The Cubs on WGN: How much is that worth?


It’s a bizarre little economic triangle the Cubs are in right now, no? You’ve got Sam Zell, the owner of the Cubs and the Tribune Company; the latter filed for bankruptcy protection in December while the former was excluded in hopes the billion-dollar sale would not be compromised. Apparently when you file for bankruptcy protection, it helps not to have too many easily liquidated assets sitting around.

Next you’ve got the Ricketts family, who are trying to buy the Cubs for $900 million—although they’d like to see that price go down.
And then you’ve got a somewhat silent third party looking on: the bankruptcy court, which has its eye on every move Zell and the Trib make. Don’t forget about them, especially as the closing of the Cubs sale gets complicated by one little issue that complicates not only the sale of the team but also the future worth of the Trib as it reorganizes under Chapter 11: the broadcasts.
Up until now, the Trib has owned the Cubs, so who cares how much the broadcasting TV and radio contracts with Trib-owned WGN are worth? The other 29 teams in MLB, that’s who. 
For those of you who have never sat next to a Steinbrenner at a party, there’s this little agreement the owners of MLB teams have called revenue sharing. The more money the big-market, big-revenue teams make, the more they have to share with the little guys (somewhere Joe the Plumber is blowing a gasket). So here’s where the money starts to get a little funny.
Obviously advertising is the biggest revenue stream for almost any media company. In the case of the Cubs, any advertising revenue credited to the team gets shared; any money credited to the Tribune Company proper is untouchable. So if you own the Trib, it would be in your best and greediest interests to put a cap on the amount of revenue that gets credited to the team.
So it should have come as no surprise in 2001 when, lo and behold, it was revealed that the White Sox ($30 million) actually make about $7 million more per year in local ad revenue than the Cubs ($23 mill). The Cubs contract (with themselves, essentially) is structured heavily in favor of the Tribune. The team and the company split actual ad dollars 50/50, but things like sales fees, commissions, and back-end client agreements divert a huge amount of revenue away from the team.
That approach was great when the Cubs wanted to avoid sharing their money with other teams. But when the Ricketts get involved, they’ll want to stop sharing money with the Trib. A deal that limits their ad revenue (and their ability to shop broadcasts to other, non-bankrupt entities later) severely decreases the value of those contracts and the team on the whole.
Meanwhile, the bankruptcy court will be very interested to see A) how much earning power the Trib will have after the sale goes through, and B) how much value the company’s current assets are really retain. It seems like the Trib wants to hold on to one of their surest money makers, hide its real value from the courts, and inflate the value those interests represent to the Cubs. 
So is anyone really surprised this is a sticking point? The other main interested party is the fans, and I think we’d all like to see the new owners keep as much cash as they can. Yeah?

May 29, 2009 question – Asleep at the Trivia wheel

Zzzzz
And not the big Venezuelan kind that beats up Gatorade
The sleep thing last night? Not so much. So the shoe is on the other foot. And you’re the other foot. And the shoe is . . . well, only vaguely defined. Today, you’re gonna annoy bore force to scroll through the ramblings or just plain skip the question altogether entertain me.

Today’s Question
Law
What is racketeering? The answer that is most entertaining (and more or less correct) wins.

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
When in Rome, Zeus is Jupiter. Here’s who knew:

Heather M (the M stands for Mars; More Candy Bars)
Killian
Elena
Beav
Nancy K (the K stands for Kit Kats On Pluto . . . Try Telling Those Chocolate-Covered Crispy Wafers It Ain’t A Planet)

I’m overwhelmed by your intellect (although, on one hour of sleep, pretty much everything’s overwhelming, so don’t get all swept away or anything). Congrats.

May 28, 2009 question – It’s Okay. Let Out the Anger.


Mt. Zambrano
And the Cubs’ Mt. Rushmore of Volcanic Personality
(also appears here)

All of you who had “Jake Fox’s Bat Cooling Off” in yesterday’s pool lost miserably. No, Lou didn’t have one of his sweet explosions, but big Z picked up the slack. Pretty much the whole world has now overreacted to Carlos Zambrano’s overreaction to the disputed out call in Wednesday’s victory over the Pirates (it’s just a big globe full of hypocrites, no?).

And now it’s time to reflect on the simmering stew of tempers now residing in Wrigleyville and just how tasty it really is. If you filter through the extreme snobbery of moderation sermons being preached all across the Chicago and sporting airwaves this morning, you might actually notice that everything about yesterday’s Mt. Zambrano eruption is hilarious.

There was Lou, unable to suppress the giggles during his post-game press conference.

There was Milton, also chuckling, and approving of the impressive nature of the explosion, adding, “It was on a Bradley level.”

And of course, there was Carlos himself, pointing, gesticulating, ump tossing, incidental bumping, ball hurling, Gatorade bashing, and pitching-coach endangering. Yes, he’ll be suspended. So what? The fresher he’ll be in September and October. His tirade didn’t hurt the Cubs. It helped humanity.

