Cubs

Ricketts says Cubs are ready for Year 2

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Ricketts says Cubs are ready for Year 2

Friday, April 1, 2011
Posted: 2:50 p.m. Updated: 6:50 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Tom Ricketts arrived at Wrigley Field by 6 a.m. The Cubs chairman began touring the bars around Clark and Addison, appearing on the radio shows broadcasting remotely on Opening Day.

Ricketts joked about needing to take the edge off, but he says that hes far more comfortable now that his familys entering their second season of ownership. He thinks he has a better grasp of the business and the issues facing Wrigley Field.

Friday marked the 96th home opener at Wrigley Field. Ricketts has admitted that if theres one regret looking back on his first year-plus in charge, its the way the Cubs presented their case for state-issued bonds.

Ricketts didnt get into specifics when asked about the public component to any future stadium renovations.

Thats a discussion that were having right now theres not that much more to it, Ricketts said. Itll take some time, but well come up with some good ideas. I think well have a good solution at some point. But theres no timetable and theres no time pressure.

Money was not an issue when the Cubs released Carlos Silva this week. General manager Jim Hendry indicated that Ricketts was fully aware it could end that way with Silva, the pitcher the Cubs took on to get rid of Milton Bradley.

Silva didnt live up to his contract, antagonized teammates and ripped the organization on his way out, but will still earn 11.5 million this season.

It doesnt matter what a guy makes when it comes to roster decisions, Ricketts said. We knew it was a possibility that there might not be a spot for him. Thats just the way it is. You got to have the best team on the field thats what counts.

Dealing with overpaid players is just one part of what Ricketts described as a three-dimensional education in owning the team.

Team Marketing Report released its annual survey on Friday and had the Cubs (46.90) trailing only the Red Sox (53.38) and Yankees (51.83) in terms of average season ticket prices.

Last years study found the Cubs to have the most expensive average season ticket (52.56), though management has disputed the methodology.

Overall, Cubs executives say, ticket prices at Wrigley Field have essentially remained flat since last season. Variables like date and opponent have inflated costs for certain games. There is a new pricing tier and a much larger inventory of premium seats in 2011.

The Cubs still hope to lure fans to a new Arizona complex by 2014, but they havent chosen an architect yet. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick got rave reviews and proved to be a huge draw in the Cactus League.

The Cubs toured the facility and took notes, but probably wont build something quite as opulent in Mesa.

Everyone saw how nice the new Rockies-Diamondbacks place was, Ricketts said. Maybe we wont have the same kind of budget they do, but hopefully well create a good spring break gameday experience like that."

It is a delicate balance between tradition and progress in virtually anything the Cubs try to accomplish.

So for now, the Cubs are returning to organ music before each players at-bat. Wrigley Field has also opened up to local businesses like Vienna Beef, DAgostinos Pizza, Stanley's Kitchen & Tap and The Fifty50 as concession options this season.

But fans are most concerned about the on-field product. The experts see the Cubs as a team that might finish in the middle of the division and would be lucky to stay above .500.

People are basing their predictions on the performance that we had last year, which was very disappointing, Ricketts said. But this is not the same team. We dont have the same manager. We have a different type of energy this year. I think that the players are ready to go and I think Mike Quade will have them playing their best.

All along, the Ricketts family which also bought a stake in Comcast SportsNet when they finalized the deal with Tribune Co. in Oct. 2009 has stressed that they will be around for generations. They are looking forward to many more Opening Days.

Its great to see the neighborhood blossom and the park come alive, Ricketts said. Game on.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Why Cubs should make Jim Hickey an offer he can't refuse

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USA TODAY

Why Cubs should make Jim Hickey an offer he can't refuse

Monday’s interview with Jim Hickey in Chicago — roughly 72 hours after the Cubs fired pitching coach Chris Bosio and within a week of manager Joe Maddon saying “of course” he wanted his entire staff back — is a first step in the reboot at Wrigley Field.

Maddon would probably like to have that answer back, knowing he could have softened the language with corporate speak and created some wiggle room in the middle of a National League Championship Series where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game.

But Hickey, the former Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach, is a familiar face and an expert voice at a time when Maddon’s honeymoon period appears to be over, repeatedly first- and second-guessed about his decisions, from the World Series Game 7 the Cubs won last year through a frustrating 43-45 start to this season and deep into another playoff run.

That staff is already in flux, with bench coach Dave Martinez scheduled to interview with the Washington Nationals for Dusty Baker’s old job and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske now leaving to take a lead role with the Los Angeles Angels hitters.

