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updated: 8/20/2011 6:19 PM

Cubs owner may be in over his head

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  • Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is attempting to steer the Cubs in the right direction by hiring a new general manager and improving Wrigley Field by using public funds. It will be interesting to see how he fares on both fronts.

      Cubs owner Tom Ricketts is attempting to steer the Cubs in the right direction by hiring a new general manager and improving Wrigley Field by using public funds. It will be interesting to see how he fares on both fronts.
    Associated Press

  • Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts talks with the media Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011 at the Cubs' baseball spring training facility in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

      Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts talks with the media Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011 at the Cubs' baseball spring training facility in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

 
 

The sun rose on a new Cubs' era Saturday morning and then rain stormed down on good old Wrigley Field.

Reality set in that it'll take more than Jim Hendry's dismissal as general manger to end the Cubs' century-long run of futility.

Firing is easy -- although Tom Ricketts made this one a bit more awkward than necessary -- but hiring is hard.

A fledgling owner finding the right GM is almost as difficult as him trying to wrangle $200 million in public funds to renovate his ballpark.

Ricketts, the Cubs' chairman, is in the precarious predicament of having to do both at one time. It's why so many tell him he needs a club president to run the baseball side.

Neither assignment is without hazard. Swimming in a baseball pond with sharks is a good way to lose a limb. Swimming with sharks in a political pond is a good way to lose a couple limbs, your mind and your dignity.

So, Mr. Chairman, let's see what you're made of.

Ricketts, in baseball for about two years, doesn't appear qualified yet to identify the right man to be Cubs' GM. He intends to seek advice from others in the business he has known for about 15 minutes.

Caution is prudent. Who is more self-interested than a baseball man, unless it's a politician?

Rickets said he would seek counsel on GM candidates from "other owners and other industry veterans of various types."

Good luck, Mr. Chairman.

Meanwhile, Ricketts is having discussions with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and state officials about upgrading Wrigley Field.

Good luck again, sir.

This isn't to say that Ricketts can't navigate through all the bull, uh, rhetoric and come out with a 21st century general manager and ballpark.

But Ricketts better go into both sets of discussions with open eyes and zipped wallet.

Why would Ricketts' alleged friends in baseball do him any favors as he tries to build a team to beat them?

This sport is cutthroat and should be. Other teams' fans don't want their operatives to help the Cubs become all they can be and should be.

"Industry veterans of various types," most of them masters of deception, have their own agendas and biases at heart.

Countless baseball people, just like people in all walks of life, are out of work. Maybe a Ricketts confidant who is employed by another team would recommend a friend in need because, well, he owes the friend in need a favor.

That's a cynical view but, sorry, this is a question of whom do you trust and the answer should be nobody.

Now for the second part of the equation: A baseball owner trying to squeeze $200,000,000 from public funds?

Twenty-five years ago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was trying to replace old Comiskey Park. He had successfully wheeled and dealed in a previous professional life but quickly learned how different it is to work with Chicago and Illinois politicians.

The new Comiskey Park eventually was approved but it was the wrong park in the wrong place. Upgrades make it more attractive but the Sox still can't get enough people to visit that location.

These days it's Tom Ricketts sticking one foot in a murky pond and the other foot in another murky pond.

How quickly the Cubs' chairman learns to play these two games -- baseball and politics -- will determine his team's long-term fate.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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