Tom Ricketts’ Easiest Interview Ever

I don’t read a ton of articles by Toni Ginnetti, so I can’t say whether she was just having a bad day or if this is the result of Tom Ricketts being particularly oily, but I had a hard time reading her interview with Tom today.

Tom Ricketts smiles at the question: Would winning the World Series help the Cubs accelerate their dream of transforming Wrigley Field into a modern stadium that retains its old-world charm?

There are two realistic answers to this question: 1) “Well, winning the World Series would be great for revenue generation since interest and demand for the team would be at an all-time high, and would probably accelerate timetables of our long-term plans.” 2) “Wrigley Field will never be a modern stadium, have you ever been there?”

I wonder which answer Tom will choose?

‘‘I’m convinced everything takes time,’’ the chairman said.

Wait… what?  A reporter lofted you a softball question that allows you to entertain the notion that a World Series for the Cubs is somehow plausible and your answer is basically, “Don’t hold your breath”?  Man, I bet Toni is really going to nail him with a stinging follow-up after that mis-step.

After all, it took his family three years to complete the record $845  million purchase of the Cubs from Tribune  Co. in October 2009, with the deal closing as the economy plunged.

Toni must have gone to the Yellon School of Journalism with a major in Follow-ups and minor in Wrong Facts.  Somehow, the time from when Zell bought the Tribune and announced the team would be sold on April 2, 2007 to October 2009 counts as three years. But even letting that slide on the basis that she was simply rounding up, the follow-up is a semi-rationalization of the bullshit answer you were just fed to a fairly simple question?

Amenities such as an electronic video board are things to consider down the road.

Well, I guess we really are just moving on to other things.

‘‘It’s not part of what we’re thinking about now,’’ Ricketts said. ‘‘There’s no space for it. Over time, who knows?’’

We’re not thinking about it, but we are because we know there’s no room for it, which somehow could change down the road, but who knows how or why because we’re not thinking about it.

But a year and a half into their ownership, the Rickettses have anchored their principles, from making the team less dependent on free agency, to player development, to beginning the long-term task of creating a Wrigley Field for the ­future.

Again, no follow-up to the bizarre response to the oddly out-of-place video board question.  Al would have at least asked Ricketts who owns the Cubs three times by now. Instead, Toni seems content to lead Tom into his own factually baseless rhetoric.

‘‘We’ve always talked about three goals: win a championship, preserve Wrigley Field and be a great neighbor,’’ Ricketts said.

They’ll win that championship when they get around to it, but first they need to get some tax money to preserve Wrigley and build up its revenue creating capabilities that will steal business away from their new bestest friends in the neighborhood.

Even if it’s unclear how the Cubs will pay for the longer-term changes, which could hinge on some kind of public financing help, the progress is measurable as the Rickettses begin their second season:

Did I miss something and Toni is now writing for Vine Line?

◆ A modernized spring-training facility in Mesa, Ariz., was secured in November when voters approved funding help for the project. The new facility is targeted for completion by 2014, perhaps sooner.

‘‘Other teams had newer and better facilities [built with help from Arizona specialty taxes denied to the Cubs], and it was definitely a front-burner concern to close that discrepancy,’’ Ricketts said.

The Cubs also have begun renovation on their training facility in the Dominican Republic, where future Latin American players will begin their careers.

‘‘That’s organizational consistency for our facilities,’’ Ricketts said.

I like the parenthetical statement unnecessarily added in there that highlights how unfair it is that Arizona had previously not provided tax dollars to the Cubs.  Seriously, when did Toni Ginnetti start working for the Cubs?  And does the Sun-Times know about it?

◆ Revitalizing Wrigley Field continues. Improvements to the locker-room facilities, which began last season, have continued with an expansion of the training room. It now includes X-ray equipment to help quickly diagnose some injuries.

Fans this year will see remodeled Sheffield Grill and Captain Morgan Club eateries, while the Batter’s Eye area in center field will have windows instead of fixed glass ‘‘so people can feel the game,’’ Ricketts said. New menus will feature items from local vendors, such as Vienna hot dogs and D’Agostino’s pizza, and gluten-free choices, among other special-diet fare.

She forgot to mention the troughs.  Maybe she doesn’t work for the Cubs afterall.  Maybe she could find out why the Cubs are remodeling areas of the ballpark that have all been put in or remodeled in the last five years?  What’s next?  An overhaul of the PNC Club?

In the background is the continuing replacement of aging brick and mortar.

OK, then, we’ll just move on.  Toni’s got shit to do, apparently.

‘‘Steel and concrete are ongoing things,’’ Ricketts said.

Kind of like the drought of championships, eh, Tom?

◆ The Cubs have aspired to be more cordial to surrounding businesses, rooftop owners and residents.

‘‘There were a lot of years when there wasn’t great communication with the team,’’ Ricketts said. ‘‘We’ve reached out to everyone.’’

The Cubs invested in one of the rooftop clubs last season when it was in danger of financial failure.

‘‘We have a small investment in it, and it gives us an insight into their business,’’ Ricketts said. ‘‘The rooftops are our partners, and we like them.’’

The Cubs share 17 percent of all the rooftop revenues under a deal struck in 2004 that ended a feud with then-owner Tribune Co.

So the Cubs aren’t being total dicks to the neighboring rooftops now that they have a piece of that revenue?  That’s very benevolent of them.  What great people the Rickettseses are.  I don’t even care if the Cubs ever win a damn thing again since I know such wonderful people with good Christian values are raking in all that cash from us fans.

The Cubs also have requested the 2014 All Star Game to coincide with the park’s 100th anniversary.

And a pony.

‘‘It would mean $150 million in revenue [for the city],’’ Ricketts said. ‘‘The commissioner [Bud Selig] is open-minded about it — if we can get some of the [ballpark] improvements done.’’

You hear that, Rahm?  The city ain’t getting jack squat unless Tom can find the money to add his Cubs Alley and other bullshit to the ballpark, and it better happen tootsweet because the clock is ticking.

Still on the drawing board is the long-discussed ‘‘triangle building’’ next to Wrigley that would include offices, restaurants and other amenities. But its future depends on uncertain financing.

‘‘It’s part of and can’t be separated from what we have to do to preserve the ballpark,’’ Ricketts said.

But what about all those restaurants and businesses that the Triangle Building would compete with for Cubs fan dollars?  They’re your friends now right?  Why would you try and hurt them like that? Never mind.  That’s not important to ask.

Implicit in his comments is the dilemma of seeking public revenue in a climate of strained government funds. The idea drew a chilly reception last fall when it was first raised, and Ricketts defers discussing it for now. Yet it could be the most challenging question facing the ownership family, even as it keeps checking off its to-do list.

Their checklist, as Tom mentioned and Toni accepted without question was:

  1. Win a championship – So far they’ve taken an 83 win team, turned it into a 75 win team and has now built a team that projections estimate to win somewhere between 73 and 76 wins.  I think we can say this is not even close to being checked off.
  2. Preserve Wrigley Field – They are at least openly trying to achieve this goal, though we’re not quite sure why since it will take around half a billion dollars to achieve on top of the $845 million they already paid.  But whatever, its not checked off.
  3. Be a great neighbor – They’re trying to consolidate the revenue driven in the neighborhood to their own property, but they’re being nice about it. I’ll give them half a check.

So the Cubs have achieved less than one of their three stated goals, one of which seems to contradict another.  Any thing else to ask, Toni?  No?  We’re just going to leave it at that?

I guess we’re just going to leave it at that.


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I used to write lots of things about the Cubs. Now I sometimes write things about the Cubs.