Yesterday, I desperately hoped that the Cubs were making the Sveum decision for the right reasons. Theo Epstein's statement yesterday allayed many of my concerns but today Gordon Wittenmeyer wrote this,
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and business president Crane Kenney are said to have pushed strongly for Girardi.
But despite my fears yesterday, I have heard enough both on and off the record from multiple sources to suggest that this is not true at all -- at least not in the manner in which it's implied. For one, we know that Epstein left the Red Sox in large part because of ownership interference and Ricketts would not risk eventually losing him by making the same mistake. He is supporting Theo Epstein in every way in this managerial search (including financially) -- but he is not influencing his decisions.
What I can believe is that Ricketts, like many people, is quite fond of Joe Girardi and perhaps he has made his preference known, but the decision is 100% on Epstein and Hoyer.
As it should be.
I've said time and time again that the curse of the Cubs stems not from a goat, but from 100 years of bad ownership that a) had a different, more marketing based agenda, or b) were more interested in raising the financial value of the franchise, or c) simply did not fully support the team financially. The common thread with all the owners has been that winning a World Series has not been a priority. In that light, maybe it's no surprise that the Cubs haven't accidentally stumbled upon a World Series Championship in the last century or so.
Ricketts gets it, though. He handed Theo the reins and stepped aside and let him make the decisions and, just as importantly, is there to support him when it's something that Theo really wants. He went above and beyond to try and snatch Anibal Sanchez from the Tigers, even flying out to make sure the Cubs made the highest bid possible. I also expect Ricketts to continue to support Theo financially for any player that fits the team's long term plan, such as the potential pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka this winter.
He has supported a rebuild from the bottom up that has yet to surface at the MLB level. That is no small thing for an owner to do because it is a long term investment at the cost of short term revenue. When I spoke to Ricketts shortly before the Theo Epstein hire, he laid out a long term plan that included a greater investment in the draft and the farm system as well as a bigger focus on the international market, including their Dominican Academy that looks to do more than just teach players baseball. He has followed through on everything he said he would. And then he picked out the guy who he felt could best execute his long term view in Epstein. It's an ambitious, big picture investment that Cubs fans have not seen in their lifetimes and I think both sides want to see it through.
What's more, the plan has been successful. The Cubs have built one of the strongest farm systems in baseball and have become a major player in the international market, even if both have yet to bear much fruit at the MLB level -- but it's getting closer.
I have no reason to believe that Ricketts would abandon his long term plan -- a plan which he fully knew might make it rough for a couple of years. Make no mistake, he knew exactly what he was getting into. The losing, the drop in attendance is not what they had hoped for -- but it was also not unexpected.
It is no different now with the managerial hire. It is Theo's decision all the way, with Ricketts there to support him if he needs it.