Frankie O's Blog: More money!

Frankie O's Blog: More money!

Friday, Sept. 16, 2011
Posted: 10:59 a.m.
By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

More Money!

Its everywhere, isnt it? The thought I mean, not the cash. Money is at the root of everything so why should sports be any different? For fans, even if it doesnt dominate our thoughts, its effects are never far away. I thought about that as I handed over the 23 for parking as I arrived at a Sox game last week. (Yes, I went to a Sox game in September! I didnt quit!) Going to a game is a non-stop cash-suck. Want to know why attendance is down? Do the math. Still, that doesnt diminish the way we follow our teams, it, for some of us, changes the way we have to do so. Thankfully between satellite TV and your computer, you can watch as much of whatever you want to watch.

Its because we drop the cash, that we expect our teams to spend like a Kardashian sister in a shoe store. How can they have cash problems when they have no problem taking all of ours? But, thats another problem with money, it is one thing to have it, its another to know what to do with it. Look around. Do you expect to see any NBA games this year? Did you miss the NHL during their hiatus? If youre not the NFL, youve got to seriously look at your business model. And the first thing I would do is to look at the NFL. Their recent labor negotiations were about how to divvy up the tons of cash they have. But 2 things stand out to me about the NFL:

1.) They have revenue sharing between the teams in the league. Now this doesnt guarantee a completely level playing field, since Dallas and Washington have figured out how to make tons of additional revenue- and what has that done for them lately?- but it means a properly run Green Bay franchise has the ability to have a seat at the big-boy table.

2.) Even though they pay bonus money, they dont have long-term guaranteed contracts, not to say that they dont have dead-money, because its there, but it doesnt seem as oppressive as it is in the NBA or MLB. Pay guys that perform for an appropriate amount of time. Front load the money, so that when a player has exceeded his usefulness: He gone!

Because of this structure, which has many more brilliant layers, the NFL was able to bully its players into a more owner-friendly agreement with their work force, because they still share some of their tons of cash, just not as much now. I think this is important. But not because the owners will make more money, but they kept their core sharing principles together and they tweaked a business model that they thought was unsustainable in the future. Since the math of this is very far over my head, Ill take them at their word. The players must have agreed since even with their high-priced lawyers and economists, they couldnt find a chink in the armor that would have enabled them to keep their old, more favorable, agreement.

All of which brings me back to the thing that dominates my waking hours now: The theories of Moneyball. At its core, it is a simple business reaction to the economic reality facing an under-funded baseball team. With the structure of baseball, it was bound to happen. MLB is a collection of haves and have-nots. Being without will bring about looking at things a different way. Just like in our everyday lives. Of course our baseball passions are not necessarily based on reality, so we dont understand when our teams dont spend when they have all of our cash. Or do they?

The Cubs and Sox right now are great examples of teams that tried to sit at the big-boy table and had their chairs pulled out from underneath them. The talk here is always about being a big-market team and having an appropriate payroll. Fans chafe when they see teams from other cities, that they dont think are as good as theirs, spend more cash on players. The actuality of this is that it only hurts when another team spends it BETTER than you.

MLB history is littered with the stories of under-performing high-payroll teams. Right now, the dominant story is about my Phillies and their trying to buy the NL pennant. I think they are a short-term story of cause and effect. Build a winner and Philly fans will come, lose and they wont, its that simple. But when they come, they bring their wallets! Knowing this, the ownership group has spared no expense to keep the good times rolling and strike while the passion in their fan base is burning white-hot. But their spending, and trading all of their home-grown talent, is going to catch up with them. As a fan, I say, if it brings more titles, why not? Only the Red Sox and Yankees are allowed to win that way? Winning is a cyclical thing and wont last forever. The key is, when given the opportunity: WIN!

