The San Francisco Giants just won their third World Series title in five years, but the Chicago Cubs are the center of the baseball universe today. And the Cubs haven’t been to a World Series in almost 70 years, much less won one.
The Cubs are going to add a key piece to their growing list of assets when they sign former Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon to be their new manager. He is widely regarded as the best manager in baseball today, with innovative managerial ploys to go along with a brilliant in-game mind. He’s the goods.
And that’s not the biggest news coming out of Cubs nation. The bleachers at Wrigley Field are gone, at least the ones in left and right fields. The $575 million renovations that have been suggested and promised for years are now ongoing, and some modern amenities will be added along with a campus-like feel to the Wrigley Field area.
And that’s still not the biggest news coming out of Cubs nation. The Cubs are currently offering a purchase of 20 percent of the ballclub and the asking price is said to be $300 million. And that’s apparently a steal, now that the Cubs have been valued at $2 billion by the Sports Business Journal.
That amount is twice what Tom Rickets paid for the club when he bought it from the Chicago Tribune in 2009.
For a team that has not won the World Series in over 100 years.
Winning isn’t everything, and that is certainly true when it comes to owning a professional sports team in America.
Steve Ballmer paid $2 billion this summer for the Los Angeles Clippers, and they have not even sniffed success, ever. They have the best team they have ever had as a franchise right now, and Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO, has the money to buy a team for that much, but still, it’s the Los Angeles Clippers. And they are apparently worth $2 billion, at least to Ballmer.
The Milwaukee Bucks have been a poor NBA representative since Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul Jabbar and went to Los Angeles in the 1970s. But the Bucks just sold for $550 million, and that’s Milwaukee dollars.
The Atlanta Hawks are now up for sale, and they are expected to fetch at least $750 million.
With the exception of the Ballmer deal (which was just a really rich guy over-paying for a new toy), the increased valuation of teams, especially in the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, has to do with new broadcast deals. The NBA just renewed its contracts with ESPN and Turner Broadcasting for $24 billion for nine years, and that is almost triple the former deal.
The Los Angeles Dodgers just sold to Guggenheim Partners for $2.15 billion, in part because of their $7 billion, 25-year rights deal signed with Time Warner Cable. The Cubs are expected to sign a new broadcast deal for next season, and that will mark the first time the Cubs have been on the open market for a broadcast arrangement in a very long time, after its decades with WGN and the Chicago Tribune.
All of this money is going to team owners, many of whom never come close to winning a championship. Think of all the teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL who never win a title. All of those owners, in cities like Buffalo and Sacramento and Cleveland and even major markets like Philadelphia and Atlanta, are making money hand over fist without fielding a championship product.
The NBA broadcast deal, which is going to affect the salary cap of players in a way no one can even yet imagine, may be the straw that breaks the bank. NBA players might see their salaries double, and that’s an insane proposition.
What does all this mean? I have no idea. But as someone who cannot afford to go to any sporting event in Chicago these days, I have to wonder who is going to be in the stands for these teams when they are all worth billions rather than millions.
How many Steve Ballmers are there?