Two of our favorite asshats collided this week, when Al Yellon decided to give advice to Crane Kenney now that the world knows of the secret shame the Cubs have been hiding for several months…that they gave CraneÂ a five-year contract extension. It’s probably not a good sign when your boss says, “Sure, we’ll add some years to your deal, but we’re not telling anybody.” Â I mean, you get the cash, which is the most important thing, but both sides are basically acknowledging that the outside world hates the idea. So basically, hiring Crane Kenney is like riding a moped. Â It’s all good fun until somebody sees you onÂ it. Â Wait, that’s not how the jokes goes, is it? Â Never mind. Anyway, so Al decided to celebrate the occasion by giving Crane advice for the next five years. SPOILER ALERT: It does not, as we all hoped, include detailed murder-suicide instructions. I’m not going to fisk the whole thing. Â But there are some parts that are just too good pass up.
Personally, I have always had cordial relations with Crane Kenney; he’s given me several interviews and always responded to questions I’ve sent him by email.
What Al takes as a positive sign that Crane is an OK guy is simply confirmation to the rest of us that anyone who treats Al with less than derision, is an asshole.
But it’s clear that he could use some advice, because the business operations side of the Cubs appears, from an outsider’s viewpoint, to be a mess.
Who better than Al to explain to someone how to stop stepping on their dick in public? Â I can’t think of anybody. Â Can you? Go on, Al.
Just look at the quote from Sullivan’s article. “Catch the Cubs off guard.” Really, Cubs? Why wasn’t this contract extension announced “several months ago,” as Green stated? Was it supposed to be a deep, dark secret? If so, why?
Gee, why do you think? Â Because the fans would have burned the Sheraton down at the Cubs Convention (which, almost happened anyway when the gift shop ran out of XXXXL sweatpants). Â Because Crane has become a symbol for everything…and I mean EVERYthing wrong with the franchise. Â Because the biggest obstacle to the Wrigley renovations is a contract that he negotiated with the roofies. Â Because, because, because.
I’m here to help.
That disturbance you felt was 10,000,000 Cubs fans shuddering in unison.
Here are several suggestions on what Kenney can do over the next five years to not only make the Cubs a better team, but maybe help his tattered reputation among Cubs fans.
I’ve got some news for you Al. Â Crane doesn’t give a shit. Â He thinks he’s doing a great job. Â His bosses keep giving him raises and adding years onto his contract. Â He just bought a bigger boat which he creativelyÂ named the I STILL DON’T GIVE A SHIT WHAT YOU THINK.
There are times it appears that the Cubs’ business operations department is sitting in a concrete bunker, trying to decide which things they’re going to hide from everyone.
Here’s a scary thought. Â Maybe they’re good at it and the really bad shit doesn’t leak out. Â Maybe to keep us from figuring out what real scumbaggery they are up to they toss a giant Ron Santo get well soon card into the dumpster they know the writers will be standing by on the day they fire their manager. Â Maybe they figure the morons who root for and cover the team will make a big deal out of that while they’re doing some really abhorrent stuff like flaying Guatemalan children and rubbing them on the ivy during road trips to make it extra waxy?
Given that the Chicago Cubs are a baseball team that lives and dies on support from its fanbase, this seems foolish to me.Â
You’re assuming all Cubs fans care about this stuff. Â Most of them don’t. Â Do they get more fans and make more money when they actually win some games? Â Sure they do. Â Do they really lose fans when they don’t? Â Well, they were pretty goddamned terrible from 1999-2002 save for one year when they contended for a decent stretch in the summer, and yet, in 2003 when they finally made the playoffs there were people 20 deep in the street outside the park during the games just wanting to be close to that dump if they actually pulled out the pennant. Do Cubs fans enable this franchise to do terrible and stupid things without any lasting ramifications? You bet your ass we do. In the real world, Crane would have been out on his ass years ago. Â This isn’t real world. Â It’s Cubsdom (or Cubsdumb) and the consequences for incompetence are negligible. Â Hell, the whole franchise is built on the sturdiest foundation of incompetence ever created.
