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Catching up (with and on) the Ricketts

By Chris Birge

So, here are some basic facts about the ownership change and the Ricketts family. First of all, there are six of them in total, so it would seem like the transfer of ownership, when it happens again, will probably be more like what the Yankees are going through than the Dodgers fiasco. That's something any fan of the Cubs should be happy to hear. The purchase price was estimated to be $900 million, but that also included Wrigley Field and other assets. According to ESPN.com, the Cubs as a team have an estimated value of $726 million. That value is the fifth highest in Major League Baseball, but it pales in comparison to the Yankees, who are worth an estimated $1.6 billion!

Tom Ricketts received an MBA from the University of Chicago in 1993, and also did his undergraduate work there. He has publicly admitted to being a Cubs fan during his time there. This begs the question of whether fans should want a fellow fan in charge of their team. The initial reaction is to say yes, and that may be the final answer, but it's more complicated than it may appear. Observation at close proximity will tell you that fans, even intelligent ones, can become emotionally involved in the game. It's possible this to make a move such as rereleasing, a longtime veteran difficult to make. On the other hand, it is inarguable that what is wanted by any fan of a team is an owner who will invest the necessary capital into improving that team. It would seem that the Cubs have that.

Here is the problem, the Cubs probably have what it takes to win a title once or twice in the next decade. However, there are some very real reasons why they cannot hope to do what the Yankees are doing. Consider the fact that the Yankees were able to develop their own network. If the Yankees had already had a national fan base the way the Cubs do, it will be very difficult for them to start such a network. Starting such an animal would require removing all games from WGN nationally. This action would cause a backlash among fans that, there can be little doubt, would hurt the bottom line. It takes a good team to take advantage of the opportunity the Yankees had. If they were not winning the championships they were at the time, they probably could not have done what they did from a media standpoint. There would appear, however, to be no set of circumstances under which the Cubs could do the same thing without struggling for at least a little while.

Wrigley Field itself is also part of the problem. While it is being expanded, its neighborhood location does put some limits on what can be done. The construction of a new stadium would have much the same problem as a new television network would, only the backlash would probably include local politicians in Chicago as well as fans.

So, welcome to Wrigley, Ricketts family, but you better have your own business plan, because you have your own kind of team!

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