Friday, January 25, 2008

Cub Hub Launched?

The Cubs have decided to start auctioning some of their tickets.

With their spiraling salaries approaching the highest in the National League, the Cubs have resorted to raising more income, and the latest move could involve a corporate sponsor to auction their newest high-end seating.


So, now the Cubs are auctioning the 70 new bullpen box seats along the third-base line with "details to come shortly," according to Tribune Co. executive Crane Kenney.

What a novel idea. It alsmost seems like this idea has been floated before.

What the Cubs are doing is trying to realize the maximum price that the market will bear for tickets. By doing this, the only people hurt are the scalpers who buy tickets at a below market price and re-sell them at actual market price.

Nice move and a financially good decision. The only question is, "What took you so long?"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Keep Wrigley Field Out Of Government Hands

All the talk is about the pending sale of the Cubs being delayed until the ball park can be sold first. It seems that the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority (ISFA) wants to add to its vast stable of Illinois sports stadiums that include... The Stadium Formerly Known as Comiskey Park Whose Sponsor Doesn't Pay Me To Mention Their Name. Why they want to own Wrigley Field is a good question. Why the Tribune Corporation wants to split the stadium from the team is another.

So, why does ISFA want to own Wrigley? Well, it's not because Wrigley is some jewel to own. Just in case you haven't been there in a while let's get you caught up -- the place is falling apart. It's only a matter of time until someone is outright maimed or killed by falling concrete or some side effect of the ebbing structural integrity of the place.

Who would want to own a place that could result in massive personal injury cases?

The answer seems to be: to suck up to extremely wealthy men who have massive clout.

And that brings us to the second question.

The reason the Trib wants to sell Wrigley to the state is to maximize the revenue from the sale. Let's stipulate that this is a perfectly appropriate thing for a corporation to do -- maximize profits. Why would the state pay more than a private investor for Wrigley? Well, this non-lawyer thinks (and is open to correction by the legal readers hereof) that is a shield from liability that is exactly the reason the state is the ideal owner. And that Sam Zell has the clout to get this done frees a new owner from lowering their offer for the Cubs because of the potential liability of owning Wrigley Field.

The second reason the team and stadium are to be sold separately is to minimize the amount of capital an investor would need to purchase the team. See, if you only need $600 million for the team instead of $1 billion for team and park, a potential buyer with fewer dollars than another buyer could still make a competitive bid.

Is there anyone you have heard of as a potential owner of the Cubs with seemingly unlimited funds that Major League Baseball would like to keep out of their ownership ranks? And with the Trib needing to maximize the total proceeds of the sale, anything that can be done to allow shallower pocket investors to compete equally with those with bottomless pockets benefits everyone on the sales side.

The bottom line is this. The government exists to provide markets that the private sector does not create efficiently on their own. Sports stadiums are clearly a market in which the government, despite past participation, has no business engaging. Wrigley Field, being privately held since 1914 and changing hands multiple times since then, has done very well without the government's interference.

Keep the government out now.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

From the Chicago Hilton & Towers

With the Convention now to the wrap up phase, let's look at the news coming out of the team and see where this is all headed.

Brian Roberts
The ongoing rumors about the pursuit of the Orioles second baseman clearly means one thing: The Cubs don't want Alfonso Soriano leading off. Where they want to hit him is a mystery, but fifth seems ideal.

Lou Piniella's statement on Soriano also had another message:

"Leadoff? I'm not going to say never," Piniella said of dropping Soriano in the order. "But he's not going to play center field. He's going to be in left field. I would say he's going to be leading off. If something unforeseen happens as far as a trade or something, it could change that. But outside of that, no."

"Something unforseen" is a public message to the Orioles that their demands for players in a trade will not be met.

The Roberts pursuit also means that the Cubs don't trust Mark DeRosa's defense or high strikeouts to be a solid contributor for a full season. It certainly sounds like they want to get DeRosa about 150 fewer at bats in 2008 than in 2007. Probably not a bad idea.

Center Field
Multiple sources say that the Cubs want a center fielder. That makes a lot of sense given that Felix Pie is the only real option and is potentially trade fodder. Additionally, a lineup that's going to rely on Pie, Ryan Theriot and Geovany Soto could have a huge dead zone after the fifth spot in the order. The best option would be for Pie to play his outstanding defense, get his OBP up to the .330 range, bat eighth, and stay out of Lou's doghouse.

If Pie's going to do a .300 OBP, the 2008 Cubs can still live with that so long as Theriot and Soto don't emulate that. That's not very certain.

The Rotation
Singing Jon Lieber means that the Cubs really have no idea who is going to pitch after Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano. It could be Rich Hill. It could be Ryan Dempster. It could be Jason Marquis. It could be Sean Marshall. It could be Sean Gallagher. And one or more of those guys could be gone in a trade for an Erik Bedard.

What is clear is that defacto-GM Lou Piniella doesn't like Marquis or Dempster as top options. They'll be looking for more pitching through July.

Finally, a quick shout-out to everyone who was at Kitty's last night. Andy, TJ, Oleg, Fork (who had the best near impersonation and way outkicked his coverage on Mrs. Fork), Kermit, Apex, Sharon, Marla and Peggy, and Pre all managed to handle their liquor and not scare off a well know Cub broadcaster.

