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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.

  • Joe Cartwright

    “right now Jim is our general manager,” and “after that, we’ll just take it one day at a time.”

    I’m hoping that means no Jim next season. But, ‘right now’ could include next season.
    Tom Ricketts is a businessman….

    • hardtop

      … and a double talking boob

  • EQ

    that’s all Cubs fans need.. phrases like “more time” and “the long haul” because we’re very patient… we’re totally ok with waiting another century for a winner.. there’s no urgency here on our parts! (hope you all heard the sarcasm)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      To be fair, we’ve waited this long…

      • hansman1982

        Agree, the win-now philosophy didn’t work in 07-09 so might as well try something else…I personally think that Ricketts doesn’t “care” about the big league team this year or next, he knows we have to field a team and have to make some attempt at contention but I think he sees the minor leagues as the keys to the future contention of the Cubs.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          We’ll know a lot more this offseason. If the Cubs don’t even sniff at guys like Pujols and Fielder, we’ll know for sure Ricketts isn’t interested in going into win-now mode.

          • Internet Random

            Standard disclaimer: I like Carlos Pena, both as a player and as a positive presence on the team.

            But, the longer that Pena hangs around, the less hope I have that there will be any real effort for Peeholes or Fielder.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I sort of agree, though, if he sticks through August, it may have been the plan all along to have fingers crossed for (a) Type B free agent status, and (b) an offer of arbitration that Pena quickly declines (these kind of handshake agreements do exist, though there are whispers that Pena refused to agree to do so for Tampa last year).

  • Fishin Phil

    You’re trying to get my hopes up again, aren’t you?? You better not be toying with my emotions!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Just reporting what he said. I’m still optimistic, though, for whatever that’s worth.

  • CubFan Paul

    Ricketts is a joke, plain & simple ..I’m quite sure he’s only starting these “annual tours” of the minor league affiliates because of the Sandberg backlash from fans & Sandberg himself ..Ryne has mentioned multiple times the lack of communication from the cubs owners & front office getting back to the minors and now all of a sudden Cricketts shows up to the minors for pep talks but didnt want to talk about Hendry, his lack of spending on the big league team & not trading guys who won’t be back next year

    “While Ricketts was fairly expansive in talking about the farm system, questions expressly about the status of general manager Jim Hendry and the recently passed trade deadline were deemed off limits. He turned guarded when asked about any possible changes for next season”

    what a joke ..as long as his wallet does the talking this offseason on the Chicago team that matters ($130million payroll that doesnt include Soriano) i’ll be happy

  • hardtop

    Brett, thanks for putting this together. However, for me, I learned absolutely nothing from Rickett’s comments (aside from he says he’s going to restore the farm system). It’s just a bunch on non-committal fluff. I recognize that nothing he said was a ringing endorsement for Hendry, but none of it was his death sentence either. I would really like it if he’d stop being such a weenie and publicly recognize he’s at the helm of a mostly sunken ship, that he knows who or what blew a monsterous hole in the side of it, and that he’s planning on patching the hull… even if he doesn’t know how he’s going to do it just yet.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I hear ya. But he can’t just say, at some random stop in Peoria, “yup, Hendry’s a goner. Viva America!”

      You know what he *can* say, though? “Hendry is my guy, and he’s signed through 2012.”

      He didn’t say that.

      • hardtop

        Thank god he didn’t say that.
        Yeah, I don’t fault you for finding the positive in this. And I’m not looking for “He Gone!” (ugh, quoting hawk just made my stomach turn), but just some recognition that we suck, and that, when you suck, changes should and will be made.
        I think one, especially someone with as much success as Ricketts, could phrase that sentiment in a way that isn’t un-businesslike.
        I’m just frustrated…I’m ready for someone to tell it like it is.

        • CubFan Paul

          now is not the time for bold changes..

  • RY

    good, its tim e ol fatboy starts sweating a bit!

    • Fishin Phil

      I’m betting he sweats just picking up the phone.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        *titters*

  • philoe beddoe

    thats great that the Cubs are doing all that for the long haul, and Ricketts may indeed be a smart guy, but he should have been smart enough to know that while taking his long view approach he needed to keep the product on the field from turning into a big load of crap….if he truly is following the Red Sox “business model” then he shouldn’t have cut payroll this year..Why did he Hendry have to trade Gorzelany to sign Pena?…that’s an example of doing it on the cheap…the Red Sox would not have done that, and Gorzelany would have given us great insurance with all the injuries..

