Ricketts family fields fans' questions

CHICAGO -- The big news from The Ricketts’ Family Forum on Saturday at Day 2 of the Cubs Convention was the announcement that players will wear a No. 10 patch on their sleeve in honor of Ron Santo and that the team icon will be honored with a statue.

But more was unveiled, primarily from Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, who revealed that team is expanding its use of sabermetrics, will seek the All-Star game -- possibly for 2016 -- and will be committed to enhancing the “Wrigley Field Experience.”

Answering questions from members of the audience, the subjects stretched from the team budget, to Ryne Sandberg’s departure from the organization to Jim Hendry’s job status to upcoming Wrigley Field improvements.

One thing Ricketts seemed intent on making clear was that his first priority in owning the Cubs was not to line his own pockets with cash.

“Just so everybody knows, it’s simple math when it comes to a baseball team,” Ricketts told the crowd of about 1,000 Cubs fans. “No money leaves the system. We sell tickets, we get our revenues from television, we get our revenues concessions and that’s where we start.

“… Every single dollar not spent on operational expenses goes to the baseball budget. … We give [general manager] Jim [Hendry] every dollar we can, literally. Then he decides if it goes to the amateur side or to the payroll. In terms of payroll, we still are among the very highest in the league.”

In a separate gathering, Cubs president Crane Kenney reiterated that Ricketts is dedicated to putting all profits back into the operational budget.

Perhaps the biggest potential stir came halfway through the one-hour session when a fan from Skokie asked how Sandberg could be allowed to leave the organization and how Hendry still has his job.

Ricketts said that Sandberg is still a valued member of the organization, but as for passing him up and giving the manager opening to Mike Quade, he was 100 percent in favor of Hendry’s decision. He said Sandberg was not asked to leave the organization but made the decision to leave on his own. There are no hard feelings from the Cubs’ view on Sandberg deciding to leave in order to enhance his chances of becoming a manager.

As for Hendry, Ricketts gave his support.

“We came in a year ago and I think it would be incredibly unfair to walk into an organization and judge people without information,” Ricketts said. “We spent a lot of time traveling to the affiliates and getting to know [staff]. Over the past year I have grown in confidence with Jim, to be honest. He has a good team of people that he’s put together.

The real judge of how well he does is how many players we’re consistently bringing up to the major leagues and are the dollars we’re spending [worth it]. Hopefully we’re becoming smarter with how we do contracts.

“I think Jim is doing a great job and we’re starting to see some of the fruits of his labor.”

One question was whether or not the stadium facade will change during a planned Wrigley Field makeover that could cost more than $200 million and is scheduled to be completed by 2016, the 100th anniversary of the Cubs at the historic ballpark. When it comes to the Wrigley Field marquee, no changes will be made. When it comes to the chain link fencing that can be seen all over the ballpark, the plan is to eliminate all of it and replace it with decorative iron work.

Ricketts admitted that the hope of bringing the All-Star Game to Wrigley Field by 2014 isn’t likely to happen. They’ll seek to play host to the Midsummer Classic by 2016 and have the game as a centerpiece of the 100th anniversary of the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

On sabermetrics, Ricketts admitted that the club did not place a huge emphasis on the analytical analysis of the game when he took over. There will be a bigger effort to including the mathematical analysis as an effort to enhance the team’s current scouting practices in the near future.