Tom Ricketts Discusses the Cubs, WGN and Provides Updates on Wrigley Field

After his annual meeting with the team prior to the first full squad workout, Tom Ricketts met with the media for his Spring State of the Cubs Address.

The Cubs’ Chairman talked about the upcoming season, the team on the field and the minor league system. Tom Ricketts also discussed the team’s television and radio contracts as well as the team’s payroll.

Tom Ricketts talked about the negotiations with the Rooftop Club Owners and said the team plans on having the Budweiser sign in right field installed by Opening Day. Bruce Levine reported the deal with Anheuser Busch will pay the Cubs $10 million a year for the next 14 years ($140 million total).

The terms of the sale of the team was also briefly discussed and Ricketts admitted Sam Zell’s terms, that any potential buyer would have been restricted by, does affect what can be spent in certain areas.

The 2014 Chicago Cubs

When asked about his team’s chances to contend in 2014, Tom Ricketts gave the only answer he could, “Absolutely.” Ricketts likes the young nucleus of players but acknowledged “some of the players are going to have to improve on last season.” Ricketts likes the new leadership and thinks his team has taken “another step in the right direction.”

On what he can tell the fans on how long he thinks the Cubs will have a team that can make the playoffs

Ricketts said, “I think we have a team right now that can make the playoffs. We have a good young nucleus. We have to have guys step up, but we’ve got depth in our system. And like I’ve always said you have to build a championship team and we are doing that.” Ricketts added, “Every year we are going to keep getting better and better and we are going to be consistent contenders.” Ricketts feels that if the players step up the Cubs will be fine this year.

On the possibility of a different vibe around the Cubs

Ricketts said, “I think the whole organization has a great vibe right now from top to bottom. Everybody knows that we have a lot of talent coming up and everyone knows we’ve got some young guys that are going to step up and perform.” Ricketts added “there is just a great energy across the entire organization.” And he is sure Ricky (Rick Renteria) will not allow any of the players to get comfortable and he will make them work.

On how much he’s changed over the last five years since becoming the owner of the Cubs

Ricketts doesn’t think he’s changed. “The nice part about the last couple of years, Ricketts said. Is that you see all of the pieces starting to fall into place. You can talk about the personnel. You can talk about bringing in Theo and Jed and Jason and everyone they’ve brought in. You can talk about the player personnel. You can talk about getting a minor league system that has a lot of depth and a lot of potential starts coming up. And you can talk about facilities. Crane started this project (Cubs Park) before we bought the team, but this took five years and now it is falling into place. You look at the Dominican and it’s falling into place. You see the steps and the pieces and it just gives you confidence that we have a great future.”

Wrigley Field and the Rooftops

Ricketts said there is not an update on the negotiations with the rooftops. “We are talking on an ongoing basis, Ricketts said. Like I’ve always said I think we have a lot of incentive to get it done. Everybody has incentive to get something done. Hopefully all of those incentives add up to getting something that works and we are just working through it.”

When asked if the negotiations were down to the video board in left, Ricketts responded, “There are a few issues left that we are still working on. I don’t want to get too detailed on it because we are still talking. But I’m still pretty optimistic that we’ll get to the finish line on this.”

As for a timetable, “Obviously we are hoping to get things rolling at the end of the season. We hope that nothing that happens in the negotiations would slow that down, Ricketts said. But, I can’t control everything and we’re just going to do our best to get that done.”

On the negotiating differences between Wrigley Field and Mesa

“There are a lot of differences between our Spring Training facility and Wrigley Field, Ricketts explained. For one there is 100 years of history at Wrigley and we have to respect that. Obviously all along it has been our goal to preserve and improve Wrigley because it does mean so much to our fans. It means so much to baseball. We are still working on that premise that we are going to try to get that accomplished. This is the 100th anniversary this year and we have a lot of exciting things planned at the park and we want to build a second century at Wrigley.”

Ricketts is really proud of the facility in Mesa and is really glad it is done. But admitted they now have to get Wrigley taken care of in Chicago.

Timetable on Wrigley Restoration

“It is our goal to get the project started at the end of the season, Ricketts said. I am not sure there is a hard date that goes with that but we want to get it behind us.”

The Ricketts family is planning on getting another 50 years out of Wrigley, with the renovations. “The renovations will pull the park together for the next generation of fans or the next two generations of fans,” Ricketts explained.

Ricketts said the team cannot pretend Wrigley is any other park and added, “The truth is we still have to get this done and we are not quite there yet. If we can’t grind it out, these last few steps, I don’t know what is going to happen. But the key is we are committed to renovating and improving the park and saving it for the next generation.”

