Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Emanuel Needs to Incentivize the Cubs

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel needs to make a deal with the Cubs: if they win the World Series, they can have the $200 million they want to fix up Wrigley Field.

    If they go to the World Series, they can have $100 million. If they go to the playoffs and break their fans’ hearts by choking one more time, they have to tear the stadium down and move to Buffalo.

    Emanuel believes in performance bonuses, so it’s time to finally apply that model to the Cubs.

    No team in Major League Baseball is held less accountable for its failure. In the book Scorecasting, authors Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim found that Cubs’ attendance is less responsive to the team’s record than any other club.

    They draw whether they win or lose, so they have no incentive to win. The Cubs are not a baseball team with a stadium. Wrigley Field is a stadium that happens to have a baseball team inside.

    Moskowitz, a University of Chicago economist, explained to The New York Times:

    You’re right that most teams — in all professional sports — have attendance that is very sensitive to won-loss records. Not the Cubs. The Cubs have the lowest attendance sensitivity in all of Major League Baseball and perhaps in all professional sports…Why are the Cubs so insensitive to wins and losses? The answer is incentives.

    If you’ve been to Wrigley, you know it is probably the best party in M.L.B…As a result of fans’ feast-or-famine interest in the Cubs, the team has little incentive to win.

    In fact, I have long suspected that the Cubs have more incentive to lose than to win. Being “Lovable Losers” is part of their identity and their appeal. Cub fans prove their devotion by sticking with the team no matter how painful its defeats.

    If the Cubs actually won a title, the spell would be broken. Instead of being the Yankees of Failure, they’d be just another competent but unremarkable franchise, like the Rockies, the Twins…or the White Sox.  

    If Emanuel can use financial incentives to obtain better results from a public service such as education, he can surely do it to obtain better results from the money-driven business of pro baseball.

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