4/1 Ricketts eager to get season going
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts will be in Atlanta for Opening Day, and on Thursday, he sounded just like the players and the fans after seven weeks of Spring Training.
“I just want to fast forward — I’m so excited for that day,” Ricketts said.
This will be the Ricketts family’s first Opening Day as owners of the Cubs. Tom Ricketts and his family have been in Arizona this week and have attended several Spring Training games. He said there are times when “you think like a fan but have to act like an owner.” How hands on is he?
“I think the easiest way to address that is by letting [general manager] Jim [Hendry] do his job,” Ricketts said about the different roles. “I think that’s the right answer for keeping us from getting too involved in the fan-owner situation.”
* The Cubs have not picked a site in Mesa for their new Spring Training complex.
“We’re still working through the process down here, trying to find the best answer for everybody,” Ricketts said. “I’m very confident that with everyone rowing in the same direction, we’ll get there.”
MLB commissioner Bud Selig said recently his office had stepped in to help with the financing. Ricketts said it has yet to be determined what the final financing package will be.
“[Selig’s office] help in trying to find a good solution down here will be valuable,” Ricketts said. “I think they were helpful from Day One really but I think now they’re giving us a little extra emphasis to try to get to a conclusion and that’s very useful.”
The new Cubs owner has gotten plenty of feedback from fans who want to keep the team in Arizona.
“It’s a great vibe down here,” Ricketts said.
* On the proposed Toyota sign at Wrigley Field, Ricketts said they’re working with the city of Chicago and hope to have a resolution, possibly by Opening Day.
* On whether this year will be the deciding factor in regards to Hendry and other’s jobs in the front office:
“With respect to this season being any more important than any other season in their careers, I don’t think so,” Ricketts said. “Everyone knows they have to perform at a high level every year. We really do want the high level of performance out of everyone in the organization and we want to make them accountable. There’s nothing about this year that’s any different than years past. It will be really enlightening for us — we’ll learn a lot about everybody this year. So far, so good.”
* Can Hendry add players at the trading deadline?
“We’ll keep an eye on that,” Ricketts said. “Obviously, things change between Opening Day and midseason so if there are needs, I think we’ll be able to address them.”
Ricketts has been given a heads up on some transactions and moves before they happen. He said the communication has been good.
“If it’s something on the bigger side, Jim will typically run it past us,” Ricketts said. “If it’s a less dramatic decision, he’ll go ahead. The information flow has been great. You guys know Jim well — he’s accessible, he’s straight-forward, he tells you exactly what he’s thinking so that’s worked out really well.”
* Ricketts said the team had been considering a statue to honor Billy Williams before he gave the go-ahead. The Cubs will unveil a statue honoring the Hall of Famer on Sept. 7.
“While we’re looking forward and thinking about the future of the team, we want to always honor and respect the past,” Ricketts said. “When you have a player who is not only that great a player but that great a person and who stayed as a valuable member of the organization for so many years, I think it’s the right thing to do.”
* The length of the sale of the team was an “unpleasant surprise,” he said, but that’s the only one.
“I told my wife [the length of the sale] was the closest I’ll get to childbirth and she said, ‘How do you know? You were at Starbucks,'” he said.
The Ricketts family has tackled quite a few projects from the beginning, including finding a new Spring Training site and rennovations at Wrigley Field.
“It was our goal to hit the ground running,” he said.
* How long will the honeymoon last?
“It’ll be nice to get off to a good start and keep all this positive energy going. I think we have the right team,” Ricketts said. “Lou [Piniella] and Jim feel really good about the team this year and as long as we stay healthy I don’t see why we’re not going to bring back the playoffs.”
This is the last year of Piniella’s contract. Will Ricketts get involved in those talks?
“That’s between Lou and Jim,” Ricketts said. “It’s Jim’s responsibility to put the winning team on the field, both players and manager. If you insert yourself into that discussion, you’re not adding value for one thing. You want accountability. It’s Jim’s responsibility and he knows it. He and Lou will tell me if there’s anything else they want to add to the discussion.”
– Carrie Muskat