See you all next year.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Live Long And Win Pennants

The Cubs Convention starts tonight and this writer will only get within about 100 yards of the actual paying customers. The taps at Kitty O'Shea's are the limit to which I can handle a mass of fans slobbering over bingo and autograph hunting. And WGN's Sports Central? Isn't that meant to be heard and not seen?

What strikes me as the most bizarre thing about this convention is the schedule. Friday is Sports Central, bingo and autographs. Saturday is meet management and some of the players talk, more Sports Central, and a dance of some sort. Sunday is ask management questions (while plugging your web site) and buy overpriced, un-rare memorabilia.

Isn't this basically the exact same thing as each of the previous years? Isn't there any variety to this?

It seems that what makes sports fun to watch is the uncertainty of the outcome of the game, but the appeal of the Cubs Convention is the absolute certainty of exactly what will happen.

Then again, aren't the Cubs all about the absolute certainty of exactly what will happen? We've been absolutely certain of exactly what will happen for the last 99 years, no?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

He's Baaaack!!!!

Jon Lieber, the last pitcher to win 20 games for the Cubs, returns to the Cubs for a one year deal of $3.5 million. Chad Fox, he of the detachable elbow that is somehow the fault of Dusty Baker is also back. You know what this means?

Jim Hendry has learned absolutely nothing.

How many times is Jim going to throw the Cubs' money around just hoping to catch lightning in a bottle? Ryan Dempster. Mike Sirotka. Even Mark Prior and Kerry Wood fit this mode.

Lieber may be a nice guy, but he's pitched 246 innings. Over the last TWO years. And 68% of those innings were in 2006.

Why waste time with guys like this? Just think. Instead of all that money wasted on all those guys just hoping that they may pan out and bring a pennant to the Cubs, why not blow it on one guy who is really good? Or reinforcing the concrete in the upper deck of Wrigley Field? Or financing a remake of Ishtar?

One of these days, Jim's either gonna finally get really lucky, or Crane Kenney's going to come into his office with a calculator and add up all that money spent and show Jim that he wastes so much money that he's fit to be a Congressional earmark.

Oh, well. Welcome back, Jon. May you be better than Wade Miller.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Which Way Rick

Back on Wednesday, Yesterday, Rick Telander was on WSCR defending his column in which he stated that he would not "bet (his) life" that any major league ball player was clean of the taint of steroids. Andre Dawson was cited by Telander as an example of someone who Telender could now never be "life betting certain" was pure. Mike Mulligan then asked Telander about Frank Thomas. "Thomas?" said Telander, "I'd probably give him a pass."


Telander went out of his way in his Sun Times article to specifically use Dawson, a person who has never even been associated with steroids, as an example of someone who he was no longer death-defying certain that was clear of scandal. But a bulky, oft-injured, ex-college football player who played Division I football in the 1980's, the heyday of the collegiate steroid era (an era chronicled by one Mr. Telander via the story of Tommy Chaiken), he "gets a pass"?

Sorry, Rick. According to your criteria for not submitting a ballot, no one gets a pass. To say that Dawson doesn't get a pass because of the era he played in but Thomas does despite the TWO eras he played in is the definition of hypocrisy.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Quickie Quiz Better Than Sports Phone

Are you a Fox News junkie or a Showtime After Dark kind of person? Click here to possibly find out.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Found Money

More renovations are coming to Wrigley Field:

The Chicago Cubs have received permission to add 70 "bullpen box seats" along the third-base line at Wrigley Field, and install additional signage inside the park.

The city of Chicago on Thursday gave permission for the changes despite the 93-year-old ballpark's landmark status.

Peter Scales of the city's Department of Planning and Development said the changes were approved because "landmark buildings aren't frozen in time, need to be maintained and can be improved while respecting their history.

So, 70 seats at, say, $100 per seat times 81 games is $567,000 per year. The cost to add the seats is minimal and one time. The marginal cost to operate those seats is just about $0.

Nice find. Good work.

And, if this can be done without the government's interference, why have the government involved at all?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The State of the States

Now that 2008 is here, let's take a look at that other sport that starts its regular season this week -- presidential politics.

Most of the screaming of late has been about the process. Why Iowa and New Hampshire with all the influence? Why not some state that has influence for real, all the time, like California? Or Ohio? Or Florida? Nah, forget Florida. They used up their influence in that fiasco they gave us 7-plus years ago.

There's actually a bigger question - why ANY state?

The Democratic and Republican parties are private enterprises, not governmental agencies. They don't have to go through the primary process at all if they didn't feel like it.

Nope. All they have to do is gather the leaders of their parties together in a room and haggle in private. When they are done, come out and tell us who they've nominated. We the people, and not paid members of any political party, can then vote for who we like.

Such a system would save the taxpayers millions of dollars in matching funds given to candidates to support their campaigns. It would free up millions of dollars spent by states to hold primary elections. Why states spend public dollars to subsidize private companies, that have substantial fundraising systems, in their leadership selection process will never cease to gall me. It would also significantly shorten the campaign cycle from two years to several months.

Alas, there's a very big reason this change will never happen. And it's the same reason the Cubs are for sale: The need for media companies to generate dollars.

Anyone see CNN or Faux News lately? Non-stop campaign talk (excluding the occasional Spears-Pregnancy update - which one got knocked up now?). They need the horse race to fill their broadcast hours. Why won't the states get rid of the primary process? Same reason. The local TV and radio stations all want the revenue from the various state, local, and federal campaigns.

There's talk that this will be the swan song for the Iowa Caucuses. That's only a good thing if they are replaced with nothing.

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