Ricketts family proving to be first class all the way
A few days ago, I wondered in this space how the Ricketts family would be received at the Cubs convention.
The family has owned the team for about a year-and-a-quarter, and the product on the field in 2010 was a disaster until new field manager Mike Quade turned things around and won himself the job long term.
So in other words, the honeymoon is over.
Even so, the family was received politely, with fans willing to cut them some slack as they learn the business.
By how things were run at the convention -- which suffered the odd glitch here and there -- and how Cubs management presented itself, you have to say in all fairness that the Rickettses appear to be hitting their stride.
There's still a long way to go, of course, and the baseball team hasn't been on the field yet to prove it's better than last year's fifth-place showing.
All four Ricketts siblings -- Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd -- spoke and spoke well during their session with the fans.
There were a few moments, too, when family members showed some humility.
Laura apologized to a woman who said the team ignored her request of last year for the Cubs to throw some support behind a women's baseball league. At the end, Laura promised to get in touch.
Tom, at first, could not think anything he regretted or wanted back from his first year. But when the Cubs' failed first attempt at using amusement-tax money to help fund renovations at Wrigley Field, Tom said that might not have been handled as well as it could have been.
Even team president Crane Kenney, who has come off as the heavy in some of the Cubs' business dealings, was more polished and empathetic at this year's convention.
When talk turned spirited at times among fans over the possibility of installing a replay screen, Kenney got the crowd involved by conducting an informal poll of his own. He cited research that showed 60 percent of fans surveyed would favor such a board if it did not interfere with the center-field scoreboard.
Kenney handled with sensitivity a question about families perhaps being priced out of attractive games against the likes of the Yankees, Cardinals and White Sox.
Instead of saying, "Hey, it's what the market dictates," Kenney said, "We are concerned about it. Wrigley Field is probably not as kid-friendly as far as some of the things children look for in a ballpark. And then there is our ticket pricing. We always strive to have games that are priced under $10 a ticket, and we will again this year. Are they against the Yankees? I'll admit they are not.
"We say, 'How can we price our tickets to keep the $8-$9 ticket and keep the games affordable for families?' In terms of the marquee games, we're going to let them subsidize the rest of the season. We have priced the tickets for the Cardinals and the Yankees on a higher level, and it isn't fan-friendly from family perspective. But it underwrites all the other games at lower prices."
Kenney also promised to keep hammering away at Major League Baseball's archaic TV blackout rules, which make parts of Iowa and Indiana no man's land when it comes to being able to see the Cubs, shutting out loyal portions of the fan base.
As far as the on-field product goes, Tom Ricketts seems to be increasingly supportive of general manager Jim Hendry. If the Cubs have a good year, the talk will turn from possibly firing Hendry to how many years his contract extension will run. Even so, Ricketts admitted the Cubs still have work to do in incorporating sabermetrics, along with traditional scouting, into player evaluation and procurement.
It can't be said enough that Rickettses represent the first Cubs ownership that is accessible and approachable. They've made a few mistakes. They'll make a few more. But the main thing that came across this weekend is that they care.