Cubs owner Tom Ricketts says World Series prediction not 'completely crazy'
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said Tuesday that a national sports publication's prediction of his team winning the World Series may not be that far off.
And unlike previous years' prognostications, Ricketts brought a PowerPoint presentation to his address to suburban business leaders that explains why he thinks the Sporting News isn't "completely crazy."
"We don't like the 'predict, predict, predict' stuff, but I'm telling you that it's been several years in the making," Ricketts said during a multi-chamber luncheon at the Avalon Banquets in Elk Grove Village.
"We've built a very strong foundation for our team, and we're going to keep getting better and I do believe we're going to win our division and get to the playoffs this year.
"We'll be saying, 'Cubs win' a lot more."
Ricketts spoke to a crowd of some 250 attendees, including members of local chambers of commerce and Cubs fans, at an event sponsored by the Daily Herald. Columnist Barry Rozner conducted a question-and-answer session after Ricketts' speech.
Ricketts said when his family purchased the Cubs in 2009, the team's payroll was one of the highest, while its record was one of the worst. At that point, he said there wasn't a lot of "short-term hope."
He's feeling differently today.
"If someone were to come up to me a few years ago and said, 'OK, Tom, we'll give you Theo Epstein to run baseball operations, Joe Maddon to be your manager, you'll be the No. 1 farm system in all baseball, I'll give you two all-stars -- first baseman and shortstop -- and we'll throw in Jon Lester as your ace,' you think about that and I'll say, 'OK, I'll bet on that.' "
On Wrigley Field renovations, Ricketts apologized to fans that the bleachers won't be ready for Opening Day, after a water main exploded on Sheffield Avenue and delayed construction.
But he defended plans to do the renovations over a five-year span during off-seasons, instead of getting the work done sooner at a cheaper cost -- which would have required the Cubs to find a temporary home in the meantime.
"We never really considered other options," Ricketts said. "Other teams have played (elsewhere). I just can't see that being a great setup for anybody. … It's more expensive this way, but we think it's the right answer for everybody."
Ricketts estimated the new bleachers would be ready by May.
He also said he and other team officials are in discussions about ways to honor Ernie Banks this season and are working to finalize details before making an announcement.
Banks' statue, displaced from its spot at Clark and Addison because of stadium renovations, is being temporarily relocated to Daley Plaza starting Wednesday as part of a public memorial.
Visitation for the late Cubs great is scheduled from noon to 8 p.m. Friday at Chicago's Fourth Presbyterian Church, with a memorial service at 10 a.m. Saturday.
"We will spend as much time as we can this year in remembering Ernie, and what a great player and person he was," Ricketts said.