Ricketts was asked if the remaining hurdles are too big to concede in order to move on and begin the project. Ricketts responded, “I’ve said this before too. Ultimately you have to have control of your own outfield. We can’t live for the next 100 years with this kind of situation and we have to know it is going to be over if we are going to invest in the park. That’s, that’s the full story.”

On why the project cannot begin yet, not even on the dugouts and the clubhouse

“We’ve put a lot of money into it already. We’ve really stepped up the amount of maintenance.”

The Right Field Sign

Ricketts said the Cubs intention is to have the see-through sign in right field up by Opening Day. The Cubs have a partnership agreement in place with Budweiser. Ricketts said Anheuser is a “great partner” and the team is “looking forward to a long relationship with them.”

Status with WGN TV and 720 WGN

“This will be a year that we have a lot of discussions of the future of at least the games on WGN. It is still too early to predict or anticipate what is going to happen with those games, Ricketts said. But we have some options and we are going to explore them and do what is right for the team.”

Ricketts clarified that was the case with both radio and television.

The Big League Team’s Payroll

Ricketts was asked why they are not investing in the big league team and it was pointed out to him that the payroll has dropped while the team did not appear to have the money to go after players they seemingly wanted to sign because they were outbid. Ricketts said, “First of all when we look at baseball investments we don’t just look at payroll. We’ve put a lot of money into, not only the facilities in certain places, but we’ve spent more than any other team in signing amateur free agents in the last few years.”

Ricketts acknowledged that some of that is because spending limits are capped but pointed out the team “blew past their Dominican cap this year.” Ricketts explained the team has invested more in coaches, development staff and in their minor league coaches and programs.

When asked about “profit taking,” Ricketts said, “Absolutely not.” And added he is not even sure what that means.

Ricketts added later that he and the team will get past Sam Zell’s terms of the sell, terms that any potential buyer were aware of, and the team is doing the right thing now by building the future of the organization. Ricketts also admitted there are other restraints to the sell that he cannot discuss.

Theo Epstein and Baseball Operations

Ricketts was asked to comment on the job Theo Epstein and his staff has done since they took over baseball operations for the team. And if he still has complete confidence in Epstein’s plan.

Ricketts said he is 100 percent behind Theo Epstein and his plan. Ricketts added, “You’ve guys seen it. It is an organization that has a good team on the field now but an incredible future in front of us. We’ve gone from being an also-ran to being the second best system in baseball. We’ve got coaches that are coordinated and working together to help the players improve.”

Tom Ricketts said, “I think our organization is in a great spot and I think those guys are doing a brilliant job.”

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  • Ripsnorter1

    Go ahead. Get angry with me. But that was the biggest piece of baloney I’ve read in years.

    1. “When asked about “profit taking,” Ricketts said, “Absolutely not.” And added he is not even sure what that means.”

    If he isn’t sure what that means, how can he say “Absolutely not?” And the billionaire doesn’t know what profit taking means?

    Just pure baloney. A huge pile of baloney.

    2. “When asked about his team’s chances to contend in 2014, Tom Ricketts gave the only answer he could, “Absolutely.””

    FACT: the Cubs should lose more games in 2014 than any other team in MLB. And if you don’t like that statement, every writer I have read has the Cubs to be in the bottom 5 teams in MLB. Just examine their roster. More baloney. And a bald faced lie.

    3. Rooftops: “we are still talking. But I’m still pretty optimistic that we’ll get to the finish line on this.”

    Yup. When the contract runs out in 2023. Pure baloney.

    4. Concerning Theo: ““I think our organization is in a great spot and I think those guys are doing a brilliant job.”

    What is brilliant about the job Theo has done? The Cubs are in a spot to be the worst team in MLB in 2014. And from international signings, to his trades, to his scrap heap roster–it is going to take many more years for the Cubs to become a playoff team. More baloney. How can any fan like ‘this spot?”

    • paulcatanese

      Rip, you did that with a lot more class than I would have given to it.
      That talk was the biggest politician type speech I have read in a long time. There was much said about nothing. Seemed like I was forever trying to figure out who he was trying to convince, fans, team ,media or himself. Just a waste of time.

    • paulcatanese

      Rip, short and to the point. Read better speech’s at a jr midget football half time with the team behind by 100 points. It just didn’t get it done for me.

    • JasonPen

      “What is brilliant about the job Theo has done?”

      Answer: We went from worst farm in the league to one of the best. I personally would like them to spend even less on the MLB team. Its not going to win the way it is, so spend waaay less. Save the money in a safe, and once all of the young talent starts arriving, fill the holes with proven veterans.

      Its the way it has to be done. No other team in history has won the big one without building around a core of home grown talent.

      It makes sense to those of us that can see past 20 feet.

