Chairman Ricketts Hits First Homerun with Epstein Hiring

With Theo Epstein finally on board, an ‘org chart’ has never been more fun to look at. Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts can finally breathe a sigh of relief as he has all but officially solidified the Cubs organizational structure. When Ricketts addressed the media in August about the upcoming general manager search he set the bar high and most believed he would fall short of his lofty expectations:

“… they’ll have to share a commitment to player development… we can look for guys that have a little stronger analytical background… Someone who has worked with some of the new tools… someone who’s been in a winning culture and who can bring the lessons of that over and has a track record of success…”

A commitment to player development… check. Analytical background and knowledge of new baseball tools… check. Winning culture and track record of success… check. Theo’s Boston Red Sox resume lists all that and more. At the time, Ricketts gave lip service to questions of whether his new GM could be an assistant from another club. But all his other comments told us he wanted someone with experience to mend his wounded team. Ricketts did one better than hiring Epstein as general manager. He hired Theo in the more senior position of president of the Cubs’ baseball operations and will make current Padres GM Jed Hoyer the new general manager. The extra level of baseball-focused leadership means the Epstein-Hoyer tandem should be free from the prying eyes of current president of business operations, Crane Kenney who was often seen interfering with baseball decisions under the previous regime. Remember the ‘priest in the dugout’ incident during the 2008 playoffs? That embarrassing scene was thanks to Crane Kenney. There is a lot of work for Theo and company to do. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick but one thing is clear after witnessing this well executed Cubs general manager search. Tom Ricketts claimed a huge victory after the series of defeats he has endured since taking over ownership of the team.

This is a picture I took of Red Sox General Ma...

The Ricketts family officially took over ownership of the Chicago Cubs after the 2009 regular season concluded. In the two full seasons they have presided over the Cubs, the combined win-loss record was 146-178 (.450). Wrigley Field attendance this past year was a healthy 3,017,966 but the lowest since 2003 and trending downward from its high in 2008. Tom Ricketts also has witnessed the implosion of Carlos Zambrano’s career, the further deterioration of Alfonso Soriano and allowed Wally Hayward, the Cubs head of Sales/Marketing to install the Noodle outside of Wrigley Field. He patiently has listened to Cub fans complain about anything and everything. Why are ticket prices so high? Why did you pick Mike Quade over Ryne Sandberg? Why is Jim Hendry still the GM? Why should the city fund a Wrigley Field rehabilitation? It has been a series of unfortunate Cubbie occurrences since he took over. The hiring of Theo Epstein and his more than qualified team feels like a turning point. Attendance should steady as fan interest has once again been piqued.  Based on past performance Epstein will right the Cubs ship and make them a more regular playoff contender. More than anything, these organizational moves take immense pressure off Tom Ricketts himself. He hired the right man, will allow him to do his job and hold him accountable for the results. The media will focus its attention on Epstein and Hoyer while the chairman steps into the background and works with Crane Kenney on how to fund an overhaul of Wrigley field and create more revenue streams to pour back into the farm system. Theo Epstein was enjoying the praise of Cubs Nation in Wrigleyville today but Tom Ricketts was the one who called his shot in August and knocked it out of the park in October.

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