Tom Ricketts is nothing if not true to his word.
When he announced that Chicago Cubs’ General Manager Jim Hendry had been let go, he said that the Cubs would conduct a thorough, but quiet, search for Hendry’s replacement.
And so it has been. Rumors have been aplenty, but leaks have been non-existent. We can make educated guesses about Ricketts’ plans, but you want confirmation? Forget about it.
That’s why, when Tom Ricketts, himself, speaks about the search, we listen as though Moses is holding up two stone tablets and shouting at us from a mountain. Yesterday, Ricketts headed to San Diego to address the team and the media on the final day of the season. As usual, his comments pleased and impressed me.
“It’s like I’ve said all along, we’ll do [the search] quickly and sufficiently as possible,” Ricketts said. “But it’s a big decision. There’s no point in rushing it. You have to have the right guy at the right time. However long it takes, it takes.”
Ricketts went on to confirm that he’s been hard at work on the process, speaking to people throughout the industry.
“It’s an ongoing process, but I have talked to a lot of people,” Ricketts said.
Presumably, he talked to many of those people about, among other things, his decision to extend Farm Director Oneri Fleita for four years before the new GM is in place. It was a decision that has generally been well-received.
“The fact is that Oneri is a very valuable part of this organization,” Ricketts said. “Any GM coming in would agree with that. That’s a step we took so we had good continuity and to make sure we keep building on things we are doing well.”
Similarly, Ricketts discussed Scouting Director Tim Wilken, whom Ricketts would like to retain at least for the length of his current contract (through 2012), but whom Ricketts refused to offer an extension.
“We think Tim does a terrific job,” Ricketts explained, “but he’s signed through next year, and we’ll kind of leave it the way it is.”
With those kind of public comments, it sounds like, as Ricketts goes through the process, he’s keeping candidates apprised of his intentions with respect to the organizational structure, and the importance of keeping guys like Fleita and Wilken in place – at least in the near term. If the new GM comes in guns blazing and wants to make changes, it seems like Ricketts won’t stand in the way.
In the meantime, Ricketts is clear that Randy Bush is the team’s GM. If decisions need to be made before the next GM is in place, Bush – with input from Ricketts – will make those decisions.
“Randy is our GM,” Ricketts said. “He keeps an eye on all the decisions coming up. He’s done a terrific job the last few weeks. If we have to make any decisions before the new GM comes in we will address it as it comes up.”
The GM search discussion was, perhaps, the most important part of Ricketts’ comments yesterday, but he did make a number of other interesting statements.
“One thing we’ve seen in baseball over the last few years is that turnarounds can happen pretty quickly,” Ricketts said of the team’s immediate future. “So I don’t think it’s fair to describe a year as a rebuilding year or reloading year. That fact is you get the right players on the team and they stay healthy and they play hard, a team can go from 70 wins to 90 wins.
“It can happen pretty quickly. Look at the Diamondbacks and even the Cubs a few years ago. So that’s how we look at it.”
The optimism is, of course, nice, but expectations for 2012 should remain tempered – particularly until the new GM comes in and starts laying out his vision.
Finally, although Ricketts wouldn’t commit to a payroll for 2012 (and why should he? It will depend on the direction the GM wants to take things), he did say that he expects the overall baseball operations budget to remain the same in 2012. That means there will be money to spend on the big league team, as well as the amateur side.
Each time Ricketts speaks, I feel a little better about the long-term future of this organization. Yesterday’s comments were no exception.