Chicago Cubs Chairman and Owner Tom Ricketts spoke on a variety of topics at a variety of times this weekend. Among the highlights:
- On his continued position that he’ll support a decision to eat salary: “First of all, it’s really up to the baseball guys to decide who fits on the team. If there is a player they think doesn’t fit and they think it’s better for the team to move him, then I’ll support it 100 percent, even if that means eating some salary.” Still unknown: does “eating” the salary mean that it doesn’t count against that year’s payroll? If not, the willingness to “eat” salary doesn’t really mean much of anything, nice though it may be.
- On the related decision to move Carlos Zambrano: “[Zambrano is] really a good human being in many ways …. [but] that kind of behavior like we saw last year, we’re just happy to have that behind us.”
- On the good vibes ascribed to the new man in charge, Theo Epstein, and on the not-so-secret trip that brought him to Chicago: “Obviously there’s a lot of excitement and a lot of optimism. People are excited about the direction on the baseball side and I think that helped us with season-ticket renewals, which were very, very, very high. I think it helps, but there’s no way to quantify it. The feeling is people seem to want to be a part of this new team that should be headed in the right direction …. “It’s a crazy story [about getting Theo to Chicago]. We were so secret. We flew him in secretly, we picked him up secretly, we did all these things. And then he hops out of the car to get an ice coffee …. If you go to Starbucks, why didn’t you just fly in on United and put up a billboard for God’s sake?”
- On Epstein and his General Manager, Jed Hoyer: “We have a fresh perspective and they look at things a little differently than maybe Jim [Hendry] would have. They have brought in a handful of guys and they talk openly about decisions and with all those guys putting their collective thoughts together, they’re going to make some good calls. Theo is the ultimate decision maker, but those guys are always talking about players. They work hard. They are here early and they are here late.” All sounds good to me.
- On increasing night games, Ricketts said the Cubs are hoping to get the city to relax the ban on Friday night games, but added: “In no way right now is [more] night games a focus.” I have long been sold on the idea that the Cubs are at a disadvantage by playing a disproportionate number of day games at home, so an increase in night games is something I wholeheartedly support.
- On the plan that would use amusement tax increases on Cubs tickets to help fund renovations at Wrigley Field: “What we’d like to do, one of the things we’ve talked about, is just being able to redirect some of the funds you already pay [toward the costs of renovation]. The amusement tax that’s on your ticket goes to the city and county. What we were hoping is that some of the future growth of the amusement tax will just stay and fix up the park. We’ve had some good discussions with elected officials about that.”
- On the McDonald’s property purchase: “In the short term, the fact that McDonald’s reached out and that land was for sale, we just decided that property in Wrigleyville doesn’t come up for sale that often, and I think one of the things the previous ownership maybe missed out on was making sure they bought some of the land around Wrigley to better control the environment around the park. We also have the rooftops partners, which cause us difficulties at different times. The fact is when the land was offered to us, we saw no reason not to take a look at that. For the season, I think what you can expect is something pretty cool on the south end of that lot, and the McDonald’s will stay …. All of our long term remodeling strategies have to be conditioned on first getting sure we can get Wrigley fixed up.”
- Ricketts also noted that it was Business President Crane Kenney who first spoke to Red Sox President Larry Lucchino to ask permission for the Cubs to interview Theo Epstein. One hopes that it wasn’t in that initial meeting that the “misunderstanding” arose about the amount of compensation the Cubs would give to the Red Sox if they were to hire Epstein.