Here’s how long this godforsaken Cubs sale process has gone.Â I originally wrote this open letter to the Rickettseses on March 22.Â Five months later the sale still isn’t done, but it looks inevitable.Â Especially given the news today that the Tribune bankruptcy judge just wants to hurry up and get some cash for the creditors as soon as possible.
You can argue about whether or not the uncertain sale process is the biggest reason for this completely wasted Cubs’ season (it’s a big reason, probably top three), but you can’t argue that we’re all going to be happy just to get this shit over with.
Because once the team is sold we’ve got somebody else to blame when all this shit goes bad.
So let’s go back through the March 22 letter and see how much of it still applies.
Dear Tom Ricketts (and your dad and your sister and whoever else is going to own the Cubs in a month or so),
I see from credible reports (wait, Carrie wrote that?Â Oops.) that you and the Tribune Company are getting close to completing the first part of the sale of the Cubs, and I know that then there’s the not so easy process of selling it to the many Tribune creditors, and then the mere formality of getting the owners to sign off on letting you join their snobatorium.Â They’re all really excited because if you really do pay $900 million for the Cubs, the value of their franchises all just went way up.Â (Even if there aren’t very many people left who could ever afford to buy their franchises.)
I’m not going to pretend to understand this kind of financial transaction, but I am surprised that despite the collapse of the financial structure of the nation (hell, the world) that the Tribune Company still got more than $800 million for the Cubs.Â That’s not to say the sale price wasn’t affected, as the Cubs probably would have gone for somewhere between 1 and 1.2 billion dollars if the Tribune had gotten its shit together and sold them in 2007 like they originally planned.
For one, I can’t understand why you would tie up nearly a billion dollars in a luckless sports franchise during the worst economy since, well, the last time the Cubs were good.Â Oh, maybe that’s it.
See, I couldn’t understand it then, either.
So since you guys seem hell bent on buying the Cubs, the least I could do would be to give you some advice.Â I can even back it up with cash, if you need a minority owner, I could have like $1,200 scraped together on a week’s notice, so keep that in mind.
So here goes, completely unsolicited advice, everybody’s favorite kind.
- Free up some money to add even more to the payroll during the upcoming season
Teams like the Padres are already worried they can’t afford their current payrolls, just wait until teams who are used to having decent walk-up ticket sales find out that they can’t rely on that money this season.Â Players with multi-year deals are the most likely to get dangled, and prospects won’t be the scarce commodity, the ability to take on salary will.Â So even though you have a $130 million payroll, the willingness to take it to $145 or $150 might get you a couple of difference makers during the season.
The NL Central race turned largely because of the two real contenders (you can now debate if one of those is the Cubs) only one could add significant salary during the season, and the Cardinals did.Â They added Cubdom’s ruggedly handsome ex-boyfriend Mark DeRosa, wifebeating Julio Lugo and Matt Holliday.Â It helps that the Cardinals have the best player in the game and that Chris Carpenter’s arm hasn’t fallen off yet, but as nice as they are, John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny aren’t the kind of impact in-season acquisitions that swing pennant races.Â However, both of them (especially Grabow) were good pick ups.Â They just shouldn’t have been the only ones.Â And no, this does not excuse the Cubs for having a $140 million payroll and still needing to add to it to win.
- End the senseless ‘celebrity seventh inning stretch singers’
This was a bad idea in 1998 and it’s a bad idea now.Â For one thing it turns your radio and TV announcers into the hosts of a bad talk show for one entire inning, second, most of the time the celebrity isn’t really a celebrity.Â If I ever have to hear Jim Belushi or Tom Dreesen ever hack their way through the song and the interviews, ever again, I might just have to kill myself.Â Here’s a novel idea, just have Gary Pressy play the song on the organ and let the fans sing along.Â Hell, you could probably find a sponsor and let them publicize the fact they put an end to that schlock.Â In fact, that $1,200 I offered you?Â I’d pay you that to call it the Desipio Do It Yourself Seventh Inning Stretch.
I think the Amber Alert that Erik Estrada performed this year is just even more ammo that this ludicrous exercise needs to be ended.
