Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has faced as much criticism this season as general manager Jim Hendry and manager Mike Quade have. The only difference is that Ricketts is by no means obligated to speak to media as much as Hendry or Quade do. Ricketts seems to be doing that part well, as he hardly gives a full length interview to any reporter. However, Ricketts steered away from his media-shy self today as he gave a state of the team address. The Cubs owner touched on a variety of topics today, but most importantly, he addressed key areas such as Hendry’s job status and the financial flexibility that the Cubs will have this winter.
Jim Hendry’s job status has constantly been questioned this season, with many finding it hard to believe that Hendry will keep his job after this season. But as was the case throughout Ricketts entire time as Cubs owner, the chairman has no intention of firing the Cubs general manager. The same can be said for manager Mike Quade.
"“I have 100 percent confidence in Jim,” he said. “He’s working very hard to do everything he can to get this season back to where we want it to be. And I think Mike’s done a great job. You know Mike has got those guys playing hard. You know they’re not giving up. You know there’s good spirit in the clubhouse. Yeah, those guys are fine.” Asked if he would re-visit Hendry’s status after the season, Ricketts repeated: “The fact is, I have 100 percent confidence in Jim. We’re just going forward right now and we’ll see what the offseason looks like then. I’m pretty happy, I’m comfortable with Jim and I’m confident in his ability to keep us looking forward.” Chicago Tribune"
Tom Ricketts would not be a good owner if he did not have “confidence” in his general manager and manager. So in that way, it was a politically sound response from Ricketts. But the fact that we have heard these sentiments before from Ricketts in similar situations, makes me believe that he has every intention of retaining Hendryas his general manager after the season. We have gone through the pros and cons of Hendry being fired, and it can be a difficult decision to make. Hendry has a good reputation around baseball and is regarded highly by other executives around baseball. But, while it is not his fault, Hendry will eventually have to answer for the bloated contracts that he dealt out to the veterans of this team. That very well could be his undoing as Cubs general manager.
Along with Hendry’s job status, the Cubs financial state has been heavily scrutinized in recent weeks. With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder being rumored targets of the Cubs this coming winter, it is not known whether or not the Cubs can afford such a deal. That should not even be a question as simple math shows that the Cubs can still sign a big name free agent this winter, even if there is a decrease in payroll. Ricketts confirmed that sentiment with the media today:
"Ricketts said the structure of the sale of the team led to a “technical default” that “the commissioner and everyone in the league” knew about. He said fans need to know that “nothing in the capital structure of the balance sheet, and any of the debt would in any way limit our ability to put a good team on the field. The fact is this year we’ve spent more on Baseball Operations than any year in the past, and we continue to invest in the team. It’s not way a limitation on our ability to sign free agents or our flexibility to build a better organization. It’s just irrelevant for that.” He wouldn’t discuss payroll decisions, or whether the Cubs would sign a huge free agent contract next winter, saying it was Hendry’s decision. Chicago Tribune"
Much like Hendry was earlier this week, Ricketts opted to go with the politically correct response. Without directly referring to big name free agents, Ricketts said there is no limitations on the Cubs ability to sign free agents this off-season. Though he did say the decision to sign a big name free agent would be in Hendry’s hands. If that is the case, then I would expect the Cubs to be players for Prince Fielder and to a lesser degree Albert Pujols. Though, Hendry prefers trades over free agency. So if the opportunity arises this season where he could potentially land a young first baseman–Lars Anderson of the Red Sox organization–I’m sure Hendry will jump on it. However, unlike the previous bloated contracts he was forced to give out, Fielder would seem to be one of the best investments Hendry could ever make in his tenure with the Cubs.
Kudos to Tom Ricketts for finally having an in-depth media session. Now, fans–and Paul Sullivan–can stop characterizing Ricketts as a bad owner because he does not talk to the media.