Chicago Cubs: Tom Ricketts

Agent Scott Boras: 'There are grand incentives to tank a season'

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12
8:42
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
PHOENIX – It was a simple question, but baseball mega-agent Scott Boras doesn’t do simple.

Boras usually makes one public appearance for the media at events like this week’s general managers meetings and will entertain questions about his star clients and the game of baseball itself. And then he provides entertaining answers that are so blatantly pro-player and anti-system that you almost know what’s coming before it happens.

Boras is the agent for high-profile Chicago Cubs clients like Kris Bryant and Jake Arrieta, so his opinion matters, considering he gives it to his clients as well as the rest of the baseball world.

[+] EnlargeScott Boras
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports"If any fan base in Chicago deserves 'now' and not 'tomorrow,' it's the Chicago Cubs," said agent Scott Boras, whose Cubs clients include Kris Bryant and Jake Arrieta
He’s saved some of his best rhetoric in recent years for the Chicago Cubs -- specifically ownership. Boras has a healthy respect for the Cubs' front office, but his needling during the Tom Ricketts ownership era has produced a laugh or two among the throng of media present for his diatribes.

Back to the question at hand. It lasted a matter of seconds. The answer went on for over seven minutes.

Boras was asked the following on Wednesday afternoon in the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel after meeting with teams:

“Did you get a gauge of how willing the Cubs are to spend some of this cash they have sticking out of their pockets?”

“When you sit back and look at things that are going on, there are some things that are rather interesting,” Boras began. “In the new ownership grouping there really have only been seven out of 30 that have won a world championship. What we’re finding is the course of conduct to win one is now almost something we have to re-examine. So few are doing it. Then those that are doing it seem to be doing it in threes, whether it be the Yankees or Red Sox or Giants.

“We have 14 new ownership groups since 2003. Fourteen. None of them have won a World Series. Zero. In looking at that, it’s either that it takes a long time to do this or it’s due to our infrastructure change. In looking at what’s gone on with qualifying offers and the draft there is this dynamic that goes on that says ‘you can’t use free agency and the draft in unison to win.’ You have to pick one or the other and therefore it’s the shadow approach, ‘if I’m not using free agency then I have to use the draft system and basically I’m noncompetitive for a period of time.’

You almost have to lose seven or eight years in a row to develop enough draft-pick currency.

- Agent Scott Boras, on incentives for teams to tank.
“And there are grand incentives to tank a season. To go and move my club into a losing mode in August and September so that I can win the higher dollar awards in draft currency. It’s very clear that 'draft dollars' are readily more valuable than dollars themselves. And so to lose No. 1 draft picks and lose dollars by signing free agents, that means we can’t do that and build our franchise for the future. So we can’t be competitive currently, so we have the ready-made excuse to say ‘we don’t want to lose draft picks so therefore we’re out of competition currently.’ That’s a problem. That’s a real problem. I think we have to address that to make the system more competitive so we have owners coming into the game that can do both, who can readily invest their resources in free agency and also have the ability to utilize the draft and scouting and developing so they’re not parallel universes. I think the major reason when a lot of new owners come in, the demand to win, is far less than it is for someone that’s been at it a long time. You almost have to lose seven or eight years in a row to develop enough draft-pick currency.”

That’s this year’s not-so-veiled shot at the Cubs' rebuilding strategy, and frankly it’s one that many fans have made as well. The Cubs will argue their way will produce more sustained success, and with playoff upsets an annual ritual, they believe yearly entries into the postseason are the answer to breaking through to a championship -- or several. Maybe that’s why only a few ownership groups have won. They’ve created sustained success. In any case, Boras was quick to point out how much the Cubs have increased in value since Ricketts purchased the team in 2009.

“That’s a reason to invest in your resource because you’re sitting on something that’s made you 200 times, 300 times your investment,” Boras said. “That in itself is reason for ownership to look at this asset. They’re taking positive steps. If any fan base in Chicago deserves ‘now’ and not ‘tomorrow,’ it’s the Chicago Cubs.”

He has hope that the cheaper days of the Cubs are behind them. It starts with the hiring of the new manager.

