Tom Ricketts made the media rounds Monday leading up to the Cubs’ final home game of the regular season. Among his stops Monday were the Mully and Hanley Show (670 The Score), Kap and Co. (ESPN 1000) and Waddle and Silvy (ESPN 1000) before talking to the beat writers in the dugout at Wrigley.
Ricketts discussed a variety of topics from the season, to Saturday’s celebration, the Wrigley Restoration Project, Theo Epstein and his contract, Joe Maddon and the team’s payroll.
The Cubs are making the first trip to the post-season under Ricketts family ownership. Tom Ricketts thanked the fan base throughout the day for the patience and loyalty the team was shown while the front office focused on building a winning organization. Ricketts pointed out several times how great the best fans in baseball have been.
“They’ve been loyal. They come to the park. They’ve wanted a plan. We gave them a plan and now it’s starting to work,” Ricketts said on Kap and Co. “And everybody feels like they hung with us through some lean years. They remember the day we drafted [Javier] Baez or the day we drafted [Kris] Bryant. And I feel like we have had even more buy in than ever.”
“When people would come up and run up to me and say you’ve got to sign this guy, you’ve got to sign free agents you’re doing it all wrong,” Ricketts said on Mully and Hanley. “I’m like ‘Brother, we’ve got 106 years of what doesn’t work. Let’s do it the right way.’ Don’t do anything that is a short-term decision, our fans will be there for us. They will still be at the park, still be cheering for us. They want to see the right solution, not a short-term solution.”
“We had the oldest lineup in baseball. We had the third highest payroll in baseball. We had the third worst record in baseball and we had a bottom five or six farm system,” Ricketts said. “That’s when you realize that we really have a lot of work to do. Once the new leadership came in on the baseball side with Theo [Epstein] and all of the people he hired, I’ve never doubted him. I’ve always felt like we have the right people. We have the right process.”
Tom Ricketts thinks the inflection point for the Cubs was the Jeff Samardzija deal. Samardzija was the last veteran the front office needed to move before moving forward. Theo Epstein told Ricketts at the end of 2014 season that he didn’t think 2015 would be a development year. Ricketts said after Joe Maddon and Jon Lester were on board there has been a lot of excitement around the team.
“Even in the years we weren’t winning games on the field, I feel like they were great years for me, too and now it’s starting to pay off and hopefully because these guys are young and because we have this great nucleus and we have great leadership this is just the beginning of a stretch of several great years.”
Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein have not sat down to talk about Epstein’s contract. Ricketts said multiple times Monday that he and Theo have a great relationship, just focused on post-season right now. Epstein is under contract through the 2016 season. Based on public comments from Ricketts and Epstein it should be just a matter of time after the Cubs are done playing that an extension is announced.
“We haven’t spent a lot of time talking about it lately,” Ricketts said on Kap and Co. “We are just focused on finishing up the season. Obviously Theo and I have a very good relationship. Everyone knows what a terrific job he’s done. It’s just a matter of just sitting down at the right time to figure it all out.”
Ricketts said he thinks an extension will get done with Theo Epstein.
Tom Ricketts talked about what Joe Maddon has meant to this year’s team during the interview on Kap and Co. (ESPN 1000).
“I don’t think there is any way to measure it exactly. But I can’t imagine a manager being more important to a team than Joe has been to our team this year,” Ricketts said. “He gets everybody to be loose and yet focused and play with real confidence.”
“It’s been incredible, particularly when you have so many young players to have a manager who is just so calm and stable in the dugout, supportive of the players. Obviously a lot of the manager’s job is when something bad happens on the field to kinda of take that heat and when something good happens on the field you’ve got to give that credit and Joe is as good as anybody with that.”
“And then of course in game, I mean a lot of those early season games some moves were just incredible,” Ricketts said. “I think he’s really been a key, if not the most important part of this year.”
Tom Ricketts was asked throughout the day about the payroll for the 2016 team and if there would be any increases to next year’s budget for the big league team. Ricketts did not commit publicly to a higher payroll for the 2016 Major League team. Ricketts said Monday he did not know what the number would be but winning has helped the bottom line.
“Theo will have some resources this off-season. But I don’t know how much. And I’m not sure he’ll find something he wants to do with them. It’s up to him.”
Ricketts explained a team can’t count on money for sustained success, have to count on young talent.
“Theo will have some flexibility this off-season. I’m not sure where that exactly comes out as in terms of dollars,” Ricketts said on Kap and Co. “I think it’s a mistake to associate dollars spent with wins on the field.
“As you’ve seen, the correlation between how many games you win and how many dollars you spend it dropping rapidly and largely because the free agents that are getting to the market are older and they are getting larger contracts, getting longer contracts. The key is, it’s not so much about how many dollars you are spending but are you developing your own players the right way and that’s where we’ve been focused on.”
“Not only the facilities that you know of like the best facility in the Dominican, the best facility in Spring Training but also spending dollars on the International markets, trading all of our veterans away for young talent and drafting well,” Ricketts said. “That’s what is going to define our success the long run.”
Wrigley Restoration, The 1060 Project
The Cubs have had the worst clubhouse forever, according to Tom Ricketts, and he told the beat writers Monday that the new clubhouse is on schedule to be ready for Opening Day 2016. Ricketts was happy to point out his team will soon have the best clubhouse in the majors.
The Wrigley Restoration Project is on schedule according to Tom Ricketts, but a deep run in the post-season could push certain projects back that are planned for this off-season. Ricketts expects his team to play deep in October and it would be a good problem to have and well worth it for there to be delays in what is planned for this winter.
Tom Ricketts told David Kaplan and Pat Boyle that he is very happy with the job Crane Kenney and the business side has done with the renovation project.
- Report from MLB.com
- Report from ESPN Chicago – includes Waddle and Silvy audio
- Report from Comcast SportsNet
- Report from the Sun-Times
- ESPN 1000 Audio – Kap and Co.