Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts talked with Business Week recently in a wide ranging interview, which covered everything from payroll to sponsorships. The headline is that Ricketts plans on lowering payroll next season, but there were a few other things he touched on that I found equally notable.
Might as well start with the payroll though, which Ricketts said will probably go down.
While a final decision hasn’t been made for spending in 2011, “my gut tells me it’ll be off some,” said Ricketts
This may upset some Cubs’ fans, but personally, I’m not that bothered by it. The team really isn’t that close to winning, and I think Ricketts understands that (deep inside). This rules out big ticket free agents, and probably takes Adam Dunn off the board as well. I’m sure Jim Hendry isn’t wild about that, because it will force him to get awfully creative in his three or four moves, but it is the best move going forward.
My one concern is that the payroll decrease might be coupled with another increase in ticket prices. Either event on its own creates a little ill will with fans, but combined they could lead to a lot of people being really angry. Others have correctly pointed out that raising ticket prices makes a ton of financial sense, while the risk is relatively low. That’s all fine, but lowering payroll and raising ticket prices after a 90 loss season seems a bit wrong to me.
Moving forward to the things that I care more about. I thought one of the first thing Ricketts was going to do was sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field. It is such a simple, painless, and quick way to make some money. Would people be that upset at attending Pepsi Stadium at Wrigley Field? Apparently though, that is not an option.
“I don’t think it’s really a practical option for us to rename Wrigley Field,” Ricketts said. “We have no intention of doing that.”
So much for getting every penny possible out of the park. Given Wrigley Field’s limited ability to generate extra revenue, I’m really disappointed that Ricketts isn’t taking advantage of naming rights. Perhaps down the line he will change his mind.
Also, for those of us who wouldn’t mind seeing a brand new park in the future, forget about it. Tom says he is committed to Wrigley long-term, something he has said in the past, and also brought up the Red Sox model again.
Finally, it is good to know that the team still pulled down a profit this season, even though the team hasn’t played well.
The Cubs met Ricketts’s financial expectations in his first year of ownership, he said, declining to disclose specific revenue numbers.
“The Cubs are a positive cash flow sports team,” he said. “If we’d had a better season on the field, we probably would have done a little better on the business side.”
Excellent news, though I don’t think many people were worried about the Cubs ability to turn a profit even in a down year. When Deadspin released those financial documents a few weeks ago, I was hoping the Cubs would be one of the teams, so we could see just how much they really do make, but I have to imagine they are among the top teams in overall profit.
Tom Ricketts might run this team like too much of a fan for my taste, and he certainly hasn’t gone as advertising crazy as I thought he would, but at least the team is still making money. Now, I’ll sit back and see what happens when an owner lowers payroll after a losing season in which he made a profit, and then bumps up ticket prices. Should go over real well.