“I told [Joe Maddon] he’s the only guy I know that goes on a vacation in his RV and comes back and makes $20 million,” Boras said.
Joe MaddonHannah Foslien/Getty ImagesJoe Maddon is an intriguing option for the rebuilding Cubs.


CHICAGO -- If in fact the Chicago Cubs are looking into hiring former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon for the job that current skipper Rick Renteria occupies they’re heading into some unchartered baseball territory, at least according to one longtime executive who wanted to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the situation.

“There is no script for this,” the executive said over the weekend. “All you can do is the best you can to treat (Renteria) with as much respect as you can. But there is no perfect way to do this.”

No, Monday’s off-day in the World Series isn’t allowing for a press conference announcing Maddon as the Cubs new skipper.

However, at the very least, sources inside Maddon’s camp, including his Chicago-based agent Alan Nero, believe his fate for next year could be decided by the end of this week. That corresponds with the end of the baseball season as the World Series will be over by Wednesday at the latest. Maddon has already stolen enough headlines, the Cubs or another team aren’t about to make an announcement before play on the field is over.

The unique saga began late last week when Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays, declaring himself a free agent. The only problem for the popular manager: only one team in the league, the Minnesota Twins, has a managerial opening. It means any team that already has a manager and wants to replace him with Maddon will need to tread lightly. It’s simply not the ideal time to be making a change; that usually comes right after the season.

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Ricketts on Wrigley: Time to move forward

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
6:17
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO – One day after the Chicago Cubs received approval for their revised plans to renovate Wrigley Field, chairman Tom Ricketts described an upbeat feeling at the corner of Clark and Addison streets.

“Obviously, it’s very important for us to get those approvals to move forward,” Ricketts said Friday before the Cubs took on the Atlanta Braves. “We’re excited to begin the renovation process as opposed to the political process.”

On Sheffield and Waveland – addresses to the rooftop owners – there probably wasn’t much celebrating. The revised renovation plan includes five more outfield signs to be erected along with the two that were approved last year, that figure to block sightlines from across the street.

With the threat of eventual legal action still hanging in the air, Ricketts was asked if the team has reached out to the rooftop owners, who charge people to watch games and then return 17 percent of revenues back to the Cubs.

“Obviously the hearing was just yesterday,” Ricketts said. “We’ll reach out and talk to everybody. We’re confident there will be a solution that works.”

If there is any animosity from the Cubs side toward the rooftop owners, Ricketts wasn’t about to reveal it one day after scoring a major political victory.

“Obviously it’s been a long process,” he said. “We’re just glad that it’s behind us. I’m not worried about anything that happened in the past. We’re just going to go forward. As I’ve said, we’re just looking forward to moving forward.”

There remains no scheduled groundbreaking date on the project that could run over the $375 million mark, with an additional $200 million in related construction costs.

The Commission on Chicago Landmarks unanimously approved the revised plans. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to work with the Cubs and the rooftop owners to avoid litigation. The 20-year contract that allows the rooftop owners to charge people to watch Cubs games still has another 10 years on it.

“I was confident that everyone has an incentive to work together to save Wrigley Field,” Ricketts said. “Obviously we’ve always had a very long-term perspective, so a lot of short-term setbacks or friction in the process, we just kept in perspective and tried to take the high road and keep moving forward. I think we’re in a good spot now. We’re looking forward to getting things rolling.”

The project is expected to take four years once it is started, with some reports that the historic bleachers might be knocked down and replaced by a newer version with modern amenities. Rickets would not confirm that a razing of the bleachers was on the agenda.
“I don’t really know how the construction process works well enough to go into that,” Ricketts said. “… It’s a four year project. I’m not sure about all the final sequencing of everything, and not sure exactly how you start in October and finish in April.”

While the renovation plan isn’t on-field related, the on-again-off-again nature of the subject managed to creep into the clubhouse.

“I think just in general, just to have the approval to move forward is a big thing for the Cubs, for us,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I know it's been in the making for a long time. I'm just here for the first year, so I know it's kind of been worked through.

