Friday, November 30, 2007

Ticket increase a reality

As Chuck explained over at Ivy Chat earlier this month the Cubs have every right to increase their tickets prices. When a team plays a season to 98% capacity, it's just basic supply and demand that ticket prices will go up. Combine all of that with the fact that the Cubs won the NL Central and they plan on increasing payroll again for 2008 and this thing was a slam dunk. So the letter went out today from Frank Maloney.

The Tribune's very own Paul Sullivan over at their Hardball blog broke down the increase that you see below in a spreadsheet:

another interesting note is how the prime dates have increased, more from Sullivan:

The Cubs will have 50 prime dates in 2008, 25 regular dates and six value dates. That's up from 44 prime dates in 2006 and 40 in '05. The number of value dates have remained the same since '06.

I've had a share in a season ticket plan since 1998. As much as I'd like to bitch and moan about this increase, it really doesn't matter. The Cubs have a waiting list of fans for season tickets. They won't lose any season ticket holders because of this increase. Come February they will break their own marks for single game ticket sales when they go on sale. Sadly it looks to me like the real question is was the ticket increase large enough?

More power to them.

UPDATE: Below is a copy of the letter sent to season ticket holders by ticket czar Frank Maloney. To view it click here (and use your magnifying glass tool).

WF letter

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Offensive Offense

Poor plate discipline and lack of power have short circuited the Cubs offense repeatedly in the recent past, and all the Matsui's and Fukudome's in the world aren't going to change that significantly.

With all of baseball awash in greenbacks and more importantly, the Cubs purported commitment to win now, Hendry should deal from what little roster strength the club has, pitching, and explore a trade for Miguel Tejada and Adam Dunn.

Slide Soriano to RF, pray Pie can cover foul line to foul line and grow the infield grass 2 feet thick if you have to, but who else can we secure to upgrade the corner outfield and SS positions and not trade away more in the process.

I know most all believe Carl Crawford would look awfully good in the blue pinstripes, but do the Cubs have or would they be willing to part with what it might take to get him?

Baltimore wants to rebuild and is anxious to move Tejada, and Dunn is going to cost the Reds $13 million and offer him a full no trade clause if they pick up his '08 option.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kid K to return

Well, he's far from a kid these days, but Kerry Wood one way or another will go down in Cubs lore. The one time ace of the starting staff, who burst onto the scene in 1998, will return to the Cubs in 2008. This time Kerry will be in the mix, along with Bobby Howry and Carlos Marmol to close games for the defending NL Central Division Champs.

Today the Texas native signed a 1 year, $4.2 million incentive filled deal to pitch for the Cubs in 2008. According to Jim Hendry, Wood had the opportunity to go elsewhere for more years and more money. In the end it's safe to say Wood gave the Cubs a "home town discount". Here is what Kerry said about the deal:

"It's flattering, and it shows the hard work paid off," Wood said of the bids, "but Chicago's my home, and Chicago's been great to me, and obviously there's no better place to play than Chicago, especially if you're winning, and that's been the plan."

In recent days it began to seem as if Woody would go elsewhere. Paul Sullivan wrote this on November 20th:

The longer Kerry Wood remains on the free-agent market, the less likely it appears he will return to the Cubs.

Several teams have courted Wood, including Boston, which wants him to be the primary right-handed setup man for closer Jonathan Papelbon.

General manager Jim Hendry said he has spoken with Wood's agent frequently, but couldn't say whether returning to the Cubs is Wood's priority, as Wood said it was last winter when he became a free agent.

"Kerry is getting a lot of action around the industry," Hendry said. "We're hopeful he'll want to remain a Cub. I believe, probably before we get to the winter meetings [Dec. 3], this will be brought to a conclusion. We certainly would like to have him back, and hopefully it'll work out."

I cannot give you a fair thought on this deal. I am prejudiced, I like Kerry Wood. For all of the guys injury issues he's a guy that I want to see succeed. I want to see him do that in a Cubs uniform. So I guess this guy is right. I know all of the downside possibilities. The Cubs make Wood the closer and he gets injured, etc... Still I think for $4.2 million the Cubs ae making a small investment in a player that can do a good job coming out of the pen. Will it pan out that way? Let's hope so.

