Chicago Cubs and the Postseason 108 Years in the Making
During September 2016, Lexington Books published Major League Baseball Organizations. Within two tables of the book are the all-time performances of, respectively, American League (AL) and then National League (NL) teams. Among the latter are the 140-year-old Chicago Cubs with five division titles, ten pennants, and two World Series as of their 2015 season. Of all NL clubs, the Cubs tied for ninth with the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres (division titles), ranked second to the St. Louis Cardinals (pennants), and tied for fifth with the Miami Marlins, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies (World Series).
In comparison to all those in Major League Baseball (MLB), the Cubs tied for twenty-first in winning division titles and also ranked fifth in number of pennants and twelfth in World Series victories. Based on these results and other criteria, the team has been mediocre overall while performing against others in its division and league but nevertheless popular especially among baseball fans in the Chicago metropolitan area and across the Midwest.
The Cubs’ success in 2016 occurred for several reasons. Besides great production from their five starting all-stars and three Cy Young (pitching) candidates, Manager Joe Maddon implemented defensive positioning in which fielders changed their starting point for virtually every batter, even if only by a few steps. During the regular-season, this strategy saved more than 100 runs—which is the most saved by a MLB team since 2003 according to Baseball Info Solutions (See Jared Diamond, “The Defense Never Rests for Cubs,” Wall Street Journal, 18 October 2016: D6).
From a financial perspective, the Cubs are a profitable, rich, and successful business organization and MLB franchise. Relative to fourteen others in the NL as of early 2016, the team was third in both market value at $1.8 billion and revenue at $302 million, second in operating income to the San Francisco Giants at $73.3 million, and fourth following the Giants, Cardinals, and Los Angeles Dodgers in gate receipts at $113 million. Among only Central Division clubs, however, the Cubs had the highest market value and most revenue but also less operating income and gate receipts than the Cardinals.
Based on their performances and various financial data in recent seasons, other highlights of the Cubs include: (a) their below-average results for six of the past eight seasons and particularly since Tom Ricketts acquired the franchise in 2009 for approximately $900 million; (b) former Boston Red Sox general manager and current Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein for his efforts and vision in assembling a competitive and well-balanced roster of players; (c) the team’s fan cost index for families to spend money while at Wrigley Field, which ranged from a low of $298 per game in 2013—although highest in the NL—to $305 in 2011 or third-highest in MLB; and (d) from the 2011 to 2015 season, the club’s variation in payroll that equaled $73 million in 2014—eleventh in the NL—to $125 million or second highest in 2011. (For more details and specific information about each team’s performances and financial data, see tables in the Appendix of Major League Baseball Organizations).
To be a complete success this season, the Cubs must defeat the AL’s Cleveland Indians and win the World Series. Indeed, Chicago’s baseball fans expect such pitchers as Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks to deny the other team many runs in games, and for sluggers’ Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Addison Russell to produce enough hits and runs-batted-in to ensure a championship. If the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908, the franchise’s market value may significantly increase along with its profits now and in the future.
A longtime passionate baseball fan, Laddie Sula, wrote me this about his hometown team:
As a Chicago Cub fan from birth, I share the frustration of many baby boomer brethren who have never seen their lovable Cubbies play a World Series game. As we enter our “golden years” a high priority on the “bucket list” is to see that championship parade down Michigan Avenue to Wrigley Field. Knowing that Baumholtz, Fondy, Baker, Sauer, Banks, Kessinger, Santo, Sutcliffe, Grace, and Ramirez never tasted that winning champagne elevates both the potential joy and the challenges ahead for a relatively young team. Deep inside we know that our parade and a cold beverage will bless the Northside soon!