      • cubtex

        Jason. That was my down arrow so you know. “What is brilliant about the job Theo has done?” Are you really going to go with the worst farm in the league(not true by the way) to one of the best? Look at some of the other top farms….Astros,Twins etc. Are you telling me those teams have brilliant minor league evaluators but can’t win on the mlb front? Of course not. You lose on the mlb front….you get top picks. Even Theo admitted this with his interview with Jesse Rogers. See his own words below…..

        “I think
        we have some talent in the minor leagues, especially with our position
        players, a few guys who have a chance to be impact players. But that is
        the cycle of baseball. When your team is not doing too well at the big
        league level you end up picking higher in the draft and we are very
        focused on building our young talent base. So we should be talented.”

        • JasonPen

          I guess I don’t understand what you want. Do you want them to sign all of these mediocre 30+ year old free agents? Some of whom are attached to draft picks? Because it sounds like it. We’ve been there, it didn’t work.

          • cubtex

            My reply was to disagree with your statement that Theo has done a brilliant job building up the farm system.
            It’s simple Jason…Lose=Top Draft Picks= Good Farm System. Same formula the Astros and other losing small market teams follow.

          • JasonPen

            So you are in agreement that we have a top farm system, but you just don’t want to give any credit to the front office. Ok, sure, whatever you say.

            If they win the world series, are you just going to say, “well, yeah they won, but it was only because we had all of those top picks.”

            ??

            They only have really 1 top tier prospect that was a top pick by Theo. That would be Bryant. Almora still is developing and I’m not sure he will be a gamechanger at the MLB level.
            The rest arent from being so bad that you get a good player. They acquired CJ Edwards, Alcantara, Olt, Soler, and Viscaino (All future starters) outside of the draft. Your Astros and Twins have not. They have made a farm system that had next to nothing into a top 5 maybe top 2 farm system in the league. Also, they did it in virtually no time at all.

            What more do you want?

            Have some patience. Its not like they havent told everyone their plan. I think its working.

          • cubtex

            You are mistaken sir. What is working? Collecting minor league players by losing on the mlb front and trading EVERY major league player for prospects while losing more games in 2 years in Cubs history??? Sure that is working.They inherited Alcantara…so you are mistaken on that. They inherited Baez. They inherited Volgelbach. They traded Garza for ALL prospects. Have some patience? Sure…sit back and relax till 2017 because that is the plan. Clear as day. Look at the Astros. We are 1 year behind them. Cubs motto- This will work…..Give or Take another 3 or 5 years or so. What’s the rush????

          • JasonPen

            You still havent said what you want them to do. Was I correct when I said you wanted them to sign all of the 30 year old FA’s?
            Seems to me that we’ve already tried that before…

          • cubtex

            Seriously Jason. This plan is what it is. Any GM could accomplish what Theo has done thus far. Every asset on the mlb roster traded for prospects and putting a poor cheap product on the field to get a top pick in the draft. Judging by your picture…you are a young man. You can afford to be patient and wait till 2017. Unfortunately, many won’t be around to see it.
            And what did I expect them to do? Improve the mlb roster. Don’t just do one thing. Walk and chew gum at the same time. BIG Market ReBuild. Be wiser in Internation FA market. Be wiser in trades. That is what I expected.

          • Tony_Hall

            In other words Jason try to find a way to be a 75-82 win season and get lucky one year and make the playoffs and hope that that one chance is their year. But it will make some fans feel like the team is only 2-3 moves away at all times.

            As Jason said, seems that we’ve already tried that before….

          • cubtex

            What do you mean? Our owner and VP Theo are both saying this team can make the playoffs this year!!! We are 1 move away ;)))

          • Tony_Hall

            They never said one move away.

            Theo is President of Baseball Operations!

            This team can make the playoffs. Their chances are really small, but stranger things have happened in sports. I would need big odds to make that bet though!

          • cubtex

            sorry if I offended you by calling him VP. lol. Well President Theo and Owner Ricketts are claiming this team can make the playoffs. 1 move away. Rebuild is over! Buy your playoff tickets now!

          • Tony_Hall

            Keep repeating the same old incorrect information.

          • cubtex

            what’s incorrect… “I think we have a team right now that can make the playoffs” That ” means it was a direct quote. Theo said the same. I guess the words “I think” can be incorrect information if both of those two believe it. lol

          • Tony_Hall

            1 move away

          • JasonPen

            Most of us want a consistent winner. The way to do it is to build the farm from the ground up. These top picks are a great way to get talent. You can’t plan on getting lucky and drafting Mike Trout at #20. So if they have to lose for 2,3,4 years in a row, so be it. They’ve had 100+ years of trying it every other way in the book. This way hasn’t been tried before. I’m willing to give it a try. I’m sorry if you know of people who won’t be around to see it through. We’ve all known fans that lived their whole lives and died without seeing a world series victory for the Cubs. But that is no reason for putting off what needs to be done. Sometimes, to get better, you need to hold your nose and take the medicine.

