Cubs happy to have ownership in place
Ricketts can expect wish list from players, including facilities
LOS ANGELES -- News of the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family was welcomed on Friday.
"I just hope they keep trying to win -- that's the bottom line," Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "I hope they keep adding the pieces they need."
The Ricketts family signed a definitive agreement with Tribune Co. on Friday to acquire a 95 percent interest in the team, Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent interest in Comcast SportsNet for $845 million. The Tribune Co., which bought the Cubs in 1981 from the Wrigley family for about $20 million, will retain a five percent ownership interest.
Because the Tribune Co. has been in bankruptcy since December, the sale must go through bankruptcy court. It also must be approved by Major League Baseball owners, whose next formal meeting is scheduled for November in Chicago.
"It's good news," Lou Piniella said before the Cubs' game against the Dodgers on Friday night. "I'm really pleased to see that things are progressing. There's a ways to go, but it's encouraging and a nice milestone for this organization."
The Cubs have been for sale since Opening Day 2007, and since then, the team has won back-to-back National League Central titles. Cubs general manager Jim Hendry has always maintained it's business as usual and did not blame the sale for keeping him from doing his job.
"I never use that as an excuse," Hendry said. "We've had a high payroll the last two years. The way we went about our business after '06, we spent a lot of money and signed a lot of players to high-end deals. Unless you're going to be the Yankees, you can't do that every year.
"We had to mix and match more this last offseason, but we thought we did things that would make us just as productive as last year," Hendry said. "It's not an excuse for me. Nobody's going to sit in the chair I sit in and complain about the payroll we've had for the last three years."
The Cubs spent $300 million prior to the 2007 season, which included luring Piniella away from his job as a television analyst back to the dugout to manage. They won the division in '07, and posted the best record in the NL in '08 with 97 wins, but they have gone 0-6 in the postseason the past two years.
Now that the ownership situation has been nearly resolved, Ramirez joked that the Cubs can go get Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. Who knows?
"For some reason, Jim Hendry has been able to get what we need," Ramirez said. "He's been able to add the pieces we need even without an owner.
"We've won the division back to back," Ramirez said. "We didn't play the way we liked to in the playoffs, but that's not [Hendry's] fault. Jim Hendry's done his job. The players haven't done it this year. It's not his fault. We have the players in here. All he can do is get the right people, get the pitching."
When Tom Ricketts does take over, he can expect a wish list from the players. The Cubs' facilities are antiquated -- they could use better batting cages, locker rooms and weight room.
"I hope all those things change to make the players comfortable and we can play better on the field," Alfonso Soriano said. "Especially the weight room and the cage. The batting cage is in right field, the weight room, five people can't fit in the weight room. You go to the new ballparks, and you go back to Chicago and see the reality."
Hendry has been in touch with Ricketts, and expects to have more conversations. The news should help the Cubs going into the offseason as they prepare for 2010. Hendry knows the Ricketts family after living in Omaha, Neb., for nine years. Joe Ricketts, Tom's father, founded the Omaha-based online brokerage TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.
"Tom seemed like a guy who cares not only about the Cubs but the people of Chicago and wants to do the right thing for the franchise," Hendry said. "Obviously, it's a huge investment by him and his family. He seems to have the love and the passion to take it on."
The uncertainty over the ownership the past two years hasn't helped, Piniella said.
"This thing here has been [in a state of flux] for the three years I've been here," he said. "Now that things are heading in the right direction, I think it's very positive and very encouraging for this organization."
"It's important to have a new owner," Soriano said. "I hope they make a better team that can go to the World Series."
Hendry said the drawn-out sale had an effect on everyone in the organization.
"You hear it's going to happen, it's going to happen and it doesn't happen, and I think over an extended period of time, just from a morale point of view ... I think for everyone involved it was a real tough stretch the last six to eight months," Hendry said. "There were always high hopes it would get done sooner. I think the morale of the franchise needs this."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.