Since taking over as owner of the Chicago Cubs in 2009, Tom Ricketts and his family have spoken at great lengths about how they are going to do whatever they could to bring the long coveted World Series Championship to the city of Chicago, and to the long suffering Cubs fans. In order to do this, he has needed the Cubs fans to buy into his plan, show some patience and let him and his baseball people to do what they needed to do to build a team that could contend on a yearly basis.
So far, Ricketts has been a man of his word. He hired one of the brightest baseball minds to overhaul the Cubs farm system. He brought in Theo Epstein to run the entire baseball operation, and brought in Jed Hoyer to be his General Manager. To top things all off, they also reeled in Jason McLeod to round out the management team. You could look far and wide and you would have a hard time finding a management team in all of baseball with better resumes. He spared no expense in making sure he had the right people to build his championship team from the bottom up. So far in his 17 months on the job, Epstein has done a tremendous job of turning the Cubs farm system into one that has a number of top prospects and is seen as a top 10 system in baseball, which is something that is much needed with the dying existence of free agency.
Ricketts also spared no expense in making sure his ball players had a state of the art spring training facility. After his brilliant business minded employee Crane Kenney successfully negotiated a deal with the city of Mesa, Arizona into building them a new stadium, he did just that. The Ricketts family is only contributing $15 Million to the $99 Million dollar project, and they guaranteed that the Cubs will be using that as their spring training home for at least the next 30 years. You may think that this is a raw deal for Mesa, but the Cubs bring in over $100 Million worth of revenue to the city every year. If you ask me, this was a win win situation. Mesa makes sure the Cubs and that money stay in the city, and the Cubs have one of the best places to train before the season starts. Because as we all know, a World Series Championship team starts in Spring Training, and now the Cubs have one of the best places to get ready for the season.
He has also been willing to spend whatever he has to in order to preserve Wrigley Field for the future generations. He wants to make sure that the Cub fan’s game day experience is second to none in the ball park they grew up loving. He is willing to spend $500 Million of his own money to renovate the second oldest ball park in the Major Leagues. He wants to make sure that the Cubs have a state of the art batting cages and club house to make sure the players are comfortable. That is a far cry from the cramped atmosphere they are currently in. Sure, there are some changes that the fans do not want to see, such as the adding or a large video board in left field, but that is all done to add revenue in order to have the extra cash to spend on players that can help bring a World Series Championship home to the city of Chicago.
But, the question is asked why any of the added revenue is needed when Forbes has named the Cubs as the most profitable team in all of baseball. Why put up a video board to get more money when they are already raking in the cash? Is Ricketts up to something more than he is letting on?
There is one conspiracy theory out there which claims that Ricketts is just out to make as much money as he possibly can before the bottom falls out. The reason this one is gaining a lot of steam is because of Forbes and their claim that the Cubs are the most profitable team in baseball. You can also point to the Cubs payroll obligations significantly decreasing year after year since the Ricketts family took over the team.
In 2010, his first full year of owning the team, there was a payroll of $144 Million. In 2011, the payroll was lowered to $134 Million and went down again in 2012 to $109 Million. This year, the payroll stands at $107 Million, which just so happens to be the lowest payroll the Cubs have had since 2007 which was the last time the team had a payroll which was under $100 Million.
Fans would point to that as reason enough to believe that Ricketts is not fully invested in seeing the Cubs winning the World Series. They use this as their reasoning that he is your typical business man and only cares about making money. When you see the Forbes article as well as the shrinking payroll, you can easily see why some fans would find this theory so easy to believe.
However, there is flaw to this. He would not have invested as much money as he has if all he wanted to do was sit back and collect the money. There was no need to build a new spring training home, even though Mesa is footing the bill for most of the stadium, which was still $19 Million he did not have to spend. The Cubs make boat loads of money from their time in Mesa, and did not need to have a new stadium built in order to make more. Don’t even get me started on the $500 Million of his own money he in putting into preserving Wrigley. Fans flock to Wrigley every year and will continue to do so even if Ricketts does not spend all that money to keep it standing. If he wanted to make more money, he would leave the park as is. Do you realize how long he is going to have to wait to get a return on that investment? Sorry, I am not buying that at all. He is getting himself in this deep to just sit back and collect the money. As far as the most profitable claim goes, that does not factor in how much money he is still paying off on that massive sized debt which is due to mature very soon. The Cubs are the most profitable team? Well, maybe not so much after all.
The other conspiracy theory is that Ricketts does not plan on holding on to this team for the long haul. They believe that he is making the Cubs as valuable as possible in order to dump them off on the highest bidder and walk away with a very healthy return on his investment.
This one just seems laughable when you actually take the time to think things through. Some people are actually under the impression that the Ricketts family invested in the team, the stadium and the city of Chicago to improve the product and sell the whole package off for a huge profit. What makes this idea so hard to believe, is how much money he has already put into the Cubs. When you add everything up, when all is said and done with the new Spring Facility, the Wrigley renovations and the actual buying of the team and the stadium, Ricketts has invested nearly $1.5 Billion into this team in the past four years. There is no way that he gets anything close to that.
You may not like the way Ricketts is running the team, and as a fan that is your right. You invest your hard earned money and you have the right to complain if a product is not worth the price of admission. But, you cannot look at everything Ricketts has done since taking over the team and confidently say that he does not have the best interests of the team in mind. Everything he has done since day one is to put the Cubs in the best position to win the World Series, and to make sure the Cubs fan is able to enjoy every aspect of their game day experience. You may not see that now, but if this plan works out, you will look back at everything that we have gone through during this process and laugh. You will laugh because the championship was well worth the wait. If the plan fails, which is a possibility, at least he did everything within his power to try.