The Cubs have been in negotiations with the rooftop owners across Sheffield Avenue for some time. The subject: the Cubs’ massive Wrigley Field renovation in general and the team’s plan to put up a big billboard in right field in particular. A billboard which will — according to the rooftop owners — alter and/or block the view from the rooftops across Sheffield.
Those negotiations have fallen through, however, the rooftop owners have sued the Cubs and it seems like everyone is going to head to court. It’s possible that the rooftop owners could seek injunctive relief to stop the project and, in turn, hold up the Wrigley renovation itself. Into that mix are allegations going back and forth about disparaging remarks about the rooftops owners made by Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and other, older comments from Cubs’ previous owners. All of that background can be read at the Sun-Times.
Of course, the reason the Cubs can’t just put up a sign and tell the rooftop people to go pound sand is that they signed agreements with these folks several years ago in which the team agreed to take 17 percent of the revenues the building owners receive by virtue of letting folks peek in on Cubs games from across the street. In exchange, the Cubs made certain promises to the rooftop owners too, including not doing things like putting up big things to obstruct the view.
Why the Cubs ever agreed to that is a darn good question. I suppose it was a good short term decision — hey, we need a piece of that action! — but it was a decision that limited the team’s rights, and that’s what they’re up against now.
Last November, the U.S. Department of Justice sued AT&T, accusing its subsidiary, DirecTV, of being the ringleader in a plot in which it conspired with Cox Communications, Charter Communications and AT&T cable (then a separate company), to refuse to carry SportsNet LA, the Dodger-owned TV channel in violation of antitrust laws.
Now that lawsuit is over. DOJ has settled with AT&T last night.
The bad news: no part of the settlement obligates DirecTV or any of the other alleged co-conspirators to carry Dodgers games or to even negotiate to that end. There is likewise no fine or truly substantive penalty. It’s basically a “do not do this again!” agreement with some antitrust training requirements for executives and some orders to monitor their communications about these things.
“We are pleased to have resolved this matter to the satisfaction of all parties,” and AT&T spokesman said yesterday, likely in the tone of a guy who is pretty happy to have had a major antitrust suit against him settled so quickly.
When the suit was filed, I anticipated a settlement, as most antitrust suits brought by the DOJ are settled. Such a settlement could’ve featured a cash penalty or, more significantly, a brokered agreement between the parties in question in lieu of a cash settlement that could’ve led to Dodgers games being carried on more channels. After all, more competition is the end game of the Antirust Division.
As it is, however, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a surrender by the DOJ and a victory for the those carriers who coordinated their efforts to not carry the Dodgers.
An open question, unanswered in anyone’s statements yesterday, is whether this settlement is 100% about the merits of the case — keeping in mind that the DOJ tends not file antitrust suits unless they think they can win, instead preferring to negotiate first — or whether it represents a new set of laxer priorities when it comes to antitrust enforcement from the Trump Administration and AG Jeff Sessions.
Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.
The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.
Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.
Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.