And just for fun, here's some video from May 1998:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Developing story: McDonough to resign

In a sign of the uncertainty that surrounds the future of the Chicago National League franchise, ESPN Radio 1000's Bruce Levine is reporting that Cub President John McDonough will resign from his post with the Northsiders to get this...take the same post with your Chicago Black Hawks.

Folks, they are starting to bail from this sinking Tribune ship. McDonough did a great job building the brand that is the Chicago Cubs. His one season as President was a success. I'd chalk this up as a good move for Rocky Wirtz and company.

Now we wait and see what the next move is at Clark and Addison.

UPDATE 9:27--Here's a link to the Tribune story. This is a fun part of the story:

With an uncertain future of new Cubs ownership and the marketing challenge of a lifetime to restore the Hawks to their former place in Chicago sports, the move could be attractive to McDonough. He was in charge of marketing the Cubs before taking over as president, helping the team regularly fill Wrigley Field despite subpar performances on the field.

UPDATE 9:57--Who would have thunk it? There are Hawks message boards! Take a look here at the excitement surrounding this move by Rocky Wirtz. Honestly I stopped following the Hawks and the NHL in the mid-90's so all of this interweb stuff is new to me, there might even be a Hawks blog or two out there. I can't be bothered to look that deep. I am interested to hear what our Hawk fans John Dooley and Newman have to say about this move from the westside perspectice. Think McDonough's gonna revive the life of that little jingle: "Here come the Hawks!"

UPDATE 10:13--Over at ACB, Maddog has the Crane Kenney (above) taking over the Club President role. So the man behind the curtain, is now front and center for a little while anyways.

OFFICIAL RELEASE: Below is the official release from the Cubs regarding the departure of John McDonough.

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs today announced John McDonough resigned as president of the Chicago Cubs to accept a position as president of the Chicago Blackhawks. Crane Kenney, to whom McDonough reported, will continue overseeing Cubs operations until the sale of the team is completed. General Manager Jim Hendry will continue to lead baseball operations.

"The Cubs congratulate John McDonough on his new position," Kenney said. "In his time as team president, John helped the club take an important step toward our ultimate goal - bringing a championship to the greatest fans in baseball."

"John's contributions to the Cubs for the past 24 years have been tremendous," said Dennis FitzSimons, Tribune Company chairman and chief executive officer. "His marketing innovations will be an enduring legacy for Cubs fans. We wish him well in his new role with the Blackhawks."

McDonough received a multi-year contract to head the Blackhawks.

"It has been a privilege to be associated with the Chicago Cubs and to be identified with one of the greatest franchises in all of sports," McDonough said. "Cubs fans truly deserve a World Series Championship and I hope they realize it in 2008."

Kenney has been associated with the Cubs for 14 years, first as legal counsel and for the past five years as the Tribune executive responsible for Cubs operations. "We will not let the ownership transition distract us from our primary goal: to see a championship come to the Chicago Cubs in 2008," Kenney said. "Tribune's commitment through an expanded payroll and additional capital for Wrigley Field evidences the continued focus on taking the next step for Cubs fans.

"Jim Hendry has a well-constructed plan in place and is already working to strengthen our roster for 2008. We also have a new, multi-million dollar playing surface ready to welcome our team on Opening Day."

McDonough joined the Cubs from the Chicago Sting in 1983. He was promoted to vice president of marketing and broadcasting in 1991 and was named a senior vice president in 2004 before assuming the role of club president on October 1, 2006.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Looking back to the 2003 and 1984 Chicago Cub teams and their configuration, a couple of interesting facts really stick out like a sore thumb.

First, both teams had an outstanding rotation but the 1984 team had a dominant closer.

Second, both teams had high OBP men at the top of the order.

Third, both teams had an opportunity to close out their final series with a win instead of a loss by having or at least willing to insert a starter when the original starter faltered.

The lineups of both of these teams sported 1 thru 4 hitters with an OBP over 350, a fact that seems be lost with the most recent Cub lineups.

It's know surprise that teams that work the count have much greater success at scoring runs and this point cannot be overlooked if the Cubs are going to overhaul their lineup.

Securing the on base machine LH bat of Fukudome to patrol RF and signing the ageless Lofton to play CF, would go a long way in addressing this issue.