          • cubtex

            I hate that argument. We haven’t won for 100 years so it will take sooooo looooong. Bullsh##!!! Excuse my language but I hope if you ever run a company you don’t come up with such a loser mentality.

          • Tony_Hall

            Uncalled for Ray.

          • cubtex

            what is? Saying it can’t be corrected for years and years because the organization hasn’t won for 100 years is a loser mentality.

          • Tony_Hall

            I will use one of your favorite comebacks.

            Really?

            You directed it at Jason. I would hope you would be supportive of someone starting their own business and growing it from the ground up, not use it as a come back to tell someone that if they feel what the Cubs are doing is right, they must have a loser mentality.

          • cubtex

            Reading is a skill. My words. I hope if you ever run a company ….you will not come up with such a loser mentality. Keep trying to dig for something that isn’t there. Conjuction Junction what’s your function?

          • Tony_Hall

            Sorry Ray, it was uncalled for.

          • cubtex

            You read it wrong and I will apologize to Jason if he was offended by it…but it was a general statement to say what a lame excuse for failure. I don’t operate that way and I hope 99% of the people in this country don’t either. Unfortunately…I know that number is way lower.

          • JasonPen

            Anything worth doing is worth doing right. It has to be hard on Ricketts and the front office. Knowing they are doing it the right way, and still they have to deal with the impatient fans like yourself. Don’t worry, when they win it all, there will be plenty of standing room at the parade. I’ll save you a spot.

          • cubtex

            To clarify my response since Tony Hall obviously read it the wrong way. That was a general statement not intended at you. The statement was that it is a poor excuse to say that we have sucked for 100 years so it will take forever to correct. It wasn’t intended any way to insinuate that you have this attitude. I was encouraging you not to!

    • dicepaul

      We know that you don’t like this front office but please spare us from your narcissistic vitriol.

    • Sonate

      Hey Rip. Don’t pull punches. Tell us how you REALLY feel! :)

    • Tony_Hall

      1. Ricketts are not taking any money out of the Cubs.

      2. Why shouldn’t he answer absolutely to the question of the teams cahnces to contend in 2014. They absolutely can contend this year, just not for very long. Was it 2 years ago that the Padres surprised everyone and contended all year, with a roster no one would have expected to do it.

      3. The rooftops. A deal is close and it will end up with the Ricketts using more of their families cash to buy one or more up.

      4. This organization is in a great spot. He didn’t say the major league team, he was talking about the organization.

      • DWalker

        Anyone else notice the “other contraints” comment on the sale? Zell really f’d the cubs over on the sale, but aside fromt he financing structure, i wonder what other contraints he was talking about.

        • Tony_Hall

          We only know what we have been told by the Ricketts, Theo, etc and what has been reported. What we don’t know is the other details, the other constraints that were part of the deal. This is how Sam Zell needed it to save capital gains and MLB allowed it to happen.

    • Swish23

      Great response. I dispise this family. From PK to the white tower Trib; no one makes me madder then the daddy’s trust fund owners. Keep losing on purpose. 106 yrs and counting. There is no defending this. Top 5 revenues; top 3 tix prices; 26 in payroll; losing on purpose. Pathetic. And liars. And they chose to accept this mess; a real businessman would of waited till the BK courts forced Zell to sell; like the Mccourts had to; MLB would never of allowed a franchise to linger in BK courts. Right now it’s a toss up; worst owner in baseball; Loria, Angelo’s, daddy’s trust fund group. 40 plus yrs I’ve watched this team; wow; ouch!

  • cubtex

    I couldn’t get past this line in the article.

    Ricketts said, “I think we have a team right now that can make the playoffs.

    What a bunch of BS! Do you think the fans are that dumb Mr. Ricketts? I think we have a team right now that can make the playoffs. Either you think you are this businessman that can sell ice to an eskimo and continue to charge one of the highest ticket prices in the game or you have no clue about what it takes to win and what a playoff team looks like.

    One question- When they don’t make the playoffs this year….who will be to blame? Theo? Renteria? Who will hold responsible Mr. Ricketts?

  • Shut up Tom

    I’m sorry it is happening but I am tired of Ricketts talking down to Cubs fans (Playoffs really Tom, Playoffs??) and Theo trying to talk over Cubs fans heads.

    • paulcatanese

      Perfect comparison. Ricketts needs to talk faster, and Theo needs to talk slower. or just don’t talk at all, just hand out written statements.
      Personally I find those “state of the Cubs” speeches unnecessary. They don’t solve anything. Winning would.