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updated: 5/2/2013 9:24 AM

Threat or not, things seem odd for Ricketts, Wrigley

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  • This artist rendering provided Wednesday by the Cubs shows renovations planned at Wrigley Field. Part of the $500 million renovation plan for the 99-year-old stadium is to build an exterior plaza at the corner of Addison and Sheffield.

      This artist rendering provided Wednesday by the Cubs shows renovations planned at Wrigley Field. Part of the $500 million renovation plan for the 99-year-old stadium is to build an exterior plaza at the corner of Addison and Sheffield.
    AP Photo, Courtesy of the Chicago Cubs


Odd places. Odd times.

That's my take and take-away from recent developments in the Cubs' efforts to make necessary changes to Wrigley Field.

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Before we get into that, I'll reiterate that I'm all for what the Ricketts family wants to do to Wrigley, using their own money. The place is awful if you have to work there, and the fan comforts would be so much better if the Cubs are able to renovate, er, "restore," to use their buzzword, Wrigley Field.

Now for the oddness.

I found the place odd a couple of weeks back when Tom Ricketts used the dark and dank Wrigley concourse as the setting for his news conference announcing the "framework" of a deal with the city. Ricketts may have been trying to prove a point, but the news conference looked silly.

On Wednesday, I found the timing odd for Ricketts' threat to move the Cubs out of Wrigley Field if he doesn't get the revenue-generating signage where he wants it (inside the ballpark) as part of the renovation deal.

The "threat card" is one Ricketts should have played months ago or when he bought the team, and he could have done it subtly, without coming off as a heavy.

For example, he could have said a long time ago: "We love Wrigley Field. We hope to stay in Wrigley Field another 100 years, but we'll look at that as time goes by."

Without leaving himself that wiggle room, Ricketts lost all his leverage, and now many people are looking at Wednesday's statement as an empty threat. In other words, few really see the Cubs moving to Rosemont.

Here is what Ricketts said during a City Club of Chicago breakfast, during which he reiterated much of what he has been saying since the convention: "I'm not sure how anyone's going to stop (us from) putting signs in the outfield, but if it comes to the point that we don't have the ability to do what we need to do in our outfield, then we'll have to consider moving."

A little later, he told the media: "The fact is if we don't have the ability to generate revenue in our own outfield, then we'll have to take a look at moving."

Social media quickly went aflame with his comments, and Ricketts later said he was not making a threat.

During the afternoon, beat writers who show up at Wrigley nearly every day finally had a chance to meet with the Cubs, although neither Ricketts nor business president Crane Kenney visited with us.

I asked Julian Green, the Cubs' vice president of communications and community affairs, if "threat" was too strong a word.

"I think it's a little bit overstated," Green said. "Basically what (Ricketts) is saying is if the rooftops (neighboring rooftop owners who are business partners with the Cubs) want to go as far as to sue to keep us from making this investment and doing an investment we want to make without using tax dollars, if they want to hold that up, what he's saying is we have to look at other options."

As nice as the Wrigley renderings look and as good as the Cubs' ideas are, the process is nowhere near done, as zoning meetings, Landmark Commission meetings, Planning and Development meetings and public hearings all have to be held, and in quick order for the Cubs to be able to break ground in the fall.

Finesse, along with muscle, will be key to getting this thing done. For their sakes, you hope this group can find the right balance and stay out of those odd places at odd times.

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