Later today, the Chicago Cubs will open things up at Wrigley Field, so owner and Chairmain Tom Ricketts took to the airwaves to discuss his team’s slow start, financial flexibility, baseball operations decisions and a lot more with Mully and Haugh on 670 The Score.
You can catch the full interview embedded at the bottom of this post, but I’ve also collected the highlights for you below.
- Obviously it’s been a tough start to the year, but Ricketts wants fans to remember that it’s a long season and the Cubs do have good player personnel in the organization. Juggling the roster to find the right 25 guys is crucial, but there’s no one he trusts more than Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to make that happen. And when it comes to using that personnel to win games, Ricketts trusts Joe Maddon. “He’s been one of the best mangers in the game for a long time.”
- On the Cubs’ finances and lack of a move for relief pitcher to shore up a broken bullpen, Ricketts says “There’s always a little bit of flex in every year’s budget, but typically we don’t think about that until you get toward the middle of the season.” Then he said this, about Craig Kimbrel, in particular:
Ricketts says he believes in Theo and Joe, despite the slow start.
Also says Craig Kimbrel “May be a bigger ticket than we can swing,” despite potential midseason flexibility.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) April 8, 2019
- You won’t often find the owner of a club (or any front office member) addressing a free agent specifically like this in an interview, so I think the Cubs front office is pretty clear on this one: it’s not going to happen. And more broadly speaking, Ricketts believes the team allocated their resources to the players most likely to win them the division and just hopes the guys that are struggling begin to have the seasons the team knows they can have.
- With a little bit of fire in his response, Ricketts said he regrets talking about money every single time it comes up, because “there’s no way I can win – even if we have the second highest budget in baseball, it’s not enough.”
- You know … I understand Ricketts’ position here. I really do. The Cubs have spent A TON of money over the years and anyone calling them cheap is just not right. But for the one thousandth time, that’s not quite what this is about. The criticism out there has always been that this particular team at this particular team justifies a one-time stretching of that already extremely high budget, because the longevity of competitive windows is exceedingly fleeting. If you come up just short for the second consecutive year, none of your past spending is going to matter. You can say the team should’ve spent their money better, but, well, maybe they didn’t. And at the end of the season, you’re either in the NLDS or you’re not. So when the biggest, most obvious issue all winter (the bullpen) blows up the first week of the season, well, what do you expect The public conversation to be?
- Ricketts does remind fans that they’ve worked very hard to increase revenue, and that almost all of that money goes right back into the baseball budget. He has said this for years and it does appear to be true. “We have the resources that other teams would love to have.”
- Despite some high-profile candidates for extensions on the Cubs (specifically Javy Baez and Kris Bryant), Ricketts says he has not gotten more involved with the baseball operations. Ricketts is aware of the trends around baseball and the Cubs (David Bote, Kyle Hendricks), but he says he lets the front office make all of their own decisions. “I know about the extensions, Theo and Jed come to me to recommend them and we communicate on that. But ultimately our baseball organization knows what its budget is – its long-term budget is – and they try to be rational over the multi-year time horizon. And sometimes it makes sense to go to a guy early and say ‘Hey we’ll buy you out of a couple of your free agent years’ and our guys try to optimize that. But it’s not like I’ve become more active or less active in that anyway. It really is a baseball decision.”
- If I can give Ricketts one compliment for his stewardship of the Cubs it’s that he has ALWAYS let the baseball operations department make their own calls and consistently reiterates that position in interviews. MANY owners do not operate that way, foolishly, in my opinion. You’ve got to let your front office make all the calls. They’re the experts. Ricketts seems to know that, which is good.
- Ricketts doesn’t think “the slogans or any incremental pressure” from Theo Epstein, Joe Maddon or anyone else has led to the slow start of the season. Ultimately, the players just need to perform.
- Ricketts was asked if he expects the negative offseason storylines (like the emails, for example) will affect his reception at Wrigley Field when he does his famous walk-arounds: “Nah, I really don’t. The fact is, the emails that somehow got hacked and released to the public are … 10-12 years old. At this point hopefully people see the proof is in the pudding. I think we’ve dedicated the right amount of time and energy to … take the Cubs from where they were to where they are. I think that real fans, ones that come to games, ones that follow the team closely, know that I’m at every game walking around. They know that myself and the rest of my family really care and that this is a passion for us.” Ricketts did admit that these stories have become a distraction for him – “media dustups” he called them – but he’s trying to stay focused.
- Ricketts says most fans know they’ve delivered and are continuing to work hard.
- The Cubs know they have to have a good relationship with Mayor-Elect Lightfoot (a White Sox season ticket holder …), who’s apparently friendly with Laura Ricketts, and she is throwing out the first pitch today.
- Asked if there were any major changes to be made in season, would Theo and Jed come to you? Ricketts says he’s always informed and might throw in his two cents, but it’s always their decision to make. “We stay out of it. We let them make their decisions.”