Now Lofton might not be play CF like he used to but look at his 2007 offensive numbers.
490AB 296BA 367OBP 23 out of 30 SB with 7 HR

If Pie, Marshall, Marquis/Dempster and the infamous player to be named later could be moved to acquire J. Santana, we might be able to live with The Riot at SS hitting 8th.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

it's in the bankers' hands now

i haven't written a damn thing on this blog in a month, and i can't say i'm sorry about it. putting some considerable distance between oneself and one's ballclub is a healthy mental enema which i highly recommend to all baseball fans, and particularly cub fans.

but i wish i could say that i had used the time to repose upon the meadows and convene with the fish and fowl. instead, i've been elbows-deep in the developing disaster of the credit crisis, which seems to take on ever more scandalous and frightening dimensions day by day. i've come to the sullen conclusion that baseball clubs going forward aren't going to matter nearly as much as they perhaps seemed to in the last couple of years to many of us, with fantasy "problems" taking place in some conveniently-remote dugout or playing field replaced by real problems in our homes and workplaces for more of us than anyone would like.

but, as that relates to the chicago cubs:

most readers here understand the outlines of what happened when sam zell took his pile of cash out of the now-stumbling commerical real estate market (at what now appears to have been the top tick -- wise old man, that mr. zell) and claimed tribune company. let me quote myself from july:

when sam zell bought the trib, he did so with a small amount of equity and pile of debt -- a "leveraged buyout". investment banks offered something called a "bridge loan" to zell so he could make the purchase, with the debt later to be collateralized into bonds which are sold down the chain (at a profit) to investors that zell and tribune then have to pay back.

it's very important to note that these deals are conditional on the object being purchased having enough free cash flow to pay the interest and principal on that mountain of debt back to investors. the entire purchase is predicated on the stability of revenues and cash flow.

however, the newspaper business isn't going very well, and tribune's cash flow is rumored to be dropping like a stone.

in an environment where investment banks are becoming wary of bridge loans (for fear that they won't be able to sell the debt on at a profit because investors will demand more interest) and in several cases demanding repricing or killing deals, this is bad news for zell's deal. a nervous market has turned against it, with tribune's initial debt offering already trading underwater.

in the time since, zell's deal has continued to stagnate. it has encountered obstruction from the federal communication commission, which appears to be clearing now with some concessions to divest tribune of television stations in hartford and possibly (yes) chicago.

but the more interesting and salient point is this:

Tribune shares rose 72 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $29.25 yesterday. Holders will get $34 a share if the buyout is completed by Jan. 1, and an additional 8 percent on an annualized basis if it closes later.

skepticism of the deal actually being completed is still sufficient to maintain a 16% discount on tribune stock which will supposedly be bought by tribune at $34 within weeks.

why? in short:

``Bankers are like dogs,'' said Hands, the chief executive officer of London-based Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd., at the industry's SuperInvestor conference in Paris today. ``They hunt in a pack and go into a feeding frenzy. When hit, they whimper, and hide in their baskets. The bankers have been hit very hard, and they're not going to come out of their baskets.''

leveraged buyout bids are failing everywhere you look. all the titans of the lbo business have called off major deals -- cerberus, kkr, blackstone and others have been beset by the inability of the bankers that provide them the leverage necessary to complete their deals. this is because the banks themselves doubt their ability to sell the incurred debt on to investors without taking severe losses.

and the bankers have more to worry about than their bridge loan portfolio. with loss estimates suddenly mounting into the hundreds of billions related to their exposure to the crashing residential mortgage market, they are paying terrible prices to roll over their own debt because of widespread concerns over balance sheet weakness. in an effort to shore up by obtaining capital and reducing leverage, bankers are killing deals as best they can.

will zell's deal be one of them? i can't say, but the equity market is clearly not optimistic -- extremely rarely do traders leave a sure 16% profit on the table.

while some optimists are proclaiming tribune's intention of picking the winning bid for the cubs by the end of the year, it's become clear that no deal will be done this offseason. the glacial pace of the transaction is met by dissembling wonder at the office of bud selig:

But two highly placed MLB sources confirmed Thursday that Commissioner Bud Selig had been unable to keep the process moving at that timetable, ruling out a sale before the end of the year and making one before the Cubs go to training camp next spring highly unlikely.

