Cubs want to keep Crane Kenney

Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts came out in strong support of his president of business operations Crane Kenney on Saturday, to the point that he said the team is working on a contract extension for the at times maligned executive.

"He's considered one of the best presidents in baseball," Ricketts told ESPN 1000's "Talkin' Baseball" on Saturday. "Since we started working together, I've been consistently impressed with his ability to handle all the issues of the team, and still keep his eyes on the horizon of what we can do to get better. He's an excellent executive, hopefully now that we are talking about extending his contract and keeping him around for a long time all that (negative talk) will go away. I don't think there's much point in the negative attention that he's gotten because he does a great job."

Ricketts restructured the Cubs' front office in October with the hire of Theo Epstein as the team's president of baseball operations. That development shifted Kenney's title from team president to president of business operations. Kenney has had Ricketts' trust since purchasing the team from Sam Zell and the Tribune in October of 2009.

When Epstein was hired, both he and Ricketts praised Kenney's efforts to help attract the former Red Sox general manager to the position in Chicago.

Even with the front-office shakeup, Ricketts said he has remained an ardent support of Kenney. He added that he doesn't understand the frequent criticism directed Kenney's way in both media and baseball circles as Wrigley's anti-hero.

"I think that's a really good question and I don't know the answer," Ricketts said. "I guess there's always some people looking for a bad guy in the whole situation. But Crane is certainly not that."

According to industry sources, Kenney signed a three-year contract to be the Cubs' president when the Ricketts family purchased the franchise.

Besides leading the Cubs' efforts to refurbish Wrigley Field, Kenney has been the team's front man on putting in a new spring training facility in Mesa, Ariz., as well as working with other front-office staff to build and develop a complex in the Dominican Republic. Groundbreaking on that facility is expected to take place in 2012.

"I want to make sure Cub fans know that he's a good man to have," Ricketts said. "When I look at the Cubs, we have Crane on one side and Theo on the other. I believe I have the best team in baseball."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com.