For the second consecutive year, the Ricketts family will not be holding a panel at the Chicago Cubs Convention when the fans are desperately seeking answers.
Last offseason, it was the Addison Russell debacle that sent Chicago Cubs‘ Chairman, Tom Ricketts, into hiding when Cubs Convention came around. It was the first time since taking ownership of the team in October 2009 that he did not hold a question and answer session for the fans. And while the early years of the Ricketts’ panel revolved around the renovations to Wrigley Field and the development of the team’s young prospects, it has quickly taken an ugly turn with offseason distractions. As noted, the club retained Russell despite twice being accused of domestic violence, the second time supported by a disturbing blog post from Russell’s ex-wife.
This offseason, and while he will not admit it, has been plagued by the Kris Bryant trade rumors and lack of spending in the free-agent market. Offenders of the competitive balance tax last year, the Ricketts family is determined to remain below the threshold next season to avoid an increased fine on the amount over the tax. The Cubs have made several moves this offseason, and all of them have been non-guaranteed contracts. The acquisitions of Jharel Cotton, CD Pelham, Hernan Perez, Ryan Tepera, and Carlos Asuaje, among others, are a below-average attempt at repairing a broken roster.
World Series Champions in 2016, the Cubs have had back-to-back disappointing seasons, and the belief was that significant changes were coming in the offseason. And that’s not to say that Bryant or Willson Contreras will not be traded before pitchers and catchers report on February 12, but it’s been only rumored to this point. On paper, the team appears to be in worse shape than when the season ended. I doubt anyone has any faith in the bullpen if the season were to start today.
Tom Ricketts needs to face the Cubs’ faithful, who are shelling out double the cost of what weekend passes to the team’s annual convention were before Jon Lester signed back in December 2014. Emotions will likely be running high, and while Ricketts will deliver his opening speech on Friday night, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are going to be forced to answer those difficult, and frankly quite awkward, questions throughout the weekend.
A strong argument could be made that expectations for this team are the lowest since before the 2015 season, despite having a lineup that features names like Bryant, Contreras, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber. Perhaps that’s a good thing, and the team can play better with less pressure, but that’s something that remains to be seen.