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UPDATE:   Commenter johnvmoore alerts me to a report that the Ricketts have withdrawn their request to the Illinois legislature for the $200 million in Wrigley updates.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 Ricketts’ request in the event it is not withdrawn, but that’s his distinction and he’s sticking to it.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.

Report: Dodgers could pursue three-year deal with Rich Hill

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Rich Hill #44 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs in game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.

Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.

The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.

Yankees in, Red Sox out on Edwin Encarnacion

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler AustinGreg Bird combo in 2017.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.

Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.