Ricketts discusses Cubs' progress in letter to fans
Team chairman writes to season-ticket holders about promising future of franchise
In a letter to season-ticket holders and Cubs fans, team chairman Tom Ricketts called the 2013 season a "challenging" one, and said it was a difficult decision to dismiss manager Dale Sveum, but a necessary move to fulfill the long-term vision.
The Cubs finished in last place in the National League Central, and Sveum was dismissed the day after the final regular season game.
"The search [for a new manager] is under way, and our focus will be on providing the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the Major League level," Ricketts said.
The Cubs' efforts to improve the baseball organization have "resulted in promising advancement toward our family's organizational goals of winning a World Series, preserving Wrigley Field and being a good neighbor in the City of Chicago," Ricketts said.
"We continue to be optimistic about the future of this franchise and our plan for sustained success," he said in the letter. "We aspire to become the best organization in baseball and have made strides in this direction. We acquired young, impact talent through trades, the First-Year Player Draft and a weighted investment in this year's international signing class.
"No team in Major League Baseball has spent more on combined first-year and international amateur talent than the Cubs over the four years of our family's ownership," he said. "This investment in young talent is a significant driver of our system's improvement and reflective of our current strategy to focus baseball resources on players who will contribute to the Chicago Cubs over the long term."
Ricketts pointed out the Cubs' Minor League system now ranks second in baseball, according to Baseball Prospectus.
"We're proud to employ many of the best scouts and player development staff in the game to help us find, commit and develop these exciting young players, and they're already helping us win," he said, pointing out that three of the five Minor League affiliates advanced to the playoffs.
Ricketts said player development and training are critical to the Cubs' goal of winning a World Series, which is why they invested in a new Spring Training facility scheduled to open for the 2014 Cactus League season. The field dimensions are reminiscent of Wrigley Field, as well as some of the stadium's structural elements.
This year, the Cubs also opened a 50-acre state-of-the-art baseball academy in the Dominican Republic that includes baseball fields, training facilities, player housing and an education center.
As for the restoration of Wrigley Field, Ricketts said they are "closer than ever to restoring this soon-to-be 100-year-old ballpark."
"We have made significant progress toward obtaining the city approvals for our $300 million private investment in Wrigley Field, which will include better player facilities, new fan amenities, improved concessions and restrooms, while maintaining what fans love about Wrigley Field," he said.
The Cubs plan to offer more events, such as concerts and sporting events, as well as family-friendly activities at the ballpark.
"Perhaps most importantly, this restoration will provide long-term incremental revenue that will be reinvested into the baseball team," he said.
Ricketts noted the team has donated more than $2.3 million to hundreds of Chicago area charities this year, part of the Cubs' effort to be a "good neighbor." The Chicago Cubs Charities introduced new programs such as the Cubs Scholars program, the Cubs on the Move Fitness Trolley and the Diamond Project, a community impact program that will provide grants to build and revitalize baseball fields in the Chicago area.
"From top to bottom, our organization has been clear about adopting a long-term approach to becoming a championship-caliber franchise, and the 2013 season played an instrumental role in that transformation," Ricketts said. "This organization is becoming stronger and healthier. We have added young, impactful talent throughout our system and will provide the facilities and infrastructure required for them to succeed-which means an increasing number of homegrown players joining the Major League roster ready to win while playing 'The Cubs Way.'"
Ricketts closed his letter by thanking fans, and asked them to "please say 'hello' when you see me at the ballpark next year."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.