by Kent Sterling
When Chicago Magazine released their annual list of Chicago’s “Power 100”, quickly found were representatives from the Bulls, White Sox, and Bears in the first 23. My eyes scanned down the list, and finally there was Cubs owner Tom Ricketts at #48 nestled right between author Veronica Roth and Doug Druick, who runs the Art Institute.
The rankings are determined by the “influence, ability, and clout” of the men and women on the roster.
Ricketts fell from 45th in 2013, and #30 in 2012. Team president Theo Epstein debuted in 2012 at #48, fell to #56 in 2013, and barely stayed on the list at all this year in the final spot at #100.
Rocky Wirtz is the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks. He debuted at #5 in 2012, dropped to #11 in 2013, before rebounding to #6 in the most recent list. Jerry Reinsdorf owns the White Sox and Bulls, and he has been ranked #14, #5, and #11. Jay Cutler is 23rd, and Big Ten president Jim Delany is #25.
This speaks to the tumbling interest and clout the Cubs enjoy in their hometown after losing 87, 91, 101, and 96 games during the four years Ricketts has owned the team. Those 375 losses are the highest total is the history of the franchise, and have resulted in eroding attendance each season.
The Cubs have finished fifth during each season Ricketts has owned the team, and that impoverished level of success has dropped the Cubs into fifth place among major league sports franchises in Chicago behind the 2005 World Champion White Sox, the 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, six-time NBA Champ Bulls, and the Chicago Bears, who won a Super Bowl in 1986 and played in another in 2007.
As any mildly interested baseball fan knows, the Cubs last played in a World Series in 1945 and last won a World Championship in 1906 when Teddy Roosevelt (who has since been carved into the facing of Mount Rushmore) was president.
Yes, the men who would be on the Mount Rushmore of Cubs championship players all retired from baseball before work began (1927) to forever preserve Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln on that South Dakota mountain.
Ricketts is not responsible for the Cubs’ century long run of mediocrity, but he has taken it to a whole new level from 2010-2013 when America’s lovable losers found even lower ground to occupy.
The conquering hero who promised to rescue the Cubs when introduced as the third owner of the Cubs since William Wrigley became majority stockholder in 1921 has become an irrelevant buffoon who continues to promise a bright future while delivering a dismal present.
When he told the media as spring training began that he believes the Cubs are ready to make a run at the playoffs in 2014, he revealed himself as just another shill.
His stalemate with the rooftop owners is a source of amusement for political wonks in the Windy City, and endless consternation for the team. In 2003, the Cubs foolishly signed a deal that ceded rights to structurally alter the view from the rooftop bars in exchange for 17% of the take, a deal that Ricketts either overlooked or misunderstood when he bought the team.
The rooftop owners have proven to be a shrewd quarry as the Cubs have tried to find a way to erect giant video boards above the left and right field bleachers. They know the Cubs need those signs, and they wait patiently as the Cubs become more and more desperate.
Revenue from the video boards was to pay for the renovation of Wrigley Field that would allow the team to invest in the onfield product.
The deal with the rooftop owners runs for another decade, and the debt load Ricketts incurred when purchasing the team is reportedly the highest in baseball, so this entrenched mediocrity may continue unabated for years.
Yes, there is talent in the pipeline, but as Cubs fans have experienced dozens of times, minor league excellence does not always convert to major league productivity. Even if Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, and the other position players do deliver on their potential, who is going to pitch?
The Cubs can’t fall to worse than fifth place in the National League Central Division, but Ricketts has another 52 slots plummet that will reflect his shrinking relevance in Chicago.