“If that's one less thing for us to think about, it's good for all of us. We keep moving forward and put the ballpark in a better position, and hopefully we can take advantage of it.”

Why should Cubs fans continue to believe?

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
4:19
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- I've learned how to deal with the frustration of being Chicago Cubs fan. It's something that every Cubs fans must embrace as they root for their favorite team. The losses pile up and the frustration mounts year after year, but we keep coming back because of loyalty.

For the first time in my three decades as a Cubs fan, I'm starting to question that loyalty. The frustration is building up more than ever. I'm not the 10-year-old kid who comes home from school and turns on WGN to listen to Harry Caray anymore. I'm the 30-year-old who just paid $1,500 for 20 games-worth of a season-ticket package that is split between a few buddies.

[+] EnlargeTom Ricketts
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsTom Ricketts hasn't yet been able to deliver a deal with rooftop owners to allow the renovation of Wrigley Field to begin.
It's a new perspective and something that has caused me to view my experience as a fan differently. I'm no longer blindly loyal to a team I've cheered for my entire life. Like most Cubs fans, the frustration over the organization's latest woes has been boiling for a while but it was recent comments by owner Tom Ricketts that really irked me.

I laughed in February when I read that Ricketts said he believed the Cubs could be a "contender" this season, but what really got me was when Ricketts was asked to assess his team and said he thought this was going to be a "fun" year. I sat inside Wrigley for too many games than I'd like to admit last season, and I watched this winter as Theo Epstein and his group did little to improve the major league club.

I understand Ricketts is trying to put a positive spin on his product, but don't insult your fans and speak to them as if they're stupid. This team stinks. It's not built to win games this season.

"What do you want him to say?" I've already heard from some friends.

I want him to say something like: "We're going to work hard to put a product on the field that everyone can be proud of while we continue developing one of the best minor league systems in the game."

It's all PR spin, but at least there's some reality within the sentiment.

On a broader note, the deeper frustration is that Ricketts has shown little interest in making the big league club better now. I understand what the total rebuild entailed, and I knew full well that the Cubs were going to remain bad for a while, but the neglect shown toward the actual product playing at Wrigley Field is alarming.

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Optimism for future -- not this year

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
7:08
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
MESA, Ariz. -- Owner Tom Ricketts was obviously overly optimistic about his Chicago Cubs' chances this year when he spoke to reporters on Wednesday, but his take on his club might not be far off.

“The whole organization has a great vibe from top to bottom,” he said on the team's first full day of spring training. “Everyone knows we have a lot of talent coming up. It’s a great energy across the whole organization.”

That made perfect sense, but prior to those comments Ricketts indicated he felt like the Cubs “had a team that could go to the playoffs” this year. Anyone who knows anything about the game knows that’s a long shot at best. But we can excuse him since owners are supposed to be optimistic.

As for that “talent coming up,” the Cubs have one of the best farm systems in the game after years of ranking near the bottom in that area. That’s thanks to picking high in the draft and making the most of their veteran assets over the past couple years in the form of trades. It’s been the key to rebuilding the talent base, but also has sunk the Cubs in the standings.

“You can’t serve two masters,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said on Tuesday.

In other words, rebuilding from top to bottom isn’t realistically possible if you’re trying to contend. And vice versa.

“The nice part about the last couple of years, you see all the pieces start to fall into place,” Ricketts said.

Those pieces were under the same roof for the first time on Wednesday as position players joined pitchers and catchers in the clubhouse of the new spring facility.

Top picks such as Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant joined veterans Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Travis Wood and Jeff Samardzija for a spring training that should highlight more young talent than this organization has seen in years. It’s part of the plan Ricketts entrusted Epstein with when he hired him away from the Boston Red Sox. But those prospects haven't seen a pitch at the major league level.

“I think our organization is in a great spot,” Ricketts reiterated. “I think those guys [the front office] are doing a brilliant job.”

Sure, there’s some irony in that excitement considering Ricketts had no answers Wednesday for the long delayed renovation of Wrigley Field, and players like Castro had to answer questions about a regression in his game -- but the Cubs feel their struggles will make the successes taste that much better.

