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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tom Ricketts optimistic about Cubs

By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com

SAN DIEGO -- Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts addressed his team before they wrapped their season on Wednesday night against the San Diego Padres, and said he won't rush his search for a general manager.

Ricketts was careful not to talk too much about his search for the next GM but did address his goals once again in his first public comments on the matter since Jim Hendry was fired on Aug. 19.

"It's like I've said all along, we'll do it quickly and sufficiently as possible," Ricketts said. "But it's a big decision. There's no point in rushing it. You have to have the right guy at the right time. However long it takes, it takes."

Ricketts has said from the beginning of the process that he would not update the media on the progress of his search. But he did say that he has talked to industry veterans, including owners and other baseball executives seeking their opinion.

"It's an ongoing process, but I have talked to a lot of people," Ricketts said.

Ricketts is optimistic about the future even after another disappointing season by the Cubs, who will finish in fifth place in the National League Central.

"One thing we've seen in baseball over the last few years is that turnarounds can happen pretty quickly," Ricketts said. "So I don't think it's fair to describe a year as a rebuilding year or reloading year. That fact is you get the right players on the team and they stay healthy and they play hard, a team can go from 70 wins to 90 wins.

"It can happen pretty quickly. Look at the Diamondbacks and even the Cubs a few years ago. So that's how we look at it."

Ricketts did not disclose what his payroll will be for 2012 but he did tell reporters that the baseball operations budget will probably stay where it's at right now. The baseball operations budget includes everything spent on baseball including payroll, minor league systems, June draft signings, etc.

Besides his search for a new GM, Ricketts addressed a number of different issues about the present and future of the Cubs. For the first time, Ricketts addressed his reasoning for giving vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita a four-year extension.

"The fact is that Oneri is a very valuable part of this organization," Ricketts said. "Any GM coming in would agree with that. That's a step we took so we had good continuity and to make sure we keep building on things we are doing well."

Ricketts was complimentary of scouting director Tim Wilken, but he said there would be no extension for Wilken at this time.

"We think Tim does a terrific job but he's signed through next year, and we'll kind of leave it the way it is," Ricketts said.

Ricketts said the Cubs are close to breaking ground on their new spring training facility in Mesa, Ariz., as well as the Dominican Republic where the team is building a new complex.

With contracts of soon-to-be free agents Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena and Ryan Dempster, who has an option year, pending, Ricketts was asked how he would handle these decisions if a GM is not in place by Nov. 1.

[Interim GM] "Randy [Bush] is our GM," Ricketts said. "He keeps an eye on all the decisions coming up. He's done a terrific job the last few weeks. If we have to make any decisions before the new GM comes in we will address it as it comes up."

Ricketts said he is always open to talking to players as long as he isn't put in a position of micro-managing his staff.

"Whenever a player asked to talk to me I've talked to them," Ricketts said. "But if a player has a clubhouse issue he should go to the manager or a contract issue he should go to the general manager. I wouldn't want to get in the middle of that."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.