The Rundown: Ricketts Resurfaces, Pederson Mashing, No Bryant Extension Talks Yet, Rangers Announce Full Capacity for Opening Day
I don’t want to say anything disparaging about Cubs CEO and Chairman Tom Ricketts this morning because he usually generates bad PR with no need of an assist from me. There are times that backlash seems unwarranted, but there are certainly many instances where he deserves every bit of vitriol lobbed his way.
Chicago’s chief executive has become a bit fuddy-duddyish, for lack of a real word, over the past few years and that’s a shame. When the Ricketts siblings took over the team, they seemed a little hip, definitely fans of the team, and they generated a lot of positive publicity. It just seems that once the Wrigley renovations were completed, the Ricketts’ public perception did a social 180. Maybe it was all lip service in the beginning and the way the 2016 championship provided the most positive notoriety possible, but after that the family seemed to be more organizational than team-first.
Though not a faux pas of Jerry Krause proportions, some of the quotes attributed to Tom Ricketts in recent years are more than head scratchers. A lot of that has to do with the excitement he genuinely holds for his product line, whether it was his announcement at CubsCon ’20 about Marquee or the annual over-the-top optimism for Chicago’s North Side baseballers during his state of the union addresses to Chicago media. Nevertheless, we’ve not heard much from the senior executive since the start of the pandemic, so it was refreshing to see him resurface yesterday.
I personally love when Mr. Chairman transforms into Mr. Cubs Fan and he proved bullish once again with all the giddiness he could muster regarding the individuals whose paychecks he signs.
Joc Pederson mashes baseballs. pic.twitter.com/h8V0gFnF7D
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) March 9, 2021
“You know, we won our division last year, which is a great accomplishment,” Ricketts told those in attendance at a seminar on sports and the pandemic Wednesday. “But almost every guy had a down year. We really didn’t have anybody playing at their best. So we think if all of the guys come back and play like we know they can, we should have a pretty good chance of winning the division again. We’ve got plenty of pitching. We’ll be alright.”
I don’t believe the Ricketts family are the baseball analytic geniuses they believe themselves to be, so a big assist belongs to Jed Hoyer, who’s obviously sold his bosses on his first attempt at roster construction. Still, somewhere deep down, I do believe Ricketts can be a Cubs fan above anything else at times, and that type of enthusiasm should be expected.
He can quickly transition back to the less endearing version of himself on the dime, however, and did so in explaining his recent disappearing act. Apparently, not having answers Cubs fans want to hear can drive Ricketts into a shell of sorts, as he indicated it was difficult dealing with Cubs fans because he didn’t know how to respond to all the uncertainty from fans early in the pandemic (I’m paraphrasing a bit and I readily acknowledge it is slightly unfair to manipulate context).
“‘When are we going to play? When are we going to get our season ticket money back? How is this all going to work?’” he said. “We just didn’t know for a long time. We appreciate all the patience of all the fans who waited until we had good answers to give them. It’s been tough, but we over communicate with our fans on so many different channels…I do think it’s very important to stay transparent with your fans. It’s not like they can’t figure it out if you’re not telling them the truth. They’re going to know it pretty soon.”
The thing is, leaders should never be afraid to lead. When the world is crashing down around the consumers that support your product, better to be there regularly with updates rather than waiting for the all-clear to resurface. Bunker-style hegemony doesn’t work well when everybody is demanding answers and looking for guidance.
That said, I hope Ricketts is right about the team. Chicago has had some poor luck in recent years, some of it self-inflicted. It would be nice to start seeing a lot more feel-good publicity from the offices at Clark & Addison.
Cubs News & Notes
- It may only be early March, but Joc Pederson is making a strong impression ahead of his first season with the Cubs.
- It appears Kris Bryant is in a better place both physically and mentally this spring, which bodes well for the upcoming season. No player may be more key to Chicago’s hopes this season than the former MVP, though he admitted recently that there have been no extension talks with the Cubs despite earlier claims from Hoyer that discussions would take place during camp.