“I think they’ve been reminded enough,” manager Rick Renteria said of the Cubs' history of failure. “What I do is try to think about today. That’s the focus. We’re moving past what’s already occurred.”

Ricketts deflected financial issues and/or restrictions regarding the sale of the team to his family in 2009 and says whatever issues they face, they will overcome. And they won’t stand in the way of payroll.

“We’ve looked at spots where a free agent would fit,” Ricketts said. “Ultimately that’s the budget on the baseball side. Those guys decide where those dollars go.”

And other than the pursuit of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, the front office decided money was better kept in house than spent on middling free agents or those over 30 years old. It keeps with the plan.

“Like I’ve always said, you have to build a championship team and we’re doing that,” Ricketts said.

It simply won’t be built by this October -- no matter his optimism.

Cubs Notes: Bryant comes 'full circle'

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
6:29
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
MESA, Ariz. -- The top draft pick from last season, Kris Bryant, spent his first day of his first spring training in a little awe of his surroundings. But he got through it just fine after facing veteran Carlos Villanueva in the Chicago Cubs' first live batting practice of the spring.

“It kind of did hit me,” Bryant said afterward. “I think he [Villanueva] was actually pitching the day that I signed so it was pretty cool it came full circle. I was watching him on television and now I’m playing with him, so it was a good day today.”

Bryant made some good contact but also missed on a few breaking pitches, which is no surprise after months off.

“In college you’re seeing that stuff all fall and winter,” he explained. “It will take a little time. [I’m] still getting my feet wet. I’ll fall back on the tools I used in college and hopefully it carries over to professional baseball.”

Bryant is slated to start the season at Double-A Tennessee but should stick around big league camp for a while and play in some Cactus League games.

Bonifacio arrives: Emilio Bonifacio arrived to camp on time after signing a minor league deal on Monday. There were reports he turned down major league offers to sign with the Cubs.

“I heard that but it’s not true,” he said.

He did have other minor league options but chose the Cubs because he felt it was the best opportunity to make a major league team. He can play infield and outfield and could be a leadoff man if needed. His best position is second base.

Cubs on TV/Radio: The Cubs could be switching radio and television homes after this season.

“This will be a year in which we’ll have a lot of discussions about the future of games on WGN [TV and radio],” Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said. “It’s still too early to predict or anticipate what’s going to happen with those games. We have some options and we’re going to explore them and do what’s right for the team.”

Podcast: Ricketts on state of Cubs

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
2:31
PM CT
By ESPNChicago.com
ESPNChicago.com
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts talks with the media on Wednesday in Mesa, addressing the status of the Wrigley Field renovation, expectations for the team in 2014, his belief in Theo Epstein and more.


Play Download

Click here for more audio from ESPN Chicago.

Day 5 Notes: Renteria: Eliminate anxiety

February, 18, 2014
Feb 18
5:15
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
MESA, Ariz. -- New Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria will address his team for the first time Wednesday as full squad workouts are set to begin. He says his speech won’t be that different than the one he gave to pitchers and catchers last week: eliminate the distractions and do the work at hand.

“Many of the things that I’ll say, I’ll say over and over the course of the spring, over the course of the season,” Renteria said Tuesday. “It will be redundant but what we’re trying to do is change the way we think and do things.”

The bottom line is that without championship-ready talent, the Cubs have to rely on doing things the right way. If they can take care of the little things, when the talent catches up to the attitude, they might just have a winner.

“You shouldn’t fear having high expectations,” Renteria continued. “A lot of times guys worry about creating this ceiling because how are they going to feel if they don’t attain it.”

Creating false expectations probably isn’t the Cubs problem -- no player is promising anything for himself or the team right now. Still, Renteria wants nothing to stand in the Cubs way of playing the game the right way, not their record or what the date on the calendar is.

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As spring home opens, Wrigley fixes wait

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
5:03
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


MESA, Ariz. -- It's hard to marvel at the Chicago Cubs' new spring training facility without thinking about the stall in the long-awaited renovation of Wrigley Field.

