Who Owns the Cubs?

In Commentary And Analysis by andcounting80 Comments

Have we gotten to the bottom of this question, yet? Six years into its history (somehow that bit of canon came from the first half of its virtual existence), the Orthodox Church Of Cubs Baseball conducted an interview with the Chairman/Executive Chairman/Not Really the CEO/Owner-kind-of of the Cubs, Tom Ricketts. Part I of this wide-ranging interview was devoted exclusively to the questions of who owns the Cubs and how Cubs ownership defined a “mister.”

The second question is too ethereal to pursue effectively, so I won’t address it at all. But I’m pretty sure I have a definitive answer to the first, slightly less mysterious query about who owns the Cubs:

It ain’t us.

If Cubs fans collectively owned the Cubs, we never would have let Len Kasper depart to the White Sox radio booth. Ok, maybe he still would have left to pursue his desire to broadcast games on the radio, something he’d get to do with the Cubs only during Spring Training or the occasional Pat Hughes off day coinciding with a nationally preemptive telecast. Neither of those are exactly the World Series calibre game Kasper is hoping to be a part of.

Lots of discussion has swirled around Marquee’s role in Kasper’s decision to leave, but Kasper has pretty much bent over backward to dismiss such rumors. Still, Marquee isn’t the Cubscentric Network Cubs fans would have chosen if it were our call, is it? Assuming OV comments represent pretty much the entirety of Cubs fans’ opinions (an ironclad assumption if ever there was one), we recognize Marquee as another pawn in the ever-expanding Sinclair Chessboard of Fascism. That might not track with the prevailing worldview of OV or Cubs Twitter or the Cubs broadcast team or any other subset of Cubs fans, but it certainly doesn’t ruffle the feathers of the people who actually own the Cubs.

And what about the players rumored to join Kasper and Kyle Schwarber on the next El out of Wrigley? Certainly if Cubs fans owned the team, Kris Bryant and Javier Báez would never set a toe on the trade block. Okay, that’s probably the least true thing so far in this already pretty suspect diatribe, so it’s really just my opinion at its most sentimental (and that’s where I’m heading with this nonsense).

If I owned the Cubs, Schwarber, Bryant, and Báez would probably be permanent fixtures at this point. Yeah, that’s dumb from a baseball perspective. No argument here. But they were key components in THE World Series. I wouldn’t just do everything I could to keep them on the team, I’d do everything I could to make leaving the team seem like a stupid, unthinkable notion. I’d want the Cubs franchise to be as pure and true to the essence of that 2016 vibe that seeing the trademark Cubs red and blue would give any Cubs fan the same chills we all get any time we see a routine grounder to Bryant.

That would be my goal: do everything possible to make every rendition of the team feel as 2015-2016 for as long as I could keep the illusion going. Winning baseball would be a component of that but not more important than that.

I fully expect to part ways with you at that last point. I fully expect most fans to prioritize winning over just about everything else. I don’t fault anyone for adopting that mindset. But here’s why I call this approach the most Cubs-fan way to run the team.

Most of us are Cubs fans for some reason that isn’t super logical. Being from Chicago. Being from the North Side. Rebelling against our White-Sox-or-Cardinals-loving families. Sammy. WGN. Ryne Sandberg’s stoic manliness. Kris Bryant’s eyes. Ivy. Who the hell knows? As flimsy as the origin stories of our fandom might be, we typically need some vaguely realistic remnant of that root connection to remain. Right? There’s some threshold of identity or integrity that has to be there for us to keep liking the team.

If the team moved to Florida and changed its name to the Trump Nuts, you’d find a new team, yeah? I would. If they left Wrigley, some people would. If they lost in humiliating fashion year after year for a century, no big deal. But if they changed the team colors to mustard yellow and forest green, I’d have a lot of thinking to do.

So what if they got rid of the guy who made the final assist in Game 7? What if they traded away the most fun player (and best tagger, bar none) that you ever watched? What if the guy who parked a baseball on the right field scoreboard just walked away without a contract? What if the TV play-by-play guy (and quite possible the best one this team has ever had) crossed town for a lesser gig? What if they just got really boring and disappointing? Would you find a new team then?

Maybe. But what if the changes in the team weren’t all that bad, just different? What if the team-owned network got a bit vanilla? What if the team owners, despite being fascist pigs, figured out a way to win consistently with players who were just really good (even if a few of them turn out to be replacement-level humans)? What if every connection you felt to the World Series champs, beside the team name, is gone?

What if the baseball improved, but the brand got really bland? Would you still be a Cubs fan?

I ask this question, because it appears that may be the best a Cubs fan can really hope for. This franchise is getting a reboot. The Marquee network is not going to be good on any sentimental, genuinely Cub level. It’s just not. The team itself is not going to resemble the personality or the narrative of 2016 AND be good at baseball at the same time.

The fanbase is going to start looking pretty generic: that’s what Sinclair outlets foster. Being a Cubs fan isn’t going to mean what it did whenever it meant when you became one. The team will probably be good again eventually (not soon). The Cubs will never again be lovable losers. They’re not star-driven, or won’t be for long.

