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

11 Comments

UPDATE:   Commenter johnvmoore alerts me to a report that the Ricketts have withdrawn their request to the Illinois legislature for the $200 million in Wrigley updates.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 Ricketts’ request in the event it is not withdrawn, but that’s his distinction and he’s sticking to it.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

Yonder Alonso
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The White Sox have reportedly picked up first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Indians, according to Stadium. The return for Alonso is expected to be nothing more flashy than a “fringe prospect,” though the minutiae of the deal is still pending a formal announcement from both teams.

Alonso, 31, inked a two-year deal with the Indians during the 2017 offseason. His first campaign with the club yielded a modest .250/.317/.421 batting line, 23 home runs, .738 OPS and 0.7 fWAR in 574 PA. The real boon for the White Sox may not be a passable veteran bat, however, but something more intangible — like Alonso’s clout with his brother-in-law and highly-coveted free agent slugger, Manny Machado.

While Alonso’s 2018 output represented a significant decline from the career-best numbers he posted in 2017, he’s still a solid contributor at the plate and, more importantly, slated to remain under team control for the next two years with just $8 million owed in 2019 and a $9 million option in 2020. As MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince notes, the $17 million the Indians just erased from their payroll should give them enough room to accommodate the contracts for right-handers Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber — a bonus regardless of what they happen to get in the trade.