MLB notes

Murdoch only logical Cubs-TV rights alternative to WGN

2013-05-05T19:00:00Z 2013-05-05T19:03:10Z Murdoch only logical Cubs-TV rights alternative to WGNGEORGE CASTLE Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 05, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

Lost in the hubbub of Tom Ricketts’ threat to move from Wrigley Field is the Cubs chairman’s desire for vastly increased TV rights fees that could bump WGN out of the picture for the first time in 65 years.

The list of suitors for the over-the-air rights portion may be small. Ricketts’ choices could be limited to WGN and media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s Fox-32 and My-50 over-the-air stations.

Just as Ricketts prefers to stay in Wrigley Field, he’d likely want to remain on WGN, which fits the Cubs like an old, soft shoe.

However, WGN has long paid way under-market rates, including the current deal which expires after 2014. The station has never operated without a full complement of Cubs telecasts since first signing on in April 1948. WGN first benefited from the Wrigley family’s philosophy of exposing the team however possible. Later, as part of Tribune Co., the station split profits with the team after production costs were met.

Now, after Tribune Co. emerged from bankruptcy, WGN execs may feel sticker shock when Ricketts presents his demands for broadcast money to approximate the megabucks of other major baseball markets. It’s hardly a slam-dunk to retain the Cubs beyond 2014.

The three major networks each own a station in Chicago, so they’re out of the bidding due to program commitments.

Meanwhile, Murdoch has less network programming to clear on Fox-32. He has a “shadow” station in My-50 for ballgames that conflict with Fox-32 entertainment shows, in a similar manner as WGN has with WCIU (Ch. 26). And he has long big bid for sports TV rights. Murdoch has no other logical well-heeled competitors in Chicago.

When it rains, it pours: On Opening Day, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said two of his top five prospects — middle infielder Carlos Sanchez and outfielder Jared Mitchell — were far enough along to “conceivably” help as callups this season.

Hold everything. Sanchez batted just .207 with a .309 on-base percentage at Triple-A Charlotte by week’s end. Mitchell was even worse at .132 and .277 before being demoted to Double-A Birmingham, where he went on the disabled list.

The wheels are coming off one by one due to injuries and ineffectiveness the Sox, yet Hahn could be hamstrung in bringing up fresh young blood to jump-start the team.

Call him “Suitcase Corey:” Outfielder Corey Patterson played for six big-league teams since he finally washed out in 2005 after seven years as the Cubs’ most ballyhooed prospect. Signed by the Mets in the off-season, he was released at the end of spring training.

But Patterson, now 33, still has speed with his lefty bat. The Mariners signed him on Monday.

Ron Cey not only “penguin” in baseball: Rays manager Joe Maddon is known for keeping his clubhouse loose with comedic touches. Latest were two South African penguins who had the run of the place and poked their beaks into players’ lockers.

“We got them from the local aquarium,” said Maddon, who laughed when reminded of waddling ex-Cubs/Dodgers third baseman Cey’s avian nickname.

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