In our twentieth year (no shit) we’re taking looks back at great moments in Desipio history. In our first installment we relived the Cubs winning the World Series.1 But today we revisit an absolute classic. We’re going back to February 9, 2011 when Bleed Cubbie Blue’s Banmaster General Al Yellon got an interview with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts.
Al got to ask a lot of questions. Unfortunately most of them were the same one.
Here’s the original post (the archives have some funky characters in them–much like the message board), so here’s the cleaned up text from 2011 with some snarky 2017 footnotes.
Wednesday on his award-winning Cubs Web site (three-time winner of the Webby for dullest blog ever) Al Yellon posted the first of what he promises (threatens?) will be a three-part interview with Cubs “owner” Tom Ricketts.
When it was first pointed out to me that this interview existed I figured there might be something in there that would worth poking a little well-meaning fun at.
But then I read it.
And holy shit.
Today is BCB’s sixth birthday — that’s like a century in blog years.
Nope. Pretty sure it’s still six years.
And here’s a birthday present for all of us…
Wait! Let me guess. You’re quitting?! It’s the best birthday ever!
…a wide-ranging interview I recently conducted with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts about his first year as the head of the organization and face of the franchise.
Well, so much for best birthday ever.
BCB: The first question is — on the record — who really owns the Cubs, and what specifically is your father’s role in the team, if any?
The first question is…who really owns the Cubs? What’s the second question? What color will the caps be this year?
OK, to give Al some credit, everybody knows that the old man really owns the team. He put up all of the money. So Morley Yellon here is trying to get Tom to admit that he doesn’t really own the team, and that if the old man doesn’t want to spend money on players they can’t, and that Todd had to retake his IQ test five times to get a score.
TR: He doesn’t have a defined day to day role currently. He comes to a couple games. The team is owned by the Ricketts family. I’m not sure what the strict definition of owner is.
He comes to a couple of games. He mainly sits in the ticket office and recounts the money, cries and says things like, “Great, now I can’t even afford to die!”
BCB: And your dad’s role is?
Shit, the RoboAl is still stuck on the first question. Somebody give it a whack. OK, Al, ask something else.2
BCB: So the accurate statement would be to say the Chicago Cubs owner is: “the Ricketts family”.
Maybe if you hold it upside down and shake it…
BCB: It’s not one individual then.
Sometimes if you take the battery out for a couple of seconds and then put it back in it will reboot.
BCB: On the subject of you being chairman, the last letter than you sent out was signed “executive chairman”.
This is much like Al’s official title of “Executive Obsessive in Charge of Semantics.”
BCB: So would you consider yourself CEO or is Crane Kenney considered CEO?
If you run this question through the BabelFish translator set to translate English to Sycophany it comes out, “Of the two of you, I should really concentrate on kissing whose ass?”
TR: Well, Crane’s team president.
BCB: I want to clarify so people understand.
I want to clarify that nobody gives a shit. We don’t like that Crane has a job with the Cubs still, we aren’t really concerned with what is on his business card.
TR: Every team has a chairman and a president. Every team has a guy who’s representing the team at the owner’s meetings and there’s a guy who works on the team business. And it’s really kind of a triumvirate. It’s kind of president, GM, owner.
BCB: So at the owner’s meeting it would be you.
BREAKING NEWS: Al is still asking Tom Ricketts “Who owns the Cubs?” You’ve got to hand it to the man, he won’t take no for an answer, he also won’t take an answer for an answer.
TR: Yeah, typically Crane, Jim Hendry and I go to the owner’s meetings.
BCB: And would that be the same for every team — three representatives like that?
TR: Some teams send more than one of their ownership group; you send more if you want.
BCB: It depends on how they structure their ownership group, then?
Now this is progress. Al’s stopped asking who is the owner and moved on to who goes to the owner’s meetings. Wait, he’s still trying to figure out who the owner is, isn’t he?
BCB: So, going forward I can talk about you as Executive Chairman and ownership is the Ricketts family.
If Tom Ricketts isn’t banging his head onto the table yet…
Let’s talk about the rest of the family. It has been a year, how much input have your siblings had and in what capacity? What does “director” mean?
This interview is really progressing now. We’ve gone from 14 questions about who owns the team to Al asking Tom to play dictionary for him. Al, don’t waste your questions on what “director” means, ask him what “coitus” means and see how embarrassed he gets when he has to read that definition.
TR: I think it would be important for everyone to know that all the siblings are very well informed.
Except Todd, he’s just a fuck up.3
We have calls on a regular basis;
Except Todd, every time his phone rings he answers the front door.
we have board meetings on a regular basis. Starting with my older brother, Pete — what he brings to the table is a lot of the work in growing AmeriTrade over the years. So he brings a really strong management background and has a lot of insights into the business side of what we’re doing both how we operate this business and how we assess business opportunities.
Pete is boring. Let’s talk about Todd!
Todd, apart from being the “Undercover Boss” — which he did a brilliant job at4
…making an ass out of himself. Amirite? High five, Tommy!
— he has an interest in the fitness and the nutrition side of things
Oh dear. Can’t wait until Carlos Pena goes on the DL in April with dysentery.
and a lot of the suggestions that were contributed last year came from him
All put in his beloved suggestion box!
and he brought in some ideas on that, which we implemented.