"I'm afraid that is right," a source said. "I can't say for sure why this is moving at the pace it is, but the pace of it has been frustrating. We had hoped it would pick up some steam, but it hasn't."

but there's no mystery here. one must realize that if the banks kill zell's deal all bets about the cubs are off -- and indeed, the reason the process is being strung out is precisely because zell doesn't own tribune yet and won't until another $4.2bn in debt is taken on by his bankers.

the sale of the cubs is in the hands not of the fcc nor of tribune nor of selig nor of zell at this point. the ball is in the court of citigroup, merrill lynch, jpmorgan chase and bank of america -- zell's bankers. we'll have to wait and see what their decision will be.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Monroe to Minnesota

The Cubs may actually get a low-level prospect out of Craig Monroe! According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (is that the paper that employs Sid Hartman?) Monroe could be dealt by the Cubs for a PTBNL as early as today.

The Cubs were expected to non-tender Monroe so as stated this is 'gravy' for them that they could get anything for Monroe. This could be the Cubs second trade in two days and we still have a few weeks til the winter meetings in Nashville, December 3-6. Keep on trading Jim Dandy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

JJ dealt

Well another ugly tenure at Clark and Addison has ended. Earlier today the Cubs sent the often maligned Jacque Jones to the Detroit Tigers for swing utility player Omar Infante. Jones' struggles in Cubbie blue were memorable. His awful first half in 2007 nearly sent him to the Marlins. Thankfully Bud Selig, Sam Zell, Santa Claus, or some man of mystery nixed that deal. Jones went onto be the Cubs everyday CF in the second half and did a nice job in a role that young Felix Pie was not ready to assume.

Dealing Jones takes $5 million off the payroll and probably gives Crueller Jim a little more urgency in his attempt to sign the great Fukudome to play RF.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Turning Japanese

Much has been made about a LHB to patrol RF in Wrigley next year and a Bobby Abreu type would be optimal.

Here is an interesting breakdown of the recently talked about Kosuke Fukudome .

Go get 'em Jimbo.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dempster to start in 2008

ESPN Radio 1000's Bruce Levine, at the GM meetings in Orlando, has reported that Jim Hendry has informed him that Ryan Dempster will be returning to the Cubs starting rotation. Dempster, who has been the teams closer since 2005 has had a roller coaster ride as Cub closer. That season he was 33 of 35 in save opportunities. In 2006 he was only 24 of 33 and in 2007 Dempster was a big part of the Cubs NL Central title successfully closing out 28 of 31 save opps. He did this in 2007 despite a 4.73 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and a 2-7 record.

This move comes as little surprise. If you remember back in late May when Uncle Lou was trying to recreate this team he even toyed with the idea of moving Dempster into the rotation at that time. Remember this episode of All My Cubs:

Last Friday Uncle Lou promised the media some surprises. This led to speculation as to what the shakeup would be. Followed by a very bizzarre series of events Sunday after the ballgame involving Ryan Dempster and the Cub Manager. Dempster told writers he was excited to move to the rotation. Piniella told reporters he had scrapped that plan. This was followed by Dempster saying he would stay put in the Cub bullpen for now:

"I've got a headline for you," Dempster said. " 'Dempster taken out of rotation after one non-start.' "

Well Lou will get his way. He will have a hammer at the back end of his bullpen in 2008. The candidates look to be Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood (if he's resigned) or who knows. Something tells me this episode is far from over.

Upon further review

At the General Managers meetings this morning in Orlando, FL the MLB GM's began baseball down the path that most of the other professional sports have already gone down. Allowing instant replay to be part of the officiating process. The vote by the GM's was historic, normally these votes are 2-1 against replay, but this time it was 25-5 in favor.

The recommendation, by a 25-5 vote, was limited to boundary calls -- whether potential home runs are fair or foul, whether balls go over fences or hit the top and bounce back, and whether fans interfere with possible homers.

I would say this is pretty much just a sign of the times. All of the new younger GM's in baseball have grown up in an era where replay has been part of the NFL. We are in the technology age. So I guess this is a national progression. Not so fast my friends.

