On Friday morning, the Chicago Cubs introduced their new owners to the media and the world with a press conference from a rainy Wrigley Field. The 35 minutes of questions and answers was informative, humorous, and encouraging for not only Cubs fans, but any baseball fans.
Tom Ricketts, the leader of the Ricketts Family, gave a brief introduction statement in which he outlined three points for Cubs fans under which they will work moving forward:
1. "We're going to win a World Series"
2. They love Wrigley Field, and will do anything to preserve and improve the stadium.
3. They love the city of Chicago, and intend to be good neighbors and bring a winner.
Tom Ricketts was the primary presenter, with two of his brothers and sister—Peter, Todd, and Laura—seated next to him on the stage. He said that he and his siblings shared more than a last name; they're all huge Cubs fans that love the stadium, the city and the team.
When asked how the family ownership group will differ from a corporate owner like the Tribune, Ricketts made a strong statement.
"There is one goal—win," he said. He further explained that the family doesn't have the distractions of multiple business lines, and won't have to worry about quarterly results. "Our shareholders are the fans," he added.
Ricketts also centered the family's goals with those of the team in regards to not only winning soon, but building for the future.
He indicated, when asked about how much he cares about profits, that the Ricketts intend to own the team "for generations," so while this is an investment, it's about winning.
"We're not going to let the tail wag the dog; it's about winning," he said.
With regard to winning now and later, Ricketts was emphatic that the family believes in building from within. Drafting well, coaching up the talent well, and developing winning, elite players from inside the organization is how he plans to build the organization moving forward.
While this has certainly been the model in Philadelphia, it hasn't been in Chicago. For the most part, current GM Jim Hendry's draft record has been mediocre at best, both being a function of, and a cause for Hendry to spend a lot of money on free agents to build the team in its current form.
How the dynamic between Hendry and Ricketts was not addressed in the press conference, but when Ricketts mentioned names of people that are in place to succeed, more times it was manager Lou Piniella's name that came up; Hendry's wasn't as prevalent.
Ricketts has said in interviews that Hendry will be part of the team moving forward, but he has clearly stated that 2009 was disappointing and failed to meet expectations.
All four of the Ricketts siblings are self-proclaimed Bleacher Bums. One brother said at the press conference that he didn't sit anywhere in the stadium but the bleachers for the first decade he was a Cubs fan. And Tom confirmed that he did in fact meet his wife in the bleachers.
He spoke of a "special vibe" when you walk into the stadium, and is very much a Cubs Nerd. There were a couple moments of emotion in his voice, and the tone of the press conference was more conversational than a rigid, professional announcement.
When the man who just spent $850 million to buy his favorite team says his reaction to team President Crane Kenney asking for additional employees is "Dude, you're being efficient," you know you've got a real human being at the steering wheel.
The family attended "every Saturday and Sunday game in the bleachers," and plans to take every stride to maintain and improve the unique atmosphere at Wrigley. Ricketts said there have been no discussions to change the name of the stadium or sell PSLs in Wrigley; they want to maintain the stadium as-is.
As a die-hard Cubs fan, I smiled for 35 minutes watching this press conference. I felt like this guy, the "dude" was me with a billion dollars. This guy, Tom Ricketts, is doing what every Cubs fans says they would do "if I win the Mega Millions this weekend."
He's a huge Cubs fan, he's ridiculously rich, and now he owns his favorite team.
But he's still a goofy fan. He wants to win. He's committed to winning, and doesn't believe in curses. He's one of us, Cubs fans, and that's refreshing.
After 35 formal minutes of ownership, I love the new Cubs owners.