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Chicago Cubs owner and Chairman Tom Ricketts has been nearly invisible for the worst of the Cubs’ 2011 season.

Since offering a lukewarm vote of confidence in General Manager Jim Hendry in mid-June, Ricketts has said very little about the future of the Cubs’ front office despite the ever-diminishing return on his on-field investment. While he still shows up at Wrigley Field, he almost never makes himself available to the media. So, it’s been difficult to get a read on his plans for the future, and, specifically, his plans for the future of Hendry.

At last check, Ricketts’ “confidence” in Hendry had not become more, well, warm. Indeed, in mid-July, he gave Hendry an even more tepid vote of confidence than he had in June. In July, Ricketts said things like, “I support [Jim Hendry], and I think he does a great job.” But he also said things like, “right now Jim is our general manager,” and “after that, we’ll just take it one day at a time.”

If it’s possible, his support for Hendry has now grown even more (these water temperature metaphors are killing me) cool.

Speaking in Peoria yesterday on a visit to the Cubs’ Class A affiliate, Ricketts was asked about any upcoming “changes” with the team. His response suggested anything but total support for his GM.

“I don’t know just yet,” Ricketts said of the prospect for changes. “It’s something we’ll decide at the right time.”

Ricketts is a smart man. He knows what the perception is, and he knows the desire for change that exists amongst fans. It would have been very easy to say that Jim Hendry is the Cubs’ GM going forward (he is, after all, under contract through 2012). But Ricketts didn’t say that.

Ricketts also discussed the team’s commitment on the amateur side, including the construction of a new facility in the Dominican Republic.

“A lot of players on our team are from the Dominican Republic,” said Ricketts. “We thought perhaps if we had a little better facility down there we could give our guys more resources to attract and develop the right players.”

Of the organization’s future amateur success, Ricketts added, “We want to be known as a team that drafts and develops players better than the other teams.” This, of course, fits with the rumors that the Cubs are going to spend big to lock up this year’s draft class.

Ricketts clearly has a long view when it comes to turning the Cubs around.

“It’s hard to say we’ve had any type of big impact on the baseball side,” Ricketts said of his family’s impact on the Cubs, “but, that being said, a lot of the stuff we’re doing now should pay off in the long run.”

That would be fine with us, Tom. And there’s another big step you can take after the season.

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