Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts pushed back on the perception that baseball teams are cash cows, telling ESPN on Tuesday that yearly revenues are mostly put right back into the team.
“Here’s something I hope baseball fans understand,” Ricketts told ESPN. “Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, and they take out their expenses, and they give all the money left to their GM to spend.
“The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”
Ricketts acknowledged he couldn’t comment specifically on the labor negotiations between the league and its players as they work toward restarting the season after the coronavirus pandemic. Players want full prorated salaries, whereas owners say they can’t afford the losses based on a season of 82 or more games. Ricketts was asked if teams, worth billions collectively, should simply take out loans or find other ways to pay the costs of playing in 2020, even if it’s without fans.
“The scale of losses across the league is biblical,” Ricketts said. “The timing of the work stoppage, the inability to play was right before the season started. We’re looking at 30 teams with zero revenue. To cover the losses, all teams have gone out and borrowed. There’s no other way to do it in the short run. In the long run, we may be able to sell equity to cover some of our losses but that’s in the long run.
“Who would invest at the moment?”
Ricketts also discussed agent Scott Boras and the email he sent to his clients, singling out the Cubs’ financial situation.
“Throughout this process, they will be able to claim that they never had any profits because those profits went to pay off their loans,” Boras wrote in the email. “However, the end result is that the Ricketts will own improved assets that significantly increases the value of the Cubs – value that is not shared with the players.”
Ricketts didn’t seem fazed by Boras’ claim, pointing at the team’s payroll over the past 4-5 years. The Cubs have been near the top of the league since completing a rebuild in the middle of the last decade.
“We put about $750 million into the ballpark,” he said. “And the dollars spent were to create the best place for players to play and the best place for the fans to watch the game.
“He (Boras) doesn’t have any insight into our balance sheet, and as we have been investing in the ballpark, we’ve been spending more on the field. We’ve been one of the top spenders in the league while we were fixing up Wrigley Field. We don’t take money out of the team. Most owners don’t. We’re investing in the future of the club and the current team on the field.”
As the players and league continue to negotiate, Ricketts said he has hope. But like many around the game, he said he isn’t sure where the answer lies.
“I’m pretty optimistic we’ll get games back on the field,” Ricketts said. “I have full faith and confidence in the commissioner. How we get there is yet to be written, but I’m pretty sure we’ll get there.”
One avenue, which is still a favorite of executives, is to share the risk and rewards with the players. That proposal didn’t even make it to the offer table, leading some to wonder if it was a red herring. Instead, owners proposed a sliding pay scale, which was quickly rejected by the players.
Ricketts said that revenue sharing, ultimately, is “what the other leagues do.”
“They create a sense of partnership with the players because a rising tide lifts all the boats,” he said. “It’s always been considered something the MLBPA doesn’t want to go for because they see it as a salary cap. They’re clear on that. I don’t agree. If it’s done right, it can give incentives for the players and the owners to grow the game. It could be part of the next CBA if people are willing to discuss it.
“I don’t think it was ever intended to be a Trojan horse or try to sneak one in and get people comfortable with something else. In the long run I don’t think this a bad idea. In the short run I don’t think it’s an option anymore.”
Ricketts is adamant about wanting to play this season even though ownership contends playing games means losing more money. It’s one reason why the league originally offered only an 82-game season and might want even fewer games than that. It has led some to wonder if all owners even want to have a season at all.
“There are scenarios where not playing at all can be a better financial option, but we’re not looking at that,” Ricketts said. “We want to play. We want to get back on the field. … I’m not aware of any owners that don’t want to play. We just want to get back on the field in a way that doesn’t make this season financially worse for us.”
The Cubs have a new television network, which still isn’t being carried by the largest cable provider in the Chicago area. Missing an entire season has even bigger implications for them.
The fact that franchise values are extremely high doesn’t answer the question of liquidity for teams. The Cubs employ 600 people with an additional 2700 part time employees. They say 70 percent of their revenues come from the game day experience with fans in the stands. Now they’re hoping to recoup two-thirds of what’s left – if an equitable deal with the players can be struck.
“The main reason it’s at 70 percent is we do so well with attendance,” Ricketts stated. “A lot of clubs have more trouble selling their tickets. A larger percentage of our revenue is just tickets.
“We’re hoping we can get 20 percent of our total revenue this year.”
Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger ready for ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ season
LOS ANGELES — Cody Bellinger is healthy, his mind is right and he’s ready for whatever baseball’s shortened 60-game season brings.
Bellinger is looking to pick up where he left off after a stellar performance for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2019. The reigning National League MVP batted .305 with 47 homers and 115 RBIs for the NL West champions last year.
“Everything is going to be so weird this year. It’s going to be fun,” he said Thursday on a video conference call. “It could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I’m just taking advantage of what we got.”
What the Dodgers have in addition to Bellinger’s offensive power is Mookie Betts, the 2018 American League MVP with Boston. He joins a team that led the NL with 279 homers last year, but lost to Washington in the division series.
Bellinger, who turns 25 on Monday, isn’t putting pressure on himself to repeat last season’s statistics.
“I just want to focus on what I’ve got to do in order to be good. I’m understanding that a little more,” he said. “Just go out and be as consistent as I can, fine-tune the things that make me really good.”
Bellinger was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2017, and then struggled the following year before rebounding in 2019.