Maybe I should be sorry for enjoying a fit of childish rage, but I’m not at all. I love the fact that the Cubs now have three of the most volatile characters in baseball on their squad, ready to combust at any moment.

Cub baseball just became fun to watch again.

Today’s Question
Greek/Roman Mythology
Who is Zeus’s counterpart in Roman mythology?

Tuesday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Technically, the easternmost province in Canada is Newfoundland and Labrador, but we had no Lab lovers. So I’ll give credit to the Newfoundland-only crowd:

Steve J (the J stands for Just A Newfy)
Karen H (the H stands for Halifactually Correct)
Heidi

Good job, eh?

And the Ires Have It

All of you who had “Jake Fox’s Bat Cooling Off” in yesterday’s pool lost miserably. No, Lou didn’t have one of his sweet explosions, but big Z picked up the slack. Pretty much the whole world has now overreacted to Carlos Zambrano’s overreaction to the disputed out call in Wednesday’s victory over the Pirates (it’s just a big globe full of hypocrites, no?).

And now it’s time to reflect on the simmering stew of tempers now residing in Wrigleyville and just how tasty it really is. If you filter through the extreme snobbery of moderation sermons being preached all across the Chicago and sporting airwaves this morning, you might actually notice that everything about yesterday’s Mt. Zambrano eruption is hilarious.
There was Lou, unable to suppress the giggles during his post-game press conference.
There was Milton, also chuckling, and approving of the impressive nature of the explosion, adding, “It was on a Bradley level.”
And of course, there was Carlos himself, pointing, gesticulating, ump tossing, incidental bumping, ball hurling, Gatorade bashing, and pitching-coach endangering. Yes, he’ll be suspended. So what? The fresher he’ll be in September and October. His tirade didn’t hurt the Cubs. It helped humanity.
Maybe I should be sorry for enjoying a fit of childish rage, but I’m not at all. I love the fact that the Cubs now have three of the most volatile characters in baseball on their squad, ready to combust at any moment.
Cub baseball just became fun to watch again.

Jake Fox’s Bat vs. Sweet Lou’s Temper

The Chicago Cubs are reportedly recalling Jake Fox and his uber-bat from AAA, where he’s hitting somewhere in the neighborhood of infinity with a google homers and 100% of his team’s RBI’s. (They also brought up SS Andres Blanco and LHP Jason Waddell.)

With this move, Cub fans are rewarded with three big items off their wish list while shattering one fairy tale:
  • Jake Fox has a chance to prove he’s not just a AAA legend.
  • Aaron Miles will take a break from sullying the Cub lineup card, as he’s being placed on the 15-day DL with a bad swing and a partially strained statistical projection.
  • Neal Cotts is being sent down to the minors where he is rumored to be trade bait for a Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast and a Bob Walk rookie card.
  • Bobby Scales, the exciting spark plug and fan favorite substitute teacher, has been sent down to AAA as well. It’s sad to see him go, but his recent bout with the flu probably saddled him with more sick days than he could afford.
Seeing Miles and Cotts out of action will cause much jubilant relief among Cubbie faithful, but it’s the Jake Fox call-up that really has fans buzzing, especially given their recent offensive woes. But all of Fox’s minor-league exploits amount to little more than Jack Squat—he has to show his stuff on the major-league level. And it seems slightly doubtful that he’ll see everyday playing time unless he shows he can play 3B.
Remember those stories of how SF Giants 3B Matt Williams used to practice fielding grounders with a ping pong paddle instead of a glove? The word on Jake Fox is that he looks like he’s doing that, only not as successfully. We’ll see how fast he cools off.
And speaking of cooling off, Cubs manager Lou Piniella is staying surprisingly cool during this offensive economic downturn, and it’s sending some Cub fans’ frustration over the boiling point. Lou says blowing up with a hell-fire hissy fit doesn’t really work in firing up a team (Lord knows, he’s done the research). He says now is the time for him to be calm and reassuring, but many fans are still begging for a classic Lou tirade. 
So here’s the big question I’m hoping you can answer. Which will happen first: Jake Fox’s bat cooling off like an iceberg, or Lou Piniella’s temper erupting like a volcano?

Reed Johnson Fills in for De-Ro, Sparks Bradley

The Cubs didn’t just trade away their most beloved utility man and clubhouse leader when they dealt Mark DeRosa to the Tribe; they gave away their resident blogger as well. And while Reed Johnson is strictly an outfielder, he’s taken over those last two spots for the Cubs quite nicely.

