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Cubs, Ricketts Badly Misreading the Room Part 1: Bryce Harper, Free Agency


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This upcoming weekend brings Cubs Convention, an annual rite of passage that markets itself as a warm, feel-good celebration of all things baseball in the midst of the cold winter sports dead zone. What the event truly is, when you actually examine it, is a three day long native advertisement for Cubs tickets to the upcoming season.

A native advertisement that costs $125 to get into by the way. Typically, Cubs Con is a chance for more upbeat and positive stories to be produced en masse, but that is certainly not the tone this January. The Cubs fan base is currently pretty upset with the club for two major reasons.

Bryce Harper

First, there is the club’s complete inactivity in the free agent market, despite the fact that this winter’s marquee name, Bryce Harper, badly wants to come to Chicago (oh, and their division rivals have been strengthening themselves this offseason).

Secondly, there is the team’s granting a $3.4 million, one year extension to the suspended Addison Russell, a situation we’ll cover in part two tomorrow/Wednesday.

For now, let’s focus on the Ricketts family’s refusal to loosen the purse strings, and let Theo Epstein get anything of significance accomplished this hot stove league.

According to Forbes, the Cubs have ranked seventh in Major League Baseball in average payroll this past four seasons. While that may sound pretty high at first, it’s actually pretty modest when you consider who the Cubs are what level of resources the have at their disposal.

Citing that same Forbes piece by Ryan Davis (one that you definitely should read).

The team that plays their home games at sold-out Wrigley Field, in one of the league’s largest markets, with some of the most expensive ticket prices in the game. And with their television contracts set to expire at the end of the 2019 season, there have been rumors that a lucrative deal is on the horizon with ABC, Sinclair, Amazon, or some other media behemoth. Suffice it to say, the number of teams with higher revenue streams than the Cubs could likely be counted on Mordecai Brown’s right hand.

Not to mention, the Ricketts aren’t exactly hard-up for cash. They’ve spent big on various political contributions over the last decade, but a recent tax cut should gloss over any concerns in that category.

Oh and those already sky high ticket prices are set for another hike upwards. What they have going on at 1060 W. Addison right now aren’t so much revenue streams, as they are rivers flowing with the strength of the Nile, Amazon and Mighty Mississippi combined.

Yes, the park is undergoing renovations (although the SoDaSoPa they have built next to it seems to be raking in the cash right now), and the Cubs have spent big in recent years on player acquisition, but for them to cry right poor now greatly insults the intelligence of their fan base.

Yes, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts has a reported net worth of $900,000,000 while his father, TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation founder J. Joseph Ricketts has a reported net worth of approximately $2,300,000,000.

That’s $600,000,000 below what the Cubs’ franchise current valuation is, according to a Forbes listing and ranking. That $2.9 billion valuation places them the third highest in all of baseball. Oh, and a year ago at this time, they were literally “offering” their most die hard fans the opportunity to purchase their trash at $100 per item of garbage.

Don’t remember, look below:

Seriously, how little do you think of your own fans to actually green-light an idea as ridiculous as that?

Yes, it’s true that a Bryce Harper deal could cost in excess of $300,000,000, but that isn’t actually all that much money when you consider the kinds of dollar figures the Cubs have at their disposal.

Is it any wonder so many Cubs fans Twitter accounts these days have “Sign Bryce Harper” or “Spend your money, Ricketts” as their display name these days?

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC and Chicago, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

He also contributes sociopolitical essays to Chicago NowFollow him on Twitter and Instagram. The content of his cat’s Instagram account is unquestionably superior to his.

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