry cannot develop a farm system. Furthermore, his fix to the 2006 disaster of a team he put together was spend the then-unknown Tom Ricketts' money. The fix worked. That fix cannot be applied to the 2010 Cubs as the money will be tied up in salary increases to Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Milton Bradley. Hendry cannot be allowed to fly solo anymore.

But the second piece of news was the trial balloon floated of trading Carlos Zambrano. Now, this does make sense from certain angles. Big Z is one of the highest paid players on the team. His money is locked in for several years and Ricketts could use that money. And, he's one of the few high salaried guys that could actually bring prospects back in a trade.

The subtext of this news being floated is really this: Payroll will be going down in 2010. The reason Zambrano's name is being discussed in trade talks is that, of the big money guys the Cubs would like to unload (Soriano, Milton Bradley, Fukudome - the entire outfield!), none of them can be traded without the Cubs eating a significant amount of the salary owed to them. The same is not true of Zambrano.

Despite Big Z not being as good a pitcher as he was a few years ago, not being as durable as he was, and now with a history of talking back to Lou Piniella, someone would take his full salary. Trading Zambrano would probably save the Cubs more in 2010 than dumping all three of Bradly, Soriano and Fukudome would in the same year.

The game stories bear watching going forward as that's where the 2010 news is going to be made.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"We Have Already Won"

Jon Stewart and his return to the Daily Show 9 days after the September 11th attacks. As note perfect as one could ask.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
September 11, 2001
Daily Show
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"That Was A Beautiful Play!"

Wen left off yesterday with Neal Anderson grabbing a low Jim Harbaugh pass after time had expired for a game tying touchdown (Kevin Butler's PAT was good). Overtime was much like regulation play.

Both teams traded a possession each with pretty shabby drives. The Jets got the ball back for a second time and started to move the ball. Bear fans began to feel the game slipping away. Then, Mike Singletary got a little Ron Cox in him and, once again...

All hell broke lose.

- Pat Leahy and Mel Ott were mentioned in the same sentence

- Bruce Coslett applauded

- Mike Stonebreaker translated what a ref's missed field goal signal for Mike Ditka

- Tom Waddle refused to do anything wrong

- Dan Dierdorf passed the Boston College athletic spelling test

- Cap Boso tried on some Prescription Athletic Turf as an eye guard

- Jim Harbaugh smiled with disbelief

- Instant Replay demonstrated that the 1991 iteration didn't work very well

- Tim Weigel rescheduled his interview

- William "Refrigerator" Perry, who had told the media that week that he didn't shower after a game before going home, had to be pulled out of his car

- Instant Replay proved that the 1991 iteration didn't work very well

And thus ended possibly the wackiest game in Bear history.

The 2009 season starts Sunday.

Packers suck.

Go Bears!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Football?

If you hadn't noticed, the Chicago Bears start another season of football this Sunday. And, with the irrelevance of the Chicago baseball teams, this is not a moment too soon. Hence the return of Midway Chat.

If you haven't also noticed, a top flight quarterback has arrived to breathe life into an offense that has pretty much simply sucked since Jim McMahon's Charles Martin-caused shoulder damage. That great hope is on the shoulders of one Jay Cutler.

But 22 years ago, there were many who believed another top quarterback had arrived. His name was Jim Harbaugh.

Now, many of us never really believed in Jim Harbaugh-Franchise Quarterback, but he did have a few moments. The first of those moments came on September 23, 1991 (Tribune game recap here). The Bears came into the game with a 3-0 record, but had only won those games by a total of 8 points. The fans were more skeptical of that Bear team than Richard Dawkins at a Scientology lecture.

That night, the Bears hosted the Jets on a Monday night. The game was one of the most boring games in the history of Monday Night Football through the first 57 minutes. The Bears trailed by 7 and put together one final drive to tie. It ended inside the one yard line.

Then, all hell broke loose.

Presented here are the final 3 minutes of regulation. It's a rather long clip, but well worth the 20 minutes it takes to watch it.

Some of the more memorable moments:

- The Jets defensive coordinator getting all giddy -- bet that guy went nowhere
- Ron Cox getting really stupid with Trevor Matich
- Al Michael's foreshadowing that, "barring disaster" the Jets would have a nice flight home
- The complete resignation of the broadcast crew as they use the last two minutes of expected garbage time to acknowledge crew retirements (and get in some Mike Ditka love and a hope for his infirmity, one guesses)
- The look on the faces of the staff behind Jets Coach Bruce Coslet after Steve McMichael's "some guys go to the Pro Bowl" play
- Frank Gifford’s speculation on whose blood McMichael was carrying around (this broadcast was certainly Item #1 on the "It's Time to Send Giff Out To Pasture" memo)
- Some guy wearing #87 had his coming out party. Please alert WMVP's Tom Waddle that someone is using his name
- Dan Dierdorf's exuberant exclamation as time expired

If you think this was nuts, wait until you see the second half of the video. You can see that here tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

From Carolina With An Assist To Beaverton

Number $23This page's interest in the National Basketball Association is just below that of Glenbrook North Powder Puff football scores. That interest level has pretty much always been the same since 1967. There was a period of time, say the time period between the Fall of 1987 and the Summer of 1998 that the interest in one, narrow piece of the league did increase. That narrow piece was the Chicago Bulls that contained Michael Jordan.

