Remembering feelings during the first two years of the Ricketts
By: Alex Patt
The Ricketts family has done what William Wrigley, P.K. Wrigley or the Chicago Tribune could not do, win a World Series championship. We are heading into year eight of the Chicago Cubs being owned by the Ricketts and it is hard to believe how much has changed, from “Lovable Losers” into “Lovable Winners.”
Glimmers of hope sparkled on October 27, 2009 when the family officially assumed majority control of the Cubs after buying the franchise from the Trib for roughly $900 million. Many people, including my sophomore in highschool self, had high expectations off the bat. There was the expectation that they were going to get back to contention and that Wrigley Field would see a number of changes.
Oh they have happened! And it is wonderful! It did take some time (which is fine and well worth it).
The 2010 season would be the first baseball season under their control. Team was still managed by Lou Piniella with Jim Hendry heading up the front office and most of the core that had been around for four seasons still stood. The payroll was the third-highest in baseball ($146,609,000) and they finished 74–88. The core was aging, they traded away D-Lee for nothing and the future looked very bleak. As a kid in highschool, I was really upset. I feared that it would just be another scenario of an ownership group that did not know much about baseball and just cared about profit. I tried to stay optimistic with new owners, but I was getting really fed up as the Cubs got worse and worse at time went on.
I thought that Hendry would be gone and maybe they would either try to upgrade the roster in 2011 or rebuild around Starlin Castro. But, Hendry was still around and they tried to scrap a team together with the remnants of Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano. They finished with 71 wins in an incredibly bad and boring season. It was obvious that Hendry’s time was up, and luckily they were exploring new options during the 2011 season. However at the time I was still pretty disappointed about the team’s direction as everything felt hopeless.
I looked around and saw terrible teams and the only changes at Wrigley being a Toyota sign and a macaroni noodle outside the park. Though, we all knew this was because the neighborhood politicians were being pains, it was still frustrating to see it being put on hold. But the thing I wanted most was a winning team, even if played on a pile of rubble. I had no idea what they were going to do to make it happen.
Then, the magical day on October 12, 2011 happened when Tom Ricketts hired Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations. The goals of the franchise were set in place, the revamping of the system began and the culture changed. The rest is history.
Now I look back at the negative feelings I had towards the Ricketts ownership in 2011 and laugh. They completely proved me wrong about not knowing how to run a sports franchise. I remember being one of those “Stop worrying about Toyota signs and shaking fans hands and worry about a winning team!” type of people.
The Ricketts have done everything right, and it was good they did not rush anything. If they would have, there would have been no Theo. Who knows what things would be like today! They had to take over a franchise that was sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic and make the right moves while battling the city over renovating the stadium.
A reason for the lack of patience in 2010–2011 could very well have been that the city saw Rocky Wirtz drastically improve things with the Blackhawks immediately. Thus creating an unrealistic expectation for the Ricketts family. The circumstances with Wirtz and the Blackhawks were very different from the Cubs considering Wirtz inherited the team from his late father and had been a part of the organization for years.
With more exciting things in store for the Cubs in 2018, and more cool new additions to the Wrigley, I give more thanks to the Ricketts family. There has never been a better time to be a Cubs fan in the past century than under their ownership.
Alex Patt is a contributor for Wrigley Rapport and other sports/news publications. You can follow him on twitter @chifanpatt1