TELANDER: Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts promises World Series title if Wrigley renovation plan is approved
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com April 15, 2013 11:04PM
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts at a press conference at Wrigley announcing new changes at Wrigley Field. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: May 17, 2013 6:42AM
I’m exhausted from reading the early details of the Cubs-Wrigleyville agreement.
Not only did this thing take about four years to come together, but its glacial formation helped provide an excellent smoke screen for a team that is about as bad as they come in the major leagues.
See, that’s part of the exhaustion. All of this haggling over things such as signs, scoreboards, rooftops, walkways , parking lots, hotels, ‘‘LED ribbon boards’’ and cement ready to fall on people’s heads has nothing to do with baseball. It has to do with the promise of a better team, yes, but that’s all. Promise.
But Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts on Monday all but pounded his chest in defiance, boasting that the team will . . . well, you need to hear it verbatim: ‘‘If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series for our fans and our city.’’
Win the World Series! Not just play in it, not just shoot for it, not just think about it, but win the World Series.
Dear God, I want that tattooed on Ricketts’ forehead. On Cubs president Crane Kenney’s, too. There must be some accountability for signing that 20-year deal with the rooftop owners back in 2004, which Kenney did, right? ‘‘Win the World Series’’ works for me.
And why will the Cubs win the World Series? Because, Ricketts said, they will have the fancy ballpark and the income to do it.
‘‘We need this project in order to bring our fans a winner,’’ he said. ‘‘The financial impact of this proposal will help us do that.’’
Really? Cash, couches, carpeting and comfort for the players plus batting cages and a nearby hotel bar equals — ta-da! — the World Series championship.
The Cubs might get the new 6,000-square-foot Jumbotron they, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) essentially have agreed upon. They might get the new 1,000-square-foot ‘‘see-through sign’’ above the right-field bleachers, the slick boutique hotel across Clark Street, the plaza, the office building on the triangle lot and the extra night games the group has agreed upon.
The Cubs actually might enter the 21st century, building-wise. But a recent Forbes report already named them the most profitable team in the majors, and what did that buy last season? It bought 101 losses.
So this ‘‘framework’’ for a deal that still needs lots of city and regulatory-commission approval is nice. But does it mean a good team? A great team?
All this renovation and building will cost about a half-billion dollars. That’s chump change for the Ricketts family, which is too smart to use its own piggy bank when wondrous things such as bonds, notes and loans are available — and when most of that expenditure will come back to the family in the form of increased ad revenue, equity and rent.
But the Cubs never will outspend the Yankees or maybe even the profligate Dodgers. Nor do dollars guarantee winning, in any case. What they do guarantee is the need for more dollars.
Onetime boy-genius baseball executive Theo Epstein was brought here from the Red Sox to make the Cubs winners. So far Theo, which means ‘‘God’’ in Greek, has presided over Hades. The Cubs reek.
Fans have been instructed to wait. I’ve been waiting for 64
years. It gets old, you know. And then you die.
But now Ricketts has declared that Epstein will have everything he needs to win it all. This is more than a boast, people. This is a guarantee, and guarantees must come with accountability — like being run out of town.
Part of me feels that this purported deal never will be consummated and that Ricketts will be able to say, ‘‘It’s not my fault the Cubs are bad.’’ But who knows whether Ricketts will pump the extra cash — should it come — into the signings of star players and the development of minor-league prospects? Nobody.
It’s not certain this deal won’t get sued back to the Bricks-and-Ivy Age by that renegade band known as the rooftop owners, who have 11 years left on a contract with the Cubs that guarantees them an unobstructed view of their already-obstructed view of the field. That Kenney-brokered deal is so insane that I can’t even begin to address it. But it’s legal — and it might be explosive.
For now, though, we’ll believe the happy news and breathe a sigh of relief.
A redone stadium. A big replay screen. Two thousand new jobs. Millions of dollars in new tax revenue. Big smiles and handshakes all around.
We won’t even mention the 4-8 team. Or the biggest guarantee in Cubs history.
One that better come true.