- Deport Ronnie Woo Woo
So what if he’s supposedly a native born American citizen?Â He hardly speaks English, and he wears polyester-spandex pants (with blue stirrups no less) every day.Â How hard would it be to convince someone from immigration that Ronnie’s French?Â They’d love him over there.Â I think Woo is an actual French word, he smells like a Frenchman and Paris has lots of windows he can wash.Â Only the Cubs would think that having a homeless derelict hang around trespassing on their property is “cute.”Â Besides, an entire generation of Cubs fans have grown up thinking that Ronnie Woo Woo is Ernie Banks.Â I’m not sure which one should be more insulted.
Ronnie’s been seen on the South Side a lot this year.Â Maybe he’s defecting?Â Given the smell that emanates from him it’s probably a word spelled sort of like defecting.
- No more games on WGN-TV
I know it’s blasphemy to think that the Cubs wouldn’t have home games on WGN, and most of that is because the myth still remains that it’s how fans from Iowa to California get to watch the Cubs.Â Truth is, cable systems all over the country have been dropping WGN the last few years, mainly because “Superstation” WGN sucks.Â Who doesn’t love the Rockford Files, or The Cosby Show?Â Apparently, cable operators, that’s who.Â DirecTV, who offers more HD channels than anybody, doesn’t offer WGN in HD nationwide, because they don’t show much stuff in HD.Â It’s pretty much just the Cubs and the WGN News at 9.Â WGN shows Bulls and Blackhawks games, but none of the Blackhawks games can be shown on the Superstation version of the network (thanks to the wonderful NHL contract with Versus) and only a handful of the Bulls games are shown that way.
So here’s the deal, unless WGN can figure out how to get their HD feed picked up throughout the country, and until they commit to covering the Cubs the way Comcast SportsNet Chicago does (you know, with an actual postgame show), screw them.Â Move all of the games to Comcast.
Here’s who is going to complain.Â 1) People who don’t have cable or a satellite dish.Â 2) People with cable or a satellite dish who don’t live in the Chicago area who are too cheap to subscribe to MLB Extra Innings.Â In both cases, if they’re unwilling to upgrade, they don’t like the Cubs enough.Â If they did, they’d do what it takes to see them.
I know that the Tribune Company has been trying to get you to agree to a longterm deal with WGN TV and radio as part of the sale terms.Â Honestly, they have to.Â If WGN TV loses the Cubs they’ll disappear on the few cable systems they still exist on.Â So give them the ultimatum.Â If they can’t upgrade their coverage, they’re out.Â The company as a whole is in too deep of financial dog doo to kill the deal over this kind of dispute.
When I wrote this in March I really thought that it was clear that I wanted the Rickettseseses to demand WGN improve their coverage of the Cubs to keep them on their air.Â The fact that millions of baseball fans with DirecTV can’t see the games on WGN in HD should be embarrassing for the “super”station.Â Also, the fact that they can’t get off the air fast enough when the game is over (kind of a godsend these days) is sad, too.Â It’s now known that the broadcast right issue was the biggest holdup in this deal, and that the Rickettseseses weren’t happy with the sweetheart deals that both WGNs (TV and radio) have.Â In the end the deals still stand, but the sale price went down as a result.
- Address the two huge problems with Cubs games on WGN Radio
No, not the presence of weaselly little Dave Kaplan, he’s the third problem.Â The first two are even more glaring.
First, I have as much affection for Ron Santo as the next guy, and I’m not advocating dumping him from the broadcasts.Â I have a better idea.Â It came to me during a couple of games this past summer when Pat Hughes ended up having to work alone.Â Ron was out sick and Dave Otto couldn’t find anybody to take his shift at the car wash, and Pat had to do the game solo.Â He was, as we have always suspected, tremendously good.Â It was a pleasure to listen to him.Â So here’s the idea.Â Let Ron come to the games, let him sit in the booth, put a microphone in front of him, but don’t broadcast what he says live.Â Just record them, then edit them into the highlights at the end of the game.Â We love to listen to him scream and yell and moan during big moments in the game, it’s the rest of the broadcast that we can do without.Â Him forgetting what the score is, or what team the Cubs are playing or leaving the booth for ten minutes then coming back and making Pat help him update his scorecard player by player.Â Ron will still be there, what he says will be recorded for posterity, but we won’t have to listen to him ruin the broadcast every day.Â It’s genius, I know.Â Take this idea, give me back my $1,200 and leave Desipio’s name on the singerless seventh inning stretch.Â Deal!
