Daily Herald
Ricketts clan people's choice -- for now -- after (gasp!) meeting with fans
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 1/17/2010 6:49 PM

The Cubs convention is over, and the clear winners of the weekend were the members of the Ricketts family.

It may not seem like much until you start thinking about it, but the new owners of the Cubs met face to face with fans and took all their questions.

As I pointed out in Saturday's story, this was the first time in the 25-year history of the convention that fans actually got to see and talk to the owners of the Cubs. They couldn't meet face to face with the previous owner because there was no face to the Tribune Co.

Thinking about this a little more, this may have been the first time ever Cubs fans as a group have been able to meet with the owners of the team.

The Wrigley family, especially reclusive P.K. Wrigley, wasn't exactly accessible. Heck, I couldn't even imagine getting one of the Wrigleys to tell them that Juicy Fruit and Spearmint were OK, but how about a double date with the Doublemint twins.

Tom, Laura, Pete and Todd Ricketts seemed to say and do all the right things over the weekend.

They talked of winning, improving Wrigley Field with "respect" to its history and listening to the fans. The family members said they wouldn't be as visible - or as loud - as George Steinbrenner, but that they would be at the games.

The Ricketts family's presence alone this weekend seemed to put the fans in a better mood after they came loaded for bear following an extremely disappointing 2009 season.

Winning will be the ultimate measure of the Ricketts ownership, but you had to like the accessibility.

If showing up is 90 percent of life, the Ricketts are well on their way already.

Arbitration filings coming: The Cubs will have to exchange salary-arbitration figures with their eligible players this week, but general manager Jim Hendry appears hopeful he can come to terms with a few before Tuesday.

Closer Carlos Marmol ($575,000 last year) and shortstop Ryan Theriot ($500,000) are the Cubs' highest-profile arbitration-eligibles.

The others are Sean Marshall, Koyie Hill, Jeff Baker, Tom Gorzelanny, Mike Fontenot and Angel Guzman.

The Cubs have not had a case go to a hearing since the early 1990s.

Mesa vs. Naples: It's easy to beat on team president Crane Kenney for appearing to play the heavy in the Cubs' dalliance with Naples, Fla., for their spring-training home, but Kenney did his best to allay fears that the deck was stacked in favor of Florida over Mesa, Ariz.

During one potentially awkward moment, a fan asked about Cubs people potentially benefiting personally from a move. Kenney has a home on Marco Island, Fla., not far from Naples, but in fairness, it's hard to picture an entity as big as the Cubs basing a move on the personal interests of one or more employees, and Kenney did his best to defuse this one.

"This won't be my decision," he told the fan. "The new owners are really going to have the ultimate say on this."

Kenney also conducted a couple of informal polls during a Saturday session. A couple years ago, he told me the Cubs were considering doing away with the "L" flag that flies from the scoreboard after losses, so I wrote a story about it.

It seems, though, fans want to keep the flag for tradition's sake, if Kenney's question to the fans Saturday was any indication. Fans "voted" overwhelmingly to keep it.

The last word: Manager Lou Piniella said it was a good thing Cubs fans are not happy with a second-place finish in 2009.

"The questions are tough," Piniella said. "You know what happens? When you heighten expectations and you don't meet them, people get disappointed. This wouldn't have happened a few years back. A second-place finish would have been met with a lot of enthusiasm, where here, it's been met with disappointment. You know what? That's good. How's that? That's good."