Reed Johnson’s MLBlog isn’t heralded as a literary masterpiece. It’s substance over style. Function over form. Short over sweet. It’s less indicative of his wildly growing facial hair, more so of the razor that subdues it into control. But in his latest blog entry, Reed Johnson plainly states how he straightened out Milton Bradley’s attitude.
To Reed’s credit, he seems to have discussed this publicly for the sole purpose of addressing reports that have already surfaced. Bradley himself referenced the discussion in interviews, so it’s not like Reed is touting his newfound position on the attitude police squad. He simply states how he told Milton Bradley, who was showing signs of discouragement and disgust during his at-bats, “You’re better than that.”
Kudos to Reed for having the guts to approach a strong personality like Bradley. And similar props go to Milton for listening to him, breaking out of his baseball-hating funk, and handling it like the great teammate we heard so much about in the offseason.
Most of all, a big round of applause to the Cubs, the rain, and a climatically shortened, bullpen-free W to wash away the stench of an 8-game losing streak.

Bradley Lashes Out at Baseballs

Just days after accusing umpires of retaliating against him for imperceptible umpire bumping, Milton Bradley called attention to yet another conspiracy against his oft misunderstood self: the baseballs are out to get him. 

Bradley fouled a pitch off of the bottom of his foot in Monday’s 10-8 loss to Pittsburgh, and he later told reporters he expects more of the same.
“It was definitely intentional. Ever since I crushed that homer off Peavy, I’ve noticed a lot of foul balls trying to get a piece of me,” Bradley told reporters, his right foot wrapped heavily in ice. “And that fly ball that got away from me when I dove for it in the 7th? I’m pretty sure it laughed at me.”
The ball in question, that Bradley swears “intentionally hopped out” of his glove, allowed the first of three Pittsburgh runs to score in the 7th as Neal Cotts continued to pitch, something that seriously must be stopped if the Cubs are to win. Bradley just wishes the baseballs would stop hating on him.
“It’s definitely one of those things where they’re like, ‘Oh, you hit my friend? Then I’m gonna hit you, see how you like it.’ Well, I don’t like it,” Bradley snapped before shrugging and adding, “But what are you gonna tell ’em? They’re baseballs. Whatever.”
The much maligned right fielder, acquired by the Cubs as a free agent for a reported $30 million over the next three seasons, may use his baseball vendetta to actually earn his salary; he homered in his very next at-bat. But the baseballs don’t understand his rush to judgment.
MLB baseballs’ director of public relations Bobby Spalding called Bradley’s theory “ridiculous.” 
“If there’s anybody we don’t have a grudge against, it’s Milton Bradley,” Mr. Spalding posted on the organization’s blog, which speaks out in defense of battered and mishandled balls across the league. “He’s treated us with nothing but the utmost tenderness and caution for most of the year. Maybe two, three of our members at most have been hit hard by Milton. If anything, he’s our favorite hitter; when he’s batting, we know we can breathe easy.”
Meanwhile, Cub fans across the world are desperately hoping the issue doesn’t get resolved and that Bradley has finally put an end to his fair and ethical treatment of baseballs.

May 26, 2009 question – Forgetial Day

Memorial Day to Forget
For the Cubs anyway
Maybe the true meaning of Memorial Day has nothing to do with baseball, but they’re both very American institutions, so it’s hard to separate my feelings, especially when the two intersect. So regardless of how enjoyable most of the day was, I just can’t set aside my disdain for the way the day ended: with miserable Cubs baseball.

The big problems had nothing to do with the play on the field and the eight-game losing streak the Cubbies plopped upon the Wrigley grass. The real shocks were A) the fact that on Memorial Day, the Cubs played at night, presumably to keep their national broadcast from interfering with the evil MLB network’s 2 day-game telecasts; B) the Cubs wearing . . . prepare to gasp . . . red hats.

I know, right? The Reds wear red hats. The Cardinals wear red hats. Sophia Loren has been known to wear a giant red hat, but that doesn’ t excuse everybody in baseball being forced to don the crimson caps of doom.

The forces of good must unite to ensure this never happens again.

Today’s Question
Geography
What is the easternmost province in Canada?

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Chowder comes from the French chaudière, a kettle or pot . . . B. Even though they knew, these people are far from being chowder heads: Steve J (the J stands for Jambalaya), Steve T (the T stands for Tomato Basil), Micaela, and Elena. Y’all are souper duper geniuses.

Spelling Bee: Numb What?

Yesterday Heather, Addison, and I were playing Cubs Monopoly and flipping between a repeat of last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee and Empire Strikes Back . . . pretty awesome, all the way around. But what kept us coming back to this year-old spell-off was the adorable and unintentionally hilarious eventual winner, Sameer Mishra.

As you’ll see in this clip, he got a word that may have sounded a tad familiar, but not from any of his studying. As the crowd laughter indicates, he wasn’t the only one who misheard the judge. It was, as far as I can remember from my extensive spelling bee viewing, the funniest moment in spelling bee history. Enjoy.
Priceless, no? My favorite was his commentary after the confusion was over: “That’s a relief.”
Yes, indeed, Sameer. A comic one.