Cubs owner Ricketts: We're going to go all the way
When the Chicago Cubs were finishing last in the NL Central from 2010-14 while finishing a combined 118 games under .500, Tom Ricketts was not exactly viewed as a shining light.
Taking over as the Cubs' owner following the 2009 season, Ricketts had to put out one fire after another.
There was the bloated payroll loaded with unproductive players. Venerable Wrigley Field was falling apart. The roster had to be blown up and built back up from scratch. Struggles with rooftop owners were a never-ending tussle.
It was an immensely painful process, and maybe that's why Ricketts was aglow early Tuesday night after the Cubs beat the archrival St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 and won the National League Division Series.
"We're not there yet," Ricketts said after waving to a very happy fan base and raising a "W" towel on a playing field drenched with champagne and clouded by victory cigar smoke. "We've got two more series to go. But what I will say is, this is fabulous. Fans have hung with us through these years. They know the players, they saw the players that we drafted and traded for.
"We've all kind of grown up together and now you're delivering on the field and everybody's so bought in. This is going to be a great run. We're going to go all the way."
All the way to their first World Series title since 1908?
Well, the Cubs clinched a postseason series at Wrigley for the first time ever Tuesday, so maybe anything is possible.
"Honestly, I give all the credit to all the guys on the field, (manager) Joe (Maddon) for pushing the right buttons and putting the right guys in the right places at the right time," Ricketts said. "(Team president) Theo (Epstein) and (general manager) Jed (Hoyer) for bringing in the great people to our organization, and then the fans, man. The fans held with us for a long time as we were building a team that could be competitive. Without the fans we never would have got here."
Ricketts, 52, was a huge Cubs fan back in the day, and as is well known, he met his wife Cecilia at a game while sitting in the bleachers.
"As a fan, I'd be going nuts like I am right now," Ricketts said. "It's awesome. It's awesome."
Cubs fans finally thought Ricketts were pretty awesome after the bellwether win over St. Louis, and the owner gave back the love.
"The crowds were unbelievable, the excitement the last two games was off the charts," Ricketts said. "I choked up a couple of times. All the "W" flags, everybody cheering, unbelievable. But there's still more work to be done. I don't know what gets more special than this … except maybe the next round and the round after that."
Hired before the season, Maddon has made an immediate impact as manager.
"There's no way to measure how important Joe is to this team," Ricketts said. "I mean, he is the guy that kept everyone loose and focused all year long, and here we are."
• Follow Scot's reports throughout the playoffs @scotgregor.