Saturday at the Cubs Convention is filled with one session after the other … and the 25th annual gathering did not break from the norm.
The first session on Day Two of the Convention was Meet the Owners hosted by Len Kasper. The Ricketts family discussed a variety of topics from Jim Hendry to the minor league system to adding night games at Wrigley to improving the Cubs’ clubhouse and Wrigley 2014. The Ricketts family entered the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton with “Go Cubs Go” playing in the background. Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd sat at the same table and answered an hour worth of questions from the packed ballroom.
The Board of Directors began the session by addressing the large crowd on hand. Tom Ricketts led off by thanking everyone for a special, special weekend. Mr. Ricketts added that all of the young players attending the convention have been blown away by the support.
Mr. Ricketts started off by stating his family’s goal is to win. Not 84 games or 85 games but the World Series. He said the goal is to build a consistent, winning organization that is a place every player wants to play and every coach wants to coach. The Ricketts family wants to build a world-class organization.
Mr. Ricketts explained that the key to building a winning organization is to hire the right personal then hold them accountable on a daily basis.
The Ricketts family is also committed 100% in preserving and improving Wrigley Field. They realize it is a cherished and unique place in which to watch a baseball game.
The Cubs new owners are also very committed to the neighborhood and the city. Tom promised that they would be good neighbors and will give as much as possible back to the city.
Before taking questions, Mr. Ricketts reiterated the fact the family plans on owning the Cubs for a long, long time. They view their ownership as intergenerational. They have a 95-year timeline in mind for ownership … not a five-year timeline like some of the other bidders that wanted to own the Cubs.
The first question centered on the Cubs possible move from Mesa to Naples. The family was reminded of the fact that many Cubs’ fans own winter homes and retirement homes in the Mesa area because of the Cubs. The gentleman pleaded with the family to keep the Cubs in Mesa.
Mr. Ricketts said the goal for the Cubs is to have the best facilities in all of baseball. In recent years several other teams have built facilities that has surpassed the ones the Cubs currently have at Fitch Park and HoHoKam.
The Ricketts family is aware and respectful of the 57 years worth of tradition the Cubs have in Mesa … but Tom pointed out they need Arizona to make sure they do half of their part as well.
Laura Ricketts pointed out on several occasions during the hour that the bottom line is winning and winning a World Series … and not for the family to make a profit. Pete added that the family is in it for the long haul. They want to build a consistent winner and make it to the playoffs year after year. The family is not just looking at this year or next but at the future.
The Ricketts family also understands the facilities in and around Wrigley Field must be improved. The Triangle Building is an important part in their plans. Not only for the players but for the fans as well … Tom pointed out there is plenty of places around Wrigley to buy a $10 beer but not a lot of options for kids and families.
The Ricketts plan on talking to the city about closing off streets on game day … just to help with the fan experience.
Laura was asked if the profits were good enough could they consider putting in a bid for the Bears. After a laugh, Laura pointed out they are excited to be at the convention but the family has not done anything yet. She hopes the fans with have the same enthusiasm next year.
After a couple of remarks and saying he’s not as good as a GM as Kenny Williams, Tom was asked about Jim Hendry’s future with the Cubs … with Jim Hendry in the room.
Tom Ricketts said he and his family truly believes that Jim Hendry has done a great job. Tom pointed out how much progress the minor league system has made over the last five to six years. Jim Hendry has built an incredible scouting department and from an organizational standpoint, Mr. Ricketts feels the Cubs organization is headed in the right direction.
Tom brought up the fact Hendry brought in the best hitting coach in the game. Hendry hired Greg Maddux and Tim Wilken. He said it’s easy to second-guess free agent signings but the key to winning is building a good organization.
The Ricketts family intends to ask about adding more night games in the future … not anytime soon.
The Cubs’ Minor League system was then discussed. The key is to draft properly and that all begins with Tim Wilken. Then it is important for the coaches at each level and scouts to communicate well with each other. It is very important for the organization’s vision for a player not change from level to level.
Scouting is a big key to building a better system. But not just for their own drafting and signing purposes, to be well educated with other systems for trades. Tom explained Sabermetrics is a better way to analyze a player. He’s studied them and understands the mathematics involved but an organization must get to know the player as well.
The Ricketts family will look at discontinuing the tradition of flying the “L” flag after every home loss. Tom said they have not thought about it but will.
The state of the Cubs’ clubhouse, and the visitor’s clubhouse, at Wrigley “shocked” Laura Ricketts. They had no idea how bad it actually is for the players (for those that have not been in the Cubs’ clubhouse, Ms. Ricketts is not exaggerating).
The Triangle Building is a long-term solution for the Cubs. The Ricketts family has already moved the umpire’s room to the first base side. They moved the Cubs weight room to the old umpire’s room and replaced the postage stamp of a weight room with a player’s lounge.
Tom then pointed out the way the fans is used to seeing a game from their seats is not going to change but most everything else in the old ballpark will be upgraded and improved.
The Cubs’ off-season moves this winter have put the team in position to win the division. Tom pointed out they removed the players that were not productive and added good clubhouse guys. The club has eight all-starts, a veteran team and a veteran manager.
According to Tom Ricketts, “If we stay healthy, we’re going to win the division.”
2014 will be the 100th Anniversary of Wrigley Field. They are lobbying the MLB front office for the All-Star game.
The Ricketts family does not plan on acting like the Steinbrenner family. Todd pointed out, “After today we will probably not be in the media too much.”
The Ricketts family handled their first Q&A with the fans extremely well and seemed to listen and care about every question they were asked. For the first time in over a generation the Cubs have owners that seem to care about more than the bottom line … but most importantly, they want to build a consistent, winning organization.
More from Day Two will be posted soon …