Here’s why the Cubs will probably have to make Hickey an offer he can’t refuse:

— A rival scout noticed how often Maddon looked like a solitary figure in the dugout, standing there looking down at his lineup card. Whatever friction Maddon felt with Bosio — a big presence who pitched 11 seasons in the big leagues and isn’t afraid to tell you exactly what he thinks — Hickey is someone the manager trusts after their eight seasons together with the Rays.

Maddon insisted he wasn’t maneuvering behind the scenes when he reached out after Hickey surprisingly parted ways with Tampa Bay in October, but it still showed the depth of their relationship: “I called him to console a friend.”

— While working for the Boston Red Sox, Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer got an up-close look at what Hickey did in the American League East, helping build the small-market contender that advanced to the 2008 World Series, the beginning of five seasons with at least 90 wins in six years.

Between his time with the Rays and Houston Astros, look at the All-Star pitchers Hickey has worked with: Chris Archer, David Price, Alex Colome, Brad Boxberger, Matt Moore, Fernando Rodney, James Shields, Rafael Soriano, Scott Kazmir, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge and Roger Clemens.

— Hickey can also offer unique insight into Alex Cobb, a free agent the Cubs will have to do more background work on as they try to replace 40 percent of their rotation. Cobb — who went 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA in 115 career starts for the Rays — just turned 30 and has only 700 innings on his major-league odometer after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in the middle of the 2015 season.

“He has a talent that most organizations search for relentlessly,” Cobb told the Tampa Bay Times after Hickey left the Rays with a year remaining on his contract. “He will have a great time being a free agent.

“I’m not going to try to explain how great Jim Hickey is. There’s really nothing I can say that would speak louder than his track record. All I can say is how fortunate I was to have him when I got to the big leagues. No one could have prepared me better.”

— Beyond the connection to Maddon, Hickey is someone who knows Chicago after growing up on the South Side, and that hometown draw will probably matter at a time when the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are among several marquee teams in the market for a new pitching coach that now might be thinking: "Better Call Boz."

In latest twist to Cubs-Nationals, Dave Martinez will interview for Dusty Baker's old job

In latest twist to Cubs-Nationals, Dave Martinez will interview for Dusty Baker's old job

Dave Martinez – Joe Maddon’s bench coach during unprecedented runs of success with the Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays – is ready to step outside of the star manager’s shadow and run his own big-league team.

A Washington Nationals franchise coming off back-to-back division titles – while having some big personalities in the clubhouse and obvious internal issues – could still be that ideal opportunity.

The Nationals have reached out to set up an interview with Martinez, a source said Monday, confirming a Washington Post report in the wake of Dusty Baker’s messy exit, eight days after a massively disappointing playoff loss to the Cubs.

Martinez had been an X-factor in Washington’s search two years ago, when negotiations broke down with Bud Black and the Nationals eventually circled back to Baker, the former Cubs manager.

Martinez has the built-in credibility that comes from playing 16 seasons in the big leagues, which would be an asset for a team that has Bryce Harper entering his final season before free agency and Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg at the top of the rotation.    

Martinez, who is fluent in Spanish and analytics, spent the last 10 years working as the bench coach for two data-driven organizations, putting him at the cutting edge of defensive shifts, bullpen management and game-planning systems.    

While Maddon thrives in the front-facing aspects of the job, dealing with the media before and after every game and selling a vision to the public, Martinez handles a lot of the behind-the-scenes issues, putting out clubhouse fires and interacting with the players in one-on-one settings.

The partnership worked to the point where the Rays captured the 2008 American League pennant and the Cubs won last year’s World Series. While the Cubs have advanced to the National League Championship Series for three straight seasons, the Nationals have been knocked out of the first round of the playoffs four times since 2012.

In the middle of the grueling five-game playoff series where the Cubs outlasted the Nationals – which may have been a tipping point against Baker for Washington executives – Maddon lobbied for Martinez to be in the manager mix during baseball’s hiring-and-firing season.

“He belongs in the group,” Maddon said. “I know all these people being considered, and I promise you our guy matches up with every one of them.

“He was such a heady, aggressive, gritty kind of player. Bilingual. All that matters. He's not afraid to have the tough conversations (that) people in that position may shy away from.

“Believe me, I see all the names. There are a lot of good names, and I like a lot of these dudes. But I’m just telling you: To not include his name with those other people baffles me.”