Kap's Corner

Suggestions for the Ricketts Family

There are several moves both on and off the field that I would suggest to the new owners that would fundamentally change the team and the Wrigley Field experience for fans. Demand that things be done your way or else. You knew how to play that card when you had to during the long negotiations to buy the team.
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The Ricketts family reportedly played hardball toward the end of their negotiations to buy the Cubs. Now they have to play hardball and demand that things be done their way going forward.



Everyone in the media seems to be weighing in with their ideas so I figured I might as well give mine. So here we go:

1) Trade Milton Bradley and eat whatever salary you have to eat to make the deal happen. He had a good season in Texas in 2008, so the Cubs hoped it would translate into great productivity here.  But both on and off the field it is not working. So make the move this winter before it becomes a sideshow for the second consecutive season.

2) Say goodbye to Aaron Miles. The Cubs saw Miles hit .317 in 134 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 and after making the insanely ridiculous decision to trade Mark DeRosa the Cubs figured Miles could do the same for the North Siders. His .178 average and whopping total of 5 RBI's in 146 at bats has to guarantee a ticket out of town despite the fact that he is owed another 2.7 million dollars in 2010.
3) Find out if Lou Piniella really has the energy left to commit to 2010. Look, Piniella's detractors want to rip the guy every chance they get and he has made some curious decisions this season but he is the best manager the Cubs have had in 30 years. He knows the game and I believe that every game we are in we are not going to be out-managed. However, he must commit to holding guys accountable and that means playing hard and playing guys who are producing regardless of what their contract pays them.

4) If Piniella does come back for one more season then start making plans on how you can lure Joe Girardi for the 2011 season. Girardi wanted the job when Piniella got it and he should have been the one that Jim Hendry hired. If for no other reason than the fact that he did not want to sign Alfonso Soriano if he got the job. Girardi wanted to build a younger team mixed with veteran stars. However, that opportunity is long gone so start planning on how to land the NY Yankees skipper whose current contract ends after 2010.   And he has always maintained that he's a Cub at heart. If Sweet Lou walks away after this season, you have a big decision on your hands. Do you promote Ryne Sandberg from the Cubs Class AA managerial post, do you hire Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly, or do you go outside the organization for a new direction?  How about taking a run at a World Series winning manager who's contract is up after this season?  Tony LaRussa will be a free agent and there are indications that he may walk away from the Cardinals. Find out what it would take to offer him the ultimate challenge in the game. If you do change managers and coaches then make your first coaching hire Greg Maddux as your pitching coach. How about Sandberg as manager and Maddux as your pitching coach? That would certainly signal that things are changing but also embracing some of the greats from the Cubs past.  

5) Keep Tim Wilken as your scouting director. He has started to add talent to the minor leagues and is considered by most GM's around the game to be one of the top 5 draft evaluators in the sport. The Cubs are starting to build a solid collection of prospects at the lower levels of the minor leagues and you cannot let Wilken get away.

6) Allow Bob Brenly to continue to speak his mind in the TV booth. He and Len Kasper have developed into an excellent team and their rapport is very enjoyable. Brenly's candor is greatly appreciated especially during a rough season such as 2009.

7) Make sure your teams play fundamental baseball. Do not allow a manager or coach to tell you that a guy can't bunt. These are multi-million dollar athletes and if they can't lay a bunt down then they need to be taught how to bunt. End the ridiculous trend that says major league players can't bunt and play fundamentally sound baseball. It seems to work for the Twins, the Angels, the Cardinals, the Yankees and a handful of others. Make it work for the Cubs.

