Following the crowd through the exits recently, I couldn’t help but think of the Ricketts family, and how the friendly gang from Creighton University certainly knows how to put on a show and give fans their money’s worth. Despite my earlier misgivings, I now can state with confidence that Joe and his kids seem adept at handling any difficulties they face in their sideline ventures, as they combine a sensitive approach with cold facts and logic to produce a product that is well worth our entertainment dollar.
Before you jump to conclusions and try to curb my enthusiasm by pointing to the Quade promotion, Hendry retention, Pena signing, Garza trade, or even the Silva catch-and-release as examples of the family’s mismanagement, I have one suggestion for you: Go see “The Conspirator,” a Civil War drama that may still be playing at your local 12-plex. As you likely know, this movie was the maiden effort of the Ricketts-owned American Film Company and, despite its lack of car chases, bathroom humor, or gratuitous sex and violence, it still holds up well in providing two hours of compelling entertainment.
The movie’s quality undoubtedly is due in great measure to its world famous director, Robert Redford, who some fans may recognize from his Opening Day appearance at Wrigley Field. By virtue of his well-earned reputation for excellence, Redford was able to attract an all-star cast to The Conspirator, using actors who, perhaps, worked at discount rates to appear in a high-concept film, or who simply wanted a chance to work with the great man.
Of course, Redford’s fame and status as an award-winning director and actor are more than enough to get his films booked in movie theaters all over the world, and we can be fairly certain The Conspirator will make money for Team Ricketts, in addition to jump-starting the family’s filmmaking endeavors. And just think – all Joe Ricketts had to do in order to succeed in the arcane world of moviemaking was to hire the right guy to manage his enterprise, then let him operate without interference.
Although it’s only speculation, we can be fairly certain that while searching for “The Conspirator’s” director, Ricketts never really considered hiring the head of the drama department at Creighton to get his movie off the ground. Even though that faculty member likely knows more than Robert Redford about stage acting, directing, and production, he or she would have faced almost insurmountable obstacles as director of “The Conspirator,” in terms of recruiting Hollywood talent, winning respect from colleagues, mastering the technical aspects of moviemaking, and convincing distributors and theater owners to show the film.
Fortunately, Ricketts made the obvious choice and picked the best person available to make his movie a success. Of course, this leads us to wonder what might have happened two years ago, if Team Ricketts had consulted with longtime owners like Ted Turner and the Steinbrenners before making their billion-dollar purchase. Perhaps George and Ted would have been honest enough to advise the family that Major League Baseball is tough on outsiders, no place for on-the-job training in top management, and requires a team leader with the special knowledge and reputation that can only be acquired through decades of successful major league service.
As we sift through the debris of the Cubs’ ongoing 70-year run of mediocrity, it's easy to spot three narrow blips that reach toward the top of the charts. These reflect productive activity by the Cubs during three short eras: the first, led by Leo Durocher from 1967-72, the second by Dallas Green from 1982-89, and, most recently, the Lou Piniella Era that ended last summer. Today, these three men represent the type of leadership needed more than ever to break through the decades-old Wrigley-Trib inertia that has the Cubs playing in heavy shoes.
Just as in moviemaking, the surest way for the Ricketts family to succeed in the closed world of big league baseball is to hire one man with leadership qualities, Major League contacts, and demonstrated MLB success, then give him a free hand to run the team from either the front office or dugout, as Stick Michael did in the 1990's for Steinbrenner, and Bobby Cox did for 20 years in Atlanta.
Unless the unlikely duo of Quade and Hendry can manage a miracle in this year’s weak Central Division, this postseason will be the time for Team Ricketts to repeat their sound moviemaking decisions, as they re-staff the Cubs’ front office and hire the best man available for the top spot. When the time comes, they could do worse than bringing-in Bobby Cox as a consultant to the screening committee. At 70, Bobby may even be a candidate for GM – after all, he's just a kid compared to the 75-year-old Bobby Redford.