Next,Â just buy the damn rooftops out already.Â A couple of weeks ago, Danny Ecker ofÂ Crain’s Chicago BusinessÂ wrote thatÂ money figures for this have been discussed:
Sure. Â Just fork over a quarter billion dollars or so, on top of the half billion dollars you claim to be spending out of your own coffers to rebuild the park, on top of the nearly billion you paid to get the whole shebang in the first place. Â You know how rich guys get to be rich, and stay rich? Â They don’t spend money when they don’t have to, at least not their own money. According to Ecker, the Cubs figured they could buy out the roofies for $50 million and the roofies asked for $250 million. Â That’s not remotely close. Â That’s a non-starter. Â That’s when the Cubs get up, tell the roofies to fuck off and leave the room. So what’s Al’s suggestion?
Whatever the case, there has to be a number in between those two figures that would end this ridiculous rooftop charade.
The Ricketts family would not be restricted in this buyout by the Sam Zell terms of purchase, since the Cubs wouldn’t be buying them out, the Ricketts would.
Oh sure, that makes it easier. Â How’d you like to tap into that phone call when the kids call dad to ask for $250 million to buy the buildings behind the collapsing shitheap they already bought?
Tom:Â Hey dad. Â How’s it going?
Joe:Â Fucking Obama…
Tom:Â That’s great. Â Hey, say, uh, Laura wants to ask you something.
Laura:Â What? Â Why me? Â Pete, dad likes you best these days, you ask him.
Pete:Â Just got back from a great rally in Ord. Â Biggest crowd ever on the campaign. Â There were six! Â Um, Todd wants to ask you something.
Todd:Â Guys, I don’t want to ask him that. Â Really, I don’t. Â OK, fine. Â Dad, Tom says that if you eat your boogers it causes prostrate cancer. Â Is that true?
It’s ridiculous for the Cubs to keep negotiating different types of outfield signage plans, knowing the saber-rattling will continue from the rooftop owners; as pointed out by a couple of commenters in the post I did last week on that topic, this dispute won’t wind up in court, but instead would be heard by a panel of three arbitrators. The Cubs surely don’t want that.
First, I love when Al crowdsources for legal advice, considering this is his crowd:
Second, why would arbitration be worse for the Cubs than a trial would? Â If the assumption is that you can just bribe the judge, it’s probably easier and cheaper to bribe two of the three arbiters.
The Cubs could continue to rent out the apartments on the lower floors of the buildings, getting revenue that way, or convert them to other money-making uses (perhaps bed-and-breakfasts?).
Oh, boy. Â Al’s business plan is pretty savvy. Â I’m sure that the family who is building a fancy hotel as part of this plan also wants to run some bed and breakfasts down the street. Â Now, if Al had suggested a different way to make that money back, the Rickettseses might listen to this:
Negotiating the new broadcast dealsÂ is another key thing Kenney will do over the next year (and then five years out, when all the TV deals will expire at the same time).Â
This is the reason that Crane, a former Tribune media lawyer, is being kept around. Â Nothing in his past makes you believe it’ll actually pay off, but they’re keeping him to squeeze every penny out of the radio and TV deals. Â The Cubs are moving to WBBM radio because it’s easier to get somebody who wants to get you to pay more than it is somebody who wants to keep you. Â Al is right that this move has no real effect on the fan other than a few mopes who will complain that WGN IS THE CUBS! Â Oh, shut up and turn the dial six to your right. As for TV, this is where Al misses the point completely. Â Wait, I mean MORE completely. Â Is that possible?
Whatever is to become of the WGN portion of the TV deal, Kenney has to try to make as much money as possible for the next five years, selling ratings that are down and a team that could be hard to watch for as much as half of that time. Good luck with that.
You’re buying five years of the Cubs at a time when there’s legitimate excitement about the players who are coming, and you’re going to be televising games at a time when the park and neighborhood are evolving, and you’ll be selling it to somebody who doesn’t have it right now but wants it, wants it, wants it. Â This is the easy part. Â Because the Cubs will rightly want to align their two TV packages, you’re only selling for five years until the Comcast Sports Net deal expires, so that will limit the money somewhat, but there’s money to be made here.
You’d have to be a dipshit to screw this up.
