Ricketts dips into baseball side for hire

As the Chicago Cubs continued to trend toward the bottom of baseball’s worst division, team owner Tom Ricketts and his family, including brothers Todd and Peter, began a 15-day photo excursion to Africa on June 13.

A source close to Tom Ricketts told ESPNChicago.com that Ricketts has the ability to communicate with his front-office executives while he's away. The source also said Ricketts informed his front office before leaving what direction he preferred the team takes.

The Cubs have lost 9 of their last 13.

Before leaving for the jungles of Africa, Tom Ricketts made his first move in the baseball operations department, hiring Ari Kaplan, 40, for the position of statistical analyst manager. Kaplan is a talented numbers cruncher who also has had an abundance of practical scouting experience. He’s worked with 21 major-league teams. The Chicago native blends the concept of physical scouting and statistical data into programs he’s developed for MLB teams for over the past 20 years.

The hiring of Kaplan is significant in the sense that Tom Ricketts is now beginning to hire baseball personnel after concentrating on the business/marketing side of the franchise during the first eight months he’s owned the team. Ricketts informed the baseball operations department of the hiring three weeks ago.

Kaplan’s hiring should not impede or affect the status of Chuck Wasserstrom, who is the manager of baseball information for the Cubs and is in charge of Internet information and has been breaking down numbers since the early 1990s. Wasserstrom is highly respected in baseball circles.

The Cubs’ front office has been one of the smallest in the game since October, 1994, when Andy MacPhail took over as team president. MacPhail brought his business plan from the Minnesota Twins, after leading the Twins to two world championships.

MacPhail was replaced by John McDonough, who stayed with the Cubs as team president for one year before becoming the president of the Chicago Blackhawks. McDonough asked the Cubs for a long-term commitment, before being turned down and taking the role with the Hawks.