As referenced in a Bullet over the weekend, Chicago Cubs Owner and Chairman Tom Ricketts addressed both the team and the media in Mesa recently, discussing a wide variety of interesting topics.
- On his message to the team for 2012: “My message is, we talk about let’s use all 40 days [of Spring Training] as best as we can and just communicate with them. One of the things I talk about is making sure if there’s something we can do better, let us know. We want to be the best organization in baseball. If there’s feedback, make sure it gets up to us so we can do the best that we can.” Hopefully the players avail themselves of that advice – I am certain that management would like to know how the players feel about how the organization is being run, particularly with respect to training tools and facilities. Now is the time for the Cubs to be making those improvements.
- On his expectations for the team, and on appropriate fan expectations for the team, in 2012: “We’re not preaching patience. We’re preaching: have expectations. Expect these guys to play hard. Expect them to compete every game. Expect them to have a great season. It’s not about patience. We have a great team, and we’re going to have a great year …. You can’t do anything about [predictions that the Cubs won’t be competitive]. All you can do is take a look at the guys that are in that room and see how hard they want to win. Dale and the guys are going to make them play hard. I think if everyone stays healthy and everybody does what they’re supposed to do, we’re going to have a great season.” You wouldn’t expect a savvy owner to say anything else.
- On “The Cubs Way”: “What they’re doing is they’re putting everything down on paper and they’re signing off on it. Everybody is working together to create something that everyone buys into. So, not only does it help you be more consistent in the way you treat players and the way you train players, everyone buys in. You’re accountable, and that’s a big part of The Cubs Way.”
- On Wrigley Field renovations forcing the Cubs to play a season elsewhere: “There[ are] no plans for us to play anywhere else but Wrigley Field.” I believe him, but, let’s be clear: you could drive a truck through the loopholes he left in that sentence. Ricketts also noted that things remain on track for the Cubs’ new Spring facility to be ready to go for 2014.
- On funding for Wrigley Field renovations, which is a necessary prerequisite to laying out those kinds of plans: “We’re still just kind of in the situation where we’re talking to all the elected officials that have an interest in this. And I think there’s a lot of general interest in getting to something that works. But we’re still not there yet.” That could really mean anything. The Cubs could be as far along as having high-level support from enough folks to make things happen (and it’s just a matter of getting past an election cycle), or the Cubs could still be hitting roadblocks.
- On the future of the Cubs’ television deals (the WGN deal expires after 2014, and the CSN deal after 2019): ‘‘You just have to know it’s part of the game right now. It seems like it’s a factor that everyone has to look at when you’re looking at the financial resources that a team has. Good for [teams like the Angels and Rangers, who recently signed huge television deals]. I’m glad they’re in the American League.’’ Ricketts wouldn’t go into details about the Cubs’ television future, but it’s clearly (1) a huge revenue stream underutilized by the Cubs (who make about $45 million annually, compared, for example, to the Angels, who are about to get $150 million annually), and (2) in the plans. Whether it comes in the form of an increased partnership with CSN, or a Cubs Network, we might not know for several years.
- On his working relationship with baseball president Theo Epstein: “I talk to Theo all the time. It’s great. Just as everyone knows he’s very thoughtful at everything he does. There are a lot of guys working hard. You ask them hard questions, they have great answers. There is nothing he hasn’t seen. It’s just been a great relationship. It’s been terrific.”
- On 2012 ticket sales: Ricketts said that, while there are still some tickets to sell in April and May, season ticket sales have been “off the charts.”