The Ricketts showed up last year at the Cubs Convention to a hero’s welcome. If the crowds could have somehow gotten ahold of some rose petals or palm fronds to throw at their feet, they surely would have. Finally! The reign of the Tribune had come to an end! Long live the Ricketts Family!!!
They talked about how they were planning on owning the Cubs for a very long time. (Cheers.) They talked about the beauty of Wrigley Field. (Cheers.) They talked about building an organization that regularly made the playoffs through developing homegrown players and smart spending. (Wild cheers.) Finally, they talked about winning a World Series for the great fans of Chicago. (Thunderous ovation.)
At the time, Cubs fans were in love with the Ricketts and so were most of the media. Right after they finally assumed control of the team in October 2009 they started talking almost immediately about how ticket prices would be going up and the payroll would be staying flat. But that didn’t matter, they weren’t the Tribune and they had a honeymoon period where pretty much everything they said was taken at face value and anything we maybe didn’t like was part of a grand plan to improve the team.
I never understood how that could be possible in a city like Chicago where lying and overt misdirection of the press is practically an Olympic sport amongst politicians. I couldn’t comprehend how that was possible from someone who was so obviously communicating in that meaningless corporate-speak that flowers up almost any dreadful pronouncement with non-sensical lingo and buzzwords that sound positive: “Mrs. Lincoln, your husband experienced a slight interruption of his cranial capacities when an unforeseen ammunition emission dynamically impacted on a neural trajectory. We are really working outside-the-box to conceptualize a holistic method to successfully optimize a return of his infrastructural synergies to his occipital area instead of all over the floor. Besides that, how was the play?”
But that was pretty much how it went. The Ricketts would say, “We are dedicated to building up the farm system!” and so it would be. They would insist that the Cubs were only a couple of transactions away from contention, and by golly, so they were! They would talk about providing plenty of cheaper seat options for families and suddenly they were really in touch with the needs of Cubs-loving families. Or at least, that is how it would usually be reported.
But things sure are changing here on Waltons mountain. The word of the Ricketts doesn’t seem to carry the weight it once did with the fans, and now the writers are starting to catch on too.
Bruce Miles wrote today that the Cubs could very well go 0 for the current roadtrip and pretty much states that he has no indication that such a disastrous occurrence for the state of the Cubs season would result in any changes from the top.
Truth be told, I’m sure Ricketts will keep his feet moving quickly when and if he sees the beat writers, whose questions he never likes to answer.
Ricketts has shown no sign of wanting to let Hendry go. The owner seems to be putting his faith in Tim Wilken’s drafts and Oneri Fleita’s player development and counting the days until the likes of Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt, Jae-Hoon Ha, Rob Whitenack, Matt Szczur, Ryan Flaherty and others are ready to move up.
It sounds like Bruce has some follow-up questions he’d like to ask if Tommy gives him the chance. Maybe he should put on a disguise and pretend he’s a tourist who wants an autograph.
Meanwhile, and I can’t even believe this is possible, Steve Rosenbloom actually manages to hit the nail on the head repeatedly today:
Ricketts has been a disaster since about his second day of this hobby. He apparently doesn’t realize it. He apparently doesn’t realize that he is one of the big reasons Cubs fans have death-spiraled into something once unimaginable: apathy.
Cubs fans don’t care enough to use tickets they already purchased. Other Cubs fans don’t care enough to spend as little as a buck or 50 cents for a ticket on a swap site. It has reached such embarrassing proportions that the Cubs have resorted to something else once unimaginable: discounted beer in the bleachers.
The fan who bought the franchise from the corporation has turned off the fans. Can we get some big red shoes and big red noses for the owner’s suite?
The Cubs have a roster of mismatched parts because of mismanagement. Last offseason, Ricketts told fans he would shift money from payroll to scouting and development, and then his general manager traded three of his top prospects for a pitcher who could cost this fifth-place team $15 million this year and next.
But even though some of the media members have started noticing the smoke and mirrors that the Ricketts have been using all along, they are going to keep running the same play until someone can pin them down and start asking tough follow-ups.
For instance, Ed Sherman followed up his piece where Ricketts blamed attendance woes on bad weather and whiny lower-income Cubs fans with a piece where Tom insists again that the Cubs are trying to build their team through the farm system.
“From a team perspective, it’s about reinforcing the fact that development of players matters,” Mr. Ricketts said. “You visit with the young players and tell them, ‘Hope to see you in Wrigley soon.’ You see the managers and coaches and say, ‘What you guys are doing is critical to us. Keep it up.’
So that’s what the Cubs have been doing wrong all these 102 years? The owners haven’t hauled their cookies to Iowa and Peoria and whatever backwater burghs the minor league affiliates have ever been located to give the players and managers there an “attaboy?” That’s why Corey Patterson sucked? That’s why Mike Harkey sucked? I wonder why Hayden Simpson sucks. Maybe he missed Tommy’s visit when he was off looking for his 10 mph of lost velocity.
“On the business side, it sends a good message for the whole organization.”
What message is that? “You guys here on the major league roster suck and I can’t wait to get rid of you, now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to go give some blowies to all those hard working prospects down there so they know we care about them.”
“You’ve got to walk the walk,” Mr. Ricketts said. “When you’re trying to build an organization through the farm system, you’ve got to get down there. If you don’t develop players, you’re behind the 8-ball.”
I’m actually shocked he didn’t work the phrases, “It is what it is,” “All things being equal,” or “At the end of the day” into that somewhere. But if you cut through the mumbo-jumbo, he seems to be saying the youth shall be the answer to our long-term problems.
Meanwhile the fans, and hopefully more of the media will finally notice that Tyler Colvin was sent down to the minors, Brett Jackson isn’t anywhere on the horizon, we traded away valuable depth in the organization to acquire a pitcher heading into his most expensive years, Koyie Hill is now getting regular playing time, and the entire roster seems to have had it’s extra-base capabilities sucked away by the ravages of time. Perhaps some follow-ups may be coming soon. I won’t hold my breath, but I’m certainly more hopeful about that than I am about the Cubs ever reaching the .500 mark again this season.