Tom Ricketts might be a Cubs fan and a good ambassador at the ballpark but I seriously question his ability to lead the Chicago Cubs. He's impressed me with the way he reaches out to fans; that having been said what is he doing to put a marketable baseball product on the field? Not much, in fact his actions have had negative effects. Let's look at the results:
Winning percentage: Since taking over the team the club has winning percentages of .468, .438 and .385 (2012 to date;)
Salaries: Say what you will about the Chicago Tribune but they weren't bad owners. In 2009 (their last year of ownership) the Trib spent $135M on payroll; in 2010 it rose to $146M. Since then it's declined to $125M in 2011 and $88M in 2012. The trend is unmistakeable; the Ricketts family is trying to do things on the cheap. I'll have more to say about this later.
Attendance: The Cubs average 2500 less in paid attendance per game than they did prior to to the Cubs sale in 2009. I was unable to find statistics on the percentage of fans who actually attended games but it's fair to say that revenues for concessions, parking, etc. are probably down as well.
Future forecast: Cubs fans have little reason to be excited about the foreseeable future. We have future stars in Jackson and Rizzo; other than that the cupboard seems more half-empty than half-full. How many Kerry Woods or Mark Priors do we have down on the farm? I don't see one, not to mention a decided lack of Matt Cains or Tim Lincecums. And finally,
Leadership potential: From what I've seen thusfar Theo Epstein et al are very charming snake oil salesmen. We expected better results and what did we get? A team that is considerably worse than before and a farm system that isn't really better. We have bullpen problems now, could that perhaps be a function of no Sean Marshall or Andrew Cashner? I rate Tom Ricketts as a D- as an owner; despite his proclamations to propel the Cubs forward he is way out of his league. We've got young guys in almost every area of management and they lack senior expertise.
I've read online that the Ricketts family is worth about a billion and the Cubs cost about that – have they overextended themselves like the previous ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers? Cash flow is important to any business, is that the reason why the Cubs have cut their salaries by $58M since 2010? Perhaps they are stretched thin and now is a bad time to have to borrow money to pay for current expenses.
I'm not going to spend any money on this team this year – I remember only too well the PK Wrigley years. Perhaps Ricketts, Epstein and the rest assume they can make a comfortable return on investment by selling Wrigley as a party area, not a serious baseball venue. Actions speak louder than words. Recently the Ricketts family expressed interest in getting government participation in Wrigley Field improvements – we've since found out that the founding father of the family has other interests that have made that investment less likely. It's for these reasons that I'm truly pessimistic about my favorite baseball team's future; the captain of the ship is not experienced and his ship is foundering at sea.
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