Ricketts says Cubs are ready for Year 2

432974.jpg

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.

Morning Update: Theo Epstein gets big extension, White Sox win fifth straight

Morning Update: Theo Epstein gets big extension, White Sox win fifth straight

Preview: Jose Quintana, White Sox look to win sixth straight game on CSN

Clubhouse frustration bubbling up for Cubs and Jake Arrieta

White Sox manager Robin Ventura declines to discuss future amid speculation about return

Five more years: Theo Epstein signs massive contract extension with Cubs

Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling taking advantage of No. 1 reps

Making adjustments nothing new for new Bulls star Dwyane Wade

Fire shut out in loss at streaking Seattle

Bears defensive problems vs. Cowboys not complicated (unfortunately)

Notre Dame players react to the firing of Brian VanGorder

New tone set in Bulls training camp marked by role adjustments

Clubhouse frustration bubbling up for Cubs and Jake Arrieta

Clubhouse frustration bubbling up for Cubs and Jake Arrieta

PITTSBURGH — We interrupt your regularly scheduled coverage of The Plan and that wacky, fun-loving Cubs team to bring you a snapshot of clubhouse frustration.

Jake Arrieta sounded defensive while talking to reporters after Wednesday night’s 8-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, standing in front of his locker and second-guessing manager Joe Maddon. On the other side of the room, veteran catcher Miguel Montero questioned the way the Cubs are preparing for the playoffs with Cactus League scripts.

The postgame questions started with Arrieta’s first-inning issues with umpire Chris Guccione’s strike zone. When reporters mentioned Maddon’s positive spin on a seven-run outing, Arrieta dismissed those happy-talk answers about his stuff — “it just wasn’t crisp” — and then wondered why he went from throwing to Montero to rookie Willson Contreras.

“The feeling of the game, from the first pitch, just wasn’t there,” Arrieta said. “Switching catchers just felt like we were trying to do a little too much instead of win a ballgame. But I didn’t throw well, no way around it.”

Montero went with a similar passive-aggressive tone, riffing on how the Cubs will maintain their edge almost two weeks after clinching the National League Central title and nine days before their first playoff game at Wrigley Field.

“Did it feel like spring training?” Montero said. “I do believe that. And that’s not a good feeling for a pitcher, for a player, to go into a game knowing that you’re going to play just four innings or five innings or whatever it is.

“This game is still important for all the players. It’s still important for every single guy. I don’t want to go out there not caring about winning or losing. That’s not my mentality. My mentality is going out there because I want to win, regardless.

“We have to trick our mind. Because if that’s how we’re going to go the rest of the way, I guess we need to trick ourselves.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Unprompted, Montero brought up the Pirates scoring three runs in the ninth inning on Tuesday night before the Cubs hung on for a 6-4 victory — without using Aroldis Chapman — as Maddon tries to keep the bullpen fresh for the playoffs.

“We didn’t have our closer warming up,” Montero said. “That’s something I take personally because I’m catching and I want to win.

“It’s hard. I understand (Joe’s) point. And I understand the organization’s point. I respect it. I can only control what I can control. It is what it is.”

OK then, the Cubs are still a 101-win team and the NL’s No. 1 seed. But this became a sharp contrast to all the backslapping after the pregame announcement of Theo Epstein’s monster contract extension. And Arrieta didn’t look like a reigning Cy Young Award winner, giving up 10 hits while John Jaso — who does look like a Pirate — lined a curveball into the right-field seats for a three-run homer in the fourth inning and hit for the cycle.

“We’re moving on,” Arrieta said. “We’ll prepare for the next one. I don’t like giving up seven runs. I’m pissed about that. But moving forward, everything’s fine.”

With Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks lined up at the front of the playoff rotation, Arrieta’s next start is almost two weeks away.

“It doesn’t matter,” Arrieta said. “I’ll throw sides. I’ll prepare. And whoever I face first round — they’re going to be in trouble.”

After burning through 103 pitches in five innings, Arrieta’s regular-season odometer is now at 197 1/3 innings, but he has zero interest in a gimmick that would get him to 200 this weekend against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

“Listen, I want to pitch on a schedule,” Arrieta said. “I don’t want to throw an inning in a game. I’m not trying to do anything different. Let’s just prepare like we normally do and go out and try to win games. I’m not trying to throw a bullpen in a game.”

Look, if this isn’t trouble in paradise, then it’s obvious that the Cubs are a hyper-competitive group that knows what’s at stake in October and has some independent thinkers and strong personalities. And that Arrieta’s unreal 2015 season created impossible standards for this year that couldn’t be met with an 18-8 record and a 3.10 ERA, the type of numbers that still get pitchers $200 million contracts.

“I don’t think you know how hard this game is unless you play it,” Arrieta said. “I feel I can have another season like that. People have done it before. Why can’t I do it? I can do it again. So, yeah, I appreciate it. But at the same time, that’s what you strive for. That’s why you work hard. You go out and you try to perform that way.”