On the new owner
Tom Ricketts did the best possible job introducing himself and his family as new owners for the Cubs. Everyone liked him, so much so hat no one made much of a fuss when he mentioned tickets were going up next season. He did a good job of positioning himself as an owner who’d be focused on the business end while hiring baseball people to manage that side.
There were some quotes in the newspaper interviews – all of which were presented as exclusive interviews done beforehand, but sure seem like the same one – that I thought were particularly lighting.
Payroll: It’s going to be just a little higher than last year, just over $140mil. The Cubs are currently committed to $120 (Cot’s Baseball contracts), before counting all the arbitration eligible guys. There’s no bail out for Bradley coming.
Not to depress you, but it doesn’t look much better for 2011. Only $96mil committed, but that doesn’t include Lee or Lilly, both of which the Cubs would want to keep and may even extend this off season.
How to build a team; Ricketts noted repeatedly that the Cubs spent the 3rd most on payroll, so money isn’t the issue. Instead, he said “The way you consistently make the playoffs is to have the right player-development process, to have the right guys drafting the right talented kids and the right coaches and scouts working together to see them be productive at the major-league level.”
If this is actually the way they go, and they start pouring more money in to the draft and the minor league system, the franchise is a lot better off.
Jim Hendry has a free roll this year, but Ricketts was very clear that they’d reevaluate things after the system. Two straight playoffs appearances buys you some time, but maybe not more than that.
the Triangle building!: Did this talk in 2005? Maybe before? And how many sketches have we seen already? Lost track of all this, except for the part where I’m completely tired of hearing about it. Which is OK, because I think there’s actually going to be some thing building in that lot next year. The overall plan seems to improve the stadium, but try to generate more revenue outside of it.
I wish I could find the quote for this one, just to have it later when it becomes necessary to have proof that they actually said it, but I believe what I read was the Cubs would work on a plan over the next year, and build in the ’11-12 off season. I wish it could happen sooner, or that stuff like moving offices out of the stadium to clear more room for the players could happen right away, but I think I’ll settle for having some progress.
Items that aren’t happening
Naming rights to the stadium were pretty definitely shot down. As were other big ideas people had been dreaming up – no moving for a year to redo the stadium, no jumbotron on a rooftop. They’re going to keep Wrigley as it, just make it look more presentable.
The one notable thing not mentioned: the stake in Comcast Sports Net. That whole deal has seemed wrong from the start; it makes everyone feel good to split that equally when it was created, but it’s always been clear the Cubs were adding much more than 1/4th of the value. The Cubs could support their own channel, and it fits with the model of making more money by looking to extend the reach of the franchise. That situation, or their radio/TV deals with WGN, didn’t seem to come up in any discussion.
Signs he’s got a sane head
It wasn’t just saying there’s no curse, and that people who believe in a curse will be moved to a less cursed them, though that’s nice. It’s reading that he used to be in fantasy baseball leagues, that he’s read Bill James Abstracts, and that he seems to be in line with the Billy Beane playoffs belief: “The reason the team has never won the World Series is they were either bad teams that played up to expectations or they were good teams that had bad luck in the playoffs. the end, that’s what it comes down to. To make it any bigger than that, is doing a disservice to the players who are here today and the coaches, and it’s just foolishness.” And still, he’s pretty clear he’s staying out of the way of the baseball ops, leading them to prove or disprove their own abilities without interference.
This is a guy who knows what he’s doing, and cares enough about the team to make it work. In the middle years of this decade, the Tribune made an honest effort to improve the team, to take the blame off themselves for not winning a World Series. Not quite sure that was true the last couple years, where the fortunes of team seemed to support the rest of the corporation, but I think it’s going to be very true from here on out. That’s all I want from an owner.