It took me two weeks to wipe the surprised look off my face after I found out the Cubs got off. The Honorable Sophia Hall found on behalf of Wrigley Field Premium and the Chicago Cubs and dismissed the suit in what, I have to say, is one of the strangest decisions I’ve ever followed.
There’s a law on the books in Illinois that says if you hold an event, you can’t scalp your own tickets. The Cubs and their parent company, the Tribune Co., seeking to get around this law, set up a shell company, Wrigley Field Premium, with their own people, their own accountants running the books. They allowed the shell company to buy $1 million in tickets, then sell them at insane prices. Now, I don’t practice law, but that’s illegal. It’s also Chicago, though.
What’s weird is that the judge agrees with everything everyone’s said about the suit up until the point where she has to declare them guilty. Reading the opinion, it’s all there: “WFP is a subsidiary of the Tribune Company (p. 9).” In March 2002, this brand new ticket broker was allowed to purchase $1,047,766 of tickets (incidentally, go ahead and try that as an actual unaffiliated business and see what the Cubs tell you).
The opinion contains a nice little history of how Tribune formed it, the corporate officers overlapped, how WGN provided Premium free advertising…it’s crazy. And it contains this gem (on p. 13): “From the beginning Ball Club and Premium did not keep secret they were both owned by Tribune Co. […] To dispel possible confusion, Premium’s employees were instructed to tell customers that Premium is not a part of Ball Club.”
Gee, that’s not concealing ownership, or anything.
Joe Sheehan checks in from New Orleans for the first installment in the series of daily reports he’ll be filing from the winter meetings. Today, a look at the Kevin Brown trade, the Miguel Batista signing, and the Mariners’ botching of their outfield situation.
Tuesday night, Gary Huckabay and I hosted the NorCal version of BP’s Mock Winter Meetings Pizza Feed. The feed was attended by several dozen very enthusiastic fans and one fan’s poor girlfriend, who spent the entire time sitting in the corner wondering how exactly she got mixed up with a group like us. The rules were essentially the same as the Chicago event: Each participant was given a team, constrained by that team’s real-life budget and talent restrictions, and was assigned the task of improving the product as much as possible in a few short hours. Unlike Chicago, we had a few added bonuses. First, our Feed was held after the arbitration deadline, meaning participants already knew whom they had cut and what players they could not sign. Second, we tried as best we could to approximate estimated arbitration awards on an individual basis. While this was much more time consuming, it provided more accuracy when accounting for payrolls and increased the likelihood that teams would simply release players who were likely to command significantly more than a comparable replacement. Third, we made no effort whatsoever to determine deferment of payments–like insurance coverage for injuries like Mo Vaughn’s knee or George Steinbrenner’s brain–or to adjust payroll based on the likely economic windfall that follows signing such marquee free agents as Olmedo Saenz. Besides, often the price of handling the deluge of fan demand for tickets offsets the gains of signing a guy like Olmedo.