Friday, May 03, 2013

The Chirping of Ricketts

The Tom Ricketts of musicians
Let's be clear about this: Tom Ricketts is about as likely to move the Cubs out of Wrigley Field as I am to suddenly discover a heretofore unexpressed love of Skrillex (which is to say, not bloody likely). The casual reference to maybe possibly moving the Cubs if he doesn't get the giant video scoreboard he wants at Wrigley was hot air, a meaty quote designed to be picked up by gullible media and talk radio types to fan the flames of panic and exert pressure on Ricketts' behalf. Functionally, it's no different than Jeffty Loria taking well-publicized trips to Portland, San Antonio and Kokomo before extorting stadium dollars from Dade County. The intent is to get gullible idiots panicking and putting pressure on local politicos, who ideally will then turn around and give Ricketts whatever he wants to make sure none of them can have "lost the Cubs" hung around their necks at election time.

The reason for this apocalyptic pronouncement? Cash, of course. Ricketts, as noted above, wants to put a giant video scoreboard in as part of the upgrades that are being done on Wrigley, as well as another, smaller billboard. Said constructions would obstruct the views from some of the neighborhood rooftops, the owners of which have a contract with the Cubs that runs for another decade guaranteeing unobstructed views in exchange for 17% of their revenues. Regardless of whether you think the rooftop club owners shouldn't be allowed to do this, or if you think Ricketts is the sort of opportunistic hypocrite who rails against government spending but puts his hand out for government money for his own projects, there is a contract. That's how business works. Two sides agree, a deal gets made, and hopefully everyone makes money.
And make money is something the Cubs do hand over fist already. With their ballpark the destination for innumerable tourist pilgrimages, with their stranglehold on much of the upper Midwest's baseball loyalties (and wallets), with their national cable visibility, they rake in money hand over fist. They don't need the revenue from another couple of billboards to be competitive; they need to stop signing Carlos Zambranos to $90+M dollar contracts and drafting Josh Vitterses. So it's a pure greedhead move, and while Ricketts owns the Cubs and has a right to squeeze as much dinero out of them as he can, it's still a dick move to bully civilians into pressuring small business owners to give up their negotiated and contracted rights. (And once those billboards go up, they're going to hurt or destroy the businesses of some of those rooftop club owners; so much for that whole "job creator" thing.)
In the end, this will be settled by money. There's no way the Cubs will move because it will cost them far too much to do so - in money, in time, in goodwill (which translates back to money) and in court costs, because those club owners are going to fight this sucker tooth and nail. Instead, there will ultimately be a negotiated settlement, with the Cubs whipping up hysteria about a possible move to the desolate plains of Rosemont, or possibly the mall-haunted expanses of Napierville, in order to drive the price of the settlement down. The big guys are going to get what they want, which is all the money that comes from the cash cow that is Wrigley plus their billboards. It's just a question of how much of a hiccup they're going to have to shell out along the way. But the Cubs move? They're more likely to win a World Series.
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