Chicago Cubs – Bidding for Masahiro Tanaka Has Nothing to Do with Winning

by Kent Sterling

Masahiro Tanaka will take his nasty splitter, willingness to be exploited for 'Ladies Night Out' events, and his pink tux somewhere other than Wrigley, but the Cubs will win the battle they are really fighting.

Masahiro Tanaka will take his nasty splitter, willingness to be exploited for ‘Ladies Night Out’ events, and his pink tux somewhere other than Wrigley, but the Cubs will win the battle they are really fighting.

The Chicago Cubs will pledge to write a $20-million check to be eligible to bid for Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka, who was an astonishing 24-0 last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Teams with truly deep pockets will engage in the serious bidding while the Cubs will play the game at which they have become more adroit – talking, alibiing, deflecting, projecting, and selling.

Owner Tom Ricketts and president Theo Epstein will say they did everything they could to compel Tanaka to take their bid seriously, and claim that theirs was the highest among the Cubs, Yankees, Rangers, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks, but Tanaka chose to play elsewhere for one of a dozen very good reasons.

They will use the $20 million posting pledge to show their seriousness in improving immediately as justification for keeping ticket prices among the highest in baseball without actually spending a dime to improve the roster, which is delightfully devious even for Ricketts and Epstein.

The game the Cubs are playing is to avoid winning as long as possible while still inspiring hope among the most easily duped fans in sports.  Cubs fans can’t be blamed for mistaking activity for progress.  They haven’t seen a winner in their lifetime, unless they are 105 or older.  The day is quickly coming when the oldest person in America won’t have been alive when the Cubs last won a championship.  Hell, my Mom is 72, and she has no recollection of the Cubs last trip to the World Series when she was four.

Tanaka might be a bad risk anyway.  Who knows?  The Cubs won the bidding for another can’t miss prospect from Japan before the 2008 season.  Kosuke Fukudome never hit .300, regularly struck out 100+ times, and was caught stealing as often as he wasn’t (29 times) in his five year major league career.

The point isn’t whether Tanaka is a top line starter or back of the rotation guy.  It’s the overt duplicity being used by the Cubs to maintain credibility with fans where none should exist.  Signing Edwin Jackson falls into the same bucket.  Epstein knew damn well that Jackson is one of baseball’s most average professional starters.  He eats innings and wins at a slightly lower rate than the teams from whom he pitches, but the Cubs could point to him and say, “See, we’re trying to win in 2013, so buy tickets!”

Keeping expectations low while maintaining enough hope so fans don’t feel stupid for buying tickets or team-related swag is the blueprint used by the Cubs, and they are pretty good at it.  The Cubs are to its fans as Mega Millions is to people who want to become rich.  The odds of winning are impossibly small.  If you were seated in an arena with 18,499 others, the odds of someone in your arena winning the jackpot would be 14,000-to-1.  So you’re saying I’ve got a chance!  Cubs fans with hope to see credible major league baseball in 2014 might as well play Mega Millions.

The Cubs will bid, but not because they want him to be a Cub.  They will pledge the $20M because it’s worth that effort to claim to fans an honest effort to improve the team in the short term, while having no real desire to actually do it.

It would be a great strategy if the victims weren’t the sadly dopey bastards who were willing to pay the third highest ticket prices in baseball to watch a bottom feeder team in 2013.  The Cubs are the Ponzi schemers of MLB.  Bernie Madoff is in prison for doing to investors what Rickstein is doing to Cubs fans.

Media in Chicago continue to carry Rickstein’s (the unholy amalgam of two very smart crooks) water, saying that the Cubs will not be competitive until 2016, and that the farm system was in such terrible shape when former GM Jim Hendry was canned that this was the only way to rebuild.  That is, of course, abject nonsense, but that absurd company line is being toed by the media like they are Cubs employees.

The question with the Tanaka bid is why the Cubs would bother.  There is no chance he would choose to pitch for the Cubs.  Everyone knows that.  Epstein and Ricketts apologist Dave Kaplan said as much on WGN-Radio Christmas Night, “The Cubs will lose on Tanaka, but not because they get outbid.”

What Kaplan didn’t say is that the Cubs know Tanaka is headed elsewhere, and that they would never post for the right to outbid deep pocketed franchises like the Yankees if there was a chance in hell that he would choose the Cubs.

