By Bruce Levine-
MESA, Ariz. (CBS) — This time around, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts doesn’t sound naive in declaring his team playoff-bound in 2015.
In previous springs, Ricketts has always expressed his belief in the product on the field without much data to support his blind faith, even saying amid a rebuild in February 2014 that, “We have a team right now that can go to the playoffs.”
Now, Ricketts can take a similar tone without outsiders rolling their eyes.
“Obviously we feel this year’s team has what it takes to win the division and go to the playoffs,” Ricketts said Wednesday. “Now it is about getting out on the field and getting it started.”
The outlook appears to be turning around for Ricketts with his baseball and business plan. The renovation of Wrigley Field and the baseball organization being touted as having the best young players in the game is cause for considerable optimism inside the Cubs offices.
Ricketts expressed that optimism during his annual state-of-the-organization message for the Cubs as a group prior to their first full workout Wednesday in Mesa.
“I talked to them basically about how to treat our fans like gold,” Ricketts said. “The fact is we have the best fans in baseball. I also talk about community involvement and letting us help. A lot of guys want to do charity things when they don t have the time or the help. We do that for a lot of players and let them know we have that resource.”
Ricketts said there were a few topics he discussed with that team that he wouldn’t share with the media. Among them were probably an update on Wrigley Field rehab status and his expectations of winning in 2015.
Now entering its sixth year, the Ricketts ownership group has yet to have a team play over .500 baseball for even a week of a new season. That said, Tom Ricketts has tried to cultivate a personal relationship with the fan base, which includes daily walks through the stands.
He has made a habit of talking to hundreds of people without a security guard in tow.
“Walking around the ballpark has been encouraging for me,” Ricketts said. “The fans are almost exclusively supportive. They want to see everything done the right way. We want to get to that World Series, and we won’t get there making short-term decisions. Frankly, the fans have helped me get through the bad years.”
Ricketts wouldn’t explain his stance on the possible reunion of Sammy Sosa with the organization. He was mum on every Sosa question as it pertained to a connection to former PED user Manny Ramirez, who has joined the baseball department as a hitting consultant.
“Nothing really new on Sammy,” Ricketts said. “Nothing is going to change, and nothing new to report.”
On another note, the Cubs are hoping that a tampering charge issue in relation to their hiring of manager Joe Maddon will go away soon. New commissioner Rob Manfred said Monday he hoped to have a resolution to the charge by opening day. Ricketts didn’t have any update on the case.
Ricketts also stated that the bleacher repair extension is still on time for opening on May 11 in left field and early June in right field.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.