Bernstein: Ricketts Regime Turning Soft

I want the old Tom Ricketts back.

Introduced as Cubs’ chairman not even a year ago, he stood next to the lectern and described his plans for success with the clarity, confidence and personal connection that had been missing under the leadership of a corporate monolith.  Subsequent interviews revealed him to be a modern baseball thinker with strong ideas about how he would run the team.

“I don’t believe in loveable losers,” he said.  “And we don’t believe in curses or billy goats.”

Ricketts told people close to him that he was preparing to clean out the organization from the top and start afresh.

So what do we have after a year since the new dawn?

An oily Tribune holdover as team president, firstly (and frighteningly).  Crane Kenney, the former director of Tribco’s legal department, wormed his way into the baseball side of corporate operations, and soon began to think he was an actual baseball executive.  It was his decision to hire a Greek priest to splash holy water in the Cubs’ dugout before the 2008 NLDS, due to his own, very real belief that a curse needed to be exorcised.  Kenney then lied brazenly about it, saying the priest called him.

Ricketts may not believe in billy goats, but the current president of his team does.

Second, general manager Jim Hendry remains the Cubs’ baseball czar.  Now in his 16th year with the team and ninth as GM, Hendry embodies an era of wild spending and heartbreak.  He is one of the game’s dinosaurs — a hard-drinking, steak-chomping cowboy seemingly at odds with the vision Ricketts described at the outset of his ownership.

Also, Ricketts himself looks and sounds worse at every next press conference.  On the miserable day of Lou Piniella’s pathetic surrender, he was downcast and defensive as he soft-launched the news of Hendry’s apparent retention.

Yesterday, the observers comparing him to Michael McCaskey were on to something.  Ricketts looks increasingly emasculated — his swagger gone with each indication that Hendry has shouldered him out of the way of the baseball business, shrewdly navigating to not just save his job, but fortify it.

Rather than make tough, strong decisions, Ricketts and his siblings on the board have opted to go soft.  Snowed by the sweet-talk from Kenney and Hendry, they seem content in their respective roles as ballpark greeter, reality-TV guest star, and gay advocate, and together as dinner hosts (the image of Eric Wedge, Ryne Sandberg and Mike Quade each taking a turn at a family-dinner “interview” was strange).

Ricketts talked about how important it was that a new manager understand what it means to be a Cub.

I would like to go back to the time when I felt that he knew what it meant to be an owner.

More from Dan Bernstein
  • merklesboner

    In the wake of Quade’s hiring, a move applauded by both B&B, I’m a little surprised at the tone of this blog. Ricketts may not be the hard charging owner in the Mark Cuban mold (someone B&B didn’t want as Cubs owner), but at least he didn’t go with the sentimental Sandberg hire. As for Hendry, yes 9 years is enough, but baseball is full of teams laden with bad contracts – the Cubs just happened to be the worst offenders for now.

    • Dave

      Not surprising when the article is about why Hendry and Kenney remain, the manager is irrelevant if Thing #1 and Thing #2 are still there.

  • KazooBoy

    I gave up on the Cubs forever after they got swept by the Dodgers in the playoffs. That’s when it dawned on me after 30-something years of being a fan that they can never win. Too much baggage, too much pressure, too much media coverage. They will always play tight.

  • Pulseczar

    What is it with the Cubs and Bears holding onto horrible GMs?

  • KazooBoy

    No wonder there’s hardly any comments anymore. Maybe they shouldn’t have changed the website or how it looks 10,896,482 times in the last few months.

    Hiring Quade = treading water…keep going to Cubs games lemmings.

  • Chris in Scottsdale

    I never thought I would get to the point where I was annoyed that I got offseason Cubs news. Yesterday’s announcement caused me to stop my ScoreStream and click onto my Pandora and create a station centered around Firefall, Steely Dan, and Ambrosia. I wish I were kidding, but even thinking about the Cubs annoyed me to the point that I chose not to listen to B&B, just because I didn’t want to hear about it. “Deacon Blues” just sounded like such a better idea than Cub talk at this point.

  • KazooBoy

    Write off the next 2-3 years guys. With their contracts and budget they’re in rebuilding mode, I don’t care how they spin it. And Hendy is the picture of unhealth does anybody else notice that?

    Hold on a sec…I think they just changed the ofrmat of the website again…


    The last three Cub managers, Don Baylor, Dusty Baker & Lou Piniella, were all high-profile & high-priced. None of them won a World Series, of course. It remains to be seen if Mike Quade will have better luck than the guys before him, but I know this much. Ryne Sandberg’s not as ready to manage on the big league level as he thinks he is. He should be coaching on some team’s staff before he’s even considered to fill out a lineup card. If Ozzie Guillen could coach before becoming the White Sox manager, so can Ryne.

  • Lydell

    The Cubs. Too silly, too silly. My guess is they’ll appease Ryno with a statue. Full stop.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Berstein- SPOT ON! Death to Scurvy Rickets!!!!

    Like Earl Weaver once said (of Terry Crowley), “Jim Hendry is lucky to be in f-cking baseball!”