8) Speaking of the Twins, if you do bring in a baseball man to assist you take a look at former Twins GM Terry Ryan. He is now a senior adviser to the club but is from Janesville, WI and reportedly would have interest in a position with the Cubs. He is considered a tremendous talent evaluator and he built teams with very little payroll. It would be interesting to see what he could contribute to a team with a large amount of money to spend. If you change GM's then I would take a long look at Rick Hahn who is the assistant general manager to Kenny Williams of the White Sox. He is a highly intelligent man who is Harvard educated, has a law degree and understands the business side of baseball. Plus, he is a former agent who is well respected by that side of the game and he is an expert in contracts. He has had several teams after him but he is waiting on the right situation for him and his family. Plus, he grew up a big Cubs fan. Perhaps the north side of Chicago would be the situation he is looking for.

9) Add a Jumbotron and modernize the facilities. Wrigley Field is a great place to watch a game but the amenities are not good. The players workout room is tiny and embarrassing. You are paying players millions of dollars to play so why not do all you can to keep them in shape and to rehab from injuries. The proposed triangle building next to the stadium is a good start but you have to be able to expand the clubhouse and bring Wrigley Field up to major league standards for the players. The fans also deserve better bathrooms, concessions, and a wider concourse. These are no brainers. They HAVE to happen and fast!

10) Sell naming rights to the area the park sits on and around. Many fans would flip if you changed the name of Wrigley Field to something such as TD Ameritrade Park but the cash you could raise through that move would allow you to pay off a guy like Soriano or add some guys who can really play. So compromise. What is so awful about calling the stadium Wrigley Field at TD Ameritrade Park? The traditionalists who claim they want to win but have no idea what it takes to win keep the beloved Wrigley name while the dollars generated by the additional name allow your baseball people to add talent to the club.

11) Sell PSL's on your season tickets. Look, no one wants to pay for the right to buy something but someone is going to have to start finding a way to pay off the 845 million dollars that you just paid for the club. Plus, since you were forced to finance a huge chunk of the sale you have tremendous debt service to pay every year so the cash has to come from somewhere so that it does not affect the money you spend for the product on the field. Those who complain may not pay for a PSL but if you give the fans a winning product the PSL's will sell. Besides, they work pretty well for the Bears.

12) Finally, create a mission statement of doing things in your organization with two goals in mind. First and foremost, is winning the World Series. Nothing less than a title should be considered success. We don't aim to play big games in September. We aim to win the title, every year. Second, we aim to create the best experience we can for our fans. They are the best fans in sports and they deserve a quality team in a quality environment.

Finally, don't make a knee jerk signing to pacify the fans and media who want to see you add a huge star to the team. Lay out a long term plan for the future of the franchise on and off the field. Change the direction of the Cubs and when the time is right make a big splash but one big name player is not what ails this franchise. You need to create a new way to run the business and it starts with continuing to build the minor league system, revamping Wrigley Field and creating new revenue streams from outside the walls of one of the smallest stadiums in the game.      

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20 Comments

Steve said:

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Kap, I have been a fan for a while, but you might have just lost points on the jumbotron. I can't see a situation in which a jumbotron would not complete make wrigley field a terrible sight. you can't get rid of the scoreboard. One, it is one of the most unique scoreboards around. No one does that anymore. Why should we stop? Also I think it is a protected landmark like the marquee, so it would take a lot to get it down. Because of that, where would the jumbo tron go that would not make it completely out of place? I agree with you in the triangle building sense. That should be a top priority along with an updated concession and restrooms.

I don't know how I feel about naming the land rather than the park, but I think that the main concern is to keep Wrigley field Wrigley field. No one will say "Wrigley field at Budweiser park" in public, so...Anyways, the cubs need more money and an updated facility, but I have never felt a place like Wrigley field. You have been their quite a bit. Maybe the magic has worn off??

Logan McCombs said:

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I agree with the Steve and his view on the jumbotron. Honestly, Wrigley field doesn't need it. Because when you get a jumbotron you turn into U.S. Cellular Stadium....commercial sell-out. Once you get advertisements like that, you loose the whole idea of the baseball game.

IvyChatChuck said:

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The whole idea? You mean the idea of for-profit professional entertainment?