- Many of the Cubs pitchers are happy that they’ll get to hit this season. Alec Mills has no aspirations of being some kind of under-the-radar offensive weapon, though. Mills is the only Cubs pitcher credited with an at-bat in 2020.
- Millsy has been excellent on the mound in Cactus League action, posting a 2.08 ERA through 4.1 innings of work.
- The Cubs bullpen faltered once again in the team’s 7-6 loss to the Giants yesterday. Six relievers combined to allow six earned runs on seven hits and seven walks with just three strikeouts, with most of the damage coming against Andrew Chafin.
- Thanks to unseasonably warm weather and a light at the end-of-the-pandemic tunnel, Wrigleyville is starting to spring to life again and it’s nice to see.
- Hall of Fame outfielder and Cubs legend Billy Williams is not with the team in Mesa, just the second Spring Training he’s missed since 1957.
- Random spur-of-the-moment poll: Which of the following infielders would you like to see break camp with the Cubs – Matt Duffy, Ildemaro Vargas, or Eric Sogard?
- Vargas has had a very strong spring, going 7-for-15 with three RBI through six games. David Ross already knows what Vargas brings defensively, so any uptick in offense could give him the edge.
- Blake Cullen, a former executive for the Cubs who went on to own minor league hockey, baseball, and soccer teams, passed away yesterday.
Odds & Sods
Crazy is as crazy does, I suppose. It isn’t just the Rangers who are at fault here, either. Fans who attend Opening Day should provide some answers, too.
Texas Rangers allowing 100% capacity at stadium for opening day https://t.co/mirocoocRf
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 11, 2021
Further, and without sounding too conspiratorial, I wonder how many tickets are going to be allocated to all teams to sell through aftermarket sites? Dodgers tickets for Opening Day are allegedly going for $10,000 a pop and higher. There is no way team owners are going to let resellers completely bastardize their ticket sales.
Spring Training News & Notes
The Brewers believe key additions intended to improve their defense, like Kolten Wong and Jackie Bradley, Jr., give Milwaukee the best chance at winning the NL Central this season.
Milwaukee closer Josh Hader was shelled yesterday, allowing two home runs while recording just two outs.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto will be sidelined for an indefinite period after testing positive for COVID-19.
Nationals starter Jon Lester said he felt sluggish last year and “really hit a brick wall,” which helped doctors discover his parathyroid disorder. Lester had surgery to remove the gland last week and is already back on the mound.
Believe it or not, Clayton Kershaw had not allowed an earned run in Cactus League competition since 2017 – until yesterday.
Royals manager Mike Matheny is quite impressed with the raw power exhibited by outfielder Jorge Soler this spring.
Mets starter Carlos Carrasco has been shut down due to elbow soreness, and will miss the start of the 2021 season.
Do the Padres have any bad prospects? Asking for a friend.
Sliding Into Home
Tomorrow is my liver biopsy, but I’ll post a Rundown before heading to the hospital. I shouldn’t miss my Monday column, and I am expecting more positive news once the results are available to me.
What a great gesture by White Sox ace Lucas Giolito.
Lucas Giolito teaching the @LostBoyzInc kids his Changeup grip. 👌 pic.twitter.com/nVFcFvbdrW
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 11, 2021
They Said It
- “There’s a real confidence about [Pederson] when he walks around. He’s just himself, he knows who he is and he’s comfortable in his own skin — and a fun guy. He’s fit in real easily, and he’s a pleasure to have around. When he’s playing like that, you can just tell how comfortable he is.” – David Ross
- “Every pitcher thinks that they can be a hitter. But at the same time, I’m a realist. I’ve been in the box and it is not easy. That is for sure.” – Alec Mills
Thursday Walk Up Song
Hide In Your Shell by Supertramp. A little too easy today. That said, I never need an excuse to go back to the band’s grandiose Crime of the Century album.