The Cubs have hinted broadly that they might want to start their own TV channel. This, in my view, would be a colossal mistake.Â
Yes, it would be a huge mistake to find a partner and own all of your content 24 hours a day 7 days a week all year long. Â It’d be awful to find a broadcast partner to pay you billions of dollars to do that. Â Al’s right, just call Comcast, remind them you own a quarter of that dump and take pennies on the dollar.
With the TV landscape changing so quickly, no one knows how baseball games will be distributed in 2020 and beyond. It could be mostly online streaming;
It won’t be. But even it was, you’d own 100 percent of the rights to your content to be streamed.
it could be partly that and cable; it could be partly streaming, partly cable and partly broadcast.
It’s all worth money. Â Lots of money. Â Shitloads of money. Â Right, Crane?
While it’s certainly possible that the Cubs could be a winning team by 2019 and deliver better TV ratings than they do now, the Cubs should look to Los Angeles for a cautionary tale.
Good point. Â Let’s look at how the Dodgers have fucked up.
TheÂ Dodgers‘ new SportsNetLA channel is carried in only about 30 percent of the Los Angeles market, meaning that most Dodger fans in their home city can’t watch the team on television due to blackout rules.Â
Well, that would suck. Â That must be costing the Dodgers huge amounts of cash.
There’s now aÂ threat of a lawsuitÂ by Time Warner, the company that lavished $7 billion on the Dodgers for 25 years’ worth of their TV rights
So how much of the seven billion dollars have the Dodgers had to give back to Time Warner? None? Â You don’t say. Â They have seven billion dollars, regardless of how many fans can actually watch those games in LA. Â Really? So, you mean the fans closest to the park can’t see the games on TV, so they have to BUY TICKETS AND GO TO THE STADIUM? Â I’ll bet that really makes the Dodgers sad. Â They have to blot their tears with seven billion one dollar bills and shit loads of walkup ticket sales. Â The poor bastards.
Now, it’s entirely possible that by 2019 blackout rules will have been eased or eliminated (let’s hope!), which would allow a Cubs channel to be viewed online.
No. Â That won’t happen. Â The big local TV deals make it more unlikely that blackout rules will change, not more likely. Â Time Warner paid $7 billion because of those rules. Â The Rangers got their money because of those rules. Â Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Â We tell you this everytime you bitch about the blackout rules, but you never learn.
Next,Â replace the entire marketing department.
Fire them all! Â None of them have families or bills, just fire them! Â They’re all incompetent. Â Every one of them. Â Al knows this.
From the mistakes made on the Wrigley 100 murals
Newsflash: Nobody but you really gave a shit.
to the phone call made to Ron Santo’s son asking if the late Ron Santo could come to the 100th-anniversary celebration
Best prank call of the year.
to tossing out Santo memorabilia and the silly cake-discarding incident
Stop throwing things away! Â We know your crappy little ballpark doesn’t have room for a decent bathroom or a batting cage, but surely you have unlimited space to keep oversized noveltyÂ cards. Â And the cake thing? Â The Field Museum threw it away and told the media about it. Â I enjoyed their hutzpah.
to refusing to re-hire the organist in Mesa (and then playing pre-recorded organ music there)
You are the dumbest.
it’s clear to me that no one in marketing has any sense of the Cubs fanbase, history or culture, or is even a baseball fan.
That’s a pretty broad brush you are painting with there, bologna boy.
Previous marketing regimes (particularly under John McDonough) had an instinctive understanding of what Cubs fans were and what they wanted — because they were Cubs fans themselves.
First off, name a “marketing regime” before John McDonough. Â Second, McDonough grew up a Sox fan. Â You don’t have to be a fan of the team you work for, you just have to do good work. Â Do they do a lot of dumb shit? Â Sure they do. Â Of course they do, Wally Fucking Hayward hired half of them.
I can see this has gotten quite long and I haven’t even begun on the lack of respect the organization has for season-ticket holders…Â
Oh, the besotten Cubs season ticket holder base! Â No one is more put upon than you and your ilk. Â Although, we know you only give a shit about you, and your lack of access to even more free shit, and that you think ticket prices should go down, and blah, blah, blah. Thanks for the advice, though. Â Crane looks like he’s taking it to heart.