January 3, 2020


The house of cards that is our Chicago Cubs seems to falling down after another disappointing end to a season. The 2016 championship seems to be a distant memory. The idea of dynasty seems to be fantasy.

But nothing compared to the Ricketts family's fantasy that the Cubs were a money making ATM machine.

With Maddon's release, the Cubs have moved on to David Ross. But many other things have moved on from the Cubs.

Maddon's Post, a restaurant in the new Ricketts outside-the-park commercial development, abruptly closed after seven months. This is the third restaurant/bar in Ricketts' properties to have closed in the past year. The problem must be that the Ricketts overdeveloped the area, put in high lease rentals, and the businesses could not be profitable.

Also moving on is local over-the-air Cubs games. WGN will no longer broadcast any Chicago sports teams (it began in 1924). The Cubs Marquee Network launches in approximately 50 days. But it has no on-air talent, it has de minis cable contracts in the metro area, and no programming announcements to fill 24 hours/day. Kasper and Deshaies contracts expired at the end of the 2019 season. Hughes and Comer radio contracts may expire at the end of 2020.

The news broke as the season ended that the Ricketts family overspent on the Wrigley renovations by $600 million. That was not unexpected considering they decided to phase the work over three years instead of one intense project. The fact that the Ricketts overspent for the team (by an estimated $500 million) and doubled the cost on Wrigley, the Cubs operations are not generating enough revenue to off-set those financial hurdles.

The fall out from these financial stumbles is clear in that Theo has been handcuffed in spending. He can barely sign dual contracts for minor league reclamation projects. The Cubs are already over the luxury tax threshold by $10-18 million. It means the team must shed current star players in order to get into the business side's budget figures. The rest of the league knows the Cubs want to shed payroll so the trade market will not be as generous as Theo would want it to be to fill the depth and holes in the current roster.

There are problems with the rotation, the bullpen, lead off hitter, and center field that have no solutions in the minor leagues. Free agency and money was to fix roster problems during this "championship window" but Theo overspent to get the 2016 championship and now dead money deals have painted the team into a corner.

It appears the team revenue and finances will not allow the Cubs to be free spenders to acquire talent. They will have to operate as a small market team with the debt burden of a major franchise. If the Cubs' opening roster is the same as 2019, how are fans supposed to react? Three years of underperforming is not a oddity but a trend.

The Cubs were more popular when they were the Lovable Losers. Once the championship happened, die hard fans got their once-in-a-lifetime thrill. Now, many do not want to spend premium ticket and concession prices for a bad team.