Who would have thought winning the first World Series in 108 years would be easier for the Cubs to figure out than how to commemorate it?
As the team has struggled on the field in recent days, so has the team’s image off the field with revelations about financial strings attached to most of the World Series rings given to employees as well as unusual, ongoing delays in providing player artifacts from the World Series to the Hall of Fame.
“It’s not a desire not to have it there,” said general manager Jed Hoyer, who admittedly was unsure about the details on the holdup. “I think it’s just cataloguing and deciding what to send.
“It’s kind of too bad that that became a story because it’s not about a lack of respect for Cooperstown, that’s for sure.”
At the very least, it’s not a good look for an organization that got more attention for things that wound up in dumpsters — Ron Santo tribute memorabilia signed by fans in 2013; a huge Cake Boss-commissioned cake for the Wrigley centennial celebration in 2014 — than games that wound up in the win column until Theo Epstein’s rebuild took hold in 2015.
Asked if he was surprised that “petty” stories like the Hall of Fame delay and ring flap continue to arise even after the historic championship, Hoyer said it’s a result of greater attention on the team.
“It actually makes me in some ways happy,” he said. “I think that everyone knows the character of our guys and the quality of our team, and I think in general the stories are not going to be about controversies within that clubhouse.”
Hall of Fame spokesman Jon Shestakofsky said Tuesday the Hall has received the first-pitched ball from Game 7 and the second base used in the final two innings.
But requests for artifacts in the immediate aftermath of Game 7
to loan the museum have so far gone unfulfilled. It’s a stark contrast to previous champions who often provided a few items on the spot.
Shestakofsky said the current process used for requesting and quickly displaying items has been in place since at least the late 1990s.
Since the displays were made larger starting with Boston’s historic championship in 2004, teams have routinely provided six to 10 artifacts, with displays often going up by Thanksgiving, he said.
Shestakofsky said the Hall has worked around the holdup, with plans to have a display by Memorial Day that will highlight all of the Cubs’ World Series appearances — heavy on artifacts from previous appearances, with the two current items provided by MLB included.
“Each of the 30 clubs has their own way of going about things, and we respect them all,” Shestakofsky said. “We work with all 30 clubs to make sure we’re following what they want us to do, and we’re happy to do that again.”
He said that’s one of the reasons why the Hall hasn’t reached out to individual Cub players, some of whom have said they would be willing to provide items.
“Our relationship with the Hall of Fame goes back decades so we are not sure why one of their representatives selected to make a public issue out of something that is not an issue,” said Cubs spokesman Julian Green, who cited a recent project in conjunction with the Cardinals. “In fact, there was no set deadline for artifacts, and we will continue to source Cubs World Series items for display in the Hall.”
Chairman Tom Ricketts told USA Today it was out of the Cubs’ control.
“The memorabilia goes to the league , and then everybody puts in their requests. Everyone wants a piece. Then the league is kind of the final referee of what goes where. . . . They will end up with stuff, it’s just a matter of when, because it’s a clunky process.”
As for the World Series rings, Cubs ownership commissioned an astounding 1,908 rings made for players, staff and other team and stadium employees — tiered at three different value levels.
But the generosity was tempered some by agreements recipients — except players and uniformed staff — are required to sign banning each from selling the ring without approval from the Cubs or giving the Cubs the right to buy it back for $1.
“I don’t have any comment on that,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “I’m the first baseman of the Chicago Cubs. I’m not Crane Kenney. They’re on the business side.”
(A player who told the Sun-Times on Monday that the stipulation also applied to players said Tuesday he had misunderstood its scope when talking to a club employee about the requirement).
“I had absolutely no problem signing it. No one I talked to had any problem with it,” Hoyer said. “I actually thought it was kind of appropriate.”
He said the “generosity” of ownership and a desire to keep some of the rings from immediately racing to the marketplace made it fair.
Said Green: “This is not an uncommon practice.”
But the ring comes with a tax bill based on its value, not based on $1.
And while Hoyer said the team plans to help ease that burden “for employees that need the assistance with that,” clearly some will be paying tax bills on an item they’re not allowed to sell.
Pitcher Jake Arrieta said he knows coaches on other championship teams “that had to take loans out to be able to pay for the tax on the ring.”
“It can create an issue for some guys,” he said. “As players, we’ve talked about maybe helping a couple of those guys out [here]. We don’t want the process to have any negative tied to it for anybody, because it should be something that’s celebrated and not something that’s kind of a burden to deal with financially.”
As for the no-sale stipulation: “I don’t like it,” he said. “You should be able to do whatever you want with it. It’s your ring.”
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