In their book Sportscasting, Moskowitz & Wertheim trace the source of the losing culture to the transfer of the club to P. K. Wrigley from his father William Wrigley (of chewing gum fame and fortune). PK decided to make visiting the ball park an experience independent of the team’s on-field performance. The result was that the Cubs did not always put the best team on the field. By making attendances less sensitive to the performance of the team, the economic incentives to have a good team diminished.
Using a century of data, they estimate that the Cubs have one of the lowest sensitivity of attendances to winning percentages. The result is one of the top-5 most valuable franchises in MLB.
Wrigley’s decision seems to have cultural as well as economic implications. Moskowitz & Wertheim believe it has fostered a losing culture. Despite being Cubs fans themselves, they seem to suggest that the Cubs fans feel comfortable with losing. The fans are more concerned with beer prices at the stadium than ticket prices. An analysis of the increase in ticket prices since 1990 reveals that the Cubs have the third largest ticket price increase. Yet, they have the third lowest price for beer.
The Chicago Cubs changed hands in 2009. The new owners seem interested in changing the culture. It is difficult to say if they will succeed. It is also difficult to say if Cubs fans like Moskowitz & Wertheim want them to succeed!!!