I mean, if and when Kris Bryant leaves, the Cubs won’t get much back for him. Prospects are at an absolute premium in this year that paying $8 million for Kyle Schwarber is too steep a gamble. The owners mostly lost money last year. The beginning of the season will be delayed. They may lose money again this year. The small teams have no revenue sharing boosts to help pay their bills. NOBODY wants to spend. Free agents will be a bargain and rookies will be the MLB bumper crop. The only thing the Cubs can really hope to get for Bryant is salary relief.

Can you imagine what it’s going to feel like when Kris Bryant walks away from this team and the Cubs get nobody interesting back? Or one year’s worth of some other struggling superstar?

So this is my point: what happens this offseason and in 2021 is almost certainly going to feel completely antithetical to what you want this team to look like. It will never be more obvious that we don’t own this franchise. This is going to suck. This team is going to suck.

What if the exact opposite of everything you want to happen plays out in the next six months? Will you still be a Cubs fan?

I probably will. I’m an idiot. But my expectations are gone. If Javy goes? Wherever he winds up just may be my new team.

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Comments

  1. cerulean

    I, for one, am ready to blow up the last fragment of my fandom in the last sport I bother to follow. I am already barely on speaking terms with my father for his political idiocy. Fuck the Ricketts, Sinclair, and all of these Trump-loving assholes burning our futures to the ground.

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  2. Author
    andcounting

    cerulean,

    I feel for you. I never thought I’d see my family supporting the things they do, but here we are.

    You do know you’re going to wind up building a baseball field on your farm, though, right?

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  3. dmick89

    I don’t know a whole lot about individual baseball owners, but I’ve been thinking for a long time now that I need to start researching owners and pick the best human among them. Whoever that guy is, the team that he owns is the team that I want to root for. I wanted to do it prior to the 2020 season, but didn’t get around to it so I just ignored baseball this year. I don’t want to go from one fascist to another and I think it’s going to be depressing to find out just how many awful humans own baseball teams. It’s got to be a lot of them.

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  4. Perkins

    I’m planning to raise my daughter as a Yankees fan. We’re in New York anyway, and my wife likes the Yankees. Their stadium kinda sucks, but no way I’m encouraging her to be a Mets fan just for Citi Field.

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  5. berselius

    SK,

    We know our audience, and the decision not to record for a year plus seems to have been met with universal acclaim (dying laughing)

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  6. uncle dave

    So I swore off the Cubs a couple of years ago at this point. I think that I watched maybe two games since the end of the ’18 season? It just didn’t seem to make too much sense to keep on. The owners are odious and have no intention of building a winning team, I live in California and haven’t been to Wrigley since that five-game series with the Cards where Dusty wanted to fight LaRussa like 15 years ago or whatever. I keep dimly aware of what they’re doing so I can talk with my dad about it, but he’s generally just interested in bitching about Javy and Willson having too much ‘mustard’ in their game and I don’t need to know shit to listen to him babble about that.

    I was back in Urbana at my [REDACTED] high school reunion in the fall of ’18 and told a bunch of Cardinals fans that I’d renounced my fandom and was now officially an A’s fan. They tried to make a whole-ass deal about it like I’d seen the light or something, which in turn led to the whole conversation about Bill de Witt’s participation in the Bush administration (and Harken Energy) and August Busch IV’s rap sheet (including the Kennedy-style vehicular manslaughter that got wiped away, and his attempt to fly a helicopter when drunk).

    I guess that’s all to say that I’m not sure there are any good owners in sports anywhere, so I’m just picking the team that’s closest to me (and that has $5 seats on the reg). Maybe Union Berlin? Their fans sold their blood to keep the team from going under and it’s basically run as a co-op now. Plus, Nina Hagen is somehow involved and they were the archrivals to Dynamo Berlin back in the days of East Germany when Dynamo was basically the house club for the Stasi. I’m not sure there’s an American analogue to that.

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  7. Rizzo the Rat

    I for one have enjoyed seeing the Red Sox and Cubs overcome decades of failure and then decide that, in fact, not winning is better than winning.

    — Old Hoss Radbourn(e) (@OldHossRadbourn) December 29, 2020

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  8. Perkins

    I’m glad the Cubs won a World Series when I still cared. If the Rickettses are going to mandate slashing payroll to this extent, then maybe they shouldn’t own a baseball team, or at least a big market one.

    The Darvish trade is a move I’d expect from the Pirates or the Royals.

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  9. EnricoPallazzo

    dmick89:
    The Cubs are rebranding as a small market team. (dying laughing)

    might be time to officially rebrand this blog then. cast iron cookware all day, every day. occasional pizza hut milf alien porn thrown in for good measure.

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  10. Perkins

    EnricoPallazzo: might be time to officially rebrand this blog then. cast iron cookware all day, every day. occasional pizza hut milf alien porn thrown in for good measure.

