The short-term greed of Chicago Cubs, MLB owners

Mar 29, 2021; Mesa, Arizona, USA; A general view of game action between the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning of a spring training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2021; Mesa, Arizona, USA; A general view of game action between the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning of a spring training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

As we head into the final week of February, dozens of MLB All-Stars are currently unemployed. Spring training trucks sit idle in their respective Arizona/Florida cities and the only competitive baseball this month is happening at the negotiating tables between MLB and the players’ union.

Millions of Americans and Chicago Cubs fans will have to wait a bit longer to hear that crisp pop of a glove and the piercing crack of a bat that inevitably stirs up feelings of warm weather, cold beer and hot days in the Wrigley Field bleachers.

As of Wednesday, the league and union were still worlds apart on the most important issues surrounding the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Those issues, being referred to as the “core economic issues,” will shape the finances surrounding baseball for years to come.

They’re pivotal issues that will define many years of payrolls and paychecks but how they’re resolved doesn’t just affect the league itself. It also will affect the millions of fans waiting for baseball to return.

The Chicago Cubs, MLB owners need to get this lockout figured out quickly.

At the surface, Major League Baseball is thriving. The league posted a record-setting $10.7 billion in revenue in 2019 despite payrolls continuing to decrease. Media deals, increased ticket prices, and numerous other factors help the league to draw in tens of billions of dollars, and the faucet remains a steady flow. At least for now.

Looking beyond the dollar amounts, the game of baseball is struggling. America’s youth is becoming increasingly disinterested in the game. The owners and commissioner seem to have no care in the world about ensuring that future generations remain passionate about America’s Pastime.

In cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, many households don’t even have access to their local team because of blackout restrictions or major TV carriers refusing to pick up the networks that the games are on.

Ticket prices continue to soar, even among teams that are bad regularly. The average American family can afford to attend a baseball game less than ever. In 2021, the average price for a family of four to attend an MLB game was $253.

The number of black kids around the country playing baseball continues to remain low or even decline and the popularity of other sports in the US continues to increase across many demographics.

Then there sits baseball, idling its tires like the Cubs spring training truck stuck in the Colorado snow on the way to Mesa, AZ instead of doing what it can to help grow the game.

Let’s not forget that all of this happened before the lockout began. The league cannot afford another lockout that would turn fans away. MLB was nearly destroyed by the lockout of 1994, only to be saved a few years later thanks largely to the steroid era and the 1998 Home Run Chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

It’s understandable that owners can’t just shell out everything that the players demand. After all, they do need to protect the game from devastating instances like the ongoing pandemic and any other disasters that could potentially harm their finances.

Despite a global pandemic and an entire season without fans, the net worth of MLB owners rose by $8 billion since 2010. Per MLB Trade Rumors, the combined net worth of all 30 owners is about $106.5 billion. Yes. $106.5 billion between 30 entities.

Just for fun here, let’s say that every single player on all 30 teams made $30 million a year. That comes to $36 billion. It isn’t even a third of the combined net worth of the owners. And that doesn’t account for any investors or minority owners of each team, only the principal owners.

Now again, this is just numbers play to show the disproportion between owner net worth and player income to prove that the owners can afford to budge a little in their proposals to the union.

At the end of the day, owning a team is a long-term investment. It’s important to consider ways to increase profit for both the league and for themselves.

By alienating fans and preventing future generations from being able to, or even wanting to watch the game, the owners are being rather short-sighted in assuming that they can rake in the profits now and still be thriving 30 years from now.

Eventually, the media money and advertising deals will run out as Americans continue to turn away from the game. It’s critical that the owners consider that while negotiating their next CBA.

It may not be worth pinching pennies now if it ultimately leads to a decline in baseball and fan interest. And right now, the interest on that 30-year investment is looking rather worrisome.

Related Story. Moves for the Cubs to consider after the lockout. light