Second, take that fucking fax machine they have in the booth and throw it out the window.Â This is not 1994.Â Who the hell even has a fax machine to send Pat and Ron faxes anymore?Â What the hell?Â How about the Square D Carrier Pigeon relay?Â Or the Square D telegraph?
Santo has never been a good analyst, but this year he just stopped trying.Â He apparently thinks it’s his right to just sit in the booth and complain and grunt and not even attempt to offer any insight into what’s going on down there on the field.Â If he’s not going to put any effort into his job, why should any of us care if he gets fired?Â Because he’s far more of a mascot than an analyst it’s unthinkable that the Rickettseseses would get rid of him in their first year.Â But this isn’t Mike Illitch firing Ernie Harwell from his job with the Tigers.Â Ernie was still trying and still getting it done.Â Santo needs to go.Â His terrible effort this year should cost him any shot of staying on the broadcasts in any capacity, even if it’s just pregame work.Â I can’t emphasize strongly enough just how terrible he’s been.Â Aaron Miles has had a better season than Ron Santo.
- No more bleacher seat season ticket sales
First, who the hell is dumb enough to pay that kind of coin to sit in the bleachers every game anyway?Â Well, we all know a couple, I suppose.Â If you’re going to pay a premium for your seats, how about one with a back?Â How about one that isn’t a minimum of 370 feet from home plate?Â It doesn’t make you a “real fan” to sit out there, it makes you a dumbass.Â The other benefit of eliminating their ability to buy season tickets for the bleachers is that they can’t sit in the same spot every game because they wouldn’t be getting into the park earlier.Â They should go back to selling the bleacher seats the day of the game like they did in the good old days, but even if they just held a number of them for sale the day of the game that would be cool.Â But it’s almost like they purposely hold some back and then scalp those tickets themselves.Â Huh?Â Nah.Â Anyway, I just the like the idea of them screwing anybody dumb enough to want to buy a season’s worth of bleacher tickets.
- Gut the grandstand from pole to pole
Given the historical landmark status that Wrigley “enjoys” it’ll be tough to accomplish any kind of complete remodel of Wrigley Field.Â It’s not just the outfield wall, the manual scoreboard and the red marquee that are protected, it’s all kinds of architectural details, even the weird, hideous, concrete baffling on the exterior down each foul line.Â While it would be nice to carefully take down the marquee and then get a wrecking ball and smash the shit out of the entire grandstand section, you can’t do that.Â And, next, I suppose Blair Kamin will tell us that the city somehow got the piss troughs protected too.Â But you, the new owners will be faced with only one real alternative.Â Gut the grandstand from one foul pole all the way behind home plate and down the other pole.Â Lighten up the concourses, add some bathrooms so you don’t have to miss an inning and a half to take a piss (I pity anyone who’s had to drop a deuce in that place, truly pity them), and here’s a novel idea, how about adding some actual edible food in the concessions?Â Most of the hot dogs in that place look like something out of a deleted Don Ameche nude scene from “Cocoon.”Â It’s not like Chicago is reknowned for its food or anything, gee how could you ever get something decent to eat in the park?
I’m not asking for much, after all it’s a ballpark, it should be full of ballpark food.Â But it’s embarrassing that Milwaukee’s cased meats are so much better than the ones on sale at Wrigley.Â We don’t even need their overrated “special sauce.”Â (As if everybody doesn’t know it’s one part Worcestershire, four parts ketchup and one part Bud Selig hair tonic.)
As for the beer selection?Â My colon certainly has enjoyed Old Style even back to my NIU days, and Budweiser has always sucked.Â I like how they’re now selling an “American Ale.”Â The ad for that should just read, “Hey, we finally made a beer that isn’t just some watered down Clydesdale piss that frat boys can’t get enough of!”Â The rise of the microbrew over the past couple of decades just serves as a reminder that Americans know how to make beer, and it doesn’t look, smell or taste anything like Miller or Bud.Â You claim to have come to hundreds of Cubs games, you figure it out.
