Are the Chicago Cubs at the Tipping Point?
95,242. That’s my place in line.
This morning I decided to sign up for the Cubs’ season ticket waiting list. I did so knowing I would have no chance of having them anytime soon. Considering I will have a child in college for 12 of the next 13 years, my disposable income will be…let’s just say… limited. I joined just to see where I would place on the list. I have heard unconfirmed (maybe one of you can confirm) reports that waiting listers were getting calls just last winter from the Chicago Cubs…stating that their numbers had come up and they could get tickets. If this is true, and anyone passed…that person may be waiting a long time for another opportunity.
I know very little about the ins and outs of season tickets and ticket brokering, but I know a little about supply and demand. For the last couple of summers, I have heard angry callers to sports radio begin conversations with “I am a season-ticket holder, and…” they then rant about Jeff Samardzija being traded or whatever other move they are upset about. My thought when I hear these rants? Get rid of your tickets then. I have a friend who has a ticket business on the side…and I have listened to him lament for the last 3 summers regarding the Cubs. This may sound insensitive to those who have had tickets for the last 3 summers, and watched bad, bad baseball…but they didn’t have to keep them. Yet if you did, I think you are about to be rewarded for your patience. I view season tickets like stocks…buy low, sell high. If you bought Chicago Blackhawks season tickets in 2006, the idea would have seemed rather silly. Yet, in 2014, those lucky enough to have done so have 41 sold-out dates each year to use or sell at their leisure….and they have benefited greatly during two Stanley Cup runs.
I spoke with my long-time friend, Dale Bradley, a financial adviser with 25 years of experience, of Bradley Investment Center in Evanston…and a Cubs’ season ticket holder for the last 20 years. In regards to his tickets, Bradley stated; “You love them and you hate them…when times are bad you are tempted to sell. When times are good, they are golden”. In my opinion…times are about to be very good for the patient ones.
This brings me to my “Tipping Point” regarding the Chicago Cubs. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is a book that combines economics, human nature, and social trends. The book may be a bit “thinky” for some, but here is how Gladwell defines a tipping point: “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”. Gladwell demonstrates messages, ideas, products and behaviors that race like wildfire through our society…after reaching their tipping point. In my opinion, as year three of the Theo Epstein regime comes to a close…the Cubs are either at a tipping point or on the precipice of one.
Am I just a Cubbie blue Kool-Aid drinker? I will let the reader be the judge, as I give my reasons why the tipping point for the Cubs’ organization is nigh:
- Before we get to the fun stuff (players)…lets address an off the field issue. It appears as though the renovations to Wrigley will finally begin. With the way this issue has played out, I will keep my fingers and toes crossed, but the Cubs finally give the impression that they have their “ducks in a row” on this. The dark cloud regarding future revenues concerning the park…might finally be lifting. In fact (fingers crossed, fingers crossed), we may see some of these changes take root during the 2015 season.
- The contract of Alfonso Soriano (the equivalent of two Presidential terms) is finally off the books in 2015. Not including players eligible for arbitration, the Cubs currently have $31.2 million allotted to salaries in 2015. Let’s give them a modest payroll of $85 million for 2015…you are looking at a heck of a lot of dough the Cubs will have to allocate to free-agents. They will not enter 2015 with a $40 million dollar salary. However, I would like to caution those of you who already have Jon Lester in the 2015 Cubs’ rotation…if Lester wants anything more than a five-year deal…that might not be where the money goes. Regardless of Jon Lester and other top of the line free-agents, the Cubs will have the flexibility to sign, and trade for contracts they have not had for the past six off seasons.
- Recent events, the call ups of Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Hendricks, and now (cue, shining light coming through the clouds) Javy Baez, have me thinking that Theo and Jed are ready to at least compete in 2015. They have stated numerous times they like to call players up to stay…if that’s true, these players will be on the opening day roster in 2015. A line-up that will include the current NL home-run leader in Rizzo…and perhaps some of the other amazing offensive prospects the Cubs have in the system. These call-ups signal to me that the regime is not concerned about tanking the last two months. I am not alluding that Baez, Alcantara and Hendricks are going to give the Cubs a winning record for August and September…but I get the feeling that the regime isn’t worried as much if the pick 3rd or 7th overall next June.
- I know some people will always be suspicious of prospects…but when you have respected national writers stating that this may be the best assortment of position prospects ever assembled…you can dismiss those thoughts of Ty Griffin, Corey Patterson and Felix Pie. Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber seem to hit home runs daily. Alcantara (yes, small sample size) has looked as smooth to me as any prospect in recent memory upon arriving in the Majors. The Cubs system is “boiling over” with offensive potential. The “graduation” of these prospects will not leave the minors barren of talent, as players such as Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres will ascend to the top of prospect lists.
- Almost under the radar, the Cubs have done an excellent job of stockpiling young power arms for the bullpen. Justin Grimm has shown flashes, yet still inconsistent. (side not…you don’t have to pitch him every day Ricky) Hector Rondon has stepped in nicely as the current closer, and Neil Ramirez has been filthy for most of the season. Pedro Strop, although not as young, has displayed his magic slider recently. At Iowa, the Cubs actually may have the two best power relievers in the system in Armando Rivero (83 k’s in 54 innings) and Arodys Vizcaino. The Cubs could enter spring training next year with 6-7 relievers who throw 95 mph.
I have had this Tipping Point concept floating in my head for the last month or so…and I finally decided to own it. I loved Gladwell’s book and the analogies made sense to me. Some of you may take a much more pessimistic view about 2015 for the Chicago Cubs…and that’s fine. If you do have a negative outlook on the future for the Cubs…please try to convince the 95,241 people ahead of me on the season ticket list that they should drop off.