Tom Ricketts spoke to the Chicago media earlier Saturday, and as usual, what he said needs some translation for those who may not be familiar with Rickettsese.
"Really, the theme for the team this year is for the last six weeks of 2010, we were one of the best teams in baseball," Ricketts said. "And we have that team back, that manager back, and we've added to it, so I think we build on that momentum."
If he believes even a tiny bit of this statement, my hopes for a Ricketts-owned team ever even winning the division just got beaten to a pulp, lit on fire, and thrown out of an unopened thirtieth-floor window. Because if he really believes the words coming out of his mouth, he believes the keys to success lie on some semblance of momentum from about 25% of the schedule last year to be carried forward by a rookie manager who has basically been a lifetime minor-leaguer and a merry band of underperforming misfits that are all a year older. So let's hope that this is actually just a bunch of bullshit that is intended to keep the ticket-buying fans interested enough to go out and buy some tickets soon, because they might miss out if they wait too long.
That is the best case scenario. Otherwise, Tommy is going to give Todd a run for the Most Idiotic Ricketts Award.
"We use the next 40 days to really get ready for the season, to come into the season with a sense of purpose, and a sense of pride and get off to a quick start and have a great year."
This year, they are REALLY going to get ready for the season. In the past, they have only sort of gotten ready for the season and didn't really have any goals or specific purpose. Again, this sounds like an unspoken jab at Lou and how he must have just been too tired to run around swatting every player on their bottom every time they managed to catch a ball without falling down as a sign that the players were doing a good job. Because the players are all five years old and need that kind of constant encouragement.
Or maybe Lou didn't remind the players every day that the goal is to win the World Series, and to reach the World Series, you have to win some games, and to win some games you have to be able to HIT THE FUCKING BALL OUT OF THE INFIELD WHEN A RUNNER IS AT THIRD BASE WITH LESS THAN TWO OUTS FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST, KOYIE! Lou never mentioned that, but Quade has a purpose.
With Albert Pujols looming as a possible high-priced free-agent target, Ricketts said there would be more "financial flexibility" next offseason, but deferred to Hendry. He said he'd be "open-minded" about handing out such a mega-deal, without being specific.
This part got some people excited on Twitter. They read that "financial flexibility" paired with being "open-minded" means that the Cubs are actually going to seriously consider signing a certain Cardinals first baseman if and when he becomes available. This is exactly what Tom wants you think, but notice he didn't make any declarative statements.
He can't say, "We are going to back up a truck of money to Albert Pujols' house and shovel it into his living room until he decides to become a Cub" because he can't specifically discuss a player under contract with another team. But he could say something like, "We feel we will be in a financial position to be very agressive on the free agent market next season." That would have indicated that they have the means AND the desire to improve their team dramatically, whether it would be signing Pujols or other free agents that could help.
Instead, he goes with some wishy-washy crap about being open-minded. Promising to be open-minded means nothing. You know when you were a kid and you wanted to have a contest with your brother to see who could eat the most candy corns without throwing up and your parents said, "We'll think about it" and you knew that meant there was no chance in hell they would allow it? Well, they might as well have said, "We'll keep an open mind about it." It means nothing, but it is juuuuuust positive enough to get fans to buy into the idea that Pujols could become a Cub, and when Cubs fans buy into the team, they also buy tickets.
Referring to long-term contracts in general, Ricketts said "any owner would say the length of the deal is often a bigger problem than the amount of dollars, so you're going to have to be very careful if you're going to sign one of those longer deals. If you're going to take on a guy for seven, eight, nine years, you better make sure that's the guy you want."
See? He is already edging towards no Pujols for the Cubs despite his open mind. He's talking about how careful you have to be on a long deal like the one Pujols is going to get from someone. Plus, what is this crap about having to make sure you really want a guy if it's a long-term deal? Sometimes you sign guys you don't really want for three years? That certainly explains Hendry's love of signing middle-relievers to three-year deals.
Ricketts said Hendry "did a terrific job" in acquiring Carlos Pena in a $10 million deal with $5 million deferred to January of 2012, and Kerry Wood for only a $1.5 million deal despite the probability he'd make $10 million or so with a two-year offer elsewhere.
Ricketts said those signings, plus the trade for pitcher Matt Garza, will "make us a real contender in 2011."
There really isn't much else Ricketts can say here. He has to be positive. He has to at least pretend that those moves that basically bring the Cubs back to where they were at the beginning of last season are good enough to contend. What is actually more disturbing are the large numbers of Cub fans that take that statement at face value. Folks, he is selling his team. Nothing more. His knowledge of how the Cubs are actually going to perform is no better (and I'd wager worse) than all of the projections coming out that peg the Cubs in the mid-70 win range and fourth in the Central division.
Ricketts said he brought Hendry and assistant general manager Randy Bush "into the loop on what the financial situation is and to make sure they understand what the budget is and why it's there." He reiterated his Year One theme that after expenses, all the incoming revenue goes to baseball operations.
"I think Jim understands that more than he would've a year ago," Ricketts said.
Ricketts has owned the team for over a year and he finally got around to having a meeting with the guys in charge of managing the budget to explain "what the budget is and why it's there?" That seems like something that probably should have come before all the urinal trough discussions from last year, and definitely before the discussions revolving around whether they should appear on a fucking reality television show!
Of course, the condescending tone of the last part where Ricketts talks about Jim understanding more now than last year leads me to a second scenario that involves Hendry and Randy Bush just not being terribly bright and not understanding the budget so much that Ricketts had to sit down with them AGAIN to explain it to them. But if that is the case, you have to wonder why the hell they still have jobs if they are that incompetent.
So either Ricketts spent all of Year One frittering away his time on talking about revenue streams, bathroom renovations, statue dedications, and reality shows instead of having important financial discussions with his baseball operations staff OR his baseball operations staff are not very bright people, yet mysteriously still employed. Neither one of these scenarios reflect all that well on your ability to lead this team to a World Series, Tom.
"We expect the best out of our baseball department every season," he said. "This season is no different than last season or next season. We're going to expect everyone to do well. I wouldn't read any more into it than that."
Well, of course you don't want anyone to read more into it. That would jeopardize all of the false hope you are peddling. Again, how can you expect "the best" out of your baseball department when either don't give them the information they need to do their jobs well, or you have to keep telling them how to do their jobs because they don't get it.
Also, what is your defintion of "do well?" Beat projections? Because a .500 season with this roster would technically be "doing well." Is it winning the division? Because if that is the case, Tom is laying more groundwork to set Hendry up as the scapegoat for a shitty 2011 season. Maybe the team's record isn't the measuring stick. Maybe if Hendry's roster created enough demand to sell out 90+% of available tickets is doing well enough to stick around.
As in most things Tom says, it is almost purposefully vague and means a whole bunch of nothing, but I'm keeping an open mind about it.