Tuesday, August 25, 2009

To Those Who Will Soon Hate Tom Ricketts

The combination of the Cubs' sale and the Cubs' freefall in the standings has encouraged many people to write their suggestions to Tom Ricketts about how the Cubs should be run going forward. Below is a small list of places where you can go to read suggestions given with varying degrees of lucidity:

There really isn't much I can add to these lists. I think everything has been covered and there is no point arguing about the points I disagree with. The Ricketts are going to do what they are going to do. So I would like to instead address the Cubs fans themselves to prepare them for the new owner.

CCD at Waxpaperbeercup recently posted about how fickle Chicago fans are towards the professional sports owners in this town:

"Tom Ricketts and his family will become the new owner of the Chicago Cubs this November. On the day that happens, he will forever be changed. No longer will he be known as the son of the founder of TD Ameritrade, no longer will he be known as the successful Chicago businessman, no longer will he be the white knight riding in to save the historic franchise, he will on that date become the person where blame always falls…a Chicago sports franchise owner. He can’t escape it. Maybe he get’s lucky and has a long honeymoon period. (But, I doubt it) A losing homestand next April will end the honeymoon. This side of winning the whole enchilada in 2010 he’s not gonna win."

I left a comment that I thought that Cubs fans would give the new owner a bit of a break early on:

"I think he’ll have a nice honeymoon period. I think as long as he doesn’t come off as a douche who doesn’t care about the team any more than what revenues it can provide him, he’ll be a welcome change from the Tribune.

Plus, it’s not like Chicago loves its other owners. He’ll still be a flower growing out of the compost heap by comparison.

The McCaskey’s are considered cheap, and in Michael’s case, colossally stupid.

Reinsdorf feels a little more love since he’s the only one to bring any championship hardware into this town in the last 20 years, but his personality kills a lot of the warm and fuzzies before it even gets started.

Rocky Wirtz is in his honeymoon period now after replacing Dollar Bill and his no-TV policy. The blame for the off-season pratfalls seem to be falling more on McDonough than on Rocky for now.

I think that is how it will be for Ricketts for at least a season. Maybe two. I don’t think many except the ultra-reactionary (Kap, anyone on the Score, half the BCB readers) can expect Ricketts to clean up 100 years of crap in less than a full off-season."

CCD and another commenter, MB21, felt that the beginning to the Cubs season next year would be the key:

"If the team comes out strong like they’re currently more than capable of, it will be an extended honeymoon. if they come out flat like the 2009 team actually did, it will be over by the time April ends."

The more I think about that, the more I think CCD and MB21 are right and that makes me incredibly sad. Not because they were right and I was wrong (though it does bug me to be wrong), but because it is further evidence that Cubs fans can be pretty short-sighted and stupid.

Of course Ricketts is going to have a short leash. The frustration level is almost as high as the ticket prices, so a slow start next year (or, let's face it, a lackluster offseason) will have people longing for the return of Spendin' Jim Hendry and his Backloaded Contracts o' Fun (whether he is fired or not, the spending spree is likely over).

Folks, make no mistake, this team is in trouble in the near future. The farm system is bare for at least another year. I'm sorry to all you people who bought into the Vineline hype about Jeff Samardzija and bought the $150 jerseys. You should save your money and not go out to buy the Fuld jerseys either. Or Fox. Or (gasp!) Jeff Baker.

Yeah, I said it. Jeff Baker is not a jersey-ownable kind of guy. I think he can be valuable, but I think he's probably an average hitter, with average power, with decent defensive skills, and a propensity to strike out. He is God on this current team because our alternatives are Snap, Crackle, and Pop, but he is not going to make anyone forget Ryne Sandberg.

We won't be trading too many contracts away either. Most of those long, expensive deals include some type of no-trade clauses. So they would have to not only find someone who is willing to take on a bad contract, but who is willing to give up something of value in return AND be in a place where the player will agree to play. That's not going to be easy.

This is the thing to remember: NONE OF THIS IS THE RICKETTS FAMILY'S FAULT.

The Ricketts didn't sign Soriano through the end of time blocking our few decent AAA hitters in the process. The Ricketts didn't trade away a crapload of young pitching for Juan Pierre. The Ricketts didn't look at Milton Bradley and see a middle-of-the-order, run producer. The Ricketts didn't start the merry-go-round of left-handed right-fielders from hell. The Ricketts didn't pin the hopes of our middle infield on a bunch of immigrants from the Land of Oz.

I could go on, but you get my point.

This is a renovation that will make Extreme Makeover Home Edition look like a simple lightbulb change. It won't happen overnight and it probably won't happen the way you want it to.

I don't want to alarm anyone, but probably the most valuable and tradeable asset on the team is Ted Lilly. I know! It's not something I'm happy about either, but short of weathering next year and then resigning him to a bloated extension, he'll be gone soon anyway so we might as well get used to the idea that they may try to get something for him at the trade deadline next year (if not before).

Al at Bleed Cubbie Blue thinks the Ricketts should lower ticket prices as a goodwill gesture to the fans. That would be nice. It would also be nice if this blog offered me the opportunity to get a press pass into the stadium instead of having to fork over thousands of dollars a year on tickets. Neither is going to happen though.

We also need to start getting into a mental place where Personal Seat Licenses aren't just for football teams anymore. We need to accept that ticket prices will be going up to levels where only corporations and the rich can afford them. In a way, this is our own fault. By willingly paying secondary market prices, we have helped set primary ticket prices going forward.

The Cubs tried to buy themselves a championship in the last couple of years, failed, and now leave the mess for Tom Ricketts and his family to clean up. Let's not jump on their backs as they wade chest deep into the muck and then try to claw their way back out. At least, not yet.

Lastly, I will give my one suggestion: Please make the fat guy who works in the ticket office say "Thank you" when we drop off our checks for thousands of dollars each year at the Season Ticket buying deadline. He doesn't have to mean it. Just make him say it. Once. I don't think I'm asking too much.


Anonymous said...

the future is pretty bleak tim,

you outline most of this issues above with the bad contracts and all. i really think we have to be patient and give the ricketts' several years to clean up this mess. it's going to take a long time to get the newspaper ink stench off of this franchise. it will happen, but it's gonna take time alot of time.

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