IvyChatChuck said:

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Frankly Kap, other than 10, 11 and 12, Ricketts should do none of this. What he should do is hire someone who knows baseball to make these decisions.

He's a banker, not a baseball guy. Non-baseball guys making baseball decisions lead to Dan Snyder, Mike McCaskey, Jerry Jones and pre-1993 George Steinbrenner.

Some of those are good baseball moves, but not the moves than an owner should make.

backslap said:

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Whats the big deal with a jumbotron lets say on a rooftop across the street. I am all for keeping the old time scoreboard in center field but a jumbotron is necessary for revenue. It is estimated a jumbotron can bring in extra $5 million a year in advertising revenue aside from the fact Wrigley field is the only park in the entire major leagues that does not have one. Again some of you traditionailsts will complain but I would rather have a jumbotron rather than buying PSLs

Illini said:

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PSL? Seriously? Spoken like someone who's got a lot of discretionary cash and/or hasn't paid for a Cubs ticket in quite a while (and I'm sure will still get freebies since WGN still gets to air the games). The fans did not set the value for the team nor did the fans make the Ricketts family buy the team. But the suggestion is that the fans should indeed "pay" for it for the Ricketts family? If Tom Ricketts wants the team he can assemble a group of investors who WILLINGLY want a piece of it rather than asking 40,000 folks who've already been faced with escalating ticket and concession prices "pay" for his purchase. As if Cubs fans aren't already disgusted enough by the on-field product. Good call, Kap.

Shery said:

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My husband & I completely agree with you Illini. This is exactly why we don't go to more than one game per year. Who can afford it? This would really knock the regular guy out of contention for a seat. Of course the big companies would then buy up all the season tickets and resell them on Stubhub.

*dan bradley said:

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Really, guys? Kap brings up an intreaguing point like a Maddux/Sandburg tandem at the helm and all you can do is critique the possibility of a jumbotron?

I don't think Mad dog would do it. He wanted to be on a west coast team in his final years in the game to be close to his family, and still has young son(s), right? Then again, he played for a long time, and is obviously a competitor. Maybe he WOULD consider helping the Cubs win. Considering his big bro is one of the best, I think having Maddux on staff would be awesome!

How about a Maddux-pitching coach, Girardi-head coach, Sandburg-hitting coach or assistant coach team?

Karry Ling said:

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Lovely effort as always, Dave.

I especially liked your advice not to make a knee jerk signing to placate the fans, when John McDonough's Soriano signing did just that and you had the biggest pom poms to wave of anybody.

Your PSL idea has merit. No, wait what's the opposite of merit, because that's what it has. The reason PSL's work in the NFL is because there are only eight home games (plus those two awesome home preseason games) so the demand for the seats is much higher than it is for 81 home baseball games. If the Cubs made people pay for the right to then buy season tickets they would suffer a huge loss of season ticket holders. But maybe that was your idea. Fewer season ticket holders means more tickets for the brokers!

As for the naming rights, why would the Ricketts family sell the naming rights to themselves? You've been around Tribune dopes too long. You don't just shuffle money around the spreadsheet and make more money, it helps if someone actually gives you money for things.

And Cubs fans are not the best fans in the world. They just aren't, and I'm one of them. There are way too many of them who don't understand baseball and make little effort to understand it. Maybe that's why they are Cubs fans?

Also no "real" fan would care what the park that their team plays in is called. How does it add to, or diminish your enjoyment of a game? Oh, and most of them should be able to spell the last name of their Hall of Fame broadcaster (it's not Carey) or the last name of their Hall of Fame second baseman (it's not Sandburg, unless the poet spent more games there than I thought.)

TTH said:

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Your last paragraph may be the best post to date on Chicago Now. And I mean that as a complement.
You did forget to mention the beloved pitcher, Greg Maddox, though.

