Friday, March 26, 2010

Tom Talks

As the grind of spring training wears on, all the news out of Cubs camp seems to be on the business side. Crain's publishes this piece on Tom Rickett's presentation to the Executives' Club of Chicago where Tom tried to make the case for more signage at Wrigley:

Addressing hundreds of business people at an Executives' Club of Chicago breakfast Thursday, Mr. Ricketts used a PowerPoint presentation to show that Wrigley is one of the city’s top tourist attractions: It generates nearly $400 million a year in spending and funnels $59 million in tax revenue to city coffers. More than one-third of fans are out-of-state visitors.

Then he flashed the next slide: an image of the 60-foot, lighted Toyota sign he's seeking to install behind the left-field bleachers, which would likely bring the ballclub more than $2 million a year.

"So I don't think it's too much to ask," he deadpanned amid laughter.

First, let's stipulate that Tom is not asking too much. He and his family should be allowed to monetize his investment. Just because Wrigley Field is a historical landmark doesn't mean that the Ricketts shouldn’t be allowed to make non-permanent changes to the look and feel which will provide the capital to maintain the actual physical plant.

But there is a major problem with Tom’s logic. As has been noted here and many other places before, sports franchises and stadiums are not an economic engine for a city. They are for a small neighborhood, but that’s it. Why? Simple.

People have a finite number of dollars to commit to leisure activities. If they spend it on baseball tickets, that means they won’t spend it on other entertainment venues. Every dollar spent on a baseball ticket reduces the amount spent on movie tickets. Or restaurants. Or amusement parks. The list goes on. Entertainment spending within a metropolitan area is a zero sum game. Yes, Wrigley is an engine for Wrigleyville, but not much else.

But Tom's smart. He understands this. That's why he said that one-third of fans come from out of state. Out of state spending isn’t necessarily zero sum. It's possible that some people actually come to Chicago specifically because of Wrigley Field and wouldn't were it not here. But many of the people who come from out of town are also coming for Michigan Avenue and the lakefront and trade shows and to see family. They are not driven here by the Wrigley engine. Furthermore, logic suggests that the number of "one-third" of Wrigley attendees is way too high. One million people per year visit Wrigley Field from out of state? That doesn’t seem possible. You would think that the Executives’ Club of Chicago would know this.

The answer is that they do. What Tom is really doing is speaking to the politicians. To the Tom Tunney’s. He's making a public argument to give political cover to Tunney to approve what the Ricketts want to do (and need to and should).

Frankly, it's pathetic that Tom needs to do this. Tunney should be doing it for him. As should the owners of the Cubby Bear, Murphy’s, Salt & Pepper, Sports Corner, Sports World, Harry Caray.s...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I No Longer Spy

If I'm not supposed to run this show, then why did our friends from the twilight zone put me aboard?
Robert Culp (1930-2010)

Looks like a bad week to have an August 16th birthday.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

50,000 Watts of Indifference

Late on Sunday evening, a text on my cell phone appeared. The message alerted me that David Kaplan was, once again, requesting Andy Dolan, Bad Kermit and me to grace WGN's airwaves with our voices and opinions.

Last time, WGN provided food, beverages, and 90 minutes of airtime. This time, we were treated to 20 minutes in the Comcast WGN Green Room. Other than a couch and two chairs that Steve and Johnnie probably sleep, the room has an old radio to listen to whomever is on air and a card catalog of WGN's record albums. A card catalog? You'd think Sam Zell would have sold these by now to raise cash.

At 7:57 PM sharp, we were paraded into the Showcase Studio and the three of us took the same seats as we had back in December.

And off we went.

If anything, it's easier the second time around. And, if things go well, the "All Star Blogger All-Star Break Report" will be in the offing.

If you haven't heard the jocularity, it can be heard by clicking below or by going directly to the WGN website.

Part 1

Part 2

Monday, March 22, 2010

Let's Get It Going Already

It's been a tough spring to write about the Cubs. Very little of interest has happened at Ho Ho Kam. Sure, the Sterling Castro watch was fun for a while, but there was no way he was going to break camp with the big club when sending him to Iowa for a few weeks can defer the club spending a few million bucks. Yes, keeping an eye open for Ted Lilly has its merits. But having done this five years ago with Mark Prior, doing so is just too tiring.

