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Morning Shift

Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts Talks Baseball, Business

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The Chicago Cubs kicked off the 2018 season with an extended 10-game road trip. After nine games played and one postponed due to rain, the Cubs go into their home opener — now on Tuesday (thanks, snow) — with a 5-4 record.

In the offseason, the Cubs picked up a star pitcher in Yu Darvish in addition to some other key players. Cubs chairman and owner Tom Ricketts talked to Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia and WBEZ sports contributor Cheryl Raye Stout about the 2018 Cubs and whether they have the stuff to win another World Series. 

New renovations at Wrigley and in the neighborhood

Tom Ricketts: One of the first goals we laid out [in 2010] was we wanted to make a more family-friendly environment around Wrigley — both on game days and non-game days. If you’re coming to Wrigley Field and you have five buddies from college, it’s built for speed. You’ve got a lot of options. You’ve got a lot of things you can do.

But if you’re bringing your kids or you want something a little nicer, it just wasn’t there. So I think that’s one of the things we are really proud of, and that’s one of the things that really helped the game day experience.

The baseball rule changes added this year

Ricketts: It’s the same game we’ve played 100 years ago. The fact is we haven’t changed the size of the field. We haven’t changed the size of the ball. [Baseball] is basically the same game that has been played for over 100 years. And that’s fun because aside from maybe some errors — like the steroid errors where the stats get a little out of whack — you can kind of think about players across generations playing the exact same game.

I think baseball owes a little more to the tradition simply because of that. Whereas other sports have changed rules multiple times … they don’t have that kind of history. But, that said, we can’t let that hamstring us if we see ways to speed up play or make the game more exciting.

Ricketts on his role as an owner

Ricketts: You can trust [general manager Jed Hoyer and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein]. Obviously, the success they’ve had — both here and other places — lets you know that they know what they’re doing. [Epstein] is a great communicator. I talk to Theo and Jed all the time. There’s a great amount of trust. They also understand everything about the business. We show them all the numbers. They know exactly what we can and can’t do from a financial standpoint.

[Owners] are to be seen and not heard, for the most part. Don’t insert yourself into the player personnel decisions because, in the end, you’re giving them a responsibility to go out and make the right decisions for the team on the field. And if they don’t succeed, they have to be accountable for that. But if you’re an owner who gets involved and second guesses or overrules your baseball guys, then who's responsible when something goes wrong? Who's accountable? Fortunately, we have great guys. I stay out of it. We trust them, and they’re doing a great job, and fans should be very confident that’s the right model.

Coming back after winning the 2016 World Series

Ricketts: Last year was tough. Obviously, we ended up going to the [National League Championship Series]. It’s kind of funny to think that a Cubs organization that makes the NLCS feels like a disappointment. But the fact is that we got off to that slow start. We had a few distractions. The guys just didn’t play well in the first half, but September was all playoff baseball for the Cubs last year. We were fighting to win our division. We had to play really, really well in the second half to even make the playoffs.

So hopefully this year we will get off to a start where we can have a 2016-type season — where we’re in control of the division earlier. But who knows. We’ve got to play the games. But, ultimately this does feel like a bit of a fresh start because we don’t have to worry about the “World Series hangover.” We can just play baseball.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview, which was adapted for the web by Bea Aldrich.

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