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Cubs Thu Nov 07 2013

TV, Radio & a New Manager -- The Cubs' Big Wednesday

Cubs_200.pngIt's unusual for an offseason day to be filled with non-free agent news, but the Cubs sure did it up right yesterday. Three major stories involving the organization made headlines yesterday afternoon, and each deserves column space.

Rick Renteria Hired as Manager

Ladies and gentlemen, the next manager of your Chicago Cubs: RICK RENTERIA! No? Nothing? Let me try that again. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE NEXT MANAGER OF YOUR CHICAGO CUBS: RICK RENTERIA!!!!! Still nothing, huh? Well then.

It's pretty apparent that Joe Girardi was plan A, B and C for the Cubs, and when he re-signed with the Yankees for a nice chunk of change, the chance of a big splash officially ended.

Managerial candidates without any previous experience at the Major League level are nearly impossible to judge before any games have taken place. You can try to look deeper into his time as the boss of the Mexican national team from the 2013 World Baseball Classic, but pitching rules are weird and you have the awkward situation of trying to get everybody some run. The Cubs did interview numerous candidates with previous experience (AJ Hinch, Eric Wedge and Manny Acta), but it's apparent that none of them blew the doors off Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

Renteria does have minor league managerial experience with the Miami Marlins, and has served as bench coach for the Padres for the past couple seasons, so he's got the resume to take over as manager, but there's nothing comparable to doing it at the top level of competition. One bullet point that he does have going for him (and it's something the Cubs preferred) is that he's bilingual, making it much easier to communicate directly with Starlin Castro, along with top prospects Javier Baez and Jorge Soler.

Renteria won't be the fall guy like Dale Sveum was. He won't be expected to win much this year, but from 2015 on, expectations will be sky high. Can he lead the Cubs to the places where they want to go as an organization? TBD. He'll be introduced today via teleconference as he's still recovering from a recent hip surgery.

Cubs Opt-Out of WGN-TV Deal

We all knew this was coming. The Cubs made it official by notifying WGN that they were exercising their option to end the deal after the 2014 season -- instead of keeping it in place until 2022.

The deal has been a sweet one for WGN, as they've been paying roughly $20 million a season for the right to broadcast 70 games a year to a local and national audience. For many years, it was a great deal for the Cubs too, as they were one of two teams (Braves on TBS) that beamed more than a few games per season out to the masses). It's one of the reasons why the Cubs are so popular nationally. But in an era of MLB Network, MLB.tv, online radio streaming, national broadcasts multiple nights a week, and the internet in general, the Cubs don't need WGN to garner the same type of following.

According to the Chicago Tribune, WGN has 30 days to agree to a substantially higher rate schedule (one set forth in the original agreement), or those 70 games can be put up to the highest bidder. If WGN agrees to the higher fee, the agreement only runs until 2019 -- syncing up perfectly with the end of their agreement with Comcast SportsNet Chicago as well. If they don't, any deal the Cubs do ink will certainly end that same year so they can put the entire slate of games up for bidding.

It's unknown if WGN is willing to up the ante, and it's not out of the question that they don't agree to the higher structure, but then turn around and reach a new deal with the Cubs for a rate somewhere in between. Why would the Cubs agree to something less than market value? Because they might not get any offers at that rate.

Comcast is the only other major player when it comes to bidding because of their reach, ownership (20% Ricketts family, 20% NBC Universal, 20% Rocky Wirtz, 40% Jerry Reinsdorf), and a neat little exclusivity clause for cable negotiations (the downside of being a part owner). They also don't seem to be ready to add games to an already packed schedule.

The Cubs could start to pursue their own network, but that seems unlikely right now because of the amount of capital that it would take to get it up and running in time for the 2015 season. I doubt the Ricketts family is ready to take a risk like that with the stadium renovations yet to get underway.

It's doubtful that the Cubs will come out of all this with a lot more money in the short term, but they've set themselves up to make an obscene amount of money just a few years down the road.

Keith Moreland Leaves WGN Radio Booth

After three seasons as the color analyst next to Pat Hughes, Moreland has decided that he wants to spend more time with his family in Texas -- leaving the final year of his contract on the table.

Moreland was a so-so signing when he was chosen as Ron Santo's permanent replacement, and he didn't do anything during his time to change that. He was always a solid fill-in for Santo because he actually paid attention and knew what was going on, but he wasn't good enough to make the broadcast compelling.

Hughes is a star, and deserves an All-Star sidekick, but it's likely he won't get one this time around either. In a somewhat hilarious twist, WGN Radio has opted out of their agreement with the Cubs after the 2014 season as well. They were paying the team $10 million a year for the rights to broadcast games, which seemed great back in 2009, but the team's performance plummeted, and therefore ratings tanked as well.

Why does that affect a new color man? Because WGN is the one that pays him, and they aren't going to sign someone long term if they only have the broadcasts for another season. Rumors are going to begin to swirl about replacements, but I doubt Kerry Wood is going to leave his family for extended periods of time to do it, and I don't think the Cubs want to bark up the Mark Grace tree, despite his dedication to recovery.

 
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