In an interview with 670 AM WSCR in Chicago on Thursday, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts touched on an array of issues – ranging from the team’s hiring of Joe Maddon, prospective television deals on the horizon and the team’s future, as a whole.
Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times recapped some of the highlights of the conversation in his latest piece.
"“We feel like a lot of the process of retooling and rebuilding the organization has started to pay off and a lot of it is behind us,” Ricketts told 670 The Score’s “The Mully and Hanley Show” on Thursday. “We’re excited about having a great new manager."
Chicago signed Maddon to a five-year deal worth $25 million just under a week ago, making the former Tampa Bay Rays skipper one of the game’s highest-paid managers and spelling the end of Rick Renteria‘s brief tenure at the helm of things on the North Side of Chicago. Under Renteria last season, Chicago improved by seven games from 2013 and saw the debuts of several promising talents including Kyle Hendricks, Jorge Soler, Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez.
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In addition to these debuts, the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro both earned National League All-Star selections, both bouncing back from what was arguably the worst season of their careers to put up stellar numbers. Rizzo finished second in the National League in home runs, trailing only Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins and Castro tied a career-high in long balls, despite missing almost 30 games with injury.
Despite these improvements, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer couldn’t pass on Maddon, who has long-been regarded as one of the best managers in baseball – especially for his work with younger players and developing team chemistry, while also mixing new and old-school thinking in his approach to the game.
"“It’s a big step for the organization to bring in a manager that we think is one of the best in the game. We have a lot of good young players,” said Ricketts. “We have a good system. We want to have one of the better managers and I think it shows that we’re committed to winning. We have a pretty exciting two years ahead of us.”"
The hosts of the program also asked Ricketts about Epstein’s contract, which expires after the 2016 season. Previously, Epstein had talked about this matter, as well, offering this take on things to Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago
"“Tom mentioned earlier this year that he definitely would like to extend my contract,” Epstein told a group of writers after an entertaining, made-for-TV press conference. “I really appreciate that, and that’s something I would like to have happen, too. But we’ve just been too busy. The organization comes first. We’ve had a lot on our plate and (the Maddon deal) was a more pressing matter.”"
Epstein signed a five-year deal in Oct. 2011 and has since led the Cubs’ turnaround, rebuilding a largely-depleted farm system to one of the best in all of baseball. Ricketts told 670 The Score on Thursday that he’s ready to talk whenever Epstein wants to sit down and discuss and extension.
"“Obviously I think the world of Theo and his team. He’s got a couple years left on his contract, and when he’s ready to talk about an extension, we’ll be ready talk.”"
After landing Maddon, and with the Wrigley Field renovation in full-swing, a contract extension with Epstein should – and likely will – be the next step for the organization. There are few front office-ownership partnerships that work as well as the one at the Friendly Confines and the Cubs will be sure to keep it this way for years to come.