OK, prepare yourself for the worst follow-up question in the history of interviews.
Seriously. If you aren’t sitting down, you need to sit down. If you are drinking anything, stop. If you haven’t moved your bowels yet today, start clenching.
Here it comes. (Remember, Tom is talking about how Todd’s role with the Cubs is nutrition.)
BCB: Was that for players?
No, Al, it’s for the hot dog vendors. Todd’s pretty sure that their lack of understanding of the glycemic index is the reason some of them throw hot dogs away instead of sell them.
TR: Just for players.
How do you not answer that question, this way?5
BCB: What effect has this past year had on your family? Are your kids really excited, “My dad is one of the owners of the Cubs!” or are they really not that excited?
No Al, the really excited kids say “My father is one of a large group of extended family who have ownership in the Cubs and of that group my father is the Executive Chairman!”
BCB: A year ago, you announced you had three goals. Obviously one of them wasn’t achieved in 2010. How do you feel about the other two?
Expert interviewer Al Yellon asked Ricketts 14 times about who owns the Cubs, and this is twice now he’s referenced the “three goals” but he can’t take the time to actually write what the goals were? I can only assume that the one the Ricketts achieved was to “make Lou Piniella cry and literally go home to his mother.”6
BCB: To elaborate a little more about the winning the World Series part, it’s been said that the overall budget for baseball operations is going to be about the same as last year.
You’re always told not to ask yes or no questions. Al sticks to this by not asking a question at all.
BCB: But the impression from some people is that the major league payroll will be lower and some of the money will be put into player development. Are there any more details that you can give about that at this point? Even if you can’t state specific dollar amounts, how that might get split out? What’s going to be done? You talked about building an organization, that’s kind of what you’re doing by expanding scouting and similar things. Talk a little about what plans you have for that area.
Why did that start with “But the impression…” You said “the overall budget for baseball operations is going to be about the same.” You didn’t ask him about payroll. So the “yes” he gave you was his way of saying in one word what you just used 88 words to restate. Maybe you should just stick to doggedly asking him who owns the Cubs?
BCB: So you want to bring the talent up through the system, more so than going through free agency?
TR: The good news we have out of the system is that we have been on a pretty good run with our top draft picks.7
You sure have. Tyler Colvin is fast on his way to being a fourth or fifth outfielder. Josh Vitters is only about nine years from making it to the majors. Hayden Simpson has yet to throw a pitch, and Mark Pawelek put up a 12.46 ERA in the Frontier League last year. So…Andrew Cashner, then, and maybe Brett Jackson.
They’re becoming productive players, and they’re not just becoming productive players, they’re good guys.
You should see the way Simpson helps old ladies across the street. He won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He’s the Ben Roethlisberger of helpfulness.8
They’re the kind of guys you want to have on your team and from a character standpoint, we’re looking for the right people in the amateur draft and then I think we’ve been developing them pretty successfully these last few years.
Gary Hughes gave Trey McNutt an 80 for politeness.
I can’t speak to what happened under previous drafts or administrations but I think we’ve got some good momentum on that front.
The guys before us really fucked up the drafts, and we’re not going to make those mistakes again, that’s why all of the guys in charge (Jim Hendry, Crane Kenney and Oneri Fleita) are still around, we really enjoy how expertly they get in Tim Wilken’s way.
We want to make sure that we keep that machine rolling and not borrow too much from the future by spending all the money up front today. So we have to find that balance.
Todd keeps a jar of pennies in his garage that we use to sign draft picks with. He says copper prices have never been higher! He doesn’t know pennies aren’t made out of copper anymore!
BCB: And don’t do a Jeff Samardzija kind of signing again?
Oooh, burn! Al’s got claws and kitty can scratch! This would have been a great point if the Cubs hadn’t just gotten a bunch of credit for signing Villanova football star Matt Szczur to just that kind of contract.9
Coming up in part two on Thursday, Al tries to think of a dozen ways to ask Tom where the JumboTron is going to go at Wrigley.
Here are those annoying footnotes.
- You may have forgotten this happened.
- I distinctly remember not being able to believe that Al was going to ask this question 1,000 different ways. But it was clear he wasn’t. Which only made his obstinance that much funnier.
- If you’re wondering, the Todd jokes really did start from day one. The Ricketts had a hard time figuring out how to explain what Todd’s pre-ownership job was. On a tax form, he famously once put “househusband” and at the time of the sale he was part owner of a bike store. Fast forward six years and he still doesn’t have a real job. He’s been awaiting confirmation as a deputy secretary in the Commerce Department in the Trump Administration for eight months.
- Todd’s Undercover Boss episode was the highlight of the first four seasons of the family’s ownership. You can relive it here.
- If you want to know how long ago six years is in comedy, Ricky Gervais was still funny then. If you’ve never seen “Extras” it’s a very good show.
- Notice that Al never does say what the three goals were.
- This interview takes place before any of the Cubs ‘good’ draft picks were made. Check out the losers that were in the system…
- Six years later, I made myself laugh with that joke.
- Not only that, but the Samardzija signing was a good one. Al had all of those awful contracts to pick from and he picked one of the best signings they’d made. He’s a special kind of dumb.