Each year, Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts speaks at length with the media only a handful of times, one of which is the outset of Spring Training. He did so yesterday in Mesa, and you can read about his comments here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, among other places.
Among the notable items, together with some thoughts and reactions:
- Ricketts believes this team has what it takes to compete in the NL Central, which was not met with the derision he’s faced in recent years when he said the team could make the playoffs. Technically, it was always true (and what you’d expect an owner to say), but this year, it really is true. I’m still probably not picking the Cubs in the Central, but they obviously have a very realistic shot.
- Further, Ricketts confirmed that there will be enough flexibility, financially, for the Cubs to pick up pieces in-season if need be:
Ricketts says #Cubs can be buyers this summer: “We’ll have the flexibility to do whatever Theo needs to do in the middle of the season."
— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) February 25, 2015
- Although that shouldn’t be a surprise for a variety of reasons (including, for example, the failed last-minute pursuit of James Shields, which necessarily would have cost some 2015 dollars), it’s good to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Ricketts also mentioned that the additional signage at Wrigley Field will help that financial flexibility (Bruce Levine).
- The bleacher work is still on schedule, though Bruce Levine’s recap of Ricketts’ comments indicates that, although left field should be ready by May 11 (originally announced at the Convention as the target date), right field should be open in early June (previously, the Cubs had said late May). As a right field bleacher dweller, I’d be sad if that were correct (Jesse Rogers’ recap says late May). Not sure what I’m going to do in April and May, in any case. I am the exception, though, as Ricketts accurately noted that bleacher ticket sales in April, in particular, tend not to be great, so the financial hit from having the bleachers closed won’t be significant.
- Ricketts said he told the players that they’ve got the best fans in baseball (watch out, Cardinals!), and they should treat the fans like gold. Pretty sure that means he’s telling Jake Arrieta to get a beer with me and play some ping pong. In which case, I’m in. I am awesome at ping pong.
- I’ll have more on the TV-specific stuff in his comments later, but I do want to point out one thing here:
Ricketts feels his local Television can upgrade graphics and on screen video side bars to keep fan attention
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) February 25, 2015
- That, right there, is a potentially loaded Tweet. Done well, extra graphics and sidebars during games can be a good thing. Done poorly, they can be a distracting, annoying mess. Speaking as someone whose business depends on getting advertising in front of you (hey, please don’t block ads on BN – that’s what keeps the site in business), I should also add that there’s probably significant advertising possibilities if you’re inserting graphics and video into the broadcast … but, man, you have to be really, really careful with that stuff. I suspect this is way down the road stuff, but it should be on your radar as the game experience is going to keep evolving. This is a potentially interesting future story.
- Ricketts confirmed the CSN report that the family had sold a handful of minority stakes in the team, about which you can read more here at the Sun-Times and here in the Tribune. It sounds like the six limited partners, who will not have voting rights, invested around $175 million, and own less than 10% of the holding company that owns the Cubs, Wrigley Field, and some surrounding properties. There may be a next round of investors at some point in the future, with stakes being sold for around $5 million apiece. Who wants to go in with me?
- Ricketts did not offer an update on the organization’s relationship with Sammy Sosa. Nothing new to report.
- There was also no update on an extension for Theo Epstein, whose contract runs through the 2016 season. Ricketts said there haven’t been any discussions lately, and it’ll play out when it plays out (Patrick Mooney). I’d like to see Epstein extended sooner rather than later, but I reckon the enormous deal for Andrew Friedman from the Dodgers probably made the negotiations a little trickier.