Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010
By Patrick Mooney
Tom Ricketts stood at a podium with oversized black glasses on his slender face, a tribute to Harry Caray. His employees openly sipped from Budweiser bottles on a Wednesday afternoon at the corner of Sheffield and Waveland.
A band played in the background as the Cubs rededicated a statue for their legendary broadcaster just outside an entrance to the Wrigley Field bleachers.
Ricketts doesnt need another reminder that this isnt running Incapital LLC, the securities and investment banking firm he co-founded 11 years ago. But it sure seemed like one, surrounded by people drinking beer on the street and singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
Within this industry, the Cubs chairman understands that this hire will be on general manager Jim Hendry.
Its Jims responsibility here to go out and find people, Ricketts said Wednesday during an interview with four beat writers. What hell do is prepare a short list and Ill meet with everyone on the short list.
Were essentially talking about a middle-management position. He wont do much hiring or firing, and someone else will pick the players and set the budgets.
But the 52nd manager in Cubs franchise history assuming Mike Quade doesnt keep the job will be a face of the franchise, meeting with the media daily for almost eight months a year, and before and after every game, communicating with a global fan base.
Quade is viewed as a legitimate candidate. If he wasnt, he wouldnt have taken over for Lou Piniella last week. Triple-A Iowa manager Ryne Sandberg is the other in-house option.
Hendry has already interviewed Eric Wedge, the former Cleveland Indians manager, and he is close with Fredi Gonzalez from their time together in the Florida Marlins organization. Ricketts doesnt know if the bar will be set higher for an outside candidate.
That would be up to Jim, Ricketts said. Well let Jim decide. Its his responsibility to bring us a short list and talk some names through and come up with the right answer.
Forty-three days ago, Piniella announced that he would be retiring at seasons end, freeing Hendry to look for his replacement. That afternoon, Piniella didnt intend to take two leaves of absence before walking away from the Cubs on Aug. 22, breaking into tears during his final news conference.
Ricketts hasnt spoken with Piniella since then, but would like to visit with him to get his input for the search process, as well as his insights into this years team. They have not discussed a potential consulting role with the Cubs.
Piniella usually didnt take the easy way out, accepting jobs in Cincinnati, Seattle and Tampa Bay, markets that had economic, ownership and stadium issues. Initially, he didnt grasp the magnitude of managing at Clark and Addison either.
I've always enjoyed different challenges, Piniella recently told New York Daily News columnist Bill Madden. I never really waited for the right job and I went to a lot of places other people wouldn't have gone. But everywhere I went, I was always confident I'd win.
Chicago, however, there was just so much negativism that I wasn't aware of. My only regret is that I couldn't win a championship for the new owners there. I just didn't realize the futility there and it's probably gonna take them a couple of years at least to get untracked.
If youre looking for a quick fix on the free-agent market, Ricketts hasnt set the payroll parameters for 2011 and beyond. It remains to be seen ifhow much it will come down from approximately 145 million.
We havent got to the point where we talked about that for next year, he said. There are a couple contracts that roll off that might give us a little bit of flexibility and well see where that takes us.
Hendry has hired celebrity managers in Dusty Baker and Piniella but could go in a different direction this time. Even if Hendry doesnt sign a big name like first baseman Adam Dunn this offseason, Ricketts doesnt want the guy on the top step to be the draw. Sandbergs No. 23 was retired and flies from the right-field flag pole, but it sounds like that shouldnt matter.
Its about winning, Ricketts said. I dont think we need a marquee name to sell tickets. What we need is a team that produces on the field.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.