Chicago Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts – Slow-playing Genius or in Over His-Head Stooge?

by Kent Sterling

Ricketts daily routine involves an hour of shaking hands, and apologizing in advance to fans who bought tickets.

Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times asked Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts what’s wrong with his team.  The answer that came back as he reportedly sprinted away was, ”Nothing, just a lot of injuries. We’ll be fine.”

Cubs fans are all hoping that Ricketts was avoiding the rather obvious truth that regardless of injuries, the Cubs are the third to last team in the major leagues because of something or someone else entirely.

  • Alfonso Soriano might be the worst defensive left fielder of the live ball era.  His quad strain related absence hasn’t hurt the Cubs a bit.
  • Marlon Byrd’s facial injury has eliminated a weak bat and negligible speed from a lineup short on both.
  • Aramis Ramirez took a grounder to the puss yesterday.  The Cubs aren’t going to miss his two home runs and 19 RBIs.  Reed Johnson has one less RBI in one third the number of plate appearances, and Ramirez has hit cleanup behind guys hitting in the .300s all year.

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Either Ricketts is one of those guys who was born on third base and thought he hit a triple, or he’s slow playing this hand like poker legend Doyle Brunson.   When you check-raise while holding cards with the pictures of team president Crane Kenney, GM Jim Hendry, and manager Mike Quade on them, you are either a genius or a moron.  Despite the fancy University of Chicago degree, I’m not sure which Ricketts is.  

The soft ticket sales are more troubling than the injuries, and neither had anything to do with the other.  No Cubs fan pays good money to watch Soriano, Ramirez, or Soto.

There is no debate that the Cubs are playing terrible baseball in every measurable way but batting average.  They are last in the majors in fielding and ERA.  Minus a five steal game on Monday, they almost never run.  Home runs are being whacked at a pace that evokes the pre-1920 dead ball era.  The defensive range, minus Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney up the middle, is brutal when everyone is healthy.  The starting pitching has been woefully inconsistent in part because of the injuries to Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells, but also in part because Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza haven’t been very good.

The Cubs were a flawed team that won enough games to be exciting and make the postseason in 2007 and 2008.  Those teams, because of their flawed construct, were swept out of the playoffs.  The devolution of the 2009, 2010, and now 2011 editions has been painful to witness, and so much cash was spent on the veterans that Hendry has had no option but to play the hand he dealt himself.

It didn’t take a genius, even on the day of the signing, to look at the eight-years at $18 million per for Alfonso Soriano as a massive and foolhardy risk.  The extension for Ramirez was crazy as well.  Too bad it’s impossible to cut into Aramis like a tree to count the rings to tell how old he really is.  If he’s 33, I am too.

The weight for assembling this group of misfits falls squarely on Hendry’s shoulders.  I’m sure he has told Ricketts that he was told by the former owners to build the Cubs to win NOW – meaning ’07 and ’08 – when the Tribune Company was well aware they were selling the team.  That meant doling out cash like Pac-Man Jones making it rain.

What has Hendry done since?  Wandered aimlessly during batting practice looking for pending free agents to hug, and trade prospects for pitchers who haven’t done much to show that they were better than any of the prospects themselves.  The injuries might be an excuse, but who doesn’t expect players in their 30s to post diminishing performances.

It’s time for Ricketts to hire Pat Gillick as the president of the Cubs, and let Hendry serve out the final few months of the season as the GM.  Then, turn the whole thing over to the best baseball executive of the past 40 years.  Let Gillick hire whoever he wants to run the day-to-day operation, and Ricketts can go back to gladhanding in the bleachers and talking about how cool in is to own the team he watched from the bleachers when he lived across the street.

The Cubs are a franchise in chaos with massive and profound missing pieces.  They are eight games under .500 heading out of town for three game sets with the Reds, Cardinals, and Phillies.  They could come back 13 under, and be completely underwater.

Either Ricketts has a plan of attack to resurrect the franchise, or he laps up Hendry’s talk about the development of the farm system like gospel from on high.  Either he’s an incompetent rube who overpaid for a franchise at its zenith of popularity, or a shrewd guy who knew the Cubs were on the road to palookaville for a few years, and didn’t want to pay both Hendry and the new GM through 2012.  Right now, he appears to be an idiot who genuinely believes the current Cubs are snakebitten by injuries, but with a minor league system brimming with prospects a year away from being ready to usher in an era of greatness.

If Ricketts wants to convince fans it’s going to get better, he needs to do more than shake hands and redesign the bathrooms at Wrigley Field.  I thought Phil Wrigley was useless as an owner, but Ricketts is setting a new standard.

11 Responses to Chicago Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts – Slow-playing Genius or in Over His-Head Stooge?
  1. Steve Hufford
    June 2, 2011 | 10:16 am

    Kent you hit every nail on the head. I told someone April of 2010 that Ricketts would be the worse owner of the Cubs ever. I said that one month in to his “Year One.” I think he is just a guy whose Dad Joe made it big and he has ridden on his coat tails ever since. He has drank the Kool Aid that Hendry gave him and believe it totally. That is why Mike Quade is manager now instead of Ryne Sandberg. Hendry did not want Ryno. So now we have a bloomin’ idiot managing along with a “not a clue” pitching coach along with Hendry.

