MORRISSEY: WGN split OK as Cubs move past their past
By Rick Morrissey Sports Columnist June 4, 2014 3:04PM
Jack Brickhouse | File photo
Updated: June 4, 2014 9:30PM
For the listening audience, the Cubs-WGN Radio relationship has always been comforting, like a security blanket or macaroni and cheese.
That relationship is not going to be around much longer, and . . . how can I put this without offending those of you who grew up on Jack Brickhouse, Harry Caray and Pat Hughes? Life will go on. Really, it will.
In 2015, Cubs games will move to the CBS Radio family of stations, including WBBM-AM (780), ending an almost 90-year relationship between the team and WGN Radio. The Cubs already have opted out of their contract with WGN-TV, looking to hit the jackpot with regional TV-rights fees.
It’s another reminder that life is changing for the franchise and its fans, and that life can’t go back to what it was. To be clear, that’s a good thing. Although many of us are tired of the prodigious losing and can’t for the life of us understand why a major-market team’s major-league product has to be so bad while the rebuilding process continues, wholesale change should be mandatory after 106 years of failure on the field.
Everybody involved with the Cubs needs to get out of his or her comfort zone. The radio/TV thing is part of that, even if it’s not intentional in the extreme-makeover sense.
The economics are such that WGN Radio wanted out of the deal.
‘‘We’ve lost a lot of money on the Cubs, and we’ve stood behind their rebuild for years, and we offered to continue to lose a lot of money in the future, but not the kind of money that CBS is going to lose,’’ WGN Radio president and general manager Jimmy de Castro said Wednesday. ‘‘It’s just an amazingly layered deal. I can’t figure it out. I’ve been around the broadcast business a really long time, and it makes no sense.’’
What’s going on with the Cubs is like a going-out-of-business sale: Everything must go. The cloying sentimentality. The resistance to progress at Wrigley Field. The silliness involving the rooftop owners.
Has anybody with the Cubs considered a uniform-design change? I’m serious. If you want to send a message that you’re tired of losing, getting rid of the stuffed-animal logo wouldn’t be a bad way to go. A Cubs logo with sharp teeth? Why not?
Somehow, I don’t think my idea will fly. This is the franchise that thought unveiling a fluffy mascot named Clark was smart.
For those of us of a certain vintage, hearing Brickhouse’s calls were part of daily life during baseball season. But that’s from another time. We’re lucky. Hughes on radio and Len Kasper on TV are about as good as it gets. They probably aren’t going anywhere, no matter where the Cubs broadcast their games.
The question is, where are the Cubs going?
‘‘They’re looking at Theo [Epstein’s] payroll and going out to try and get the most cash,’’ de Castro said. ‘‘They thought they were going to get more than they’re getting in radio. They thought they would get way more than they’ll ever get in television. In my opinion, step after step after step [that they’ve made] are PR nightmares. At the same time, they’ve lost  games this year, 288 games in the [previous] three years, and no one’s listening or watching.’’
A move up the radio dial or a renovated ballpark complete with — gasp! — huge video boards does not mean a World Series title is anywhere the horizon. But stripping everything down in the organization and starting over is OK. If you say that by killing tradition the Cubs are killing the only reason for fans to stick by the club, I won’t argue with you. But at some point when there’s nothing left, only memories and a green ocean of empty seats at Wrigley Field, maybe the powers that be will realize the product between the lines is the only product that matters.
A century-plus of futility hasn’t seemed to get through to ownership over the years.
The more distance there is from the franchise’s sad history, the better. Don’t tell me that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Cubs fans cling to the past and have nothing to show for it but the same story over and over again.
That story won’t be on WGN for much longer. I can’t work up much anger about that, not when the story has had little to do with winning baseball games for the longest time.