To say that Jordan changed sports is an understatement. He was, in many ways, the George Lucas of professional sports. No, not that he came back past his prime and was a shadow of his younger, creative self. Rather that he became an independent brand within a larger business model. He was a business all to himself.

Where did that business come from? Most of it comes from Phil Knight, Rob Strasser, Howard Shluser, Moore, and Sonny Vaccaro. Who are these people? Dan Wetzel over at Yahoo! Sports recounts:

In 1979, Knight had met John Paul "Sonny" Vaccaro, a basketball maven who pitched a groundbreaking idea: The company would sign endorsement deals with college coaches who, in turn, could turn their players into billboards for the brand.

At first, no one even knew if it was legal, let alone if the colleges would allow it. But by the time of the off-site meeting, Nike owned much of the college game – overnight, Vaccaro had delivered signature programs from Georgetown to UNLV.

"I was charmed by Sonny," Knight would say. "After that, we gave him all the room he wanted."

As successful as the college venture had been, Knight knew the big money was in the surging pro game, where Larry Bird and Magic Johnson had vaulted the league's popularity. Both players, however, wore Converse.

The men at the meeting were following Nike's well-worn path of thinking far outside the box. With most of the NBA's top players already locked up to Converse, Nike officials thought they should gamble on a rookie, a fresh new face for the league.

Even more daring that that, Nike was considering creating and marketing a signature shoe around the player, and selling not just a piece of footwear, but an entire package of performance and personality.

The draft class had a number of promising choices. Akeem Olajuwon had played in three Final Fours and would be the No. 1 pick. Charles Barkley boasted an oversized personality. John Stockton was a potential white star. A number of people wondered whether it wouldn’t be best to sign them all to smaller deals, hedge the bets a bit on this signature shoe.

Then Strasser turned to Vaccaro, the man whose instincts made up for his lack of formal business education, and asked him which player he preferred.

"The kid from North Carolina," Vaccaro said.

The rest is billions of dollars in history.

On Friday, Michael Jordan enters the Hall of Fame. The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. A well deserved honor. Next should be the US Business Hall of Fame at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.

Friday, September 04, 2009

A Plug for the Kansas Comet

Last night, two tickets to the Bears "game" (such is preseason game #4) landed in my lap. I took the 9 Year Old and ended up 13 rows off the field on the 30 yard line. Nachos ensued.

About midway through the second quarter, the scoreboard flashed the results of a cell phone poll: Who is the best running back in Bears history?

Walter Payton won hands down with nearly 90% of the vote over Red Grange, Bronco Nagurski and Gale Sayers. The other three all scored in the single digits.

Now, no one should disagree with the results. Payton was the best. But not by the margin the vote suggests. I mentioned this to the 20 something next to me and asked him if he'd ever seen clips of Gale Sayers. I was stunned to hear that he had not, especially in this YouTube era.

Sayers was an absolutely crazy runner. That people these days don't know his body of work is a crime. In that spirit, and since the Cubs are irrelevant, here a sample of the moves from an Omaha Central High School graduate...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Case Study

Have you heard about the billionaire guy who made his money in the financial services field who bought a baseball team and financed it with a ton of debt?

No, not Tom Ricketts. Tom Hicks. Hicks is in big trouble after missing a loan payment:

In April, 40 creditors -- banks and institutional investors -- declared Hicks Sports Group, which owns the Rangers and Dallas Stars hockey team, in default on $525 million of loans after Hicks withheld a quarterly interest payment.

There have been media reports, denied by the club, that Major League Baseball has been forced to loan the Rangers money to cover operations.

Think the Rangers are the only team in trouble? Think again:

Rumors also are swirling around the New York Mets, which are owned by a family that lost millions of dollars in the Bernard Madoff swindle.

Erin Arvedlund, author of "Too Good to Be True," a book published last month about the disgraced money manager, said last week that the Wilpons would be forced to sell the team due to losses totaling about $700 million.

Mr. Ricketts. All the professional media and bloggers (this one included) are giving you advice on how to run the team. Here's one more:

Don't buy the team.

A lot of high net worth people get into sports and commit a huge portion of their net worth into these assets. For the last 100 years, they were cash cows and saw increasing enterprise values. Not so anymore. The debt behind the teams soaks up the cash flow and enterprise values are starting to decline. The Cubs lost between $200 million and $400 million in value since 2007. Over in the NFL, the most profitable, cash flow secure of all the sports leagues, 25% of teams saw their enterprise value drop this year.

One of this blog's pieces of advice was to pay down the debt used to finance the acquisition as quickly as possible. That's got to be job #1. If you don't think you can do that, run, don't walk away from this deal.

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