Saturday, August 22, 2009

Wrigley to Tribune to Ricketts? I’ll believe it when the leagues approve it

So at just about the time it appears that Sam Zell could be dumped from Tribune Co., the corporate types there finally got their act together enough to unload the Chicago Cubs – creating only the third ownership group for the team in the past eight decades.

Anyone who has read this weblog in the past knows I think the negotiation process dragged on way too long, so I’m not about to reiterate my disgust for that – which may very well be one of the few things I have in common with Chicago Cubs fans.

BUT THE SALE of the Cubs was the alleged big news of Friday. News reports using words such as “official” and “finalized,” although I noticed one interesting snippet of reader comment on the website of Crain’s Chicago Business from a self-appointed business expert who tells us that “finalized” doesn’t mean “closed.”

Now I’m not going to claim to be enough of a business expert to understand this issue, other than to admit I’m trusting certain reports that the Tribune types are no longer considering other officials, and that their preference is that the Ricketts family get the ball club.

Yet the reason I’m skeptical is because of the fact that this is professional sports, and the ways of the business of sports resemble the ways of the real world in virtually no way.

There is the simple fact that the owners of other National League ball clubs and even those in the American League now get to have their say.

AND THEY DON’T necessarily need to have logic on their side. If they somehow get it in their minds that someone is not worthy of being included in their fraternity, they can throw a snit fit and refuse to let them purchase the team.

Let’s not forget the last time the Chicago White Sox were up for sale. It’s not like Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn and their allied business executives were the top choice of former owner Bill Veeck to purchase the team.

I’m not aware of anything in Ricketts’ background that could be used against him such as the financial interests in horserace tracks that were used against the preferred choice for White Sox ownership.

But who’s to say what could come up, or what kind of trash could be used to try to justify someone not being suited for the “best interests of baseball” (whatever that phrase is supposed to mean).

THERE IS ONE aspect of this deal that intrigues me.

Tribune Co. is not leaving the scene completely when it comes to what passes for Major League baseball in the Lakeview neighborhood.

They’re keeping a 5 percent interest in the team, which means they won’t be able to call the on-field shots anymore – a good thing because the broadcast types who ran Tribune Co. throughout the years may very well have been successful at making money off baseball broadcasts.

Which means anyone who “fears” the idea of Cubs games being broadcast elsewhere other than WGN-TV can likely relax. It’s probably strong enough for the Tribune broadcast types to retain a hand in the team’s marketing – which was strong.

THEY ARE, AFTER all, the guys who figured out a way to market a pathetic ball club so as to draw in top-level TV ratings to the point where the Cubs are now the team who would disappoint many of their fans if they ever actually won anything.

But they sure couldn’t figure out how to sustain anything concerning on-field athletic success, both in terms of winning seasons or keeping talented ballplayers who happened to start their careers at Wrigley Field.

Greg Maddux and Bruce Sutter are likely the quintessential Chicago Cubs of the Tribune era. The Hall of Fame pitchers showed their stuff and made it clear how good they would turn out to be while in Chicago, but Atlanta and St. Louis got to see them at their peak.

But enough of the Tribune, whom I’m assuming many off the team’s fans would prefer to forget ever had a hand in management of the ball club.

THAT IS, ASSUMING the deal goes through.

My bottom line is that I will believe the Chicago Cubs have a new owner when I hear that the league owners by an overwhelming majority have given their approval to a sale – which only took nearly three seasons to complete.

In the end, a period in the ball club’s history that should be remembered for a string of winning seasons and division titles likely will go down in memory as the time when nobody had a clue who was going to get the Chicago Cubs.

And now that we know the Ricketts family is a part of the baseball fraternity, we can envision the new owner receiving a ritual paddling as his initiation to the club.

OF COURSE, HAVING to endure seasons without a championship will be worse than all the possible whacks he could receive.

Because, after all, these are the Chicago Cubs, the National League’s answer to the St. Louis Browns.


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