I'm probably 'out of step' on this one, and feel free to tell me if I am. I really think that blown calls and the human element are as much a part of baseball as hot dogs and flat beer in wax cups. The blown call is part of baseball lore. Take the Jeffrey Maier incident back in the 1996 ALCS. Did the umps blow the call? There is no doubt about it (look to the left). But that play is a memorable play in baseball history. I also pretty confident in the MLB umpires. I think they get most of these calls correct. Yeah, occasionally you have a blown call. But that's part of the game. Just like it is when an umpire has a bad day behind the plate.
So it looks like this will take baseball down the merry road toward having replay in the game in the next few years. The next step will be for the owners to vote on it and after that the MLBPA and umpires will have their say. I'm not sure if this will be in place for 2008, but who knows the MLB has started to instigate change at a quicker pace in recent years. It seems like this is the first step in getting replay into the grand ole game.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

No brainers

Yesteday the Cubs announced several moves that wouldn't surprise anyone. Backup outfielder and pinch hitter Daryle Ward will return to the Cubs in 2008. Both Ward and the Cubs exericized mutual options. Ward will earn $1.2 million in 2008. This was my favorite Ward play from 2007.

In other hot stove news the northsiders declined club options on Cliff Floyd and ALLELUJAH Steve Trachsel. So Cub fans, I am happy to reprt "Our short Cub nation nightmare is over".

The northsiders have alos added RHP Adam Harben to their 40 man roster.

So Kerry Wood is the clubs only free agent at this moment. It sounds like the Cubs will try to bring Kerry back for their bullpen. If Kerry wants to commit career suicide and try to start again, it sounds like there will be takers. Hard to believe, but I guess that is the state of starting pitching in MLB today.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hot stove stuff

Wanna know how bad the baseball playoffs were this season? So bad that the Hot Stove League actually got going in the seventh inning of the final WS game when Boras announced that his client would be opting out of his contract with the Yankees. At that point the Red Sox, who were in the process of winning their second WS in four seasons, became the second baseball news item. Strange days indeed. The Red Sox were still a day away from their parade when the Braves and Tigers made the first trade of the offseason, which happened to take an All Star shortstop off the market. Yep, the hot stove is pumping out. Where do the Northsiders fall in all of this? Well they are installing a new field at Wrigley Field. So far on the roster front: nothing but the occassional free agent filing and a bunch of rumors coming out of the offices at Clark and Addison. It's been awhile though, so here we go:

Barry Rozner claims the Cubs payroll will be $115 million. That my friends represents a real nice increase. You can count me among the surprised at hearing this. Unlike Barry, I suspect the ownership change will have an impact. But hey, he's closer to this than I am (and Barry is close to John McDonough). If the 15% payroll increase is true the Cubs have some legit options heading into 2008 to make this team better.

Kerry Wood, Jason Kendall, Cliff Floyd and Steve Trachsel have already filed for free agency. Kendall is as good as gone. According to some reports there is some interest in Woody on the free agent market. Some rumors even have him going back to starting. IMO that would be career suicide for Kerry at this point. Wood has the opportunity to save his career coming out of the bullpen as a setup man or even a closer. I think it's laughable that a team would even consider that. Cliff Floyd wants to return to South Florida to end his career. All the best to whatever team take a flyer on the great Steve Trachsel. LMAO.

Bruce Miles reports the Cubs have interest in Japanese star Kosuke Fukudome. Left handed hitting outfielder and no posting process! What's not to like. Check out the video below of Fukodme in action. (Notice the bat flip and after he rounds the bases the stuffed pig he gets at homeplate--think McDonough can get a sponsor for that at Wrigley Fd.?)

The Cubs may have interest in another Japanese import pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. They tried to get him last season but personal reasons kept him in Japan. Sounds like those reasons have cleared up and Kuroda is heading to the states.

Curt Schilling on his Official Blog has named the Cubs as one of twelve teams that he would consider pitching for next season. Probably some of the most interesting news so far. Paul Sullivan discussed this on the Trib's Hardball blog yesterday. My quick take on this is: how much does Schilling have left? I imagine a move to the NL Central would probably be of benefit to "Red Light Curt". If the Cubs can get Schilling on a short (1 or 2 year) deal filled with incentives, I say give it a whirl.

Most of the rumors heard at this time are just that. Still it will be interesting to see how Hendry addresses the Cubs needs this offseason.