There was some mild interest in what the batting order would be. Will Ryan Theriot lead off or will Kosuke Fukudome? In reality, if that's your best two options for leadoff, you probably don’t have a real option at all.

All the starting position players were pretty much set as soon as Marlon Byrd was signed to play center field. No battles here.

On the management front, Lou Piniella has done solid work in his time here and seems to be jockeying for a contract extension. But, like Castro at short, there’s no real reason to make a decision on Lou right now. The people who will decide if Lou stays weren't here when Lou was hired. The Ricketts will make their decision based on 2010, not 2007 through 2009.

What this team can do will be shown on the field from April through July, not in Arizona. Once those four months are in the books, we’ll know that the Cubs are either contenders, or if the Ricketts have the courage and the smarts to start dismantling the core of an aging ballclub while there is still value for some of the parts.

Spring training can't end soon enough as it hasn’t told us a thing about this club.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Smart Guys

Yesterday, on the 5 minute commute from office to home, Boers and Bernstein were discussing Jumbotrons and blowing up the Cubs roster this year.

And they absolutely nailed it.

Not only are the expectations for the Cubs in the tank nationally (except you know where), but the time to do it may be during the season this year. And they pulled back the curtain on Jim Hendry:

"I don't want him making those deals." - Terry Boers


There is no basis to know that Jim is the guy to build a team by identifying young talent. Sure, he can fleece the Pirates. But Jim saw a team go from 5 outs from the World Series to a team that lost 96 games. How did he turn it around? Hendry got the Trib to unzip the the wallet to re-fill an empty park.

They, appropriately, take Hendry to task for giving out no trade clauses. They note that $140 million payrolls are a thing of the past.

And Bernstein also says that the Ricketts clan has already thought about this. And they have a plan.

The confidence in the Ricketts is welcome, if yet unwarranted and undeserved. Let's hope Dan is right, because Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly and Aramis Ramirez could be the key to the Cubs winning a World Series.

It will just take someone other than Jim Hendry to make it happen.

Take a listen to the first 15 minutes. Dead solid perfect.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Cubs 2014

While the physical plant of Wrigley Field is planned to be spruced up for it's 100th anniversary, there's going to be major changes on the field by that time as well. Those changes on the field are likely going to have to pay for the cost of fixing Wrigley (and paying down debt). How do you do that? Bruce Miles has some insights:

(Outfielder Tyler Colvin, followed by third baseman Josh Vitters, right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner and center fielder Brett Jackson are) all No. 1 draft picks of the Cubs - the four most recent No. 1 picks - and they're all at big-league spring training in Mesa, Ariz.

It's believed to be the first time the Cubs have had four consecutive No. 1 picks in big-league spring training at the same time.

"It says a lot about the confidence in our scouting director, Tim Wilken, our international director, Paul Weaver, and the confidence Jim (GM Hendry) has instilled in all of us as well as (manager) Lou Piniella, to invite them all to camp and give them an opportunity," said Cubs farm director Oneri Fleita. "You know what's fun about watching them when they're young? You can watch them grow daily and weekly and monthly."
Yeah, we'ev heard this story before, right? Andy Sisco, Bobbie Brownlie, Felix Pie, Bobby Hill. The list goes on of young "can't miss" prospects. Why is this group different?

Because, unless the Ricketts family commits personal cash to the team, the team can't afford to fill these positions with high-priced free agents anymore. Look at these players and you can see where the Cubs intend to slot them in.

Ted Lilly is a free agent after this year, and, with his current unknown health statuts, the likelihood of his returning in 2011 is pretty minimal. A good slot for Cashner, no? Tyler Colvin seems slotted to replace either Kosuke Fukudome (expiration date of 2011) or Alfonso Soriano (expiration date 2008). Brett Jackson will step in as soon as Marlon Byrd goes away. And Josh Vitters may be needed as soon as next season if Aramis Ramirez exercises his option and leaves the Cubs this winter.

Are these guys going to be any good? Who knows. Are the Cubs going to try harder than ever to get them into the lineup and save millions on salary?


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]