    I actually just cooked a bone-in ribeye in my cast iron skillet on Christmas. 10/10 would recommend.

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  11. berselius

    Can’t wait for al the stories about some 18yo shortstop tearing up low A ball again. That’s certainly my favorite part of being a baseball fan.

    /Dombrowski

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  12. berselius

    Perkins:
    I’m glad the Cubs won a World Series when I still cared. If the Rickettses are going to mandate slashing payroll to this extent, then maybe they shouldn’t own a baseball team, or at least a big market one.

    The Darvish trade is a move I’d expect from the Pirates or the Royals.

    Their Chicago real estate portfolio is probably looking pretty good though. Who doesn’t want to root for Northern Chicago Holding Company? They could be making a run at Sheinhardt Wigs in the next few years. It’s certainly one to watch.

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  13. Author
    andcounting

    Not that I expect this trade to help the Cubs do anything, but at least they finally managed to trade someone at peak value. Darvish has never looked this good (with the Cubs), so it’s a great time to trade him. Gaining $13 million in payroll flexibility would be something if the team planned to do anything with it. If they were to spend it, they could get a few of the zillion cheap free agents on the market this offseason. It could happen.

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  14. berselius

    andcounting,

    They could have done a lot worse – Boog is usually pretty good on the rare ESPN broadcasts I watch. I feel like he was pretty good on the radio too, not that it matters to much with the Cubs situation.

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  15. berselius

    I’m glad that Chris Myers talk died down – he’s pretty much the platonic ideal of an empty suit broadcaster.

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  16. uncle dave

    I see the rumor mill has Miami in on Willson. When the Marlins are picking through the ashes at your fire sale, that’s something…

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  17. BVS

    Hey Y’all
    Thanks for not overloading this thread with so many comments that I can’t catch up. OV is the greatest.

    Seems to me if the Cubs want to extend someone in their core group, Willson would be the top priority. As much as I like Rizzo and Baez, I don’t think either of their bats will hold up for more than 3-4 years and I assume an extension will have to be at least 6. So if I were prioritizing, my order would be:

    1. Willson
    4. Bryant
    5. Davies (he’s the return from Yu, right?)
    6. Baez
    7. Rizzo

    My order might shift if Rizzo would take 3 yr or Baez maxes at 15M/yr, but I doubt that will happen on either.

    I’d be higher on Bryant if he could hit at all when injured, but he can’t, and he can’t stay healthy. But I appreciate his effort in the field.

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  18. uncle dave

    As a counterpoint, I’d like to see them extend Javy because he’s one of the most exciting players in baseball in the prime of his career and there’s no other compelling reason to watch the Cubs. Not exactly cutting analysis there, but…

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  19. BVS

    uncle dave,

    Javy got 11M in arb and LaMahieu got 90M over 6y. If they could extend Javy at DJL rates I’d rank him 2 on my list. Seems fair. Javy > DJL in field, DJL > Javy at plate.

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  20. dmick89

    Why keep any of these guys who are valuable and older than 25? The Cubs have no interest in contending any time soon. I can’t imagine anyone currently on the Cubs roster is going to have a meaningful impact the next time the Cubs contend.

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  21. BVS

    dmick89,

    Well… That’s an option too, but what’s the play? Hold through the summer and take the draft picks if the new CBA keeps that provision? Trade in July?

    I mean, now that we finally have Shelby Miller, we’ll be strong favorites to repeat as division champs.

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  22. BVS

    Perkins,

    And Chatwood to the Blue Jays. I think both had had their run with the Cubs.

    Lester was a fantastic signing. I’ll be grateful for his contributions and leadership for a long time.

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  23. berselius

    Now that prospect lists are coming out, I’m glad to see the return on Darvish was:

    *checks notes*

    Zero top 100 prospects.

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  24. Rizzo the Rat

    MLB Off-Season Spending, by division to date:

    AL East: $307M
    NL East: $143M
    AL Central: $124M
    NL West: $98M
    AL West: $83M
    NL Central: $3.7M

    7 teams (STL, PIT, ARI, COL, BAL, CLE) with either zero signings or only new minor league deals. 🥴

    — Matt Whitener (@CheapSeatFan) January 26, 2021

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  25. Perkins

    Cardinals are getting Arenado because of course they are.

    Gotta say, even independent of the pandemic I’m glad I dumped my season tickets after 2019.

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  26. berselius

    KG back at fangraphs, bleh. He could have fucked off forever even before the Astros hired him as far as I’m concerned.

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  27. berselius

    andcounting,

    According to him, since true to KG form he wrote a 10,000 word manifesto explaining himself, he did nothing wrong and was made a scapegoat so the Astros wouldn’t be in yet another news cycle when he had to defend his taken out of context email.

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  28. Author
    andcounting

    berselius,

    Ha, yeah, that’s bullshit. I don’t care if he wasn’t instrumental in setting up their signaling system. He had the idea of using tech to steal signs. No one in baseball thinks that’s anything other than “grey area” or worse.

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