11/29 Ricketts on Wrigley, Z, the CBA & more
In September, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said he had a hard time imagining Carlos Zambrano returning to the Cubs after the pitcher’s early exit in August. But Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein is giving Zambrano another chance to earn his way back. Ricketts said Tuesday he will defer to Epstein.
“What Theo said publicly is he’s willing to give Carlos a chance to earn his way back on the team,” Ricketts said. “It’s [Epstein’s]decision and I support it 100 percent.”
* Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement will cap the amount of dollars a team can commit to their Draft picks. That means a team’s front office will have to be creative.
“It’ll be a strategic change for some teams who were planning to spend more than what their caps would be,” Ricketts said.
The Cubs spent $12 million on players in last June’s First-Year Player Draft. In the two previous Drafts in 2009 and 2010, they spent a total of $8.7 million combined. Did Ricketts see the changes coming?
“People knew this was an issue that would be discussed in the CBA,” he said Tuesday. “I was personally surprised at how far it went. I thought there might be some changes, but I wasn’t sure how far it would go. It’s a big shift, a bigger shift than I expected. We knew it was a possibility that something like this would come in.”
Will it change how the Cubs select players? Ricketts deferred to Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer on how their resources are allocated.
* Ricketts is talking to city officials on what they can do to get rennovations done at Wrigley Field. It’s unlikely they’ll have everything done by 2014, the ballpark’s 100th anniversary.
“There’s nothing concrete at this point — no pun intended,” Ricketts said.
* Ricketts met new manager Dale Sveum in Milwaukee during the GM Meetings and had a couple beers with him before he was hired.
“There was no litmus test kind of question that I wanted to hear,” Ricketts said. “I would be supportive of the decision of the baseball guys. I thought it would be good to sit down and talk to him and get to know him and I was very impressed.”
* The Cubs once again passed over Ryne Sandberg for the manager’s job, but Ricketts said the Hall of Fame second baseman will “always be a part of the Cubs family.”
* On Monday, the Cubs and family of late broadcaster and third baseman Ron Santo will find out if he’s going into the Hall of Fame.
“Obviously, Ron belongs in the Hall of Fame,” Ricketts said. “We’re doing what we can to get that message out to people who have the power to make that decision and we’re hopeful they’ll see it that way this weekend.”
* The Cubs hope for groundbreaking early next year on the new Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz.
* There is talk of the Cubs rebuilding. Usually that means going with youth. Can they win next year?
“Of course, we can win in 2012,” Ricketts said. “Like I said [at the end of the season], you get 25 guys playing hard, working together, and stay healthy, baseball tells you anything can happen when you get that. We’ll see how the offseason goes. I imagine we’ll be right in it next year.”
It seemed as if the honeymoon ended quickly for the Ricketts family, who took over the Cubs in October 2009. The team has finished in fifth place in back to back seasons.
“I really don’t think of it in terms of ‘Q ratings’ or honeymoons,” Ricketts said. “In the end, if we win, people will think we were good owners, and if we lose, we’re bad owners. As long as you focus on doing what you can to win, everything will fall into place.”
– Carrie Muskat