Back when the Cubs were for sale, Major League Baseball didn’t award the team to Mark Cuban because it was concerned for all of the potential PR headaches he could bring them.
He’s no sporting gentleman! He wears t-shirts and criticizes officials!
And so the team was sold to the Ricketts family, which was presumably as far away from controversy as possible. I mean, these people are from Nebraska, for chrissakes. Doesn’t get much blander than that.
Alas, the Cubs received a headache that never could have been conceived previously when a New York Times article was published Thursday detailing plans being weighed by the Super PAC funded by family patriarch Joe Ricketts. Among the more troubling notions in the report:
“The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an ‘extremely literate conservative African-American’ who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a ‘metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.’”
Guess Herman Cain wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. Anyone know LeVar Burton’s politics?
Anyway, for the most part the media’s response to the story is slightly overblown. For one, Ricketts merely commissioned this report. These aren’t his personal findings, just the findings of whoever he paid to find them. And furthermore Joe Ricketts has no hand in the day-to-day operations of the Cubs. That task falls to his son, Tom, and I think all of us can agree that our parents are capable of doing things we’d like to distance ourselves from.
Plus, everyone in this country is entitled to their beliefs, particularly if they’ve got a spare $10 million to help share them with the rest of us.
However, there are a couple of unavoidable issues.
Joe Ricketts is a big fiscal responsibility guy, yet he allows his son to pay Alfonso Soriano $18 million a year. I realize that contract was signed before they bought the team, but hell. Put your money where your mouth is and get rid of the boondoggles saddling future generations.
More significantly, the Cubs are currently in the process of trying to get money from the City of Chicago for the renovation of Wrigley Field. Old Man Ricketts’ politics indicate he should be morally opposed to using public money for anything, although he apparently has no issue with the matter when it comes to his investment.
The bigger problem is that Chicago’s mayor is Rahm Emanuel. You know, the guy who was Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff and is notorious for holding grudges and having a hot temper. Not the kind of guy you want to piss off when you are trying to get money from him.
The Cubs have previously stated that renovations are completely necessary in order for the team to stay in Wrigley. Without them, it’s possible the team will have to move to some lame-ass suburb in the next decade — which is obviously the axe they will try to hold over the City of Chicago’s head — which bring us to another interesting point.
Even with renovations, the upkeep at Wrigley will be expensive and the amount of revenue available to pull in limited. However, just up and leaving the stadium would be a wildly unpopular move with the fanbase. Unless, of course, you were left with no other choice because you were unable to get any money from a very angry mayor.
Considering the elder Ricketts’ clear taste for underhanded politics, it would not surprise me in the least if he wants to see the team leave the city in order to make more money — remember, there is barely any parking at Wrigley, plus a lot of beer and concessions are lost to neighborhood establishments. And what better way to get to the suburbs than to force an untenable situation with Chicago?
I’ve never been a conspiracy guy, but in this case the dots seem easy to connect.
Is it unlikely? Yes. But it is evident that Mr. Ricketts is willing to do just about anything necessary to get what he wants, the limits of which we just don’t know.