Ban this shift, please: Cubs owners go from crying poor to trying to buy Chelsea FC

Ricketts family reportedly interested in bidding for the English Premier League club.

SHARE Ban this shift, please: Cubs owners go from crying poor to trying to buy Chelsea FC
The Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs, poses on the field before the team’s 2010 home opener against the Brewers. From left are Laura, Joe, Marlene, Todd, Tom and Pete.

The Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs, poses on the field before the team’s 2010 home opener against the Brewers. From left are Laura, Joe, Marlene, Todd, Tom and Pete.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

I have a logistical question: If you need to have a wheelbarrow full of money sent overseas, is it best to do it via cargo ship or airplane?

I ask because the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, reportedly is interested in joining a bid to buy Chelsea FC of the English Premier League, and the price for the iconic franchise might be more than $3 billion.

Cubs finance guy Crane Kenney once said, ‘‘Basically, my job is to fill a wheelbarrow with money, take it to Theo’s office and dump it.’’ Funny thing, though: That wheelbarrow rarely visited the cubicle of former team president Theo Epstein. In fact, after the club won the World Series in 2016, the Rickettses were content with watching the money from their investments in and around Wrigley Field pile up like sand dunes.

The sad state of the team now is a direct result of that refusal to spend on players. But wait! Team chairman Tom Ricketts can explain! There was the whole COVID-19 thing. He had predicted the financial losses for major-league teams because of the pandemic would be ‘‘biblical.’’ And here we are. The underlying message was that any clear-thinking person should be able to understand why the Cubs hadn’t been out there trying to win a division, let alone a World Series. It was a tortured and shameful argument for a billionaire family to make, but Ricketts neither blinked nor blushed while attempting it. That no one bought it didn’t seem to bother him in the least.

The most important part of crying poor is the poor part. At a minimum, you need to be able to sell the perception of poverty if you’re going to start warming up your vocal cords and activating your tear ducts. When word leaked recently that the Ricketts family was interested in buying Chelsea, the extremely faint perception of a baseball franchise on hard times went out the window. Chelsea is for sale because its owner, a Russian oligarch, is facing sanctions tied to his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

I’m sure that the next time Ricketts meets with the media, we’ll be tut-tutted and told we don’t understand that the mountain of money in this corner has absolutely nothing to do with the mountain of money in that corner. Two different animals. Apples and oranges. A massive accounting undertaking that none of us civilians would be able to understand.

Maybe, but we do understand that the Rickettses, who delivered a World Series title to a fan base that hadn’t experienced one in more than a century, have sat on their collective hands for the last five years and refused to budge. Couldn’t get to their wallets if they wanted to. And those wheelbarrows of cash? They didn’t get out much.

The Cubs went 71-91 last season. There was a reason for that. After the 2020 season, they traded ace Yu Darvish in a luxury-tax salary dump, a disgraceful move by a team doing business in a major market. The floodgates opened at the 2021 trade deadline, with the Cubs moving crowd favorites Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez. Fans, knowing a rebuild when they smelled one, were outraged. All the money they had been asked to shell out over the years — for tickets, concessions, parking, a new TV network, etc. — and this was the thanks they got? An unrecognizable lineup?

I hope the family does buy Chelsea. I’m dying to hear Ricketts reminisce about his personal attachment to the Premier League in the same way he talks about meeting his future wife in the bleachers at Wrigley. No one should be surprised if he tells us that he worked at a Long John Silver’s franchise as a teenager, that Long John Silver was a fictional English pirate and that Chelsea is a neighborhood in London, the capital of England. It’ll be quite a connection.

Speaking of special relationships, how about the Cubs and the Red Sox? Whatever the Red Sox do, the Cubs follow suit. The Red Sox hire Epstein; the Cubs hire him away. The Red Sox renovate Fenway Park; the Cubs renovate Wrigley. Red Sox owner John Henry buys Liverpool FC; the Cubs’ owners show interest in buying Chelsea FC.

However, I don’t remember Henry ever saying he was strapped for money.

‘‘The league itself does not make a lot of cash,’’ Ricketts told ESPN in 2020. ‘‘I think there’s a perception that we hoard cash and that we take money out that’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, we don’t.’’

I can’t imagine how anyone would have gotten that idea.

The Latest
Migrants follow news of tragedies, like the fatal fire in a Ciudad Juárez detention center, but they’re not deterred in their desire to reach the U.S., a Cornell University researcher writes.
Tracking the journey of Jerry Adelmann to lead Openlands for decades before retiring later this year.
Officers were dispatched to the scene around 8:20 p.m. Thursday after a ShotSpotter detector picked up gunfire as a group of people shot at another group in the 4200 block of South Wells Street, police said.
The 6-year-old cries in class, has to go home after magician’s lesson on the hazards of substance abuse.
His wife Joanne also did hair. Their sons swept up. Their daughter did makeup. Many relatives and friends worked there during the 25 years the family operated the business.