  • AT3374

    Did anyone expect anything less of the Cubs ? Same old song and dance

  • Kevin

    I think it was you talking about how kids of rich people are kind of weird. Tom Ricketts fits in that category. Nothing about this guy said he was going to be a good owner. I know the Ricketts family hasn’t necessarily been bad at ownership, but I think the excitement of their takeover was too much. The Ricketts likened themselves to saviors, even the ill-fated “year one” idea rang out like this was a new era. Perhaps they aren’t the white knights they and a lot of fans imagined.

  • Denver Smeghead

    Looks like the podcasts are still hit or miss. Frustrating.

    As for Quade, I can’t really complain. The Cubs don’t need another high profile name right now, and why bother when they’re rebuilding anyways.

    As for Ricketts, I can’t help but think he’s entirely in over his head right now.

  • KazooBoy

    I’m not ready to throw dirt on Ricketts yet. He bought the team at a horrible time and it will take awhile to get those horrible contracts off the books (Fukudome, Soriano, Zambrano and Ramirez) and build up the farm system.

    Doesn’t matter though. Cubs will never win.

  • DGL

    “hard drinking” “gay advocate” LOL

  • Northwestside Kenny

    How many GM’s get a chance to hire three managers during their administration? Absolutely ridiculous! When Hendry is long gone from this team I would love to hear from Ricketts why he kept Hendry. It blows my mind away!

  • Glockster

    I can understand that Ricketts might not want to shake things up drastically right after taking the reigns, but the problem might be that the people feeding him information are the very people who are the problem with the Cubs.

    And after having caught some of Laurence’s interview with Hendry, Jim seems as delusional as ever. Developing players from a farm system that has produced little other than Starlin Castro and a few role players? And he won’t be a player in free agency because he’s already committed so much money in horrible contracts. The fact is that Hendry’s abilities as a GM seem directly tied to his ability to dish out exorbitant contracts to players who most likely don’t deserve it and cover up that bad money with more bad money, like a baseball Ponzi scheme, which has just collapsed. But, instead of being given baseball’s equivalent of a Fed perp walk, he gets to keep his job and hire a new manager to tend to his overpriced and underperforming team. But then, I’m of the opinion that this managerial hire is of little consequence considering how badly Hendry has screwed up the roster and the Cubs won’t be good (or even close) for some time.

    As a Cubs’ fan, I think that I have to borrow the “I’m not interested” sign until Hendry is relegated to history.

  • WHAT?

    Hendry not only continues to survive – he’s allowed to further put his
    stamp on the team. As Phil Rogers wrote back in Sept –

    “Then there are the personal connections that can’t be overlooked. Quade and Cubs
    assistant general manger Randy Bush were college teammates at New Orleans in the late 1970s.
    Also on that team was Paul Mainieri, the LSU coach who is one of Hendry;s closest friends.”

    So we don’t even get fresh eyes from a new manager – rather we get a beholden supporter of Hendry.

  • Tim Shaw's last tackle

    Are we sure Tom Ricketts isn’t really Mike McCaskey? Have they ever been seen in the same room together?

  • the hole in Adolfo Soriano's gold glove

    From the evidence presented, the answer to this riddle is obvious: Hendry’s scouts trailed Ricketts until they got a picture of him having gay sex with a billy goat, hired Craine Kenney to represent him and together they blackmailed Ricketts into job security. This is why Hendry looks ill, Ricketts looks emasculated and Hendry’s scouts come up with fabulous talent like Errin’ Miles, Milton the Monster Bradley, Adolfo Sorryanno and a dozen others.
    This team always settles for the second (or third, fourth, fifth … ) best option; that’s how we got the second best Ricketts in MLB history. At the top of the Ricketts list is of course, Dave Ricketts who served the best part of his limited career as backup catcher to Bob Uecker.


    Thank you

  • Wu

    What if the Cubs kept Josh Hamilton? Another Hendry mistake?
    Judge for yourself…

  • Boynton's fire and passion

    For Jason:
    Wooley Willy is referenced in family guy in the epidsode where Peter grows a beard.
    Lois: beards are ugly
    Wooley Willy: hey
    Lois: not you wooley willy we can fix that (pulls out pen and moves his beard to his hair.)

  • bigtime sucker

    I have this bad feeling that the chicago sports recession is in full swing.

  • quimby

    Is it me or did Phil Davison become owner of the Cubs. “He will not rest until he is treasurer of Stark County and the Cubs are division champs.”

  • Mick

    You want to get a winning Bears and Cubs team? Stop buying tickets and going to the games ! If your favorite restaurant started serving crap sandwiches, would you continue to go? STOP enabling the owners to continue to shove a bad product down our throats. STOP BUYING TICKETS !!! Let the owners and horrible players suffer for a while. STOP BUYING TICKETS !!! Let Crane Kenney and “Mopey” Smith eat crao sandwiches for a while. STOP BUYING TICKETS !!! Just because Tom Ricketts has money and sat in the bleachers as a kid, he knows how to run a baseball team? Come on. It’s the old boys club over there and your the sucker. STOP BUYING TICKETS !!!

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