I’m not going to go so far as to say that the Cubs primitive clubhouse facilities are the reason they have had so many injuries this year, but I do believe the Cubs training staff isn’t able to implement some of the preventative therapies that other teams do.Â Comcast SportsNet did a feature on the Berto Center, Halas Hall and US Comiskular and they all made Wrigley look like a medieval dungeon.Â Plus the fact that the bathrooms suck and the food sucks and the beer is low grade American horsepiss and all of that.Â None of this is a reason the Cubs can’t win, but you spend an awful lot of money on these players, it seems insane not to provide the kind of facilities needed to protect those investments.
- Two words, Jumbo Tron
Every time I’m at Wrigley I wonder why a Jumbotron hasn’t been added yet.Â Most fans figure you have to put it in center field, or somewhere else in the outfield, but there are two pretty logical places for them at Wrigley Field and they won’t block anybody’s view.
Why not install one on top of the grandstand roof down each line?Â The lights end with ample room to spare at the far end down each line.Â It wouldn’t surprise me if the rickety grandstand roof would collapse, but you know, presumably you’ll be fixing that.Â Put one there, everybody in the park ought to be able to see one or the other (save for some saps in the rear rows of the upper grandstand down each line).Â Here’s the only catch.Â We don’t need any sound on those things.Â If I ever go to Wrigley Field and have to watch a “highlight” reel of Manny Alexander caught in another rundown with Yakety Sax playing, I’m going to burn Wrigley to the ground.Â It would be nice to see a replay once in a while, but we don’t need the mind blowing cocophany of sound to accompany it.Â Plus, you can sell a shitload of ads on that thing.Â That ought to make you happy.
I still think this would be a good thing, but only if there’s no sound to go with it.Â By far the best thing about Wrigley is that you are not overwhelmed with constant sound.Â We had enough of that trying to watch games with Chip Caray announcing.Â Baseball’s a game that needs to breathe.Â But it is 2009, it’s also one that should come with an occasional instant replay.Â Even if all the replay does is further prove just how terrible Ryan Theriot’s defense is.
- Top of the first intro music
For almost 25 years (much to Todd Wellemeyer’s chagrin) the Cubs ran out in the top of the first to Van Halen’s “Jump.”Â Nobody knew why.Â Then, last year the Cubs changed it to some mindless Bon Jovi tune.Â You know, much like food, Chicago is actually known for music.Â How about something from a band from Chicago?Â Hell, let Len Kasper pick it, he could agonize over it for a month.
Speaking of that, I have only one small problem with the new tradition of playing “Go Cubs Go” after home wins.Â And it’s not that Steve Goodman wrote the song as a fuck you to Dallas Green.Â It has always struck me odd that the fans sing the song after the game, especially since a prominent line in its opening says “Hey Chicago, whaddaya say, the Cubs are going to win today.”Â Maybe it’s perfect for Cubs fans to boldly declare the Cubs are going to win, only after they’ve already won.Â Yeah, just pretend that was done on purpose.
Eh…who gives a shit?
- Lose the blue jersey
One of my favorite things John McDonough did in his one season as president of the Cubs was to take the terrible blue ‘alternate’ jersey out of circulation.Â Those things suck.Â They look childish and just…well, they suck.Â I understand that baseball wants its teams to have an alternate jersey as a way of (gasp!) selling more jerseys.Â And I know plenty of dipshits who have bought the blue monstrosities.Â But if the Dodgers and Yankees can tell MLB to go screw on that account, so can the Cubs.Â Home whites and road grays are the way baseball was intended to be played.Â Besides, the home Cubs uniform is one of the best, if not the best in baseball.Â To throw a dumbass blue jersey on instead is blasphemous.Â And, if baseball insists, then bring back a cool alternate like one based on the road uniforms in the ’40s (think of the Norman Rockwell painting), or something hideous like the baby blue pinstripes of the ’70s.
And we never needed the dumbass red bill on the road caps.Â Shit can those, too, while you’re at it.
Little did I know that the red caps were already out.Â But I still hate those blue jerseys.Â I don’t mind them so much on the road, but the Cubs NEED to wear the pinstripes at home.Â That uniform is awesome.Â Don’t leave it up to the starting pitcher.Â When you’re at Wrigley, you wear white.