To the naive, $20 million is a lot of cash to threaten to spend for nothing in return, but the Cubs will get plenty back – plausible deniability.

At some point, the year for the Cubs being competitive will roll over to 2017.  When it does, you can tell your friends that you know that Sterling kook – that conspiracy theorist who sees through the shell game the Cubs play with their fans – saw it right all along.

14 thoughts on “Chicago Cubs – Bidding for Masahiro Tanaka Has Nothing to Do with Winning

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Great rebuttal. Just what I would expect from a boob who still believes that the Cubs are anything but a cash machine for the Ricketts.

  1. joe

    Here are a couple of problems with this article: You seem to think that the cubs have to PAY the posting fee even if they don’t sign Tanaka. You seem to think Theo Epstein said signing Edwin Jackson (a slightly above average pitcher) would make the Cubs winners in 2013. Do you follow baseball?

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Not sure where in the post anyone might infer that I believe a team needs to pay the posting fee without agreeing to a contract with Tanaka.

      Epstein never specifically said that Jackson’s signing would make the Cubs winners, but it was designed to promote a belief that the Cubs were making an effort to win, otherwise why sign a relentlessly mediocre pitcher to such an exorbitant contract? Four years, $52 million is crazy money for a guy of Jackson’s pedigree.

      I don’t expect the Cubs to put up billboards around Chicage saying they are going to suck, but they should stop making noise about participating in a bidding process that would provide them no benefit – other than PR.

      1. joe

        You have sprinkled the word pledge in where it didn’t exist before. It’s clear now but it almost looks like you did a replace all with pledge replacing fee.

        1. kentsterling Post author

          I’m not that clever. Select all is not something I do.

          Within ten minutes of posting the original, I made the changes to be more clear. Of course each team doesn’t write a check for $20M to a Japanese team in order to bid.

      2. joe

        In fact you also added the word “threaten” to the point that 20M is a lot to get nothing in return. Take the word threaten out and it’s clear what you thought and we’re saying in that paragraph. Adding it in has made that paragraph senseless. Threatening to spend money is free, not an awful lot. You edited after some quick research. Want to have a vibrant well visited blog? Don’t break the reader’s trust.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      Here are the rules from the release posted on Major League Baseball’s website. Not sure how the post communicates are at odds with these rules:

      The Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB) announced today that it has agreed to terms with Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) on revised protocols for the posting system shared by the leagues. MLB’s Executive Council approved the new agreement today.

      The following points comprise the protocols of the new system:

      If an NPB Club wishes to make one of its players available to Major League Clubs, the NPB shall notify the Office of the Commissioner of the NPB player’s potential availability and the “release fee” that a Major League Club must pay to the NPB Club in order to secure the NPB player’s release. The NPB Club may not set the release fee at an amount higher than $20 million and the fee cannot be changed once it has been set by the NPB Club.

      The Office of the Commissioner shall then “post” the NPB player’s availability by notifying all Major League Clubs of the NPB player’s availability and the release fee sought by the NPB Club.

      All “postings” of NPB players must be made between November 1st and February 1st.
      Beginning the day after the player is posted, and concluding 30 days later, any Major League club willing to pay the release fee set by the NPB Club may then negotiate with the player in an attempt to reach an agreement on a contract.
      If a Major League Club is able to reach an agreement on a contract with the posted NPB player, the Major League Club must pay the NPB Club the designated release fee, which will occur in installments, the timing of which depends on the size of the release fee.

      If the posted NPB player fails to reach an agreement with a Major League Club, the release fee is not owed, the NPB player remains under reserve to his NPB Club, and the player may not be posted again until the following November 1.
      The term of the new posting agreement is three years, continuing from year-to-year thereafter until either the Office of the Commissioner or the NPB gives notice of its intent to terminate the agreement one hundred and eighty days prior to the anniversary of the commencement of the agreement.

  2. Robert

    Agree 100%. Epstein and Ricketts both have a massive set of cojones to pull this garbage. Neither one cares that the Cubs are a joke. Just keep offering no value for their fans dollar. I hope attendance continues to drop. They will no longer be getting my money. I live in Michigan now and think this is the year I buy a Tigers hat.

    1. kentsterling Post author

      When I moved to St. Louis in June, 2011, I started going to Cardinals games to pass time. It didn’t take long for me to see the difference between the two organizations, and discover why the Cardinals relentlessly win while the Cubs, well, don’t.


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