Cubs owner on MLB shutdown: 'The scale of losses across the league is biblical'

With the Major League Baseball season still in limbo, the owner of the Chicago Cubs is going on the offensive against the idea that his peers across the league are just sitting on piles of money.

Tom Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers on Tuesday that most people have it all wrong, the league itself doesn’t have a lot of fluid cash and — here’s the money quote — “the scale of losses across the league is biblical.”

This comes at a time when league owners and players struggle to find middle ground on a financial plan that would allow them to restart the season. Owners want to pay players a fraction of what their already-agreed-upon prorated salaries would be for a 2020 season. Players think the March agreement for prorated salaries is the start and end of the conversation when it comes to pay.

Most recently, the league is reportedly willing to impose a shortened season of around 50 games at the prorated amounts, but that seems more like a nuclear option if the league and players can’t come to an agreement.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts says the losses around MLB are "biblical." (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts says the losses around MLB are "biblical." (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

While the billionaire vs. millionaires fight may be a turn off to the more casual fan, Ricketts is claiming that the billionaire owners aren’t as flush with cash as you’d think. Major League Baseball revenues were $10.7 billion last season (another record high), according to Forbes, but Ricketts claims that isn’t what it seems.

"Here’s something I hope baseball fans understand," Ricketts told ESPN. "Most baseball owners don't take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, and they take out their expenses, and they give all the money left to their GM to spend.

"The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it's all sitting in a pile we've collected over the years. Well, it isn't. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole."

As players and owners clash on what it will take to restart the game, one of the comments from players has been that owners should open their books to give the players’ union a clearer vision of just how much money players generate for their teams. The odds of that happening are about as likely as players accepting a salary cap in the next round of collective bargaining.

Still, Ricketts maintains teams may need to sell some of their equity to recover from the shutdown.

"The scale of losses across the league is biblical," Ricketts said. "The timing of the work stoppage, the inability to play was right before the season started. We're looking at 30 teams with zero revenue. To cover the losses, all teams have gone out and borrowed. There's no other way to do it in the short run. In the long run, we may be able to sell equity to cover some of our losses but that's in the long run.

All that being said, the Ricketts family is worth an estimated $4.5 billion, according to Forbes, so crying poor may not go over well in this case.

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