“It was tough sledding for Cody for quite some time coming off that rookie campaign, and you start wondering, ‘Was it real?’ You question the confidence, the mechanical piece,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Everything he does now is with conviction and intent. There’s a talent component, but also there’s a process and preparation component that sometimes you have to struggle to understand the value of it.”
Bellinger spent the last few months working out in his home state of Arizona after spring training came to a halt in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. He focused on fine-tuning his swing.
“I just got to work on it in a stress-free environment,” he said. “Just minor things I think about throughout the year. Figuring out why I was so good and remembering the feeling and not getting too caught up on last year. You’re always evolving. I feel really good with where I’m at this year. It could be a blessing in the long run.”
Bellinger and Roberts said hitters’ concerns about the new batter’s eye in the renovated outfield pavilions at Dodger Stadium are being addressed. First baseman Max Muncy hurt his left ring finger after he said he couldn’t see a pitch that hit him earlier in the week.
“It was a little low,” Bellinger said, “and the seats weren’t blocked off, so if there were fans there, the pitcher’s arm would potentially come out of the stands.”
Roberts said the batter’s eye “is still a work in progress” that may involve changing the paint scheme to matte from gloss, among other things.
During the first week of summer camp, Bellinger has gotten used to drinking out of his own cooler, not having teammates on either side of his locker and having everyone hear what the players say on the field in an empty stadium. Coming from Arizona, where masks in public were not always mandatory, he’s had to don one in California, where they are required.
“I don’t think it’s a hassle to wear a mask,” he said. “If your breath stinks, it sucks. But it just means you brush your teeth a little more.”
RHP Tony Gonsolin showed up at camp for the first time Wednesday, appearing on the field in uniform for an evening intrasquad scrimmage. He was one of seven players absent from camp earlier in the day. Roberts said Thursday he could not discuss the reason for Gonsolin missing the first week of camp and the reliever has not yet been made available to media. With LHP David Price choosing not to play this season, Gonsolin might have a shot at the rotation.
2020 MLB season at a glance — Opening Day schedule, previews, picks and more
The 2020 MLB season is nearly here — four months later than originally planned.
While this season will be reduced to 60 games, and there will be no fans in attendance at least initially, because of the shutdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic, teams are in camp preparing for Opening Day on July 23 and 24.
Here’s a look at the Opening Day schedule for every team, plus previews, predictions and more as the long-awaited ballgames approach.
Opening Day schedule
All times ET
Yankees at Nationals, 7 (ESPN)
Giants at Dodgers, 10 (ESPN)
Braves at Mets, 4 (ESPN)
Tigers at Reds, 6:10
Blue Jays at Rays, 6:40
Brewers at Cubs, 7 (ESPN)
Marlins at Phillies, 7:05
Royals at Indians, 7:10
Orioles at Red Sox, 7:30
Rockies at Rangers, 8:05
Twins at White Sox, 8:10
Pirates at Cardinals, 8:15
Mariners at Astros, 9:10
Diamondbacks at Padres, 9:10
Giants at Dodgers, 9:40
Angels at A’s, 10 (ESPN)
Phillies All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto ‘not too worried’ about next contract
PHILADELPHIA — J.T. Realmuto isn’t worried about his contract situation.
The All-Star catcher and the Philadelphia Phillies had preliminary discussions about a long-term deal before the coronavirus pandemic, but talks between the two sides haven’t progressed since baseball returned last week.
Realmuto is eligible for free agency after the season unless the Phillies sign him before he can test the market. He’s expected to seek at least $20 million per season.
Last week, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said the pandemic has changed the landscape of baseball. Lost revenue could affect salaries around the league going forward.
“It definitely concerns me, not necessarily for myself, but for the free-agency class as a whole,” Realmuto said Thursday. “The top guys usually find a way to get their dollars. Teams are going to want them. Maybe it’s not 20 teams in on you — maybe five or 10. A lot of teams will be able to look at this as a time to take advantage and actually go for it instead of backing off, because half the league will try to cut revenue and save money and the others will look at it as an advantage to press forward. It could affect free agency as a whole, but for myself, I’m not too worried.”
Realmuto hit .275 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs and led the league with 43 runners thrown out in his first season in Philadelphia in 2019, earning his second straight All-Star selection. He was acquired from Miami shortly before spring training last year in a deal that sent Philadelphia’s top pitching prospect, Sixto Sanchez, to the Marlins.
Realmuto quickly has become Bryce Harper‘s favorite teammate in Philly. Harper was on base when Realmuto hit a homer in a scrimmage Wednesday. He crossed the plate, looked up in an empty stadium and screamed: “Sign him!”
“I hope he owns the team one day,” Realmuto joked. “I might be able to catch until I’m 60 if he owns the team.”
Realmuto lost his arbitration case in February and received a raise from $6.05 million to $10 million instead of his $12.4 million request. He said he doesn’t harbor any resentment over losing.
“I love this organization,” he said. “They’ve been great to me and my family since I showed up. From top to bottom, they’re good people and they care about baseball. That’s important to me.”
Phillies manager Joe Girardi called Realmuto a “happy-go-lucky” guy who “loves to be on the field,” and he doesn’t expect the contract situation to be a distraction.
“He’s the same person every day, happy to be here, wants to play and help the team win,” Girardi said. “When he came back from his arbitration case, his personality hadn’t changed and he had a smile on his face.”
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