Illini said:

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Just felt compelled to again comment on the PSL thing. Interesting thought on the NFL thing. I can't say that I agree that the PSL thing would or would not be successful for the Cubs. I'm with a group of guys who have been grandfathered into a night/weekend plan and three years ago I put my name into the waiting list for full season tickets. I'm still at 22,000 and have literally moved a couple of hundred spots in THREE YEARS. The "demand" is there (possibly in tune to how well the team is doing...they may burn through the list this winter, who knows). The problem is the team keeps raising prices and are close to pricing themselves out of a lot of fans. Couple ticket prices, ridiculous parking and traffic, concessions, and then tack on a PSL. That'd be great. :)
BTW, your comment about losing season ticket holders is interesting. After getting bombarded with all the mini plans this off season (as well as their own "scalping" service), I'm pretty convinced the Cubs are doing all they can to hold that season ticket wait list as long as humanly possible by creating artificial demand...must think they can become the Green Bay Packers of MLB!

TTH said:

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Went to a game in Peoria a couple years back. In the first inning, Sandberg had his #3 hitter bunt to get the runners over. He had his number three hitter make an out on purpose, in the first inning. To make an out on purpose with anyone but a pitcher is idiotic about 95% of the time. To have a #3 hitter do it, in the 1st inning no less, is moronic.
If the Cubs hire Sandberg, get ready for a long rebuilding process. And if they do bring him, it is nothing more than a PR move to appease fans during a stretch of losing, like Detroit did with Trammel and the Blackhawks did with Savard.
And get ready for giving away a lot of free outs to the other team.

mo said:

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David:

]Im your #1 fan.. What you say on Chicago tribune LIVE. I agree 100%..
How can LOU NOT play Fuld,Fox,and Fuku in the outfield .. All 3 have shown
they can play.. UNlike Sorry and Badly.. How can LOU say IM going to play the VETS.. Thats what GOT us here. Is LOU 100% in the noggin?? Does he want to be fired. THats the only thing I DOnt agree with you .. I dont want LOU anymore.
For whatever reason he is losing all chances of making the playoffs with his stupid lineups.. Fuld hit over 400 and 450 OBP pkaying for Sorry early in the year. the other day he walks twice and steals 2nd. BUT Badly cant bunt him to third, SO HEs NOT a person to bat second. Lead off Fuld, then THeriot or Fuku.. If LOU starts Sorry and Badly or Fontenot ( who cant catch pop ups near the tarp or tag runners without shying away), Then PLEASE KEEP harping on how BAD sorry and Badly are. BUT please start getting on LOU. Last night your sports columnist Phil Rogers.. He must be a pupet to say on TV are you NOT going to play SORoiano and Badly with their big paychecks. Hey YEs where have you been PHIL all summer.. I lost all respect for Rogers for sticking on LOUs side as suggesting that SORRY and Badly should be playing.. Daveid , Get some sports people on your program that are NOT trib guys tha either LIE or stick up for the SOriano and Badly or Fontenot .. Please Dont have Rogers on your program anymore. What a waste of our time .. He knows NOTHING!!!! GO get 'm David LOVE you HONESTY

Bad Kermit said:

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Don't worry, guys. I've got this one:

JI LIVE LOU NOT UN LOU I'M VETS GOT LOU TH DO LOU BUT SO HE NOT TH LOU PLEASE KEEP BAD BUT LOU TV NOT SOR YE PHIL LOU SORRY NOT LIE SO NOTHING GO LOVE HONESTY

I just put on a pot of coffee. I should have this cracked by morning.

Karry Ling said:

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Hi Mo,
You know, you can cut the Prozac in half.

arch21002 said:

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Some good thoughts, but overall i can't believe how unrealistic you are about some of things you write about. First off, eating Bradley's salary isn't going to happen, nor should it. No one is going to take that on, and why pay a guy 5-10 million (at least) to leave.....then have to pay another top free agent 10+ million just to fill in?

Aaron Miles is gone no matter if a new owner is here or not. That you can eat, and be happy to eat it. What a miserable player he is.

