What’s the difference between a Russian oligarch and an American oligarch?
Fans of Chelsea F.C. might be about to find out if the Ricketts family is successful in a bid to buy the English Premier League franchise.
For all their talk about “biblical” losses during the pandemic and empty-pockets posturing since, the Cubs owners are reportedly looking into revisiting efforts to tap into the lucrative European soccer market and considering a bid for Chelsea.
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich reportedly seeks about $3.3 billion (U.S.) for his team as he looks to sell before war-related sanctions catch up to him — or roughly what the Ricketts family’s Cubs are worth, according to the latest Forbes estimate.
First reaction: Haven’t MLB’s blue bloods such as Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt, commissioner Rob Manfred and former Marlins carpetbagger David Samson been telling us that the business of baseball’s not as profitable as we think?
Second reaction: Obviously, they’re right. It’s far more profitable than we think.
The Rickettses have been down this road before, reportedly looking into buying a controlling interest in AC Milan in 2018, the same year they announced a joint venture to try to bring a United Soccer League team to Chicago.
Maybe this time they’ll have enough juice to get it done after all that money they recouped with those pandemic layoffs, the salary dump of Yu Darvish and all those contract extensions they never had to pay before trading away their popular core of championship players.
Wait till the good people of West London get a load of what’s next for their British “football” version of Bryzzo.
The fact is this is great business for big-market baseball owners, as the Boston Red Sox and their Fenway Sports Group Holdings, LLC, proved by drawing up the blueprint 15 years ago with the purchase of Liverpool F.C.
Use the big-revenues of the big-market baseball team to buy profitable enterprises outside of the industry — and, consequently, outside the reach of MLB’s revenue-sharing rules — to expand brand reach, profits and wealth without any reason to consider whether the primary baseball product is an especially good one.
Good for John Henry’s Red Sox, the Steinbrenners’ Yankees and the Rickettses.
Good business. American capitalism. Ingenuity.
It’s all of those things — whether you believe that’s good, bad or indifferent.
But it probably also offers the latest illustration of why MLB clings so hard to the salary-suppressed status quo it achieved in the last collective bargaining agreement as it keeps the players locked out during this one.
The small-market owners have obvious interest in keeping the luxury-tax thresholds low and other salary-suppressing mechanisms in place to keep relative revenue sharing up and their annual profitability stable.
And if the biggest-market teams can continue to hide behind artificially low payroll-tax thresholds, that’s even more investment capital derived from baseball for them to spend elsewhere — whether they compel their front offices to win or to tank, or anything in between.
It’s no wonder that more than three months into MLB’s protracted labor talks another round produced nothing of substance again when the sides met Sunday.
Because on one side, it looks like they’re playing a nil-sum game.
A FEW MORE THOUGHTS between daydreams about starting the season in time for a Cubs-Sox opener at Wrigley Field on May 3:
The Little Big League really big question: Forget Ed Howard and Owen Caissie. As Cubs minor-league camp officially opens this week, the only thing some of us want to know is whether former first-round draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong is going to be more famous in baseball culture than his mom. Etch his name into the Cubs’ next core if he is.
The athletic center fielder acquired from the Mets in the Javy Báez trade already is earning his praise from Cubs player development folks. But he still has a long way to go to catch mom Ashley Crow in baseball circles after her co-starring role in 1994’s popular Little Big League as the mom of the kid who inherits the Twins and goes on to run the team as hilarity ensues.
“I love that movie, regardless of my mom being in it,” Crow-Armstrong told the Los Angeles Times before his draft in 2020. “It’s a great movie.”
Ashley Crow has a long list of Hollywood credits, including roles in the movie Minority Report and TV shows Law & Order, As the World Turns and Heroes. And the prospect’s dad — Naperville High grad Matthew John Armstrong — also is an actor, who has appeared in NCIS, American Horror Story, The Young and the Restless and Heroes.
Talk about a hallway of fame every time he goes home.
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GDubGrub: Baseball-foodie recommendation of the week: The Original Blue Adobe Grille on North Country Club Drive in Mesa, near HoHoKam Stadium, where the Cubs used to train. Even with no major-league players to watch in spring training, Blue Adobe brings the major-league heat of Southwestern fare for anyone who might be headed to Arizona to take in some prospect watching.
Daily affirmation/reminder: This is the league’s lockout. MLB may lift it and open spring training whenever it chooses.
Old man and the see-ya: Derek Jeter got out while the getting was good. With all due respect to Brian Flores, baseball is not often a place these days for coaches, managers, GMs or limited partners with strong desires to win — especially in Miami.
The Greatest Stro on Earth: You could find less entertaining pastimes while waiting for games to start than following new Cubs pitcher Marcus Stroman on social media — especially when it comes to his regular commentary about ongoing negotiations and and his thoughts on the commissioner. Twitter handle of the week: @STR0.