Ricketts encouraged about Cubs' prospects

Ricketts encouraged about Cubs' prospects

CHICAGO -- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said on Sunday that he is disappointed by the team's performance this season, his first as owner, but he feels the Minor League system showed promise, and he is encouraged about 2011.

Meeting with the media in the dugout at Wrigley Field before the Cubs' last home game of 2010, Ricketts also said that he's leaving the initial phases of the managerial search to general manager Jim Hendry.

"Obviously, we're very disappointed in the record," Ricketts said. "The players are disappointed, the fans are disappointed, obviously, the [Ricketts] family is disappointed. There's that, first and foremost.

"Beyond that, I think there are some really encouraging things going on. We're playing up to our potential now, or at least close to our potential. I think, from a baseball standpoint, the way the organization is going this year is very encouraging. While this season wasn't our best on the field, I think we're building a good foundation for the future."

The Double-A Tennessee team reached the Southern League championship, and the Triple-A Iowa team finished first in its division as well. In addition, the Cubs have had strong rookie seasons from Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner and Tyler Colvin.

The Cubs had the highest payroll in the National League this year, and Ricketts said it will most likely go down next year.

"We haven't made any decisions on where payroll goes next year, but I think it will be slightly lower than this year," he said.

As for Mike Quade, who took over as manager on Aug. 23 when Lou Piniella retired, Ricketts was complimentary.

"I don't think there's any doubt that Mike's done a nice job managing here," he said. "Obviously, the team is playing well the last few weeks, and that's very encouraging."

There is no set deadline as to when the next manager will be named.

"There's no reason to rush it," Ricketts said.

The Cubs have reached 3 million fans for the seventh consecutive season, and ticket pricing for 2011 is still being evaluated.

"We haven't made any final decisions," he said. "What we are doing is a really thorough study of what we're charging for which sections, and trying to understand the value of what we're offering people. We'll do that study and try to come up with a ticket-pricing strategy, always keeping in mind that it's a tough economy, and it's ultimately our goal to get more families in the park."

One thing that has been stressed to the staff is to listen and be responsive to the fans.

"They're the greatest fans on earth, and we have to give them the greatest experience," said Ricketts, who often walks through the concourse and talks to fans, getting feedback.

The next big project is Spring Training, as the Cubs are in talks with the city of Mesa, Ariz., on finding a new location and improved facilities.

"Mesa's very important right now," Ricketts said. "Proposition 420, which is coming up on the November ballot in Mesa, is basically a vote to keep the Cubs [there]. ... Things are going very well down there, and I think the people are very supportive. I'll be back and forth to Mesa a lot, and that's important for us right now."

He likes the Riverview Park location in Mesa, but what if the Mesa voters don't approve funding for the new Spring Training complex?

"Right now there's no Plan B," Ricketts said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.