Almost 2,000 miles away from where the Cubs play during the season -- under bright and warm sunny skies -- the team and community cut the ribbon on their state-of-the-art new spring home on Tuesday. The huge complex lives up to its hype.

"We have something special," Cubs president Theo Epstein said in a morning ceremony attended by the governor of Arizona, the mayor of Mesa and Cubs ownership. "No more excuses. If we can't get better here we can't get better anywhere."

[+] EnlargeRicketts
AP Photo/Matt YorkCubs owner Tom Ricketts discusses the team's new spring training complex Wednesday in Mesa.
Getting better in February and March is important, but not as important as where the players perform from April through September. By Epstein's thinking, the Cubs still have "excuses," considering the renovation of Wrigley Field has yet to begin. Part of that project includes better facilities for the players.

"We're talking," owner Tom Ricketts said Tuesday after the ceremony. "We're looking at different ideas. Everyone has incentive to get this done and hopefully at some point here we'll have a solution that works."

It's the same statement he's been making all along, except he expressed more optimism at the Cubs Convention last month. A meeting with rooftop owners days later killed that optimism but talks are ongoing. The deal comes down to one thing: the placement of the video board in left field.

"Look at this place here," Ricketts said, pointing to his new stadium in Mesa. "When people work together and they really focus on what they can accomplish together, you see great results."

That was said with an obvious nod to the problems in Chicago. Ricketts, with the help of Mesa mayor Scott Smith, deflected any other conversation away from Wrigley Field. He has good reason because the new spring home in Mesa is a complex unlike any other in the Cactus or Grapefruit league. The Cubs should be proud of it.

"Our facilities are the best in the game," Ricketts said.

He's probably right. The irony is, it only magnifies the Wrigley Field issues even more.

In fan Q & A, Epstein defends ownership

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
8:07
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO – Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein came to the strong defense of team ownership near the end of an hour-long question-and-answer session with fans on Day 2 of the Cubs Convention on Saturday.

“Here’s the best thing about the Ricketts and their commitment to the Cubs,” Epstein said. “They know they’re going to own this club for generations and generations so they are willing to take the hit now and take some of the heat now ... because they know they are doing the right things to lay the foundation to get this right, to turn this into a franchise that they can be proud of for generations and generations.”

The Ricketts family has come under criticism for being unable to finalize Wrigley Field renovations while employing a last-place baseball team that’s lost 197 games over the past two seasons.

“I’m more proud of them for their willingness to take that heat and stick to their plan than I would be if they panicked the first time their name was dragged through the mud publicly and said, ‘We can’t do this, we need to put lipstick on this and find some quick fixes just to keep the fans and media at bay.’ They are in this for the long haul.”

Other highlights from the front office session with fans:

Mistakes with Jackson, Vitters

[+] EnlargeEpstein
Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY SportsCubs president Theo Epstein covered a wide range of topics in a Q & A with fans Saturday.
No sooner had Epstein finished explaining the process of bringing up prospects -- they have to dominate at every level of the minors first -- he admitted not having followed that plan with first-rounders Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.

“Our manager [Dale Sveum] was the one that wanted [Jackson] up here to work with him on his swing because we weren’t getting it done at Triple-A,” Epstein explained. “So we sort of prioritized that swing adjustment over the rest of his development. In hindsight that was a mistake. With Vitters we were trying to learn more about him. He had gotten to a point where exposure to big-league pitching was important to him.”

Both struggled and have fallen behind others in the organization. Jackson was even demoted to Double-A last season.

“I don’t think we satisfied the criteria in respect to those two players,” Epstein said. “That’s something we could have done better.”

Analysis: Those mistakes undoubtedly had some effect on the front office -- hence the cautious approach since. It’s hard to know if bringing the two up caused them to struggle or if they were going to struggle anyway, but with a long-range plan in place, the Cubs probably aren’t going to make the same mistake twice.

Ticket-buying

Over the course of the past year, the front office has been careful not to criticize fans for not coming to Wrigley Field as much. Executives understand that prices aren’t in line with the product on the field. Epstein was asked as much again on Saturday.

