Cubs

Tom Ricketts delivers state of Cubs address: Donald Trump, Steve Bartman, All-Star Game, global domination

Tom Ricketts delivers state of Cubs address: Donald Trump, Steve Bartman, All-Star Game, global domination

MESA, Ariz. – Chairman Tom Ricketts wants the Cubs to be known as one of the greatest sports franchises on the planet, a first-class brand synonymous with winning.

With that ideal in mind – and setting specific policy ideas or agendas aside – has the first month of the Donald Trump administration matched up with the organization’s values? 

“I don’t really know what that question was,” Ricketts said Saturday during his annual state-of-the-team news conference in Mesa.

It’s worth asking, because at this time last year, Trump cryptically threatened the Ricketts family on Twitter, and then later in spring training told The Washington Post editorial board that the family has done a “rotten job” running the team. Ultimately, the family’s right-wing influence shifted from a stop-Trump movement to helping bankroll the Republican nominee’s presidential campaign.      

Beyond ending the 108-year drought and finally winning the World Series, the Ricketts family laid out the planks of the franchise’s platform and has in many ways lived up to it: investing in high-character people; creating a vibrant corporate culture; being a good neighbor in Wrigleyville; and growing Cubs Charities.

Do those community concepts line up with the rhetoric coming out of the Trump White House?

“I don’t really know how to answer that,” Ricketts said. “I think the fact is that we do have a good culture at the Cubs. And I don’t think anything that the White House has done – or hasn’t done – has any impact on that at all.”   

Ricketts is a patient, big-picture executive who showed how to think beyond the next day’s headlines, giving the green light to modernizing the entire operation, upgrading the infrastructure in Chicago, Arizona and the Dominican Republic and allowing team president Theo Epstein to oversee a complete teardown and rebuild.

The Cubs are no longer defined by that history of losing, but on some level their brand is now also tangentially associated with an early-stage administration of alternative facts, Chicago-to-Afghanistan comparisons, the Muslim ban, the border wall, murky Russian connections and a Holocaust memorial statement that didn’t mention the Jewish people.

Ricketts posed for a photo with his two brothers and Trump at a black-tie inauguration event. Pete Ricketts, Nebraska’s Republican governor, posted it on his official Twitter account.

“Obviously, my brother Todd is a nominee for undersecretary of commerce, so he’s waiting for that process to play out,” Ricketts said. “My sister (Laura) was a bundler for Hillary Clinton. The family has different political views. Away from that, I don’t think anything that’s going on in D.C. has any impact on us right now at all.”

• Ricketts wasn’t certain if Todd would have to step down from the team’s board of directors to accept that Cabinet position: “I know there are the conflict of interest kind of things and ethics rules. He may have to. I’m not really sure. But he’s got to go through the nomination process first.”

• Ricketts addressed the team inside the theater in the Under Armour Performance Center, thanking the players for all their contributions on a rainy day that washed out the first full-squad workout.  

“I also said I think we have a unique opportunity to not only be considered one of the great sports teams in the U.S.,” said Ricketts, who recently returned from the Laureus Sports Awards in Monaco. “But I just got back from Europe and I think that our long-term goal should be (having us) considered one of the great sports organizations in the world.” 

• Up and down the chain of command, the Cubs believe they can be in that conversation, given their talent base, financial muscle and a stable ownership group that plans to control the team for generations (an arrangement that currently includes an equity stake in CSN Chicago).

“What separates a really good team from a truly great team is the consistency of results,” Ricketts said. “We’ve won one World Series. Hopefully, we’ll be in the mix again for many years to come.

“If you look at the Yankees of 15 years ago, the Patriots of today, they’re just always right in the mix. On the global side, you look at teams like Man U or Real Madrid or the All Blacks and they just set the standard for how people perform. And their team means something all over the world.

“I’d like to think that one day – if we’re consistent enough and if we win – that Cubs logo will mean something to people around the world. Not just a team that didn’t win for a long time.”   

