[The Ricketts: Laura, Tom and Pa: "Gummint's coming fer yer land, Tommy."]
Uh, get your Sunday Rapture clothes on, Mayor Emmanuel has fired a Daley. As The Sun-Times reported yesterday morning:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is dumping all three city members of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority — including former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew — in a housecleaning that could set the stage to renegotiate the White Sox lease, modify its restaurant deal and, possibly, have the state acquire and renovate Wrigley Field.
A Daley nephew fired means Chicago may finally be running on law other than Magna Carta and Dred Scott. There’s only one person in Chicago who cares about both sides of that North-South baseball equation to talk White Sox rents and a Bridgeport Baccardi franchise – John Cusack. So, I dust off the Cubs’ bureau desk to point out that last phrase, “have the state acquire and renovate Wrigley Field.” Or as I read it, “HAVE THE STATE ACQUIRE AND RENOVATE WRIGLEY FIELD.”
I add that with no sense of outrage. Having the state buy Wrigley means that the Cubs will have some sizable cash for GM Theo Epstein and manager Dave Sveum. I said in June that if the Ricketts won’t pay their bills without the helping hand of an attorney general forcing them to pay them – or insist on corporate welfare and jacking up ticket prices on fans to “platinum” levels – then public co-ownership of the Cubs is fair. And, considering the Ricketts economic history, it’s also in the public interest.
The idea of owning the Cubs and Wrigley has been a boondoggle since the Tribco put the team up for sale for real. Even before the current economic collapse, separating Wrigley from the club was floated to make the billion dollar combo platter possible for two separate buyers. The Tribco could never get the real estate money they wanted and the club was deemed less valuable without it’s crèche. So, buying the Cubs in the original package they came in was the deal: $1B give or take, minus a 5% stake the Trib kept). That narrowed down the number of talented owners who could afford the team (Mark Cuban publicly said, post-collapse, the Cubs aren’t worth that money) and meant the TribCo waited until a big bag of money showed up – ie, Tom Ricketts. Ricketts sports career consisted entirely of sitting in Wrigley’s bleachers as a member of – by some accounts – the nation’s most disliked and obnoxious fan base. So, who better to own the team that made its first statue – first, of any participant in the 100-plus-year legacy of the franchise – a monument to Harry Caray?
Ricketts’ legacy so far: burying the Cubs in absurd debt ($150 mil down for a $1.2-3B price tag), hiring Mike Quade to manage, a still shrinking fan base, maneuvering to push renovation costs on the public, and now losing the family farm.
That said, it may be Ricketts wants to sell. He can’t afford Wrigley – has that realization ever occurred to him in his life, “I can’t afford this …” – so the state could buy it and charge him rent for a long time to come. A Ricketts renting … what has the world come to? In his favor, Ricketts did hire Theo, so maybe in all this he’s Mr. Magoo’d his way into making the Cubs a leaner, much more manageable franchise. Hendry psycho drama and Tribco quarterly report thinking is gone. The Illinois Sports Facility Authority isn’t there to maintain traditional deals and even Ryno didn’t get a job interview for the managing spot (Ryno, same guy who quit the team for a season, if I recall, cuz he felt like it).
In a lot of good ways, by design or implosion, the Cubs do look like a very new organization.