Barry Rozner: Cubs’ Owner Tom Ricketts is Not a “Smart Guy”

I’ve made no secret of my ever-burgeoning love for Chicago Cubs’ Chairman and Owner Tom Ricketts.

No, not simply because he jettisoned GM Jim Hendry – whom I’ve wanted dumped for quite some time – and not simply because I thought the way Ricketts did it was best for the organization. And, no, not simply because he opened up the checkbook, which allowed the Cubs to have their best draft in years.

The main reason I’m loving on Tom Ricketts right now is because, in a time when quick fixes and impatience are the norm (particularly in Chicago Cubs World), Ricketts has taken a decidedly deliberate approach to revamping a broken franchise. He is slowly and methodically going over every aspect of the Chicago Cubs’ organization, learning the team, learning the business, and carefully putting his vision into place.

That measured approach, in the face of criticism and declining attendance, makes me think this is a pretty smart guy.

And it’s the very same reason the Daily Herald’s Barry Rozner thinks Ricketts is not a smart guy (excuse the unbearable short, one-sentence paragraph structure).

Actually, he’s mostly made mistakes since taking ownership of the club, and so many of them were so easily avoidable.

But people want to believe he’s a smart man, and perhaps he’s just that.

Maybe he’s a smart guy who’s simply had a bad few years, and the firing of GM Jim Hendry is the first step in turning around an ugly streak of defeats as Cubs owner.

A few days ago I found notes of some conversations from October 2006 with people like Don Levin, who knew then that the Cubs would be for sale.

Groups began to form, syndicates were discussed, dollar totals were thrown against the wall, and specific plans were put in place for a lightning-fast transition.

The new owners wanted to be completely prepared and hit the ground running.

Four years and nine months later, Tom Ricketts made his first big Cubs decision.

The notion that he needed time to figure things out and survey the landscape before so much as finding out who worked for him remains as absurd a defense as any that has been spit into the wind thus far.

It took Ricketts about 15 minutes to raise ticket prices after he took over the club and less time than that to try to move spring training to Florida, so it’s nothing short of naive to believe he had to watch people work before he could make any decisions.

He knew what he had. He liked what he had. He kept all that he had.

And then he did it again for a second year.

He’s still enamored of Crane Kenney, believes he’s the Cubs’ gift to baseball and intends no change along those lines, despite the fact that Kenney is nearly as culpable as Jim Hendry.

And yet we’re told that Tom Ricketts is a smart man.

Sigh.

*draws breath slowly, as if growing weary at a child’s incessant questions*

Rozner is … wrong.

I’d even go so far as to submit that Rozner knows he’s wrong, and the purpose of his contrarian piece is to generate discussions like this one. If so, congrats, Barry. You win.

But, as to the merits of the discussion, he loses. Aggressively.

The suggestion that Ricketts could devise, revise, and implement a total organizational overhaul before he had the kind of access to that organization that he now has as owner is patently absurd. Indeed, had Ricketts come in guns blazing in his first year of ownership, he would have been crucified for being a “baseball outsider” trying to impose his will on a storied franchise – one full of “baseball insiders” (lifers), about whom Ricketts would really have taken a beating if he’d loosed them from the organization within just a few months.

The two examples of expedience offered by Rozner as proof that Ricketts could have moved more quickly – ticket price raises and Spring Training facilities improvement – are thin at best. The former merely followed historical precedent (I’m not, you’ll note, defending the ticket price raises), and the latter was an issue known far and wide to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Cubs’ facilities in Mesa, Arizona. It doesn’t take a complete understanding of organizational minutia to know that (a) ticket prices tend to go up, and (b) multi-decade old Spring facilities should be improved (and doing so will not alter the organizational ethos in a meaningful way). These were things that Ricketts could do expeditiously because anybody would have done them expeditiously. To compare them to the decision to fire Jim Hendry is an insult to Jim Hendry.

As any Cubs fan knows all too well, improvident and rash decisions can have long-lasting, deleterious effects. If you don’t believe me, take a look at left field tonight.

Kudos to Ricketts for being one of those fans, and recognizing that sometimes patience – even after 103 years – remains a virtue.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

33 responses to “Barry Rozner: Cubs’ Owner Tom Ricketts is Not a “Smart Guy””

  1. Fishin Phil

    Barry should learn from BN.

    His articles should be shorter and more informative.

  2. Cedlandrum

    Well also in 2008 when this deal started the Cubs were killing it. It would have been dumb for Ricketts to decide at that point to fire Hendry.

  3. Brad

    Great artcile. Rozner needs to temper it down. He’s been at this charade for a while now. Just hoping Ricketts hires the right guy for GM! Cherington, Epstien, or Freidman are my top 3!

  4. Swaz46

    Good lord…what’s wrong with the sportswriters in this town?

    Rozner was the SAME GUY who spouted on the radio a few months ago his ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY that Jim Hendry was coming back next year. How’d that one turn out for you, Barry?

    I hope he sticks to hockey…he actually knows something about that.

    Nicely done, Brett.

  5. Jason

    Rozner in no way wants A-ram back with the Cubs !!! He said it about 5 times on Hit and Run yesterday !!! The sportswriters in this town have drank too much Hate Cub Kool-Aid.
    Seems like all they want to do is to start some controversy but it makes the writers look like Bitter Men who aren’t happy with their own lives

    1. EQ

      So if ARam, Soriano and Pena are gone next year, who’s gonna knock in runs??