- Fire Crane Kenney
I think you’re going to do this, but I just want to make sure.Â Crane certainly thinks he’s staying, but reports that you want to bring Sandy Alderson in would run contrary to that.Â This efete Massachusetts prick needs to hit the bricks.Â Any clown confused enough to get his undergrad degree at Notre Dame and then go to fucking Michigan for his law degree needs a nick kick to the crotch.Â I’m sure he’ll try to dazzle you with all of his talk of how well the Cubs have done since he got his senior vice president title, but the truth is that the company he works for ran this team into the ground for two decades before they finally acted like a real team once they knew they were going to sell it.Â They were unwilling to spend for a winner until they felt they could spend somebody else’s (in this case, yours) money while they did it.Â It was thanks to their incompetence that they ended up writing checks for at least two years more than they ever intended to.Â The sooner every last reminder of the Tribune’s occupancy of the franchise is gone, the better.
I “talk” pretty regularly with two guys at the Tribune and one is sure that Crane Kenney is staying and the other is just as sure that there’s no chance in hell that he keeps his job.
Normally, when a guy spends a bunch of money to buy a large company he wants his own person (maybe even him) to be the president.Â John McDonough was so sure that no matter who bought the Cubs that they’d hire their own president that he pretended to like hockey and went to run the only somewhat relevant Blackhawks.Â Kenney seems to sense this, too, and it couldn’t be clearer that he thinks if he makes enough noise about the Wrigley 2014 project (basically a five year plan to make Wrigley slightly less of a firetrap by its 100th birthday) that he can buy himself that much time, even if he’s not kept on as president.
Here’s what you need to know about whether or not Kenney should keep his job.Â His closest allies in his desperate cash grab to keep his job are Dave Kaplan and Bruce Levine.Â Anybody who would cozy up to those two pathetic douchebags needs to go.
So there you go, unsolicited advice from a random dope.Â Don’t worry, I’ll have more.
And actually, I do have more.Â Two more, to be exact.
1. Be prepared to eat some salary.Â Whether or not the Rickettseses fire Jim Hendry is only part of this issue.Â Three players with money owed in 2010 and beyond (in two cases, waaaay beyond in one) all have to go away and the only way to accomplish it is going to be to pay an awful lot of their money for them to play for somebody else.Â Aaron Miles is completely useless.Â He’s got one year and $2.7 million left after this year and nobody’s going to want to pay any of it.
Milton Bradley has two years and $21 million left and thanks to his winning personality and proclivity for taking long vacations on the disabled list (well, except for this year) be prepared to eat at least half of that, probably more.Â But honestly, it’s not working.Â He’s not misunderstood.Â He’s not even understood.Â He’s a selfish asshole who only cares about his own production.Â If the Cubs lose and he’s 0-4 he’s mad that he was 0-4, because if they win and he’s 0-4 he’s just as mad. And there have been awful lot of 0-4s this year.
Despite all of the sturm und drang about Hendry’s long term contracts, there really is only one truly bad one on the books (though Ryan Dempster can certainly make a run at it) and it’s Alfonso Soriano.Â He’s owed a mind boggling $90 million over the next five years.Â Oh, and he’s got a full no-trade clause, too, which means that even after you resolve to eat $50-60 million or so of his remaining deal, you probably have to give him a raise to “buy” the no trade from him.Â Great!
But honestly, we all knew that at some point this contract was going to be laughable, we just thought it would be two years from now or so.
In the end, you can choose to keep these guys because you are “paying them to play” that’s your right.Â But it doesn’t make much sense.Â You’re already on the hook for them, why compound how badly they hurt your payroll with how badly they hurt your team’s on-field performance?Â And maybe it’s impossible to move Bradley or Soriano but you have to find out.
2. Bring Lou back.Â He says he’s coming back unless he gets fired, but it wouldn’t hurt to tell him you want him back.Â Any time a team doesn’t win the manager gets blamed for it.Â Hell, Braves fans have been complaining about Bobby Cox for 15 years.Â But all he’s done this year is try to make the roster he’s been given work.Â The Cubs do not get outmanaged.Â They haven’t been able to say that with any degree of consistency since Charlie Grimm.Â I’m not even exaggerating.Â It’s that bad.
Good luck to you.Â You’re gonna need it.