Optimism springs eternal for Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com February 24, 2012 4:30PM
Updated: February 24, 2012 4:36PM
MESA, Ariz. – No marquee names on the field. Three managers in three years. Another steep decrease in payroll. And nothing close to playoff expectations west of Clark Street or east of Sheffield.
No wonder the Cubs’ marketing and advertising departments look like they’re working harder this off-season than they have in years to push ticket packages and promote some of the opponents on the schedule as much as the home team.
But if interest in the Cubs has taken a beating after those fifth-place finishes the last two years, ownership doesn’t seem worried – even at the suggestion their eight-year streak of 3-million-attendance seasons could be in jeopardy.
``Not at the moment, no,’’ chairman Tom Ricketts said. ``We’re not really worried about that. I think once people see how this team plays, we’ll be fine.’’
Ricketts, who was in spring camp for a few hours to deliver his annual spring talk to the team, called season-ticket renewals and new sales ``off-the-charts good’’ but acknowledged ``we do have tickets to sell in April and May in particular.’’
Despite a conspicuous lack of big-name, marketable player acquisitions this winter, the Cubs seem to be putting their short-term sales faith in the hard-nosed effort pledged from the new field staff and the reputed Mensa quality of the new front office brain trust.
``We know that the one thing that sells tickets is winning, and that’s what we focus on,’’ Ricketts said.
Not that anybody outside Fitch Park expects anything big in that department just yet. But Ricketts seemed stoked about ``a new energy, a new vibe’’ he feels already in this camp after the off-season additions of team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, player development boss Jason McLeod, manager Dale Sveum and half the coaching staff.
``This is really an inflection point for this organization,’’ he said. ``I think we’ve made some changes that are going to pay off in the short run with a great team on the field this year and in the long run with a team that’s going to be competitive every single year.’’
Emphasis on short run.
``We’re not preaching patience,’’ Ricketts said. ``We’re preaching have expectations. Expect these guys to play hard, expect them to compete every game, expect them to have a great season. It’s not about patience. We have a good team, and we’re going to have a good year.’’
Ricketts on other subjects Friday:
-- Ricketts quashed a recent ``news’’ report that the Cubs might play their home games for a season at U.S. Cellular Field while Wrigley renovations are done, saying: ``There’s no plans for us to play anywhere else but Wrigley Field.’’
-- As for funding plans for the desired renovations, he said the team continues to work with elected officials on possible proposals but there’s nothing new to report.
-- On All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro’s arrival to camp after an off-season dealing with sexual-assault allegations: ``Obviously, we’re glad Starlin’s here. … I don’t know any specifics about the situation … But the fact is we want all of our guys to behave well off the field.’’
--Ricketts said there’s still not a groundbreaking date set for the Cubs’ new spring training facility, but it’s still on scheduled for a 2014 opening.