Saturday at the Cubs Convention is filled with autograph sessions and of course wall-to-wall information. That is if one takes the time to listen. The second day of the convention is one informative session after the other where the fans can ask questions to the owners, front office and coaching staff.
The second day of the Cubs Convention kicked off early Saturday morning with The Ricketts Family Forum. Tom, Laura and Todd fielded questions from the fan base during the morning and provided updates on the Wrigley Field Restoration project, and the teams television and radio contracts.
The Ricketts Family Forum
After a brief delay Tom, Laura and Todd Ricketts began the session. Pete was not able to attend the convention. He is running for Governor of Nebraska.
Tom Ricketts provided another State of the Cubs and reiterated some of the same information from Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies. Tom is fully aware the results on the field were not good last year but believes 2013 was the turning point for the organization.
Ricketts stressed the same three points as Friday … Improved facilities, coaches and player development and the addition of great players to the system.
Tom discussed the Cubs’ new facilities in the Dominican Republic and in Mesa. Tom pointed out the importance international players are in baseball with 20 percent of the players in the majors coming from the Dominican.
The new facility in Mesa will have the “best fan experience in Spring Training.” Tom really likes the Cubs new facility and while he loved HoHoKam, the facilities were outdated. The Cubs now have the best place in the majors for players to train in the off-season and to rehab during the season. Ricketts feels the Cubs “had the worst facilities and now have the best.” Tom made a point of the fact all of the players in the organization will be on the same property now, both minor leaguers and players on their Major League roster.
The Cubs’ chairman feels the organization has the right staff in place to help develop the players. Rick Renteria, or Ricky as Tom Ricketts referred to him again, is the right man to help develop the talent on the Major League team and will help with the transition of the players coming through the system as they reach the big leagues.
In order to build a successful organization, first the team must have the best players. Then the job is to develop the players so they have a chance to reach their full potential (be all they can be).
Ricketts let everyone know that Jason McLeod has posted a big blue ‘W’ in all of the minor league parks and facilities throughout the Cubs system … with the tagline “When It Happens. Where are you going to be when it happens?”
Tom Ricketts explained how the Cubs were consistently in the bottom four in spending in the draft. He reiterated the key to winning at the big league level is to have the best players in the system. “We are building an organization that can win with more depth and more talent than ever before,” Ricketts said. The young players are coming and coming soon. The Cubs will hopefully be supplanting the big league team this year with talent from the minors.
The Cubs still have details to work out in their negotiations with the rooftop club owners before the restoration project can begin. Tom Ricketts did say he thinks the team has figured out a way to speed up the project. The original plan called for the Cubs to Restore Wrigley Field over five off-seasons. Ricketts said Saturday they have found a way to make it a four-year off-season project.
When asked about the rooftops, Ricketts compared the revenue the team is losing to a neighbor that watches television through your living room window and is charging the other neighbors to watch.
Tom Ricketts was asked about the article Jeff Passan posted earlier in the week that questioned why the Cubs were not spending like a big market team. Ricketts used the question as an opportunity to address the team’s debt. The debt is a big piece of the Cubs’ finances but not as big as some may think. The Cubs pay the highest taxes in baseball. The team is also not able to capitalize on the revenue being lost to the rooftops, old television and radio contracts. Ricketts assured every one the baseball budget will expand when it is appropriate. The problem is not the money, according to Ricketts, there is not enough talent in the system to win.
Questions about the restoration project came up later in the session. Tom Ricketts added they are “trying figure things out” and they need to resolve the issues. Laura said the talks with the rooftops are progressing.
The rooftops all have different agendas and it makes it impossible to buy them all out and/or buyout the last nine years of the contract. Tom Ricketts said, “It’s not like you can just write a check.”
Tom and Laura Ricketts stated the Cubs and the rooftop club owners are getting close to a settlement.
The Cubs are hopeful something can be worked out to keep the games on WGN. Ricketts said the deal with WGN ends after this season. Ricketts said the team has “had a great relationship” with WGN and would like to keep them as a partner long term.
The games currently on Comcast SportsNet will remain through the 2019 season. Tom does not have an answer on where the other games will be seen after the 2014 season at this point.
Tom Ricketts was asked how he could justify the high ticket prices with the product he is putting out on the field. Ricketts explained there is “no way to cheat the devil.” The Cubs have to build the organization the way they feel it should be built. Ricketts added everyone is going through this together and admitted it is tough to lose. He pointed out they are trying to make the ball park experience the best they can so people can get the best value for their tickets. Ricketts reiterated they will be bringing up young players this season and that will hopefully help the big league team.
Laura Ricketts added, “We feel your pain. It is our pain too.”
Clark the Cub
As would be expected, the Cubs’ new mascot was a big topic of conversation. Laura Ricketts addressed the first round of questions about Clark.
Clark received some bad press this week. But the kids loved him immediately and that is who he is for, the kids. The Cubs plan to make Wrigley more family friendly and he is part of their plans.
Up Next … Meet Cubs Baseball Management with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Randy Bush and Shiraz Rehman.