Cubs owner supports Theo Epstein

MESA, Ariz. -- A rocky year on the field in 2012 hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts about the direction his team is headed.

During a media gathering on Sunday, the club's owner and top executive offered his support of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, saying Epstein's vision of the team's future is right on target with ownership's plans.

"I think the progress is tremendous," Ricketts said. "People can't see all the decisions that are made behind the scenes. I see these guys making hundreds of smart decisions during the course of the year. Some of them are public decisions, and a lot of them are smaller decisions made behind the scenes. I just have complete total confidence that they are moving us in the right direction."

Ricketts hired Epstein on Oct. 21, 2011, to run the baseball side of the organization while entrusting the business side to president of business operations Crane Kenney. Epstein signed a five-year deal that will pay him more than $18 million, and a source told ESPNChicago.com that Kenney also signed a long extension last summer.

After watching the Cubs lose 101 games in 2012, Ricketts believes the on-the-field product is getting better while he and Kenney work on City Hall and the Wrigleyville neighbors to push through renovations of the 99-year-old ballpark.

"First of all, I think we are going to have a good season," Ricketts said. "We have a lot more depth. We have a lot of things going in the right direction. We have good young players that should become even better this year. We think we will have a good season.

"To the extent that you can't rush things and you can't force the action, I think we all (in the front office) agree the shortcuts teams sometimes take end up being dead ends. We just can't do that. This is part of the process, but we are going to be better this year."

Baseball Prospectus' annual prognostications anticipate the Cubs winning 77 games in 2013, an improvement of 16 games over their 2012 record of 61-101.

Ricketts had earlier given a brief speech to the entire team and coaching staff as they began their first day of full workouts.

"I just welcomed all the guys back and reminded them that we expect them to be professionals on and off the field," Ricketts said. "This is a great way to kick off camp."