    One person who also has to take blame is Bud Selig. Mark Cuban had the highest bid for this team. He resurrected the Dallas Mavericks and is a marketing genius but Selig did not want him. So they gave the team to Ricketts. I feel our only hope is that the Cub fans keep away from the stadium as has been the case this year. That Ricketts goes under and they finally let Cuban buy the team at a bargain rate.

    Fans know better. They are staying away in droves. They may report average ticket sales of 35,000 but most days it is mor elike 25-30,000 in the stands. Tickets on Stub Hub are selling for as little as $2. $2? You can’t go to a movie for that. I saw some behind home plate for the NY Mets series for $29.

    Ricketts just keep Hendry and Quade and see how long you are in the black with your financial sheet. I suppose then you will say you don’t have any money to make the team better. What a joke of a owner, GM, manager and team.

    I will always be a fan but that does not mean I have to go to games and support them until things change. Bring in Pat Gillick. I agree he is the best baseball man living.

    I am out of here………..

    • kentsterling
      June 2, 2011 | 3:21 pm

      Thanks. The key figure in the Cuban bid being rejected was Jerry Reinsdorf, who hates Cuban. Reinsdorf and Selig are very close, and Reinsdorf has told Selig so many horror stories about Cuban’s behavior as an NBA owner that Selig will never allow Cuban into baseball.

      • Ivy
        June 2, 2011 | 3:46 pm

        You are both wrong about the sale of the Cubs and Cuban.

        Cuban was never the highest bidder. Once round one was over and Cuban got a better look at the horrific structure of this deal to help Zell avoid monstrous capital gains taxes, Cuban backed out before round two of bidding but never said a word about it. That disaster of a deal is why you have Ricketts.

        Oh and if Reinsdorf had anything to do with it, John Canning would own this team right now but Zell eliminated him in the first round for being realistic about the value of the team. Jerry could tell Bud anything he wanted but the owners had the final vote.

        • Steve Hufford
          June 3, 2011 | 7:58 am

          Ivy whoever you are some Ivy must be in your brain no offense. I live in Chicago and it ia factual and common knowledge Cuban had the highest bid. yes Reinsdorf wanted Canning but did NOT want Cuban either. Cuban never backed out. Obviously you are a Sox fan. Go back to sleep.

      • Steve Hufford
        June 2, 2011 | 4:27 pm

        Yeah I knew about JR. He is very responsible too. He is jealous more than he cares what Cuban has done in NBA. I do not agree he will never be allowed in bb though. He almost bought the Rangers last year. I think JR just does not want the competition from Cuban in Chicago. Our loss.

        • kentsterling
          June 2, 2011 | 5:32 pm

          JR hates Cuban. Hates him. I’ve been told by a baseball owner that a Cuban bid for ownership will not be approved as long as Reinsdorf is alive and the owner of the Sox.

  2. Larry in Chicago
    June 2, 2011 | 11:32 am

    Just wait until 2016, everything will be great. Oh, sorry, wrong thread.

  3. George Huntington
    June 20, 2011 | 11:21 am

    I have been a Cubs fan since Charlie Grimm was the manager in the mid 40′s and being from the south side I didn’t want to be a Sox fan but after 65 years I still love the Cubs and the loyal fans!Wrigley Field is the best ball park in the Country and the crowd loves it too!
    The main problem that I can see is Mike Quade and his entire staff. Mike was not even a good third base coach and is not the type of person that will bring out the best in the player’s. Jim Hendry has done a great job in reducing the payroll while he was destroying the morale of the team!
    I feel a person like Ryne Sandberg or anouncer for the White Sox Steve Stone have the knowledge and personalities to turn the Cubs around next year and give them time to put a staff together that would help the player’s rather that confuse them!I hate to say it , but the Cubs are going to lose 100 games this season!!

    • Pauly Balst
      June 20, 2011 | 11:37 pm

      @George, great news! You are going to have a much more economical time enjoying Wrigley Field! I have 20 season tickets, and the Sunday night game vs the Yanks brought full face value! All of it! 20 rows behind the plate.

      IMHO, Ricketts has huge problem on his hands. the Flubs have jumped the shark. No one talks about the Cubs in Chicago, and when they do it’s that they suck and the prices are out of control.

      If a night game vs the Yankees only brings face value, they are dead.

      Kent, the cubs are on some MLB watch list for financially distressed teams, there were 5. Wricketts brushed it off as a technicality. I’m not so sure. Wricketts bought high and may have to sell low at some point.

    • kentsterling
      June 26, 2011 | 4:49 pm

      I was just talking to my son about Quade, and how poor it appears his leadership is. There is rarely an inning without defensive confusion. Quade wasn’t a good third base coach, but he was Tommy Lasorda compared to Ivan DeJesus.

      Steve Stone would be a very interesting hire. He’s a smart guy. Either he would be a disaster, or pretty damn good. Regardless, Hendry has to go.

  4. Pauly Balst
    June 20, 2011 | 11:38 pm

    Did you see the lack of effort Sunday night in the 9th vs Yankees? Pathetic.

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