Joe Ricketts

An update on Joe Ricketts pursuit of public funding for the Cubs

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UPDATE:   Commenter johnvmoore alerts me to a report that the Ricketts have withdrawn their request to the Illinois legislature for the $200 million in Wrigley updates.  It’s not official or anything, but that’s the buzz.

Also, he points me to this comment from the Huffington Post, in which Brian Baker of Taxpayers Against Earmarks says that federal spending and state spending are two different things, and that his group only cares about the federal stuff.  I’m assuming that this won’t make any laid-off state workers or schoolchildren with inadequately funded schools in Illinois feel any better about Mr. Ricketts’ request in the event it is not withdrawn, but that’s his distinction and he’s sticking to it.  I am also assuming that this Brian Baker is the same guy who emailed me this morning (see below).  Surprised he couldn’t have given me a comment like that this morning. I guess, though, if he had the opportunity to pass off an uncomfortable question onto his counterpart with the Cubs, he was more than willing to do so. Still no word from her.

4:00 P.M.: So, after I wrote that stuff about how the Ricketts Family appears to only hate government spending when it doesn’t directly benefit them, I sent an email to to Joe Ricketts’ anti-earmark group, Taxpayers Against Earmarks, asking for comment. My specific inquiry was this: whether Taxpayers Against Earmarks believes that it is inconsistent for its founder —  who is campaigning against wasteful government spending — to be seeking more than a quarter of a billion dollars of public money for the construction and/or improvement of facilities for the for-profit enterprise that he owns, the Chicago Cubs.

A couple of hours later I received a pleasant email from a man named Brian, who told me that I should contact the spokesman for the Ricketts’ family who handles inquiries related to the Chicago Cubs. While I think this relates to Taxpayers Against Earmarks too, I work the sports beat, so I let it pass, thanked him and called the number he provided me.

The person at the Ricketts’ PR group gave me a second number for a specific spokesperson. I called her, but got voice mail. I left a message saying that I am seeking comment from the Ricketts family as to whether they believe it is inconsistent to campaign against wasteful government spending while asking for public monies to pay for the improvements to Wrigley Field and the construction of the Cubs’ new spring training complex in Mesa, Arizona. As a followup I asked, in the event they do not believe that this is inconsistent, why such is the case.

It’s been about four hours now, and I haven’t heard word back.  I’ll let you know if that changes.  And if it does not change, I will continue to ask until someone says something, even if it’s to tell me to buzz off.

Sorry if this sort of thing bothers you. I know it doesn’t deal with bats and balls, but I find government spending on baseball facilities to be a pretty fascinating topic, and I think it deserves more scrutiny than it gets.  If I’m simply off base here, and there is a better explanation than I’ve heard so far as to why the Cubs should have their business facilities underwritten by tax dollars, I want to hear it.  If there is no good explanation for it I think that should be illuminated as well.  And that’s especially the case when the recipients of the underwriting are such hawks when it comes to the expenditure of public dollars when it benefits those other than the Chicago Cubs.

Angels sign Kole Calhoun to three-year, $26 million extension

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Kole Calhoun #56 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim runs to first base during a game against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 26, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun had three more years of arbitration eligibility left, but he and the Angels decided to settle that future business at once on Wednesday, agreeing to a three-year extension worth $26 million, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. The contract also includes a $14 million club option for the 2020 season.

Calhoun, 29, has been a dependable right fielder for the Angels over the last three seasons, batting an aggregate .266/.327/.436 with 61 home runs and 216 RBI in 1,895 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, Calhoun has been the ninth-most valuable right fielder in baseball since the start of the 2014 season with 11.4 Wins Above Replacement. He ranks slightly behind Giancarlo Stanton (11.9) and just ahead of J.D. Martinez (10.9).

The Angels only have a handful of players signed beyond the 2017 season — just Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Andrelton Simmons, and Calhoun. The club has options on Ricky Nolasco and Huston Street, while many others will be eligible for arbitration.

Bryce Harper lobbies for Matt Wieters and Greg Holland

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals reacts after hitting a single in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game five of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Nothing is happening as the baseball world waits four more hours for the Hall of Fame announcement. Question: why do it at 6pm? For MLB Network ratings? Let’s be real, there are “Golden Girls” reruns on third-tier basic cable that are gonna draw a bigger audience. Why not announce it now so people can get on with their lives? Oh well.

As we wait, let’s take a look in at Twitter, where Jim Bowden of ESPN passes along the rumor that the Washington Nationals are still interested in signing Matt Wieters and Greg Holland:

Great to know that the Nats’ baseball operations budget is dictated by its capital expenditures. Maybe they shoulda been smart like the Braves and suckered — er, I mean negotiated the local government to pay more for it? GO BRAVES!

Anyway, Bryce Harper had a response to that:

I take that to mean that he’d take the money used to construct the team store and give to Wieters and Holland. I haven’t seen the budget breakdown for the new spring training facility, but that would probably mean a major pay cut for Wieters and Holland. And where would we buy our “Make Baseball Great Again” caps? Think ahead, Bryce. Play the long game here.