Ricketts says debt won’t stop Cubs

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CHICAGO (AP) - Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts will have no problem spending on free agents, and said the jobs of general manager Jim Hendry and manager Mike Quade are safe.

Ricketts touched on a number of other subjects Wednesday, including Carlos Zambrano’s recent comments in which he compared the Cubs to a Triple-A team and called them “embarrassing” while criticizing closer Carlos Marmol.

He also took issue with baseball analyst Peter Gammons calling Wrigley Field a dump during a recent Chicago radio interview, saying the old ballpark is “an economic engine in the city.”

That engine could use some work, though, and the Cubs have been looking into improvements in and around the old ballpark for years.

The roster could probably use a facelift, too, and he insisted the organization has the money to make the necessary moves, even if the financial picture isn’t looking great at the moment.

The Ricketts family purchased the club for $845 million from the Tribune Co. in 2009, and the Los Angeles Times reported about two weeks ago that the Cubs are one of nine teams in violation of Major League Baseball’s debt service rules.

Ricketts, however, dismissed reports that the financial issues will prevent Chicago from going after free agents next winter and beyond, calling it a non-story.

“What every fan should know is that nothing in the capital structure and the balance sheet or any of the debt will limit in any way our ability to put a good team on the field,” he said. “And the fact is that this year we spent more on baseball operations than any year in the past, and we continue to invest in the team. It’s no way a limitation on our ability to sign free agents or our flexibility to build a better organization. It’s just irrelevant for that.”

He wouldn’t say whether the payroll will go up or down for next season or whether Chicago would go after a top-tier free agent.

With a 27-39 record heading into Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee, the Cubs clearly have room for improvement. They’ve been in decline after winning back-to-back NL Central titles in 2007 and 2008, and many fans are calling for changes.

Ricketts, however, is endorsing his general manager and manager at least for now.

“I have 100 percent confidence in Jim,” he said. “He’s working very hard to do everything he can to get this season back to where we want it to be. And I think Mike’s done a great job. You know Mike has got those guys playing hard. You know they’re not giving up. You know there’s good spirit in the clubhouse. Yeah, those guys are fine.”

Will he re-evaluate Hendry’s status after the season?

“I have 100 percent confidence in Jim,” Ricketts reiterated. “We’re just going forward right now and we’ll see what the offseason looks like then. I’m pretty happy, I’m comfortable with Jim and I’m confident in his ability to keep us looking forward.”

Ricketts added he’s not interested in hiring a baseball executive to replace president Crane Kenney.

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