Since the White Sox won in 2005 theyve been chasing their tales to do so again. I believed Kenny Williams after they won when he said that they needed to win another to validate them as a big-time organization. Hes pulled out all stops to do so, whether it be the Alex Rios waiver disaster, trading a young stud like Daniel Hudson-in a deal that I still dont understand- or the Jake Peavy trade and the mother of all decisions: the four year mega-millions contract given to Adam Dunn. ALL-IN! The team all but dared the fan base to come and support them. I for one appreciate the candor. If folks dont come out and support them, they are not going to spend for more players. Hows that working out? This is prime example of money not spent wisely, also one of not having enough young ones to come up and complement high-priced, under-performing veterans. This is going to be a crazy off-season for them, but because of some of their large obligations, decisions are going to have to be made on who they are going to have to let go as they try to reduce their debt and try to stay competitive. Goodbye Mark Buehrle?

And speaking of obligations that are dragging a franchise down, we have the Cubs. Im amused at the bar when Cubs fans say a big part of the solution is to eat the contracts of Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano and move on. I like the thought, but there are about 72 million reasons why that wont happen. Zambrano, maybe, but Ill believe it when I dont see him. That is a LOT of money. Even with those two though, the Cubs do have a lot of contracts coming off the books after this year, about 55 million worth. But they are going to have to spend some of that arent they? Albert Pujols? Prince Fielder? Im not so sure. In fact Im just about certain neither is coming here. As I read about owner Tom Ricketts infatuation with the Boston method of building a winning, profitable franchise, Im not really buying it. Sure Theo Epstein has brought new-age thinking into baseball and has been successful. But hes also had a big bag of cash with him as hes done so. I dont see a Carl Crawford or Adrian Gonzalez contract-huge by the way-happening here anytime soon. The model I see is the one in Tampa Bay, where an owner, G.M. and manager work together to compete with young home-grown talent, only not in a hideous indoor mausoleum that they try to pass off as a ballpark.

I think Mr. Ricketts has also read Moneyball and come up with his own conclusions. He understands that the way things have always been done is not working here, at least not for the last 103 years-and counting. He knows that a new baseball model must be developed to stay afloat if the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies, are going to flirt with the financial ruin of the game. For all of our sakes, it has to take something other than a bag of cash to win, doesnt it? (Not that Im going to argue with it this year!!) Its going to take a new business model and someone with the ability, and patience, to pull it off. Thats the real game of Moneyball. The competition has forced you to come up with a different way to succeed. It calls for change in thought. It calls for a change in vision. Moneyball is going to be more than a movie around here. Its going to be a call to arms. (Hopefully a lot of young ones that bring heat!)For now, the question is, since a lot of folks around here dont like Billy Beane, do you think either team can get Brad Pitt?

Why Cubs felt like they had to trade Jorge Soler now

Why Cubs felt like they had to trade Jorge Soler now

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Before making the blockbuster Aroldis Chapman trade with the New York Yankees, the Cubs checked in with the Kansas City Royals about Wade Davis and found the asking price to be Kyle Schwarber. 

The psychology and the supply-and-demand dynamics are different in July. Schwarber had been damaged goods, still recovering from major knee surgery and months away from his dramatic return in the World Series. Davis also could have impacted two pennants races for his new team instead of one.
 
By the time a $10 billion industry reconvened this week outside Washington, D.C., for the winter meetings, the small-market Royals could compromise with Jorge Soler, betting on his long-term upside and facing the reality that their World Series closer could have been part of a mass exodus of free agents after the 2017 season.

The Cubs also checked into the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center knowing that Soler is a diminishing asset for a loaded team at a time when his best attribute – right-handed power – could be found on the free-agent market in sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo.  
     
“I think there’s some great baseball ahead for him,” team president Theo Epstein said Wednesday night after the Cubs finalized the Soler-for-Davis trade. “I think it’s more likely that he reaches his ceiling now than it was 24 hours ago, because he’s got a chance to play every day.” 

Soler became a top priority within the first weeks of the Epstein administration as Cubs officials scouted the Cuban defector in the Dominican Republic before Thanksgiving 2011, picturing him as a building block for future playoff teams at a renovated Wrigley Field. 

