By Frankie O
One of the things that marriage teaches you is that when your wife sends you a text while youre working and it begins: Please dont kill me but..., that shes done something that youre not going to be happy with but its a little too late to do anything about it. Thats how life works. This latest after-the-fact communication concerns our newest family pet, but more on that later.
Speaking about not being happy, think FOX is happy with a Cardinals-Rangers World Series? I know no one at the bar is. Harrys St. Louis connection notwithstanding, the Cardinals' good fortune is another thorn in the side of the Cubs faithful. And since the team for which I have a rooting interest met their untimely, but predictable demise, (Question: When you lose to the San Francisco Giants last year because you cant hit, what should you get to strengthen your roster? Thats right, more pitching! This isnt revisionist history, Ive been ranting about this behind the bar since last October. One of my go-to truisms is that the MLB playoffs will always expose whatever fatal flaw that you have. For a team that scored 3-runs or fewer 77 times this year during the regular season, scoring 6 runs in the series final 34 innings -3 on one pinch-hit homer- comes as no surprise and was a fitting, tortuous ending! ) we need to discuss other baseball things, or should I say thing. I wonder what that is? The Theo Epstein saga has literally hijacked the conversation at the bar. Fascinated as I am, can we please get on with it?!
There are a million theories as to what is going on, but I go back to one fact: Theo is under contract to the Boston Red Sox. As George Constanza would say, this gives the Red Sox hand. (Which is not to be confused with man-hands, probably my favorite bit ever on that show.) I know this is much to the dismay of certain media members in this town who are fawning over the Cubs front office during this process and probably sharing a few Kool-aids with them as they cheer them on. Isnt it a little silly to sing their praises before this process has ended and a proper analysis of winners and losers can be assessed? Much like the ballyhooed press conference where the Cubs told the local and state governments why they should fork over cash they dont have to make improvements to Wrigley Field, this has the appearance of another cigar about to blow-up in their collective, handsome (sorry, the fawning disease is contagious!) faces.
Im only a bartender, but even I can appreciate the fact that if I want an asset from another business owner, I should first and foremost find out how much that business owner is going to want for that asset. From the countless hours that Ive watched World Series of Poker reruns in the wee hours when I get home from work, Ive learned that theres a play in poker called the check-raise. Thats where a player will usually try to hide a big hand and get others to bet when he thinks that if he puts in an appropriate size bet for his hand, he will scare everyone off. Having already put money in the pot, the initial bettor has to figure out how much that money in the center of the table means to him when the raise comes back. This play doesnt always work, but it can often lead to easy money, as when it is used, its not often a bluff. The thing that you dont know when you make the initial check is whether someone will take the bait.
In the case of the Red Sox, they know they have a play since they let the Cubs come to an agreement with Theo, even though the Cubs didnt ask what he would cost. In their haste to do something that they knew would make them look good, they forgot one of the most elementary practices of business: up-front pricing. Someone of my income level understands that. Before I can get emotionally attached to that new purchase, I need to haggle the price down to where a large investment makes sense to me. Instead, acting like a giddy school girl who got the prom date with the captain of the football team, telling all of her friends to show how cool she is, Cubs upper management was so impressed with themselves, they had to leak the agreement to a more than accommodating local media. All this did was strengthen the position of the Red Sox.
The local Cubs shills will say that Boston doesnt want an unhappy Theo around and they have to make a deal. My response to that is: Can you imagine an employee being unhappy with his work environment?? Whatever! The Cubs have put themselves in a position where they will have to pay more than they think they should because of naivete and the fact that Theo is under contract to the Red Sox. What they need to do is accept that fact and get on with it, because the option of not getting him is something that will create a more lasting negative image than the one of them standing outside Wrigley this past summer holding out their hands for money. The commitment to winning is more costly than you can imagine. Its time to go all in!