Lou might be the best manager in 30 years, but that is like saying Hendry is the best GM since Dallas Green, maybe better. Who cares? The guy is not the guy they hired. PERIOD. You might love him to death, but that doesn't change the fact he is tired, old, and not that good of a game manager anymore. He is lazy and feels the "veterans" will take the team where they want to go. Well couldn't you hire me to do the same? What does he bring anymore? You buy him out and bring someone in immediately. If that is Brenly as a quick fix for 2010, then fine....he surely would take it.

I say Brenly in 2010 because IMO you can't get rid of Hendry and this core of guys just yet. Because of this, Brenly already knows this personnel. He won't put up with crap, he will be auditioning himself for the Cubs job long term, or another job. If the Cubs fail in 2010 (transition year for the new owner), then you get rid of Hendry, you evaluate the job Brenly did, and you bring more of a "baseball guy", cough Sandy Alderson cough, in here to run the show. Doing so you try to completely rebuild without going overboard......but that is the story of the 2011 Cubs.

Tom Wilken IMO only survives 2010 also. IF the Cubs turn this thing around in 2010, entirely possible, it could save Hendry, Wilken, maybe even Kenney's future here with the Cubs. They are ALL-IN for 2010. However, what scares me is....the Cubs do just good enough to keep these guys around and they stick around for a few more years as they continue to underachieve overall. IMO like Dick Jauron in '01 with Angelo taking over. Bears did just good enough in '01 for Jauron to stick around "too long" under Angelo's new management.

Completely agree on your jumbotron, and other creative ideas to get more revenue to the ball team. It's good business. Wrigley can still be a great place to go, maybe even a better place. Isn't Chicago the home of the guy who is talking about "change" in America? Why can't the Cubs fans deal with change if it can help out a team that hasn't won anything in 101 years? I'm all for it.

Bottom line, baseball men and smart decisions haven't been the norm for this organization. Hopefully Ricketts can change that. With a high payroll in a huge market, bringing in consistent, competent baseball people is a good start........and I am actually a fan of what Hendry has done, and in a way have felt bad for him the way his manager and players have let him down this season.

Oh and by the way, no way you get Girardi. They had their chance, and they blew it. In my opinion that was a big miss by Hendry. Instead of possibly getting the next Mike Scocissa (sp), they went after the "win now" old man type that was only going to be here 3-5 years at most. You build with a blueprint. Gardenhire in Minnesota, Ozzie on the southside, TLR and Duncan in STL, Torre in NY, now Girardi in NY, Bobby Cox in Atl. Long term success, with long term managers.....instead Hendry went with the "big splash" hire and it wasn't wise. That has been Hendry's biggest faults...going after the "big splash" instead of maybe the smart splash.

tom said:

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It's hard enough to get tickets for the game and you want them to sell PSL's for season tickets.After that they'll sell them for all the seats.Remmember when they started with the price hike for premium games which they said were for the best teams.Now all the games are premium

tom said:

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Let's really go for change and build a new modern ballpark.It's time to start fresh.

--MGb said:

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Ok, I could care less aobut PSL's. Anytone who can afford season tickets can afford a little extra. Don't cry because your $5,000 seats now cost $5,500. My heart weeps for you. Really it does.

Kap - you had me until Jumbotron. Really? You khow what the nice thing about Wrigley is? You go there and you watch a baseball game. Not a tv show, not a lot of prettiness, just a baseball game.

And finally - never pass up the opportunity to pee in a trough.

MJG said:

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I am mostly in agreement with you, except for PSL's. This would make season tickets unaffordable for the average fan and there is no justification for charging twice for the same product. There are other ways to generate revenue, such as naming rights and increased adverisement dollars from a Jumbotron. I would add that under no circumstances would I let Jim Hendry make any more long term decisions about the club. It would be nice to see the Cubs build an organization that not only wins a World Series, but also contends on a regular basis

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