8:58 AM CDT, April 16, 2013
We know what a happy Tom Ricketts looks like: Day One of family ownership.
That wasn't the way he looked or sounded Monday. If the guy was announcing an agreement to renovate Wrigley Field, the joy would’ve been read easily on Ricketts’ face. This wasn’t that. This Ricketts looked closer to the guy who faceplanted in that news conference asking for use of public funds to fix up his place of work.
On Monday, Ricketts frequently referred to "our proposal,"’ not "our agreement."’ Maybe it’s semantics, but he spent much of the presser selling his plan. Should you really have to sell a $500 million plan that benefits the neighborhood and the city in a big way? Who else in Ald. Tom Tunney’s ward makes that kind of economic commitment?
Which tells you how far behind Ricketts is or how bad he is at playing this game. I mean, if you’re talking $500 million, you’re not selling anymore, you’re dictating renovation sequences.
And you’re not afraid to unveil pictures of the big-picture item in the plan: the video screen. Ricketts has artist renderings of the video screen planned for left field, but wouldn’t show them. Is he that embarrassed by the screen or the idea?
Cubs wonks say fans want a video screen, and Ricketts wants to give it to them. Just not now, and how silly is this getting? Ricketts is standing there by himself in a Wrigley concourse, not flanked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel or anyone reflecting power, and the guy is trying to sell the most important proposal since buying the team while leaving a big hole in the presentation.
Neither Ricketts nor his wonks would give a credible reason for withholding mockups of the 6,000-square foot screen. Community groups reportedly have seen the drawings. The greater public isn’t good enough to see them.
If you want to lose a news conference, then tell Cubs fans they can’t see the centerpiece of the renovation, the biggest new revenue stream, and the item that 60 percent of those surveyed supposedly want. News conferences should answer questions, not raise more of them.
Maybe the Cubs are getting political advice to play it this way. Maybe I’m too stupid to see the value of that strategy, but I don’t think it’s tricky or slick. I think it’s lame.
Ricketts continued to make the economic case for his plan and stressed the steps the Cubs have taken in listening to the neighborhood in terms of security and traffic. He also tried to downplay any discussion of his rooftop-owning partners and their potential litigation. That’s what you do when you’re image-conscious and campaigning on a platform instead of already having been elected. Ricketts sounded Monday like a candidate, not a power-broker.
Ricketts’ motivation is great, even if his methods have been clunky. His financial commitment has been greater still, and bravo for that. But still, I was hoping to hear a more confident Ricketts. I guess I was hoping to hear and feel as if it was a done deal --- that he and his money made it a done deal --- but I didn’t hear that or feel that. I heard funny business about the video screen.
Maybe I’m misreading things, but I’m thinking this might not be as close to the gimme that a lot of people seem to believe, especially the way we’ve seen Ricketts stumble around the political terrain.
We ought to know by now that there are no sure things with the Cubs, isn’t that right, 2003?
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