Friday, January 23, 2009

Is Private Ownership Good For The Cubs?

In the last 24 hours news has come out that the Tribune Company accepted the bid of the Ricketts family. This sale could have far-reaching consequences for the Cubs, but what seems most interesting is the differences between a public owner, like the Tribune, and a private owner, like Ricketts.

In Chicago, we have had mostly private owners except the Tribune and the Cubs. Reinsdorf and his ownership group with the White Sox and Bulls has had mixed results. There seems to be some kind of commitment to putting a winning product on the field/court there, though clearly old Jerry can be a stingy bastard at times.

The Halas/McCaskey family has owned the Bears since the beginning of time. They are a good example of what can happen when a family owns a team. Obviously Papa Bear Halas was committed to winning, but since Virginia McCaskey took over, it has been unclear what their goal is. Obviously profits are a major driving force, since it is a business. But was she really hiring the best personnel to make decisions regarding players and coaches? We all remember the Mike McCaskey fiasco, when she "hired" her son to run the team and he was just terrible. On the other hand there have been periods of prosperity under Virginia (high school class of 1938 by the way, I looked it up, she's an old lady).

The Tribune corporation on the other hand, was in it purely for profit. It was clear from the crummy teams they put on the field the last 20 years or so. In recent years things have changed. They hired competent individuals to run the teams operations (Hendry, MacPhail, McDonough, etc.). As a business, they had a vested interest in hiring the best people for the job, not just their family members.

So what does the future hold under the Ricketts regime? There is no way to tell, but we can only hope that they continue to hire competent people and spend money to put a good team on the field. Word is that massive renovations must be done to Wrigley Field. Also there is also the possibility that there will be a change in personnel, as happens when a new regime takes over. But if I hear anything about Ricketts' long lost cousin Joey taking Hendry's job, I will be the first one outside the Cubs offices with a torch and pitchfork.

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