[Pictured, the guy MLB didn’t think was right to own the Cubs, Mark Cuban, the owner with the gold boner.]
There’s two sure ways to make news shooting your mouth of about the Cubs. Ragging on the fans – a la Lee Elias, Milton Bradley, or Reds announcer Marty Brennaman – is a guaranteed headline. The other way is to rag on that wax paper beer cup Valhalla, Wrigley Field. Ozzie Guillien has had no shortage of verbal abuse for the Friendly Confines, a view that his paisan Carlos Zambrano agreed with and got him some instant headlines. And now Peter Gammons, who went on WSCR the other day and called Wrigley a “dump.” He’ll get no argument from anyone with a nose. After Gammons played Ed McMahon on the televised A-Rod confession a few years ago, we all know Peter Gammons loves helping an ethically challenged millionaire in trouble. It explains Gammons also arguing that the jury is still out on the Ricketts Family as owners and that they had no real idea how much renovating Wrigley would cost. BallparkDigest took issue with this, noting the Ricketts family was well aware of the $200+ million costs to turn Wrigley into livable ballpark and had even discussed the 2014 proposal to do so. Says Ballpark Digest: “Indeed, the issue isn’t Wrigley: it’s the fact that Ricketts appears to be in over his head as owner of the Cubs. Fans expected a return to family ownership — i.e., committed ownership that didn’t see the historic franchise as simply a line item in an annual report — but instead they’ve seen a constant stream of requests for public money, whether it’s been tax dollars to fix up Wrigley Field or city funding of a new spring-training complex.”
Here’s my no-business degree view of what happened. The Trib Co. was in collapse before the rest of the economy and they held out f-o-r-e-v-e-r to sell the team. Mark Cuban got unofficially blackballed with the MLB owners, specifically by White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. If he wasn’t blackballed, they took so long not blackballing Cuban that the sale happened during the collapse of the general economy and people with real money, like Cuban, moved on for better deals. Cuban also questioned the actual value of the Cubs, which no one else did. Whatever the Cubs were actually worth after the downslide, the Tribco was too in debt to want to sell for less – esp with buyers lined up. The people who were left were oddball business partnerships and out of town consortiums, but only the Ricketts family matched up to Bud Selig and MLB’s local, family style ideal of ownership. Never mind that the worst owner in Cubs history, Philip K. Wrigley, was exactly that – local family. Selig and co shrugged off the Ricketts family goldmine (Ameritrade) getting fined $456 million by the State of NY for defrauding customers weeks before the Cubs deal closed, meaning the ideal family came up short to pay the Tribune Co by tons. So, they “borrowed” $700 million from themselves (even if you had a business degree, I mean … huh?) and now they’re so swimming in debt that they feel entitled to pass on to the fans and local governments.
Baseball Digest’s righteous tirade and Gammons views aside, I remain unconvinced the Ricketts family ever had a chance to renovate Wrigley given their financing of the deal and ethically free way they handle the public. The Ricketts family, like the McCourts and the Dodgers, were the favorites of Selig to own these teams. The McCourt dynasty has been a disaster from the Manny signing thru their petty divorce to security issues of April this year. The Ricketts haven’t done much right, assuming they planned to do the right thing. Today, both families are on the MLB debt violations list. Neither “family” look like winners today, and Mark Cuban does.