Lou Piniella spent 40 years in Major League Baseball as a player and manager.

[The only people who don’t know he’s retiring are Cub fans, who quit watching mid-May.]

My hat’s off to Wax Paper Beer Cup (@wpbc on twitter) for pointing out the most significant Cub news story of the year.  It’s not World War Z, Lily and Theriot going to the Dodgers, Blue Lou’s last miserable year, or anything else.  It’s that, in this sad sub-.500 season, the TV ratings have taken a 40% nose dive and attendance is way down.  There are lots of common sense reasons for this if it were anybody but the Cubs.  Cub fans show up for standing room only games in September when Pittsburgh is in town.  Cub fans demand statues to Harry Caray before they do Hall of Famers.  Not this year. If WPBC is right, and I hope so, the Philip K. Wrigley fiscal theory (sadly proven now for decades) that the experience of family fun at Wrigley outweighs a winning team, may finally be over.  The Cubs have not had a financial motive for winning since, what, WW2?  Now they might.  Writes WPBC:

Although it is a big slide the teams rating compared to others still ranks ninth in all of baseball.

from chicagobusiness.com: An average of 94,877 households tuned in to each of Comcast™s 33 Cubs games in the first three months of the season. Although that™s the ninth-highest rating in the league, it™s still 39% lower than the same period last season, according to the publication, which relied on data from Nielsen Media Research.

Still, this slide is dramatic and it begins to point more and more that the days of the Cubs being the lovable losers are over. Tom Ricketts, Wally Hayward and everyone associated with this team are now looking at a reality that they may have never considered.

It was thought that fans would follow the Cubs no matter what, spend whatever price they put on a ticket, buy the beer, sing the songs and enjoy ˜the Wrigley life™. The reality is clearer and clearer, the Chicago Cubs are not recession proof. The Chicago Cubs are not immune to the normal fluctuations that come with winning and losing.

The job ahead for Tom Ricketts is not going to be easy. The teams popularity is sinking, while he has massive debt to pay. The team needs to be rebuilt and the ballpark is need of major upgrades. Owning the Cubs just got alot harder. How Ricketts and Company respond will be interesting.