11:28 AM EDT, May 21, 2012
Tom Ricketts needs to do something. Even in hiding from everyone except one reporter he believed he could use, Ricketts needs to order something done.
A trade. Yeah, that’s it. Ricketts needs to trade someone. Maybe he’ll trade Matt Garza to the Yankees before first pitch tonight.
No, it’s not his job to make trades, but he doesn’t seem to be able to do his job right now, unless his primary objective is to treat Cubs fans as stereotypically stupid.
Before he became what is turning out to be the lame front man for the family that owns the Cubs, he was one of the lemmings. In fact, he sold his baseball-hating dad on the idea of buying the Cubs because they sold every ticket even when they stunk, and they stunk a lot. But still, they came. Who needs the truth when you have that kind of turnstile count, huh?
Ricketts seems to have problems dealing with the public in an honest manner. Specifically, he has trouble treating Cubs fans as adults. Maybe a Cubs fans shouldn’t be the owner of the Cubs, after all. Or at least, maybe a Cubs fan shouldn’t be the talking hood ornament for the riches of the Ricketts empire.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether the issue is small or large. Ricketts either lies because he thinks Cubs fans will buy it as part of a trained behavior or he is flummoxed by the spotlight, unsure of how Cubs fans will deal with the truth and unwilling to risk it.
Either way, he can make himself look like a fool in a hurry.
Last year, when it was clear the Cubs were bad and Mike Quade was afraid to manage the veterans, Ricketts attributed the Cubs’ near-worst record to “injuries.’’ This spring, he made sure to tell TV interviewers that “We’ll have a good team this year’’ despite evidence to the contrary that reeked of razing the major-league roster.
The big issue, of course, came last week when it was revealed that father Joe Ricketts had agreed to fund a $10 million project called “The Plan To Defeat Barack Hussein Obama,’’ a political attack centering on the controversial preachings of the president’s former spiritual leader, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The story on the plan that Joe Ricketts reportedly was willing to fund was characterized as race-baiting and gay-baiting, among other things.
You can pretty much do anything in politics, especially now that the Super PAC rules have created secret agendas on steroids.
But lying to Cubs fans --- or treating them as brain-dead because you were treated that way --- is very public and can quickly turn into trouble for someone trying to run a business, such as the one that Joe Ricketts is trying to run through his kids, most notably Tom.
That, see, is where Tom again either lied or played Cubs fans for stupid. Tom went begging to Mayor Emanuel for tax breaks to renovate Wrigley Field. The mayor worked toward accomplishing those goals, and then reportedly went ballistic when the report came out that the wealthy family he was trying to help with tax breaks was spending some of its money trying to play dirty with the president for whom Emanuel was a chief of staff.
Tom issued a statement trying to disavow any connection to his father’s politics and said he would have “no further comment.’’
Which was a lie because he had page full of further comments in the Sun-Times over the weekend.
At one point, Tom claimed his father is not involved in the team. That’s another shovelful, seeing as how it’s dad’s money that bought the field of dreams. Dan Bernstein of WSCR-AM 670 does a wonderful job of pantsing Tom with the words and video of his father exposing whose money is running the Cubs. As Bernstein writes, “Tom Ricketts is counting on us being stupid, or us not having access to a computer. Maybe both.’’
The Ricketts family has a major problem, and it’s not the bullpen. Joe is always going to be the dad and Wrigley is always going to need fixing. How they navigate from dad and his politics to Clark and Addison is the issue.
And it might be time to make it Laura’s issue.
This family ownership is not unlike the McCaskeys. In fact, Tom sounds eerily similar to Michael, which is not a good thing unless you were a fan of fingernails on the blackboard. Tom also appears similarly out of credibility the way Michael was, and so, if the McCaskeys can change kids, why not the Rickettses?
I realize that Michael McCaskey brought it on himself when he bungled the Dave McGinniss hiring and mom subsequently sent him to his room without dessert. That’s different than the politics of the father being visited upon Ricketts kids.
But Tom has messed up that part, lying about refusing to comment, then going into hiding while Laura did the talking for the family on Day 2 of the Kerry Wood Retirement Hostage Crisis.
Oh, and about the way the Wood comedy routine came down: very convenient that Wood retired the day after Joe Ricketts’ politics blew up Wrigleyville. My friend Damsky suggested we were watching the Cubs’ version of “Wag the Dog,’’ deflecting attention from a massive ownership problem to the thumbsucker story of Kid K.
It seemed idiotic, even for the Cubs. Wood wanted to quit because he couldn’t pitch anymore, but the Cubs would let him pitch once more, and what’s more, the Cubs would let a guy who can’t pitch indeed pitch in a close game.
Perhaps Wood didn’t want to retire but was talked into it by the owners --- we need you to quit right NOW, Kerry --- as a shield from collateral political damage and went along with Wood’s desire to have one more chance. Pretty easy decision if the choice came down to looking stupid vs. political arson.
But Wood can’t retire everyday, and here we are, back to talking about Toxic Tom.
The Wrigley renovation is bigger than hiring Theo Esptein, bigger than eating Carlos Zambrano’s contract, bigger than anything since dad bought the kids the team. The Wrigley renovation is a Cubs franchise with a billionaire dad asking for about $150 million in government money while holding zero leverage. If the Rickettses won’t play the move card, and they won’t, then they have ceded the power of the negotiations to the government, which means they need a friend. Good luck with that after last week’s shenanigans, Tommy Boy.
If you have no leverage, at least give the government a decent teammate. Raise your hand if Tom appears to be someone who can stand up to Emanuel or be someone Emanuel wants to stand next to in a fight.
A Cubs fan who has been watching and listening would say no immediately. It would seem the Ricketts family will have to send Emamuel another kid. Someone in the Ricketts family or inner circle certainly will suggest considering it.
It can’t be Pete, who once ran for senator in Nebraska on a platform so arch as to make his sister a second-class citizen. It can’t be Todd because anyone who agrees to appear on “Undercover Boss’’ has permanently checked his credibility at the door.
That leaves Laura, who would seem to bat second in the Ricketts’ lineup anyway. She’s a Democrat. She’s certainly in favor of gay rights and just about everything else than Emanuel’s former boss stands for. She’s a lawyer, which is both good and bad --- skilled at circumvention of justice but facile in public explanations.
I have no idea if Laura wants the job and the responsibility. I have no idea if she’d be good at it. But it seems that her uncertain credibility is better than what brother Tom has piddled.
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