Speaking of commitment, there is something in sports that is a sign of it, as the Cubs are learning, and it called a contract. Those contracts can be a pesky thing. Just ask your Chicago Bears! Has there been a day this year when somebodys contract status hasnt been mentioned? Again this is something that a guy like me really has no idea about, although it wont stop me, or any one at the bar from commenting on it. For a fan it shows value and sets a bar for expectation. (For the Red Sox, it means that if you offer our GM 18.5 million for 4 years, he should be worth more than this years Felix Pie!) A contract is a binding agreement, unless its football. Football contracts are a ruse. In baseball and basketball they use the phrase guaranteed contract. The money signed for is the money received, unless youre Gil Meche and you understand that youve been grossly (unintentional pun, I swear!) overpaid and you retire before the last year, forfeiting 12 million.
In football, the phrase is guaranteed money. That is the money that a player will receive, most of it up-front or in bonuses, in addition to game checks. If he can avoid a career ending injury, he will only get game checks as long as the team thinks hes serviceable. Chester Taylor signed a four-year deal last year and this year? He gone! At least he got his guaranteed 7 mil! In the NFL there is no long-term security unless youre one of the top 1 and get huge guaranteed money. (Why does that sound familiar?) Thats why I never really had a problem with hold-outs in football. That is a cut-throat business and everybody understands. A player needs to get his cash when he can, if not, its gone forever, just like he is. In the case of Lance Briggs, hes in the 4th year of a 6th year contract, one that hes probably over-performed. Hes 30 and in his 9th year in the league, a time and age where the clock is ticking ever faster towards the end. He also remembers at the same age three years ago with four years left on his deal, Brian Urlacher was able to renegotiate his deal to add an extra year and 18 million. Maybe not the best PR move on Lances to ask for more cash, and then a trade, but considering the teams precedent I can understand where hes coming from. My guess though is that this will be his last year as a Bear because of his ability to be outspoken and I dont think hes viewed by ownership in the same favorable way that Urlacher iswas.
And judging by his comments about a disconnect between the players and front office this week on Countdown to Kickoff, I dont think Im giving a shocking opinion. He gone! The thing that baffles me is the Matt Forte situation. After a sensational rookie year, he came back to earth and looked like he had lost a step in year two, but since then hes been lights out! In the last two years hes averaging almost 5 yards per carry and over 10 yards per catch, those are explosive numbers. Oh, and hes yet to miss a game and by the way, have you ever seen the Bears offensive line?! Hes in the last year of his rookie deal, a time when teams almost always extend or come to a new agreement for fear of losing a cornerstone player, but it hasnt happened in Fortes case. It makes you wonder what the real story is. It doesnt make sense to not make a deal. I personally am amazed that Forte continues to play with the amount of money he is risking to lose if he gets injured. It makes me want him to get paid even more. You know his teammates notice. Thats one bad dude. He has shown exceptional commitment to the Bears organization, its time they showed it back. Pay the Man!
So back to the text I received from the boss. Im at an age where my philosophy on life is simplification, if you have a choice. Life is going to do its best to throw you enough curveballs so why tilt the advantage? But most times I dont have a choice. I deal with the public sentiment that is within my house. When everybodys happy, life is good. So while Im not necessarily pleased with a new non-human addition in my house, I understand that there can be positive benefits to it. Its called the ability to adapt and to see situations from more than one viewpoint. The rest of my household is ecstatic. There something good in that. And, Im confronted with a situation I cant change, so why go there? The Cubs and Bears have every right to go down a path of their choice for the many reasons they choose to do so, but they also have the ability to think outside of the box that they have put themselves into. Im not saying that they have to change their philosophy, but maybe take a more long-term view. Once Epsteins here, we hopefully can put all of this how-not-to make deal behind us and usher in a new age of Cubs history, but for the love of all that is good can we just get it done? If I read one more article by the baseball writers in this town that begins with: Sources say my heads going to explode. As for the Bears, I have a feeling that the story of disenchantment is going to be a theme for the whole year. But there is one way to stem that tide, if they just get past their fear of commitment, and have a happy locker again, besides winning games that is. But that will be another story for another day! And for any of you that want a laugh, just google bearded dragon and know that Mr. Red Bow Tie now has one residing in his house. We traded cash to acquire him and he now has a lifetime contract.