Cubs fans were happy when Tom Ricketts and his family became team owners last October; at last, many thought, no more bean counters, no more Sam Zell, no more soulless Tribune Company. Finally -- here's a guy who is a Cubs fan, who met his wife in the bleachers, who used to live down the street from Wrigley Field.
And for the early part of the season, Tom Ricketts was out and about, serving coffee to fans in the first-day-of-ticket-sales line, walking around the ballpark shaking hands and signing autographs, and rooting hard for his team to win.
Unfortunately, those wins were fewer than any of us would have wanted in the first 40% of the season, and we learned a couple of weeks ago that Tom and his family went on a long-planned family vacation, a photo safari in Africa. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
Tom's team has imploded while he's been gone -- playing bad baseball and losing many winnable games, and yesterday having the umpteenth explosion by Carlos Zambrano, this time yelling and screaming at Derrek Lee, his teammate for seven seasons and one of the most dignified and classiest men in baseball.
General Manager Jim Hendry has issued a team suspension ("indefinitely", said Hendry) for Zambrano and clearly, must now try to move him and the approximately $45 million left on his contract to another team. This sounds like an impossible task, but Hendry cleaned up the mess he made by signing Milton Bradley by dealing him for Carlos Silva, who has become not only the best pitcher named "Carlos" on the team this year, but the most consistently good starter the Cubs have had; Silva may be headed to the All-Star team.
So where does Tom Ricketts fit into this? Many Cubs fans wanted Mark Cuban to buy the team; me, I didn't want a guy who seems more interested in promoting his appearance on "Dancing With The Stars" and at complaining about officiating. Cuban seems like an "all about me" type of guy; Ricketts more of a man who gives his managers responsibility and, as he said in his initial press conference, "holds them accountable".
I don't want Tom Ricketts meddling in day-to-day operations as George Steinbrenner once did with the Yankees, firing his manager over and over and over. But in a crisis situation like this, perhaps a simple statement such as:
"I was disappointed to hear about what happened at US Cellular Field during the game on Friday. I believe Jim Hendry did the right thing and I support this action 100%."
... would have both shown his reaction as a fan, and his support of his GM's response. It wouldn't have been interfering; it wouldn't have been micromanaging; and it wouldn't have been the dreaded "vote of confidence" that often precedes a sports management firing; it would simply have shown, publicly, his support as team owner for his GM's decision in this situation. I like Tom Ricketts and I still believe he and his family are the right choice to own the Cubs and they will bring us the winner we've all dreamed of.
Ricketts is due back from Africa soon. I hope he and his family had a good trip and took lots of cool photos. He's got work waiting for him on his return.