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.
*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.