Even chairman Tom Ricketts met with Soler’s camp during a trip to the Dominican Republic before the Cubs won the bidding war and the prospect signed a nine-year, $30 million major-league contract in the summer of 2012. 

Years later, manager Joe Maddon would describe Soler as Vladimir Guerrero with plate discipline, the kind of talent who would be drafted No. 1 overall if he had been born in South Florida. 

Soler showed flashes of superstar potential. He absolutely crushed the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2015 playoffs (2.341 OPS) and will get a well-deserved World Series ring. But he didn’t look like a complete player or an athlete the Cubs could count on to stay healthy, profiling more like a designated hitter in the American League.

“When George was playing sporadically, he became a little bit more of an all-or-nothing power threat,” Epstein said, “because it’s hard to get into a good rhythm and you’re not seeing pitches as much. You’re not recognizing spin the same way. 

“When he’s locked in, he can work really good at-bats. And he’s a hitter – not just a power hitter. So I think it’s more likely now that his potential gets unleashed at some point. We’re rooting for him.”

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Maybe Soler – who still hasn’t turned 25 yet – can avoid some of the leg injuries as a part-time DH and put it all together in Kansas City as the Royals try to balance the present, the future and their financial realities. But the Cubs are a win-now team that believes Davis could get them the final out of the 2017 World Series. 

An October legend (Schwarber) and a $184 million Gold Glove defender (Jason Heyward) would keep blocking Soler at the corner spots in Wrigley Field, where a National League MVP (Kris Bryant) and a World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist) can move away from the infield. Javier Baez is another versatile, well-rounded player who would continue to marginalize Soler. 

“It became tough for us,” Epstein said, “with Schwarber looking like he’s destined to play quite a bit of left field. Not ruling catching out as an option to some extent, but he’s going to play a lot of left field. 

“And with Javy’s emergence – and what that means for Zobrist’s possible role in the outfield as well at times – it just became tougher and tougher to see George getting regular at-bats with us. 

“We felt like he needed to play – and it would have been a tough fit.”

It would have been even tougher to trade a spare outfielder during his fourth season in the big leagues. Stashing Soler – who has 27 career homers in less than 700 big-league at-bats – at Triple-A Iowa wouldn’t have been the answer. 

The Cubs saw this day coming. Schwarber wrecked his knee in early April and Soler injured his hamstring two months later and wound up missing two months.

“He just couldn’t quite stay healthy enough,” Epstein said, “and kind of slumped at the wrong time and started to get hot right before he got hurt.

“That was kind of how we envisioned it: ‘Hey, if there’s an opportunity, this guy can take the job and run with it – and then we have an even more valuable trade chip – or we’ve got an everyday leftfielder/middle-of the-order bat.’ It just didn’t quite come together. 

“But I think this trade – despite that – recouped a lot of his value. It made sense for him, for us and for the Royals.”

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Brandon Marshall doesn't remember 3 TD game from Bears-49ers in 2014 because he was on pain pills

Remember back in 2014 when the Bears rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the 49ers 28-20 in San Francisco on Monday Night Football?

Well, Brandon Marshall doesn't.

And he had three of the four touchdown catches, two of them coming in the last quarter.

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The former Bears wide receiver, who had been dealing with a high ankle sprain, said he took pain pills before the game and doesn't recall much of it, including the incredible one-handed grab that went viral.

"I don't really remember much about that game because I worked really hard to get back from a high ankle (sprain)," Marshall said during a conference call Wednesday. "I'll say it, I took a couple pain pills that masked the pain. I really wasn't supposed to play. I came back from a high ankle (sprain) within 10 days. I was supposed to be out four to six weeks. I don't remember much from that game. I just remember catching those balls. And that was pretty much it."

If only Bears fans could forget that season entirely, which ended in a 5-11 record and the end of the Marc Trestman era.