Andre Dawson is feeling Hawkish about Cubs’ meager payroll
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org April 26, 2013 11:37PM
Updated: May 30, 2013 2:34PM
MIAMI — Andre Dawson looked across the field at the team he still considers his own — still considers “a special part” of himself — and talked of how tough it is to see what has become of the Cubs.
“Very,” he said. “I never thought I’d see the Cubs with a small-market payroll.”
The Cubs rank third in payroll in the National League Central, after outspending the rest of the division most of the past decade and winning three division titles.
“Obviously, you’ve got to spend money to win,” he said. “There’s no guarantee you’re going to win, but you’re talking the Chicago Cubs, and I’ve always been of the mindset that there’s no reason why that organization from year-to-year shouldn’t be right there battling for a playoff spot. I don’t think it’s at all a matter of resources.”
Knowingly or not, Dawson cut straight to the heart of a sensitive topic gaining increased attention during the Theo Epstein-led rebuilding project, specifically, the decreased resources dedicated to baseball operations since the Ricketts family bought the team more than three years ago.
Much of those resources have been siphoned to service the highest debt load in the majors.
The last-place Cubs are working on a fourth consecutive losing season under Ricketts ownership as the family focuses on revenue-building changes to the ballpark and land-use ordinances with no stated timeline for its promised spending boost for the on-field product.
As a special assistant in the Marlins front office, Dawson has seen first hand the abuses a profit-obsessed owner can heap on fans.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, perhaps the most despised owner, stripped his team and payroll to the bone just one year after spending on free agents and expensive manager Ozzie Guillen in the wake of a new, publicly-funded stadium.
Dawson didn’t talk about any of the Marlins’ issues. But the way he looks at choices being made by ownership and Crane Kenney’s business operation, it’s hard not to draw at least a few comparisons, especially in light of the third-highest ticket prices charged by the Cubs.
Bottom line for Dawson: The Cubs aren’t holding up their end of the bargain to their large fan base.
“I didn’t want to say that, but yeah,” he said, “you owe it to the fans. I don’t know what the predicament is now, but you’ve got to put that ballclub in the elite group where it belongs, because you have fans all over the country. You’ve got Cub fans in every city, probably just as many as the home team.”
He sees them all the time, even in Miami. And feels for them.
“By all means,” he said, “because I meet Chicago Cubs fans every day. I meet people from Chicago in the gym where I work out, people who saw me play. In everyday walk of life I meet people who either grew up in Chicago or are Cub fans. And that says something.”
Dawson said he thinks the Cubs have the right front office to make the Cubs a winner again. “Give Theo time,” he said.
But Wrigley renovations should be secondary to the team and are not necessary for winning, he said.
“Who was it, [Texas’ Lance] Berkman, who said something about all the money their spending to [renovate Wrigley]?” Dawson said. “Drop about $70- or $80-million of that into signing some people. … If anything, at least do it for the fans.”