PHOENIX – Add yet another group to Donald Trump’s growing political hit list: the Cubs’ owners.
The Ricketts family on Monday joined Muslims, Mexicans, the Obama administration and female Fox News hosts on a long and prominent list of those targeted by The Wrath of The Donald.
In response to the Ricketts family’s hefty spending to defeat Trump in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump tweeted Monday morning from his @realDonaldTrump account that “They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”
What exactly he meant by “be careful” or what he believes the Rickettses are hiding wasn’t clear. He didn’t elaborate in subsequent tweets Monday, and he did not respond to a Sun-Times request for comment.
The Ricketts family, many of whom have long been very public and very active in conservative politics, declined comment through a spokesman.
What does seem clear is that this isn’t what the Cubs meant when they declared “Embrace the Target” as their motto for 2016.
“Oh, Lord,” baseball commissioner Rob Manfred mumbled before a question on the subject was even finished during an annual spring training media session Monday.
“There are so many things that have been out there as part of the political process,” he said when asked about MLB’s level of interest or concern over the insinuations in the tweet.
“If each and everything that gets said was the subject of concern or something you should be concerned about,” he added, “people would be walking around with their heads spinning due to concern.”
A super PAC targeting Trump in attack ads in recent weeks is funded almost entirely by $3 million in donations from Marlene Ricketts, according to Federal Election Commission documents. The super PAC challenges Trump’s credentials as a conservative.
Marlene Ricketts is the wife of TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts. Their four kids make up the controlling bloc of the Cubs’ board of directors – including Pete Ricketts, the Republican governor of Nebraska.
Pete’s brother, Todd Ricketts, is the director and CEO of Ending Spending, Inc., an organization affiliated with the family-funded Super PAC of a similar name that supports conservative policies. The Super PAC originally targeted public spending on private interests.
Public controversy over their political causes are nothing new to the Rickettses, who bought the Cubs in a highly leveraged deal from Tribune Company owner Sam Zell in 2009.
In 2012, a New York Times report revealed a $10 million plan by Joe Ricketts to fund a super PAC to attack President Obama with racially tinged political ads. It so infuriated Obama friend and ally Rahm Emanuel that the mayor withdrew support for $150 million of public stadium-renovation funding that was considered all but assured until then (with no apparent opposition from the Ending Spending campaign).
It set back the Wrigley Field renovation plans by more than a year.
For now, Trump’s tweet has the look of little more than his trademark bluster.
“The Rickettses have been great owners,” said Manfred, who has a “prearranged” meeting scheduled with chairman Tom Ricketts Tuesday. “And I’m very comfortable with the idea that the Rickettses have been great trustees for baseball in Chicago and will continue to be.”
Assuming the Trump vs. Ricketts clash is just the usual nasty politics, it’s sure to be quickly forgotten once Jason Heyward, Jake Arrieta and Kris Bryant start playing in April – especially if the Cubs back up their status as World Series favorites.
Then, again, if Trump manages to become president, it might be worth watching that trip to the White House next year.
Sun-Times reporter Andew Grimm contributed to this report