Say it ain’t so, Joe Ricketts: Cubs Convention is all about the business cost of Cubs baseball
“This is as cutthroat as ever,” said three-time All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, whose attempts to seek a contract extension were rebuffed by the team this offseason.
Anthony Rizzo was told by veteran teammates seven years ago that this day — along with all the emotions — would come if he took the deal the Cubs dangled with talk of making him a cornerstone for their championship dreams.
Now the three-time All-Star openly wonders whether they even want him around much longer.
Rizzo, whose efforts to start talks on an extension this winter went nowhere with the payroll-conscious Cubs, will be 32 when the team exhausts its lastoption on his contract and he plays his last season under club control in 2021.
Rizzo, whose seven-year, $41 million deal turned into a steal for the Cubs, said he’ll keep his reactions and emotions to the team’s stance on his status ‘‘in-house.’’
What’s clear is that he’ll be just one more walking, talking exhibit underscoring the unpleasant theme of the Cubs Convention this weekend: that the chill of business finally, fully has overtaken the last comforts of warm and fuzzy baseball. And not only when it comes to the relationships one of the richest franchises in the majors has with its best and most popular players, but also with the one it has with one of the most loyal fan bases in sports.
‘‘I think I said it in August, [too]: This is as cutthroat as ever now,’’ Rizzo said.
Long gone are the cheap seats. Will the next things out the door be the heroes of that magical, historic championship just 3½ years ago, to be replaced by clubs and suites for the wealthy and the next wave of younger, cheaper players, whomever they might be?
Say it ain’t so, Joe Ricketts.
‘‘It would be kind of irresponsible and naive of us players to not know that they have a business to run,’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘And we’re a part of their business and we’re a part of an entity. We’re players. We know this game really doesn’t know any names. You’re just another piece of the puzzle. And if I’m not playing first base, someone else will be.’’
For Rizzo, that means waiting on whatever the next window for the Cubs starts to look like, wondering how he might fit into it and preparing for an uncertain back half of his career that might not include the only team he wants to play for.
‘‘I’ve stated how much I love this place,’’ he said. ‘‘This is like home to me and my wife and my family. But this is a business.’’
Get used to it. At least Rizzo, who secured the final putout of the 2016 championship, seems to have a better chance of sticking around for the next two years than third baseman Kris Bryant, who threw him the ball for that out.
Bryant, the National League MVP in 2016, is first up on the trade block among a number of core players who might be moved by the trade deadline July 31, if not by Opening Day.
‘‘I totally get his perspective,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said of Rizzo’s comments during an interview Friday on The Score. ‘‘We offered all those guys extensions. We tried hard to really keep this group together as long as we can.’’
But Hoyer, who acknowledged the Cubs’ offseason activity only now might be starting, said a new reality has set in regarding a talented young core that, in most cases, has only two years left of club control.
‘‘I think we had a point where [extending all of the key core players] might have been possible,’’ he said. ‘‘But we passed that.’’
So a $3.2 billion franchise with top-five — and growing — revenues in the game runs the numbers, runs from the luxury tax and runs out some talking points about ‘‘sustained success,’’ long-term vision and building ‘‘the next Cubs championship window.’’
And then has to trade Bryant because he wouldn’t take the kind of team-friendly deal Rizzo did years ago. And turns then to 2018 NL MVP runner-up Javy Baez with more optimistic expectations for a below-market extension. And pleads higher priorities and payroll issues with cornerstone players who took less and want to stay.
Talk about billionaire-world problems.
‘‘It’s just a whole different ballgame we’re working with now,’’ Rizzo said.