Cubs need to break the bank, buy the rooftops
BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist May 29, 2014 10:44PM
Updated: July 1, 2014 6:50AM
We already know the Cubs are the worst team in baseball. Their 19-32 record is fact.
So when I see Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts make a poor-lost-puppy video announcing the club is going ahead with Wrigley Field renovation and signage plans, regardless of what those straight-from-hell rooftop association members say, I have to chuckle with amusement.
Then when president Crane Kenney unveils new plans that even the mayor’s office hasn’t seen and won’t swiftly agree to, I chortle with loopy dismay.
If the Cubs were a BB manufacturer, they’d produce squares. If they were a doughnut shop, they’d make cinders.
It makes you wonder how family patriarch Joe Ricketts built TD Ameritrade into a billion-dollar company without burning down every telephone pole in the nation. If this is how the Cubs need to do business — show the world the most hilarious Rube Goldberg-style batting cage ever conceived and ask for sympathy — then why don’t they just open a comedy club at Addison and Clark and call it Swing and Miss?
Here’s what this is really about. Under previous Tribune Co. ownership, the Cubs had no long-term plans except to get the obvious garbage swept up and sell the thing. The Ricketts family bought the team in 2009 and knew — yes, it knew — every silly little nuance, crevice and stupidity that came with the product.
In other words, Tom Ricketts knew there was a valid contract between the team and the Waveland Avenue and Sheffield Avenue rooftop owners to share the view of the games — a licensing agreement — that runs through 2023. And he also knew that Kenney, who forged the rooftop deal that gives the Cubs a paltry 17 percent of the rooftop revenue, came with the Cubs, and, for whatever reasons, he’s still with the Cubs.
Now the Rickettses want out of the deal they essentially agreed to themselves, and they are blaming the other side for everything foul about the loss of revenue, bad play, the future, etc. The rooftops are holding us hostage. Waah!
But Mayor Rahm Emanuel knows what’s up.
He, too, must be slapping his head and saying, Good God almighty, they just hired former doper and career idiot Manny Ramirez to help train young and bright minor-league star Javy Baez!
What, Victor Conte wasn’t available?
When Emanuel, who is up for re-election in February and would love a Wrigley renovation feather in his campaign cap, says of the Cubs’ new plan, “This is not ready for next week, and they have work to do,’’ he’s really saying something else.
Can’t you morons pay off the rooftop owners, buy their buildings, their space, their contract, their everything and be done with this?
The rooftop owners believe they would have a stronger case in court than the Cubs. The out clause that Kenney talks about, they feel, only refers to older plans from 2006. If he and Ricketts are throwing down, cowboy-style, then the rooftop folks are ready for the rodeo. Indeed, they’re even talking about a video or social-media message that will remind Cubs fans who the dummies are here.
Being the scapegoats for the team’s ignorance is not what they want. They have, remember, a contract. In fact, every rooftop owner got a framed and signed photo of Wrigley Field from then-president Andy MacPhail when the deal was inked 11 years ago. It reads, ‘‘We look forward to a long and lasting relationship!’’
You know what else? There are photos of people on rooftops, peering in at Wrigley ballgames from 100 years ago. The Cubs are not battling infidels or renegades. They’re battling themselves. In the parlance of rodeo, they been got by the short hairs.
So what the Cubs must do is break the bank and get the rooftop folks out of the picture. Pay ’em off. Fast. They’ve been low-balling the owners for months.
This is a tough spot for the Cubs to be in, no doubt. But if Ricketts and Co. have any foresight, and they squeeze every penny from their vaults, they can make the rooftops their own. They can turn Wrigley Field into an amusement park that includes two city streets and buildings galore.
There’s no question the stadium would then be the most outstanding and unique ballpark in the world.
The revenue would come in. The future would shine.
Real baseball — sigh — could rule.