CHICAGO – An already bad offseason for the Cubs from a public-relations standpoint may get worse.
Members of the Ricketts family, owners of the Cubs, will not do their annual panel discussion and take direct questions from fans during this weekend’s annual Cubs convention at the downtown Sheraton Grand Chicago.
Instead, the family will be a part of Friday night’s comedy/talk show session hosted by former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster.
One of the more endearing qualities of the Ricketts family since it took ownership in 2009 has been its willingness to meet with fans and face questions at the convention.
Chairman Tom Ricketts was joined by his sister, Laura, and two brothers, Todd and Pete, in past years, and generally, the sessions were love fests, even as the Cubs were rebuilding.
This year, there are myriad serious questions facing the franchise – from its inactivity in this winter’s trade and free-agent markets, to the suspension of shortstop Addison Russell, to the new TV station the Cubs are planning to launch for the 2020 season.
Cubs baseball and business presidents, Theo Epstein and Crane Kenney, respectively, will conduct their sessions Saturday, but the absence of the Ricketts family will leave a big hole, and that is sure to disappoint – and even anger – many fans.
“[The] decision was made months ago based on fan feedback and desire to try something different with [Dempster],” Ricketts family spokesman Dennis Culloton said.
Longtime season-ticket holder Paul Dzien, of Bartlett, first tweeted about the possibility that the Ricketts family would not face the fans as part of a panel. Dzien was one of the presenters of World Series rings to Cubs players at the start of the 2017 season.
“I was disappointed,” Dzien said. “I’ve been very happy with the Ricketts ownership to this point, and I still am. But, ultimately, it’s disappointing because they were there when everything was good. From the moment they bought [the Cubs], they were working toward a championship, working on the neighborhood, and that was great.
“But the first time an offseason comes where there’s a lot of disappointment and frustration, to kind of not show up, I just feel that’s what we liked about the Ricketts, the accessibility of seeing Tom walking around the ballpark. There always was an ability to talk and give your opinions, and you felt you were being heard. Now that it’s a tough offseason, you can’t ask the questions. There’s no face anymore. That’s what we hated about the Tribune Co. (the Cubs’ previous owner). It was a faceless corporation, and no one knew who to blame for what.”