November 08, 2010
So Todd Ricketts and the Chicago Cubs took their turn on CBS' "Undercover Boss" on Sunday night. Consider yourselves lucky if you were watching the Dallas Cowboys implode in Green Bay instead of the Ricketts family again talking about clean bathrooms as if they're the key to finally winning a World Series championship.
Though Todd's appearance was presumably edited by reality TV wizards to make him look like as big of a boob as possible, the end result was plenty of delicious and embarrassing fodder for not only Cardinals fans, but Cubs fans, too. Todd failed miserably at every menial task he was given, from scrubbing those bathrooms to parking cars in a straight line to lying about how many hot dogs he sold as a vendor that day. It wasn't exactly a confidence-building hour for Cubs fans, given that Todd and his can't-get-out-of-the-camera's-way siblings are now stewards of the Cubs' quest to end that 102-year World Series drought you might have heard about.
I won't get into the play-by-play of the show — Paul Sullivan does that here — but I will note that the show's final scene (embedded above) was layered in a healthy coating of reality television B.S. Shot on a sunny day at Wrigley Field, Todd (right) dramatically climbed a podium and told an assembled crowd of Cubs employees that he and his family still had to learn from the everyday workers who were at Wrigley Field long before them. He then yammered on how he considered everyone at the Friendly Confines to be part of a bigger family.
There were smiles, tears, soaring music, the whole deal. Everyone lived happily ever after.
Well, not everyone.
According to this Chicago Tribune article, the final kumbaya scene at Wrigley Field was shot on Sept. 8. The great feelings of togetherness must really not have lasted long, because three days later, the Cubs fired Matt Wszolek, a 10-year veteran and their director of sales and promotion. Three other marketing people were sent to the unemployment line as well. Marketing head Wally Hayward — whom the Ricketts family brought in as a yes man all the way back in November 2009 — would only say there was an "organizational restructuring" at play.
The institutional memory that Todd talked about tapping at the corner of Clark and Addison apparently only applies to those who hose down pee in the bathrooms and move $5 hot dogs in the grandstand. It's a belief reinforced by the Cubs' recent announcement that they will be outsourcing their in-house publications department to a company based in Cincinnati. Left out in the cold are five or six employees — most with over a decade of time with the Cubs — that produced the team's Vine Line magazine, which has been an excellent way to reach the diehard fans the team should be concerned about losing right now.
Though contract work with the new company is a possibility for those affected, their status as full-time employees with the Cubs — a team they bled blue for — will be gone by year's end. Maybe things would've been different if a CBS employee had decided to let Todd take crappy pictures or write subpar copy for one of the days that the show was there.
Look, I understand the realities of an ownership change in any business. The new guys are always going to want "their" guys and that seems apparent in the front office moves they're making right now. It's their business, it's their right.
That said, don't make the hypocritical move of going on TV to glom more manufactured attention for your family — after initially pledging you were going to be simple, behind-the-scenes owners — when you're going to just turn around and send a bunch of people out into this economy in the days and weeks after.
It makes the Cubs look bad in a way that goes past one of the Ricketts clan admitting he has no idea how to clean those toilets his family keeps claiming to be so adept at cleaning.