You have to give credit where credit is due: the Ricketts family is picking one heck of an offseason to bring back its ownership panel at the Cubs Convention.
Whether its because of the family cutting the session (like 2019, when “fan feedback” led them to pull it and then doing so again the next year) or because of the entire convention itself being cancelled (like the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic), it’s now going on five years since the Ricketts family actually took the stage for their annual panel.
So, there’s really no better time than now to say “Welcome back!” When the Cubs Convention lineup was released Thursday morning, the biggest news was that the Ricketts family session would indeed return Saturday morning of the Cubs’ fan extravaganza, exactly four weeks from today. The entire event runs from Jan. 13-15 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago.
Yes, you do have to give the Ricketts family a bit of credit for choosing to take the stage again when they so easily could’ve chosen not to, especially at a time when they may not be very keen on getting questioned by a riled-up fanbase.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has previously cited a lack of interest — and not a refusal to face the music during a quiet offseason after 2018 that started with former team president Theo Epstein saying the “offense broke” and ended with the Cubs’ only position player signing being Daniel Descalso — for the panel initially being removed from the convention lineup.
That “lack of interest” excuse would’ve held absolutely no weight this year. Fans are disappointed. Fans are angry. They took the lumps of the 2021 trade deadline and sat through a frustrating 2022 season because, from the looks of things, this winter was supposed to be one where the team made moves to actually compete in 2023.
Up-the-middle defense was at or near the top of the Cubs’ to-do list this offseason, but they’ve so far let three of the four elite shortstops sign elsewhere (on contracts which still seem shocking, to be fair) with only Dansby Swanson left to pursue. They needed to add to the rotation, but their only starting pitching addition thus far is Jameson Taillon (and they weren’t ever in on any of the frontline starters). And Cody Bellinger shores up the defense in center field, but he’s still a very expensive flier who may or may not give the Cubs anything with his bat.
So, yeah, Cubs fans have burning questions. It’s only right that Ricketts and the rest of the ownership group take the time to answer them.
However, just imagining that panel takes me back to what Ricketts said in September about his typical interactions with Cubs fans.
“The fans are great,” he said on the Wrigley Field concourse not long before those same fans were let into the ballpark. “I mean, I walk around every single game, as you know, and fans are great, they’re happy. They’re happy about a team that cares about winning, and they’re happy about a team that plays hard. They’re happy with a lot of our younger talent and seeing the future, and I think they all think that we have a great manager as well. I think people understand that we have a good future.”
Ricketts also said that when nearly a month remained in the Cubs’ season. That was still a time when hope for an offseason of spending — fueled by Ricketts and president of business operations Crane Kenney’s assurances that president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer had the resources he’d need to add pieces — wasn’t just blind hope. So, fans had expectations for this offseason. Even inherent skepticism didn’t stop rational fans from seeing a path toward playoff contention if the Cubs made the necessary but still reasonable moves to get there.
But so far, the team hasn’t delivered. Taillon (whose signing the club still hasn’t announced yet) and Bellinger have only been joined by Brad Boxberger as major league additions through free agency. After all the talk going into the offseason about holes that needed to be addressed, it’s tough to say this team is definitely in a much better position to compete than it was when this past season ended.
General expectations for the Ricketts family session shouldn’t be a love fest. It probably won’t turn into a hostile environment, either. But you better believe there’s going to be tension in that hotel when the owners panel makes its triumphant return.
Get your popcorn ready. It’s going to be a show.
Here’s the full Cubs Convention schedule:
Friday, Jan. 13:
- Red Carpet Special airing on Marquee Sports Network at 5 p.m.
- Opening Ceremony
- Off the Mound with Ryan Dempster
- Harry Carayoke
Saturday, Jan. 14
- The Ricketts Family Session
- Baseball Operations Update with team president Jed Hoyer and general manager Carter Hawkins
- Ross and the Coaches with manager David Ross and Co.
- Live Recording of “The Compound” Podcast with Ian Happ and teammates
- On the Mound with Jim Deshaies and Cubs pitchers
- Kids Only press conference
- The Road to Wrigley with Cubs prospects
- Cubs Bingo
- Harry Carayoke
Sunday, Jan. 15
- Youth Baseball Clinic with current Cubs players and coaches and Cubs alumni