• Amid the afterglow three months ago, Ricketts told USA Today that the Cubs would reach out to Steve Bartman at some point and try to come to an understanding after a foul ball during the 2003 National League Championship Series forced the fan into hiding.

“I personally haven’t,” Ricketts said. “The team was thinking about it. I’m not sure what they did or what they didn’t do, to be honest.”

• Ricketts will defer to Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer when it comes to Jake Arrieta’s countdown to free agency and how to negotiate with the Cy Young Award winner after this season.

“That’s a Theo and Jed decision,” Ricketts said. “They have the right perspective on (how) they have to put a great team on the field this year. But they also have a longer-term perspective in realizing that decisions that effect this year might hurt us in a few years.

“But I’ll leave it up to them. I imagine that they’ve got a strategy around that and they know what they want to do.”

• The competitive-balance-tax threshold – which the new collective bargaining agreement sets at $195 million this year – appears to be a kind of soft payroll ceiling for the Cubs moving forward.

“The way it’s structured, it can be very punitive if you just ignore it and just blow through it,” Ricketts said. “So we’ll be thoughtful and strategic about when we go over the tax and when we don’t. But I’ll leave that mostly up to Theo.”

• The Cubs are lobbying Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball officials to host the 2020 All-Star Game at a fully renovated Wrigley Field.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable,” Ricketts said. “I think that it would be great for the league, great for the game and it would be great for Chicago to have it at Wrigley Field. But nothing’s inevitable on that. There’s a process that we have to go through and hopefully at some point soon the commissioner will give us the nod.” 

Brewers trade away a competitive-balance pick for LHP Alex Claudio

nl-central.jpg
USA TODAY

Brewers trade away a competitive-balance pick for LHP Alex Claudio

On Thursday morning. MLB reporter and The Athletic senior writer Ken Rosenthal reported that the Milwaukee Brewers traded a competitive-balance pick for LHP Alex Claudio.


Claudio has been in the league since 2014. Last season he posted a 4-2 record with a 4.48 ERA and 1.52 WHIP over 68.1 innings pitched. Last season was actually a bit of a down year for Claudio, who had a sub-3.00 ERA in every season before last year.

The move is a solid one for Milwaukee to bolster their bullpen, adding another lefty to the mix.

Claudio's contract gives the Brewers three additional years of team control and the option to send him down to the minors, a measure of flexibility that surely helped them feel confident in making this deal.

The Rangers boost their rebuilding efforts through this trade, which nets them the Brewers' competitive-balance pick, which many expect to be a pretty good draft slot.


Because of the value of that competitive-balance pick, only time will tell if the Brewers got the best out of this deal.

Every move made within the NL Central is a big one these days, with the division already shaping up to be stronger than last year, when the Cubs—at 95 wins—finished second.

Trevor Bauer trolls Cubs with A+ World Series Tweet

Trevor Bauer trolls Cubs with A+ World Series Tweet

Trevor Bauer is at it again. 

The Cleveland Indians pitcher is one of Major League Baseball's best trolls and this time Cubdom was the subject of his latest exploits. 

First the joke (and a dynamite drop-in by @Cubs), then the backstory:

The thread began when Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard Tweeted a Ron Burgandy GIF of him watching MLB Network as his name popped up in trade rumors this week during Winter Meetings. National reporter Jon Heyman Tweeted Syndergaard might have the best player account out there, to which fans responded with their thoughts that Bauer should be included in that short list:

When @daphnesmomshell commented that she hoped Bauer would come pitch for the Cubs, the pitcher was quick on the draw with a comeback implying that his drone accident altered the course of Cubs history as we know it.

Bauer cut the finger of his pitching hand on a drone blade in October 2016, limiting him to just 5.1 innings of work in the ALDS and ALCS that year. 

He was able to return for the World Series, pitching in 3 games (2 starts), but struggled badly. Bauer went 0-2 (losing Games 2 and 5) with a 5.40 ERA and 1.68 WHIP and is clearly intimating the Cubs would not have won the World Series had he been 100 percent.

It's all in good fun, which is pretty much the only thing Bauer does online.