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Listen Up Cubs Fans, Poor Billionaire Owner Tom Ricketts Is Tearing Your Team Apart

You’re being lied to, Chicago Cubs fans. Don’t buy into this. 

The talk about the Cubs is the dreaded “R word.’’ Rebuilding. And the idea is that the Cubs’ offseason moves show that they’re going into rebuilding mode rather than adding the last pieces to their division-winning team to get back to the World Series. The Cubs trading ace pitcher Yu Darvish to San Diego Tuesday is supposedly final proof.

Dreaded R word? Are you kidding? There is no such rebuilding going on with the Cubs. Reality is much worse, Chicago:

What’s happening is the dreaded “T word.’’ Teardown. The Cubs have been dumping salary and now — to the best I can figure — have cut roughly $65 million of annual payroll since 2019. And just because something is being torn down doesn’t mean there are plans to build it back up. 

It’s time for the soft, fuzzy, compliant media in town to stop pushing the tale of financial woe of the hard-luck billionaire Ricketts family, which bought the Cubs 11 years ago. They modernized the Cubs, brought in Theo Epstein, broke all the curses and finally won the World Series after more than 100 years. The Ricketts were heroes four years ago. Their goodwill is gone now. Or it should be.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred needs to block this Darvish-for-a-bag-of-peanuts trade. It is not in good faith with Cubs fans. It’s a punch to the gut of the most loyal fans on earth.

With tens of millions of people out of work, it’s a little hard to stomach hearing a family of billionaires cry poor. Maybe we should start a GoFundMe for the Ricketts family?

Tom Ricketts has been warning about this for months, saying that baseball’s losses from the pandemic are “Biblical.’’

“To cover the losses, all teams have gone out and borrowed,’’ he told ESPN in June. “There’s no other way to do it in the short run. . .

“There is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out, and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.’’

Oh, boo hoo. I get it that there is suddenly no ticket revenue temporarily. But yes, Chicago should expect the Ricketts to draw down on the reserves of the past. Those hoarded piles came from fans’ pockets in the first place.

Meanwhile, according to Forbes, the Ricketts paid $700 million for the Cubs in 2009, and the team is now worth $3.2 billion. How “Biblical’’ can these loans and losses be when the value of the team keeps doubling? 

The Ricketts family has refurbished Wrigley Field and the Wrigleyville neighborhood. I’m sure there are loans involved. The charm around the place is all gone — the little carwash and things — but that was OK, because Cubs fans were finally getting a winner, going bigtime.

The Ricketts also pumped up the payroll and created their own Cubs TV network, the Marquee Sports Network. These are all things that will pay off huge in the long run.

Tickets prices were jacked up, and the fans paid for it while being asked for patience. Can you imagine? You wait 100 years for a winner, and the owners ask for patience. 

Epstein, the architect, then came in and got rid of every decent player in a trade or sale, and replaced him with real prospects. And the Cubs did build. You could see it with all the young players. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Kyle Hendricks. 

In the past few weeks, the Cubs have dumped Schwarber. And pitcher Jon Lester. And Jose Quintana. And Albert Almora. And plenty of others. Now Darvish. More will go, too. Oh yeah, the Cubs threw catcher Victor Caratini into the Darvish deal. And USA Today’s Bob Nightengale says they are now shopping Contreras, the star starting catcher.

Come on, this is a major market team, not a neighborhood garage sale. Other baseball owners will follow suit, but Chicago isn’t Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay.

So the Cubs dumped the final $60 million of Darvish’s contract. In return for the best pitcher in the National League, the Cubs got a middle-of-the rotation starting pitcher and a handful of teenage “prospects.’’

I put quotation marks around the word “prospects” because calling players prospects usually suggests that they are expected to grow into something good. These guys are just a bunch of kids. Their future is not part of the consideration.

Earlier this year at the popular Cubs convention, Ricketts was surprised when fans started booing him. “Our promise for the next 10 years is to continue to have the best relationship with our fans of any professional sports team in the world. And that starts with the Marquee Network.’’

Boooooo.

The Cubs also dumped 100 employees during the season, claiming pandemic necessities. Short-term reduction in gains — Biblical in the billionaire world — equals long-term pain to the Average Joe. 

All part of the rebuilding, I guess.

Written by Greg Couch

Greg earned the 2007 Peter Lisagor Award as the best sports columnist in the Chicagoland area for his work with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a college football writer in 1997 before becoming a general columnist in 2003. He also won a Lisagor in 2016 for his commentary in RollingStone.com and The Guardian.

Couch penned articles and columns for CNN.com/Bleacher Report, AOL Fanhouse, and The Sporting News and contributed as a writer and on-air analyst for FoxSports.com and Fox Sports 1 TV. In his journalistic roles, Couch has covered the grandest stages of tennis from Wimbledon to the Olympics, among numerous national and international sporting spectacles. He also won first place awards from the U.S. Tennis Writers Association for his event coverage and column writing on the sport in 2010.

13 Comments

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  1. ‘How “Biblical’’ can these loans and losses be when the value of the team keeps doubling? ‘

    Study what usury does…it’s a bubble…and it’s getting popped.

  2. I think there’s no doubt this was the reason Theo Epstein left. He knew what was really going on behind the scenes and didn’t need to do prove anything else. He’s brought joy back to 2 long suffering fanbases(Red Sox and Cubs). He should go down as one of the greatest GM’s of all time. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up in Cleveland next. Terry Francona witnessed first hand what Theo did for the Red Sox and may stump for Theo to take over in Cleveland while he’s still Managing the soon to be Cleveland Indians(had to say their name one last time before the name change!).

  3. They don’t want to pay the payroll tax and have a poor minor league talent base. They’d compete for a division but have no WS chance with this core. The sad part is it looks like they didn’t get a great return. For as good as Theo was the team still has little talent coming up. They didn’t develop any in house talent for starting or relief pitching the last 10 years. And after the WS the plate discipline went way south. After the early trades that were one sided they have been break even at best. If you can’t develop talent better win trades which Theo didn’t do. It’s a clear salary dump but unless you want to pay to cover mistakes, you dump. But when they dump I also don’t watch. I won’t give them my money.

  4. This is written by someone who has absolutely no understanding of economics. First when the Rickets purchased the Cubs it was done with considerable debt and they added debt to take the toilet of a stadium wrigley and make it not dangerous to your health. The Pandemic and horrible free agent signings cause a cash crunch. Owners need to make money. Period. The team being worth 3.5 billion means nothing as that is paper value not hard cash. The Rickets are doing the right thing. Wrote about the best baseball team in town for a change the White Sox.

  5. Theo tore it down when he showed up and Cubs fans were told it was better to do that than try to compete and rebuild at the same time. It worked out fine. No one’s complaining. Thanks Theo and thanks Tom Ricketts.

    Well, the Cubs are back to being non-championship contenders with an expensive core and sucky farm system. Thanks, Theo. That’s ALL on him. Why is the way out not another total rebuild? Look at the Cubs roster. There shouldn’t be anyone untouchable. They’re not young anymore and they’re not cheap anymore. If Theo and his buddies could build and sustain a farm system, then that’d be fine. They apparently can’t, though, so measures have to be taken.

    It’s easy to criticize, but Ricketts brought them a championship. Theo built it to the top, but couldn’t sustain it. Well, now they’re reloading. If Theo’s buddies are as smart as sportswriters like Couch tell us they are, then it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

  6. I think everyone on this thread needs to literally google ‘baseball salaries’ and then come back and comment…all your comments are all over the map and mostly incoherent…armchair billionaires trying to will a franchise into winning…lol…homework people, homework…

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