Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cubs Sale Final Pending Last Rites

The sale to the Ricketts has finally been agreed upon by both the buyers and the sellers. When you measure the time on a geological scale, it actually didn't take very long at all. However, by normal human standards, the sale took longer than anything ever conceived of by man not located in a line at the DMV.

Chuck at Ivy Chat and CCD at Waxpaperbeercup would have you believe the time was spent lining up the financing and haggling over media contract value. I personally believe Zell was hammering out an iron-clad No Givesies Backsies clause.

When the Cubs sale process started, Lou was newly hired and talking about building up something called "Cubbie Swagger." They were defining themselves as a team that had both starting pitching depth and a robust offense. They marketed the W flag for all it was worth as a symbol of the new era in Cubs history. It was the dawning of a new age. The Cubs would finally cease to be the world's longest running joke.

That era died this weekend in Los Angeles and I'm sure Zell will be happy to not have to have a conversation with the Ricketts like this:

The difference between this death and others before it is that the Cubs have saved us the trouble of keeping our calendars clear for the month of October. We won't be having to write checks to the Cubs for World Series tickets that we will never use. They are being kind enough to not even bother with a rally tease that will distract us from the Bears.

So it is over. If they were losing well-played games, it would be one thing to hold out that the Cardinals could still stumble, but the Cubs can't score to save their lives. Derrek Lee's lost-in-the-sun double should have cost the Dodgers the lead, if not the game yesterday. Runners at second and third with one out and the heart of the order due up against a closer who has been prone to the late inning meltdown a bit lately is a recipe most teams would cash in. The Cubs did nothing. Aramis did hit the ball hard, but moral victories are worthless in the standings.

A few people have wondered why I have clung to the hopes of this season like a child clings to their security blanket. The reason is that I haven't been holding on to merely this season. I have been grasping at whatever hopes I ever had of being able to witness a World Series game at Wrigley Field in my lifetime.

The death of this season is also a realistic death of this particular team's chances of ever winning the World Series. There are going to be eight guys on the roster next year making eight figure salaries: Soriano ($19 million), Ramirez ($16.75 million), Lee ($13 million), Lilly ($13 million), Fukudome ($14 million), Dempster ($13.5 million), Bradley ($10.33 million). I count two on that list who have even come close to earning their money, and that is Lilly and Lee.

The good news for 2011 is that the Cubs will lose two of those massive salaries off the books. The bad news is that the salaries will be those of Lilly and Lee.

Further complicating a rebuilding plan for the new owners will be the impending arbitrations of several useful players that would be good to keep around. Soto and Hill can still be a fine catching tandem provided we ratchet down the expectations that we will ever see Soto put together a complete season like 2008 again. Hill gets a boost in salary next year, Soto in 2011.

Marmol, Marshall, and Guzman are all due for pay raises this year through arbitration as well (possibly Theriot too - not sure on that one). Obviously, we are all extremely disappointed in this team, but these guys are useful pieces for a team that can not just be tossed away like Wuertz, Gaudin, Hill, Pie, etc.

The new owners will not be seeing too much rise in revenue in the short term since it will be difficult to sell a dramatic rise in ticket prices again after two straight playoff sweeps and a mid-season collapse. The WGN TV and radio contracts appear to be locked into place for at least the near future, so no extra money there. I don't even know if PSLs would fly right now, so I don't see how this team can boost the payroll much more than what will happen to it naturally by honoring existing contracts, and keeping valuable players that no longer make league minimum salary.

But, let's say the team rolls out a personal seat license plan to raise the money. I'm out. I can't do it. My season ticket package is a luxury as it is now and I won't be able to continue to justify spending an even higher percentage of my salary on the rights to purchase a ticket package in the hopes that one day it will allow me to witness a World Series in person.

So, the Cubs will either be a bad team for the next few years, or they will improve by charging the fans even more money to fix all of the mistakes made by Hendry. Either way, it does not bode well for me as a fan.

That is why this year feels like there is no next year. I wanted it to last as long as possible. They couldn't even do that for me.


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