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Chairman Tom Ricketts not surprised by Cubs' success, praises Maddon and Epstein


CHICAGO — Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts isn't surprised that his team is headed back to the postseason.

"By the time March rolled around, I think everybody felt pretty good," Ricketts said Monday prior to a game against the Kansas City Royals at Wrigley Field.

"A lot of key pieces came in place over the winter. Obviously (manager) Joe Maddon, Jon Lester and the trade for Dexter (Fowler). By spring training, I think everybody felt pretty good. I would have sincerely said in spring training I thought we had a good shot at making the postseason."

Besides the upgrade in talent — which included signing Lester to a six-year, $155 million contract — Ricketts' faith grew after getting to know Maddon.

"Maybe you're surprised by the fact that you're walking on the concourse and he's rolling in a cheetah," Ricketts said. "That's a surprise, but you're not surprised at the level he's involved with the players and how much they respect him, because that's his reputation.

"He relates to every single player on this team. He just has a special kind of charisma. He keeps everyone loose but focused and everyone plays confidently for him. There's no way to objectively measure it, but he's been a huge part of the season."

The other huge part of the team's success is president Theo Epstein, who brought Maddon to Chicago and formulated the team's rebuilding plan after joining the Cubs in October 2011. Ricketts was asked if he's had contract discussions with Epstein, whose five-year deal expires after next season.

"We'll sit down at some point and talk about what that means," Ricketts said. "I mean, right now, we're just focused on the postseason. As you guys all know, Theo and I have a great relationship. Obviously, the results are great, and I think everyone in the baseball organization, not just Theo, is on a mission, and we want to keep that mission moving forward."

Ricketts also provided an update on the Wrigley Field renovation project. He said the new expanded Cubs clubhouse — being constructed underground outside the third-base side of the ballpark — is on schedule to open next year, and the office building being constructed behind the left field grandstand should be completed by the end of next season.

"There's a pretty good analogy between what's happening on the field and off the field," Ricketts said. "We're moving forward on both fronts."

The Cubs' payroll this season is about $116 million, and Ricketts said the front office will have the resources going forward to make moves, including this offseason.

"I don't know what the number is," he said. "Obviously, winning on the field helps that equation, and Theo will have some resources this offseason. But I don't know if he'll find something he wants to do with it."

Epstein's future budgets will be influenced by the club's next television deal — the current contract expires in 2019.

"That is gonna be a very significant part of our finances going forward," Ricketts said. "We have to make sure we do it right. We have to be very thoughtful about how that comes together. We have good people and good advisors looking at all the options."

That includes whether the team signs a classic rights deal or partners with a media company for a multimedia deal.

"At this point, things are changing in the media landscape," Ricketts said. "What we do know is content still has value, and we have a lot of great content. Obviously, when the team is playing better, it's even more valuable content."

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