“I would never tell you how to spend your money,” Epstein said to a fan. “I think there is something special about being part of it the entire way. We’re being transparent. We aren’t proud of our results. We wish we were further down the road with the talent with the [major league] level. We are sticking true to our vision.”

Analysis: It’s the right and only answer Epstein can give. Short of lowering ticket prices, the Cubs would be foolish to try any other gimmick to attract fans. Lying to them isn’t going to cut it. Epstein has been on the mark in this regard from the beginning.

Renteria wanted to be here

For the first time, Epstein revealed that new manager Rick Renteria had multiple teams interested in him, but he wanted to skipper the Cubs first and foremost.

“He came to us and said, 'Guys, just so you know ... I want to be a Cub,'” Epstein recalled. "'I believe in young players. That’s how I want to do it.’”

Epstein was asked about the firing of Sveum in regard to the regression of young players. His answer was all about Renteria.

“If we’re going to be so youth-centric and be putting so many of our eggs in that basket, we have to make sure they’re in a position to thrive up here,” he said.

Analysis: It’s yet another indication the Cubs simply weren’t happy with the message Sveum had for the team at the major league level. No matter the reasons for his dismissal, the Cubs seemingly got as good a coach for young players as was available; by all indications, this is Renteria’s strength. It also means there can’t be any coaching “excuses” for lack of development of Cubs youth.

Maddux, Ryno invited to event, but Sosa ...

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
5:02
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO – Missing from this weekend’s Chicago Cubs convention are Hall of Fame players Greg Maddux and Ryne Sandberg. Both were invited but had prior commitments. Former outfielder Sammy Sosa, on the other hand, still needs to mend fences with the team before returning.

“Sandberg has a personal thing, and Maddux had something with the (Texas) Rangers,” Cubs Director of Marketing Alison Miller said Saturday. “We’re also inviting them later in the season. Sandberg will be hard, given his manager duties.”

Maddux was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this month and is employed by Texas, while Sandberg is manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. It could have made for an awkward return to a fan convention, but the Cubs are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the division-winning 1984 team. Sandberg won MVP that season.

Maddux will return during the season as the Cubs are inviting former players back as the team celebrates the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field.

“Maddux said he would love to come,” Miller said. “He’s expressed interest in coming to a game in early April.”

April 23rd is the date the team will actually celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first game, and Miller is hopeful Maddux can attend.

As for Sosa, the organization and player ended things on bad terms in 2004 when he left Wrigley Field before the end of the final game of the season. The Cubs traded him the following January. Owner Tom Ricketts believes Sosa will return to the organization one day.

“We have to work through some things before that happens,” he said.

Ricketts forum: Wrigley rehab in 4 years?

January, 18, 2014
Jan 18
1:57
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO – One of the Saturday highlights of the annual Cubs Convention is the Ricketts Family Forum. It’s where the owners of the Cubs -- this year it was chairman Tom with brother Todd and sister Laura -- answer questions from the fans about their team.

Here are some highlights from the hour-long session:

  • Wrigley Field rehab could take place in four years instead of five.

    This was one newsy nugget the Ricketts dropped on the crowd.

    “The initial plan was a five-year plan,” Tom Ricketts said. “Five consecutive offseasons. We may have found a way to shorten that and make it four. I think we can do it in four if we switch things around.”

    Analysis: It’s unclear what “switches” Ricketts was talking about. Does it mean a less ambitious renovation or simply a more aggressive approach to it? Either way, it can’t be a bad thing to finish it in four years, which would still mean it would be done in the five years since it was announced last convention. That is, if the bulk of it can start next offseason.

  • Debt load not that big of a deal.

    Tom Ricketts, in his purchase of the Cubs, admitted that the family took on a lot of debt. He was quick to point out that every team has some and it isn’t a big deal. And he said the debt isn’t holding the Cubs back.

    “It’s a piece of the puzzle, but it’s not as big a piece of the puzzle as people think,” he said. “The fact is there are other things we’ve had to spend money on. We’ve had decades of under-investment in the park that we’ve had to address. We had one of the smaller front offices in baseball and the smallest baseball organization in baseball. We’ve added 102 new associates (employees) to build out what is now an average-sized organization. So there are a lot of expenses that come in over the last few years.”

