SportsMonday: Panic Room

No one ever thinks it is a good idea to panic in any context. And of course it is especially stupid to panic in the relatively meaningless world of sports.

It is never news that someone is pledging not to panic, especially, again, in frickin' sports.

And yet in sports media it seems like not a week goes by without some genius headline writer and/or copy writer feeling the need to re-assure fans that "so-and-so won't panic."

People, try a little harder. You know that "prominent person pledges not to be an idiot" is not news and yet you still trumpet "not panicking" as news. The Cubs lost a couple games in a row over the weekend and the p-word came out. For gosh sakes enough already.

And while we're on the topic of sports media malpractice, when billionaire family ownership decides to stop increasing payroll for the team it owns, it is inaccurate to describe the situation using the passive voice, i.e. that "budget constraints" are preventing a team from adding to its payroll.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts decides how much money he wants to spend on the Cubs payroll. He does so with input from his annoying siblings but still, the decision is made by ownership.

It doesn't just happen. And while we're on the topic, let's offer up a quick reminder that it wasn't true the family "ran out of money" just because Ricketts said so during spring training.

For a while, we were told that because the Ricketts family's purchase of the Cubs was "highly leveraged," there were extraordinary limits on the payroll. The purchase was "highly leveraged" because the Ricketts family chose to make it so. If they had wanted to make it less leveraged, real owner Joe Ricketts could have sold more TD Ameritrade stock and the down payment could have been bigger.

Again, no passive voice allowed.

Of course, the payroll limits were supposed to start going away once new revenue streams were secured after the family had owned the team for a while. And everyone felt OK with significant costs because lemming Cubs fans (including myself for decades) would keep buying tickets no matter what happened on the field, which they have. The Rickettses have owned the team for a decade now and the streams are streaming. So, um, what's up with that?

Anyway, all of that being said, the Cubs have a respectable payroll this year. They are a decent ways north of $200 million and that is right in line with other high-revenue teams in the league.

But the budget is out of whack. The Cubs find themselves spending too much on mediocre-hitting corner outfielders (such as Jason Heyward) and overrated starting pitchers (Yu Darvish first and foremost) and not enough on the bullpen.

What's that you say? I've just been guilty of using the passive voice myself? Well of course I did. If I didn't, I might have to accuse the sainted Theo Epstein of having fallen down on the job. That can't have happened, can it?


Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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