Winning leads to popularity for Ricketts family

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comChicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts warms up the crowd during the annual Cubs Convention, Friday, January 15, 2015 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

    Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comChicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts warms up the crowd during the annual Cubs Convention, Friday, January 15, 2015 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

  • Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comNewly acquired Chicago Cub infielder Ben Zobrist greets fans during the annual Cubs Convention, Friday, January 15, 2015 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

    Daniel White/dwhite@dailyherald.comNewly acquired Chicago Cub infielder Ben Zobrist greets fans during the annual Cubs Convention, Friday, January 15, 2015 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.

 
 
Updated 1/16/2016 7:19 PM

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts posed for selfie after selfie with Cubs fans following Saturday morning's ownership session at the team's annual convention.

There's been quite a change in atmosphere at the convention. A 97-win season and an appearance in the National League championship series will do that.

 

It's gotten to the point where Ricketts and his family are starting to rival Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz for popularity.

Who'd have thought?

"Well, if I could copy Rocky, I'd be pretty happy," said Ricketts, who chaired a panel discussion that included board members and siblings Laura and Todd Ricketts. "I think that people have always been pretty supportive. We've never had any real drama at conventions, but obviously, everyone sees what's happening, and a great young team and a great future, and everyone's pretty excited."

Many of the fans who asked questions during the session prefaced them with a "thank you" or three for the Ricketts family. Just a couple of years ago, many of those same fans were asking: "When are things going to get better?"

In one key way, this is all a rather recent development in the history of the convention. Before the Ricketts family bought the Cubs from the Tribune Co. in 2009, there was one person -- a Mr. Tribune or Ms. Tribune -- whom the fans could direct their brickbats or bouquets.

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So the Ricketts had to hear about it after the poor seasons in 2010 and 2011 under the previous baseball-management team and after the "rebuilding years" of 2012-14 under current team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

I started thinking about this after a fan during the following session asked Epstein about the differences between his running the Boston Red Sox and the early days of running the Cubs.

There are some fans who weren't happy the Cubs put them through the suffering while rebuilding.

Epstein insisted the way the Cubs have done it was the only way it could be done, that is, rebuilding the farm system with the high draft choices that came with losing at the major-league level.

"I think the biggest difference, in my personal experience in Boston, I took over after the 2003 season, and as we looked to put the 2003 and 2004 teams together, there was already an elite core in place," Epstein said. "You had Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez. What was needed in Boston was turning over the whole second half of the roster.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"With the Cubs, I think one of the things we had to do was take an honest look at what was in the organization when we got here (in the fall of 2011). A lot people always ask us, 'We like what you've done, but couldn't you have done it quicker? Couldn't you have tried to compete more while you were rebuilding?'"

There is no doubt some validity to those questions. Epstein remained firm in his conviction that the Cubs did it the right way, given the circumstances.

"I honestly think, looking back, that this was the only choice we had to get to this point," he said. "There wasn't enough talent on the major-league roster. There weren't enough resources. There wasn't enough coming in the minor league system. So the biggest difference is that here, we had to be really single-minded over a three-year period about just acquiring young talent to build to the point we got to in 2015.

"We're really sorry we put you guys through that. We appreciate the incredible patience that you showed. That was really the most rewarding part for us last year, getting to October, seeing the smiles on your faces because you had to live through it for three years."

• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports via Twitter@BruceMiles2112.

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