Today is a brand new day in the world of the Chicago Cub fans. At 11 o’clock in the morning, Tom Ricketts was officially introduced as the new owner of the ball club. For Ricketts, the day started with the press conference, and led into a few interviews with the sports radio stations in Chicago. Throughout the day, he has said several things which will make Cub fans excited about the future of the team, under the leadership of Ricketts and his family.
At his introductory press conference, Ricketts said all the right things. That is exactly what you would expect him to do to be perfectly honest. While you would expect him to be completely upfront and honest with you, somewhere in your brain you would have to know that he will also tell you exactly what you want to hear. You should also note, that talk is cheap, and results speak far more then words ever do. I am not from Missouri, which is the show me state, but I want to see him back up everything he said. If he is able to keep his word, and accomplish everything that he said, he will be the best possible owner the Cubs could have gotten.
During his introductory press conference, Ricketts started out by introducing his family, and thanking everyone involved for making everything possible. Once all of the formalities were taken care of, the time had come for him to take care of business, and lay out a basic blue print for what Cub fans could expect from him as owner. The first thing on his agenda to relay to the fans, was that he had a few messages he wanted to pass along.
The first message he gave to the Cubs, was that he was here to win the World Series. That was a dream come true to hear from your owner. That statement alone had to make Cub fans everywhere smile, as the thought of finally winning the World Series would be a dream come true. The only other time we had a major figure head in the Cubs organization was when John McDonough talked about the Cubs winning the World Series. Hearing the actual owner of the ball club mention that as an actual goal speaks volumes more then someone in upper management. Hearing the owner make that one of his goals, makes the fans feel that this is more of a priority.
The second message Ricketts talked about, was Wrigley Field. He went on to say that he wants to improve the Wrigley Field experience for the fans that go to the games today, and to preserve the experience for all future generations. This is key to many Cub fans, who love the everything about the ballpark, and would be upset if the team ever left the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. The place is a historic landmark, and personally, I hope that Ricketts and his family does whatever they are able to do, in order to keep the Cubs playing there until they have no other choice but to relocate.
Some of the other topics he approached to improve the ball club, was to start at the bottom, improving the farm system. This has been a problem with the franchise for several years. When Former Cubs President Andy McPhail first came to the team, he spoke of how he was going to build the farm club to produce great talents, much like his former team, the Minnesota Twins. That is one of the many goals that McPhail was unable to accomplish in his time with the team. If the farm system is able to be taken to a level can is able to produce quality major league talent, the team has a whole will have taken a gigantic step forward to reaching their ultimate goal of winning the World Series. However, this goal will take some time to accomplish. You can not rebuild a farm system over night, a complete restructuring takes years to accomplish. Just knowing that this needs to be done, puts Ricketts in a class above every other owner the Cubs have had in recent memory.
As far as the current state of the team, one thing that may trouble Cub fans was that Ricketts says that the team, as they currently stand, has enough talent to win the World Series. This will not sit too well with those fans who think that there needs to be massive changes in order to make this team a contender. If Ricketts truly believes the club from 2009 has enough talent to win the World Series, then he wont go out of his way to improve the ball club. This could very well confirm what I have been saying all along that there will not be many moves, if any, to improve the ball club. While he mentioned that there would be a slight increase in payroll. When you consider that there are several players who will be getting pay raises, that will likely be the “slight increase” in payroll that the Cubs will be getting.
One topic he has not touched, was the subject of Milton Bradley. He waives off the question, laying everything about him at the feet of his General Manager, Jim Hendry. While the general thought is that he must be traded, a noncommittal response might be the best way for Ricketts to go. However, a comment at the press conference which flew under the radar might worry you, as a fan of the Cubs. One reporter proposed a hypothetical situation, along the lines of what we expect to happen with Bradley this off season. The question was, what would his response be if Hendry asked for permission to execute a trade that would benefit the club, but mean they would have to eat some of the contract in the process. The disturbing part, was not Ricketts response, which was that he would consider the situation and see if the trade would benefit the club. What was disturbing, was when Todd Ricketts (Tom’s brother) chimed in before his brother could answer the question. What Todd said, was that “Jim knows better then that”. Knows better then what, is what should worry some Cub fans. Should he know better than to ask permission to make a trade to better the team? Or should he know better than to ask to eat some of a contract? This could be a bit troubling, if what Todd said means that they will not trade Bradley if they have to eat some of the contract. Just speculation on my end, but that one statement might be cause for concern.
In one of the lighter moments of the press conference, Ricketts was asked if he believes in curses. What he said in response, was exactly what I had hoped he would say. He said that there is no curse, and any player who believed that there was a curse, would be moved to a “lesser cursed team.” From my stand point, this was the best thing he could have said. For too long Cub fans have looked to the past, and blamed goats and cats for why the team has failed to win the World Series, instead of where the blame really does belong. No, not on Steve Bartman, but on the players and managers who have failed to deliver in crunch time. Pinning the blame on something other than what has the biggest impact on the outcome of a game is a lame duck excuse, and knowing that Ricketts has stated that he wants nothing to do with players who believe in the curse, is a great step in getting the negativity as far away from the ball club as possible.
As I said at the beginning, talk is cheap. Anyone can talk the talk, and tell the fans what they want to hear in order to make themselves look better. As Cub fans, all we can do is believe that he is being up front and honest with us. He is a fan, just like we are. He knows the pain and heartache we have all been through over the years. What is important to keep in mind, is with the state the Cubs are in, he will need more then one off season to improve the club to the status he wants them to be in. Have patience, and do not go after him if the team falls short of expectations in his first season as owner.