Fortunately, all surprises aren't this bad.
In the least surprising move of the 2008 season, Cubs catcher Geovany Soto has been named the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year. I mean, when you're playing the most demanding position on the field, and doing it for a division winner, it pretty much breaks about every possible tie.
For everyone keeping score, Geo is now the fifth Cub to receive the honor, following Billy Williams, Ken Hubbs, Jerome Walton, and Kerry Wood.
This is the third Cubs ROY that I've personally seen play, and I have to say, he's more talented than the bunch. A big bat, good game caller, and the most fundamentally sound position player that the Cubs have grown on the farm since Brendan Harris.
If they don't ask him to do too much, and allow him to grow naturally into a leadership role, this kid is going to be a star. Congratulations to Soto. Oh, and for those interested, the final voting tally is below.
2008 NL Rookie of the Year Voting
Player, Club, Points
Geovany Soto, CHC, 158
Joey Votto, CIN, 76
Jair Jurrjens, ATL, 34
Edinson Volquez, CIN, 9
Jay Bruce, CIN, 7
Kosuke Fukudome, CHC, 4
Elsewhere, it appears that the stench of desperation has finally come over the Tribune Company, with requests for new offers for the purchase of the Cubs and proof of ability to pay to be submitted by Thanksgiving. Numerous sources have reported it, but I figured I'd include the Tribune, so you can get it from the source.
Now, I've tried to discuss this as little as possible, but I feel almost compelled to since it's becoming terribly apparent that bloggers and beat writers don't seem to actually know much about business. That's cool, but that lack of knowledge makes for some interesting writing, to be sure.
I don't think that many people realize that there is a difference between Sam Zell and the Tribune. They are two different entities.
Sam Zell is rich, very rich, although market deterioration has eaten away much of that in the last year. Sam Zell can afford just about anything that he wants, and what he can't afford, someone will lend him.
The Tribune, on the other hand, is the corporate equivalent of a very poor cousin, living hand to mouth and just a paycheck away from being homeless. It has no cash, no further access to credit, and its current creditors are incredibly skittish, more so now that rating agencies are calling its bond offerings less than investment grade. That's right, you can't even call them junk bonds; that would be an upgrade.
Know what a tranche is? You should go check. Seriously. The Tribune has over half a billion dollars due in debt service on their primary tranches within the next year, and currently no means to pay. None.
Now, I suppose that they could start selling off papers to cover this, but that only eats into the long-term profitability of the company, and does significant damage to them with analysts. They've held from the beginning that maintaining and improving the core paper business was critical to the turnaround plan. In reality, they must, must sell the Cubs on schedule, and with the least amount of fuss possible.
They simply cannot risk defaulting on those lines and have those creditors start exercising covenants, which wouldn't even be the worst blowback from defaults coming to pass.
It's simply not correct to suggest that Sam Zell will hold out and fight owners over the highest bid, if need be. A couple hundred million either way on the sale is nothing compared to the hell that follows if they don't raise this cash. You might as well just close the doors the day after.
The Tribune will sell the Cubs to the first person who is acceptable to MLB owners and can raise about $600 million the quickest and easiest.
Want to find out who is going to own the Cubs? Follow the money. If your favorite front-runner is cash-rich, or has the best access to cash, that's your guy. And for those who think that's Mark Cuban, think again, at least according to a recent Sun-Times piece:
"Cuban has a colorful reputation and drinks beer in the stands with the fans, but the source said the credit drought has hurt his chances. 'Whatever the price for the Cubs, he was only going to put in $100 million of his own money,' the source said."
As if owners would even agree to sell one of their marquee franchises to an owner with that little skin in the game.
My point is, anyone who tells you that the sale of the Cubs will be delayed is simply wrong. It will be on time, orderly, and consistent with the wishes of MLB and its owners. Even if that means them continuing to hold a stake—at least temporarily—until the market conditions improve.
The Tribune Corp is simply not in the baseball business. It's in the media business, and the people they deal with only want to hear about the money. So, unless you start hearing that the LA Times may go up for sale, Zell has only one choice to raise half a billion bucks by May...
Sell the Cubs. And quickly.