    Analysis: There’s probably some truth to what Ricketts is saying. After all, the Cubs are in the hunt for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. His price tag will be huge. But if they wanted to spend on 2-4 free agents they’d be limited and their debt would then become part of the puzzle. It’s not a big deal now because the Cubs aren’t ready to make those kinds of moves anyway.

  • Cubs and WGN-TV could part ways.

    As hopeful as Tom Ricketts tried to sound about WGN-TV continuing to air Cubs games after the contract between the sides expires after next season, he didn’t exactly say it was anywhere near a done deal.

    “We hope there is something that works out between the team and the station,” Ricketts said. “There’s a lot of shifting dynamics in television economics that have to be part of the discussion.”

    Unsolicited, brother Todd jumped in on the discussion.

    “WGN-TV is going through a lot of changes itself,” he said. “So it’s a matter of, is the synergy still there?

    Analysis: The bottom line is the notion of kids running home from school to watch Cubs games on WGN television is antiquated. Big business will take over future dealings with television and radio deals. It’s simply doubtful WGN will match the financial and programming needs of the Cubs as they move forward.

  • Family isn't looking for the quick fix.

    Team president Theo Epstein pointed out that the Ricketts family is in it for the long haul and the Ricketts themselves reminded everyone they want sustained success.

    “There is no way to cheat the devil on this,” Laura Ricketts said. “Have to do it the right way ... We’re not shooting for one World Series. We’re not shooting for that one year that 30 years from now we can point back to and say, ‘remember that one year? Remember how great it was?”

    Analysis: It’s the right answer -- for now. Sustained success sometimes means taking a step back to go forward. The situation the Cubs were in when the family bought the team was a precarious one in terms of anything more than a successful year every so often. Besides, there’s no going back on this rebuilding process now. It just better work, or else the family may have to simply try to buy a winner since fans will be fed up even more by then.

  • Mascot Clark will be good in the long run.

    Laura Ricketts was very pleased a young fan asked about Clark. She envisions a renovated Wrigley Field with a family or kid section in which Clark will be very popular.

    “I’m glad you brought up Clark, he’s gotten some bad press,” she said. “He had a very positive response at a school appearance the other day. That’s what he’s for ... Clark is a good example of what we’re trying to do to make the Cubs more accessible to kids.”
  • Owner: Rooftops like neighbor watching TV

    January, 18, 2014
    Jan 18
    1:15
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
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    CHICAGO – In his ongoing battle with the rooftop owners near Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts fired another shot across the bow in comparing them to a neighbor watching television through your window.

    “So you’re sitting in your living room watching Showtime, you’re watching 'Homeland,' you pay for that channel," Ricketts said Saturday morning on Day 2 of the Cubs Convention. "Then you notice your neighbor looking through your window watching your television. Then you turn around and they’re charging the other neighbors to sit and watch your television. So then you get up to close the shades and the city makes you open them.”

    The comparison got a good laugh from the crowd, but it isn’t nearly complete. Ricketts didn’t mention any profits the homeowner would receive for doing nothing like the Cubs get from the rooftop owners. It amounts to 17 percent a year. And more importantly, it was the homeowner that agreed to let his neighbors watch through the window as the Cubs allowed with rooftop-goers in signing a contract with them that lasts until 2023.

    In any case, rehabbing Wrigley Field is still in a holding pattern because of this fight.

    “We got a lot done with the city last year in terms of a renovation plan for Wrigley Field,” Ricketts said. “We still have some details to iron out that we’re actively working on. We all remain optimistic we’ll get through them.”

    Offseason questions: Who's the manager?

    October, 31, 2013
    10/31/13
    3:47
    PM CT
    Rogers By Jesse Rogers
    ESPNChicago.com
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    With the conclusion of the World Series begins the official offseason for Major League Baseball, though the Chicago Cubs' winter started the day after their year ended with the firing of manager Dale Sveum.

    Undoubtedly, hiring his replacement is the first order of major business.