    It’s like Ricketts is telling us about this beautiful port city that he is building for us to sail into…..except that the team and fans are on the Titanic….

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Kobra. Kai. KOBRA. KAI!

      • Internet Random

        Sweep the leg.

        • MichiganGoat

          Jinx you owe me a coke

          • Internet Random

            Some things just cry out to be said. My motto is, “Never miss an opportunity to say, ‘Sweep the leg.’”

            • Internet Random

              Also, “Get him a body bag.”

              • hardtop

                How could you omit the red-faced, veins popping in the neck and forehead “yeeaah!!!!” at the end of that? deeply disappointed.

                • Internet Random

                  I couldn’t figure out how to capture it in words adequately. Your description pretty much sums it up.

    • MichiganGoat

      Sweep the leg… love the avatar.

      • hardtop

        “What is the problem, Mr. Lawrence?”

    • MichiganGoat

      My “always look on the bright side of life” view of why payroll was cut was to prevent Hendry from making another bad contract offer, or he wanted to spend that money on the draft and facilities. What payroll he allows in 2012 with a new GM will show us how Red Sox-like he wants this organization will look.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Very interesting. Never really thought about that bright side to the payroll cut.

    • MichiganGoat

      Shouldn’t your avatar be an orangutan?

      • philoe beddoe

        yeah…working on it….just quickest thing I had on computer…it’s amazing how many guys like us think Karate Kid is the greatest/corniest/most hilarious film of all time…just like Commando and Roadhouse

    • Jeff

      “Defeat does not exist in this dojo, does it?” Oh, wait………

  • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

    Things I’ve learned on BN:

    1) there are Simpsons geeks here. This is cool.
    2) there are beer geeks here. Also cool.
    3) there are Karate Kid geeks here. This just makes me squirm.

    • Internet Random

      If you grew up in the 80′s and you’re not a Karate Kid geek, there is something fundamentally wrong with your psyche.

      If your formative years were in another decade and you’re not a Karate Kid geek… well, there’s still something wrong with you, but the flaw might not be as serious.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I love everything about this comment.

        • Internet Random

          You are obviously a right-thinking man of outstanding moral character.

      • CubFan Paul

        i was born in ’81 and spent 2 summers perfecting my ‘crane technique’ on top of hydrants, cars, fence posts, bicycle @20mph, and so on before my mom paid for karate classes ..not sure what is was about that movie, but it changed my life

        • Internet Random

          I still practice my crane technique for at least an hour everyday. If do right, no can defend.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Now is not the time for bold waxing on and off.

      • MichiganGoat

        You can go blind doing that you dirty, dirty man.

    • http://BleacherNation Bric

      Listen to this man- he drinks a beer named Pliny the Elder Ale. TWC, if there’s a ancient European philosopher beer of the month club please sign me up

  • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

    I think you’re reading too much again. If Ricketts wasn’t asked specifically about GM changes, or even front office changes, why would he rush to point out the obvious fact that Hendry is already signed through 2012? To do so would imply that the “changes” he was asked about were specifically in reference to the question “are you firing Hendry cuz the team stinkz?”

    Ricketts doesn’t live in the angry anti-Hendry blogoworld. He probably knows there is frustration with the team and with management, but he also probably dismisses most of the ranting he hears as the inevitable griping of a capricious and reactionary fan base. Which, as you know, presents itself here on BN regularly. So for him to play into that narrative by assuming any question about “changes” means “will you fire Hendry like everyone on BN says to do?” would merely bring him down to our level.

    And, like you said, he’s a professional businessman.

    Don’t question Bruce Dickenson.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I wasn’t there, but everyone who was is assuming that it was clear that the question about “changes” was obviously about the front office. So, I, too, choose to assume that.

      • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

        “We’re streaking. We’re going up through the quad to the gymnasium.”
        “Who’s streaking?”
        “There’s more coming.”
        “Frank, get in the car.”
        “Everybody’s doing it.”

        Hearsay, Brett!

        Plus, Ricketts is just setting this up like someone with a lot of shareholders would do. If he fires Hendry or if he keeps Hendry, he can say his comments all along supported his choice. He’s a pro.

    • Internet Random

      - “Ricketts doesn’t live in the angry anti-Hendry blogoworld.”

      No, but in 2011, as a “professional businessman”, he’d be a fool if he weren’t at least keeping tabs on what the bloggers are saying.

      - “Don’t question Bruce Dickenson.”

      And if Bruce Dickinson wants more cowbell, we should probably give him more cowbell.

      • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

        Guys… I’m telling ya… ya gonna want that cowbell.

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