      1. Toosh

        The guys that take their spots.

    2. Lou

      I agree with you about the bitterness of Chicago sportswriters, not Aramis, though. The guy needs to look for employment elsewhere. I’m tired of his noncommital stance when it comes to this team. First, he likes Chicago. Now, it appears he will return only if the Cubs are competitive. But if you think Rozner’s bad, you should listen to his partner on Hit and Run, Matt Spiegel. I’m beginning wonder what meds he’s only. His positions are often MORE extremist than Rozner.

  6. Lou

    Actually, I don’t agree with the timing of the Hendry firing. Sure, Brett, your point is valid about Ricketts keeping things status quo for a year, but that was a YEAR AGO! Hendry should have been let go last season. The Cubs clearly did not benefit from him being around, at the very least, during the trade deadline this year. The Ricketts will fire Quade, Hendry’s guy, who shouldn’t have been retained as manager. Also, Ricketts has been talking about a Boston Red Sox model for the Cubs, which I frankly cannot stand. The organization cannot afford to throw money at FAs, which is clearly part of the Red Sox and got this team, and Hendry, in trouble in the first place. If he’s so smart, he wouldn’t be throwing that comment out there. He’d be saying that this team should resemble the Braves, maybe, in their philosophy. Then, there’s the dumb comment that the team’s good, they’re just injured. He got pasted for that and rightly so. I am in Rozner’s corner on this one, but I don’t agree with Rozner that the Cubs should adopt the philosophy of the Royals. I was listening to him the other day, and he seems to be enamored with that team.

  7. Ron Swanson

    Ricketts understands how strategic planning works in an organization and the timeframe in which change generally can be effectively completed. Most Cub fans and sportswriters do not.

  8. Bric

    Ace- Question: what was the point of keeping Hendry in the Job past the trade deadline if you knew he was already a lame duck and effectivley excluded him from doing his job?

    Answer- P.R. The one thing that Ricketts appears to be good at. Once again I’m the lone voice in the wilderness but please ask yourself what really has Ricketts done for the organization? Two god awful seasons, higher ticket prices, a depleated farm system, and any hopes of being competitive next year are a pipe dream (Pujols and Fielder will stay where they are and I doubt he’s gonna shelf over 60 mil to bring in quality pitching).

    So yes, the answer is yes. Ricketts isn’t very smart. Of course we’re even dumber because we’ll still be cursing Hendry’s decisions, waiting for the savior of a new GM, and looking forward to this crop of minor league players to get the penant in 2015. Anyone else remember the fab 5 from Michigan?

    1. MichiganGoat

      To answer your first question I think Jimbo was kept because Ricketts knew he needed him to sign those draft picks, if there is one thing that Hendry was really good at it- its player relations, players really like him and that helps when signing draft picks.

      And whats your point about the Fab 5, although they didn’t win it all, they were still an amazing team and I’ll be very happy if Ricketts can take us to the World Series, even if we lose in game seven it will be further than most of us have ever seen.

      1. Toosh

        That’s one more strike against Ricketts. Getting Hendry to sweet talk these kids into signing with the Cubs, THEN firing him. It’s like when coaches recruit players. “Come play for me”. Then the coach leaves. Against the rules? No. Still wrong.

        1. MichiganGoat

          Its not exactly the “nice” thing to do, but sometimes “dirty” is needed to win. The Yankees aren’t the Yankees because they’ve been nice and ethical over the years.

          1. TWC

            Where was this argument vis-à-vis Matt Holliday?

            1. MichiganGoat

              Castro got his revenge by summoning a moth to fly into his ear and eat his brain, except the moth found nothing in there except grey, dead matter as is the case with all Cardnial players.

    2. NyN

      “Anyone else remember the fab 5 from Michigan?”

      Yeah Webber calling that timeout was hilarious. sorry dude had to do it

  9. jstraw

    Ace, my man…Rozner isn’t criticizing Ricketts for taking too much time to raise ticket prices. I’m not sure if you’re misreading him or if I’m misreading you.

  10. Ol'CharlieBrown

    “As any Cubs fan knows all too well, improvident and rash decisions can have long-lasting, deleterious effects. If you don’t believe me, take a look at left field tonight.”

    Damn. Well stated, sir.

  11. KB

    One comment that stood out was that Ricketts is “dumb” to want to follow the Red Sox model.
    Why?
    Since this particular model was adopted by Boston, (at about the same time as Hendry was hired as GM of the Cubs), the Red Sox have made the playoffs every year except 2006 and last year. After last year’s 89-win “failure,” they did indeed bring in some new guys; Crawford has sucked, but Gonzo is an MVP-candidate. They are now in 1st place, with the best record in the AL, and are poised for another Series run. Which is exactly what they did after that previous “failure” season in ’06…they re-tooled, then won the World Series the very next year.

    So that’s 6 playoff appearances and 2 World Championships in the 8 years since the Theo/Bill James regime has taken over in Boston. They have the smallest stadium in MLB, yet are making hand-over-fist money, and boast a thriving farm system and a plethora of young home-grown players starring on their first-place team.

    How does this model suck again?

    1. NyN

      Yeah it would be real awful for the Cubs to be even half as successful as the Red Sox. It is OK to spend on Free agents as long as they are the right ones.