    Boston Red Sox coach Torey Lovullo's credentials may never be better, as his team just completed a worst-to-first scenario. As of Thursday afternoon, Lovullo had not been contacted by the Cubs, but it’s been only hours since he helped his team win the World Series. Things on the managerial front should move fast now that the baseball season is over.

    If the Cubs don’t hire a manager by the end of the next week, they’re bucking up against their timeline of doing so by the general manager meetings, which take place Nov. 11-13 in Orlando, Fla. Expect final interviews and a decision in the coming days as owner Tom Ricketts and president Theo Epstein are to meet fans in a question-and-answer session next week at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago. Having a manager in place would eliminate plenty of queries.

    The next order of business will be dealing with free agents. The Cubs have four of their own: pitchers Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg and Matt Guerrier and catcher Dioner Navarro.

    After a career year, a source familiar with the situation says Navarro is already drawing strong interest from other teams to be their No. 1 catcher. That means the prospects of the popular Navarro returning to the Cubs are slim.

    (Read full post)

    Girardi right choice for Cubs' credibility

    September, 30, 2013
    9/30/13
    6:49
    PM CT
    Levine By Bruce Levine
    ESPNChicago.com
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    CHICAGO -- The firing of Dale Sveum had very little to do with what the former Chicago Cubs manager did wrong.

    Sveum and his bosses knew when he was hired that the team would be varying degrees of bad for three or four seasons. The player development plan in the mid-to-lower minor leagues seems to be moving along nicely. A group of projected impact players might be making its way to Wrigley Field by the end of the 2014 season.

    What president of baseball operations Theo Epstein desires in a manager is a stronger presence, a persona that will push his office and owner Tom Ricketts toward a championship mentality in a shorter period time than was initially planned. Epstein and Co. are held captive by a depleted baseball revenue stream. Money for the baseball operation will be limited for another three years due to a covenant agreement in the sale language of the team to the Ricketts family.

    Simply put, Cubs ownership will need to be more creative in finding revenue within the business. That will be the only way they will convince a manager like Joe Girardi to come on board.

    Epstein has watched with interest as his former manager with the Boston Red Sox, Terry Francona, pushes a morbidly drab Cleveland Indians organization to new heights in 2013. By insisting on some offensive help if he decided to take the job, Francona used the clout of his well-heeled résumé to leverage a commitment to win now.

    Epstein knows that the plan to renovate Wrigley Field and add important revenue streams for his baseball program have fallen hopelessly behind for now. That knowledge pushes his creative and competitive nature to find a quicker route to success. What would be a smarter avenue to that goal than hiring Girardi?

    This Girardi plan will also get the full endorsement of the business office, led by president Crane Kenney. Kenney is the mastermind of the renovation of Wrigley. He needs a bit more time to set his revenue plan into high gear. With the WGN TV and radio rights coming up for renewal after 2014, the team does not yet see the windfall billions coming its way until after 2018. The Cubs have lost close to 700,000 tickets sold per season since 2008. At this point, they need to stop the decline of season-ticket sales. The "Girardi factor" directs a way for season-ticket holders to see a direct path to championship baseball coming back to the north side of Chicago.

    Girardi fits into all the criteria that Epstein is looking for in a manager. "The job will require someone who is dynamic," Epstein said on Monday. "It will require tremendous creativity to tackle the issues. I think we will find that in the next manager. It requires tremendous energy, and part of the reason we are here today is that we decided the job requires some change."

    Girardi fits the bill in all of those areas. He would bring a world championship aura back to Chicago after winning as a player and as a manager in New York. Epstein went as far as to say that the future manager of the Cubs must at least understand the culture of "Cub Nation" before being considered for the gig. “Candidates who have the Cub experience in their background will have the built-in advantage of knowing the marketplace and the franchise," Epstein said. "[That candidate] might be better equipped in that one area to deal with that gauntlet that, at times, can be managing the Cubs. Yes, I think it helps [to have a Cubs background], [but] is it a prerequisite or does it mean it can‘t be repaired if you haven’t been through here? No.

    "There is a bit more of an adjustment period when you have not been through here, as I have discovered when you come from the outside.”

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