Sweet: Ricketts, up for Commerce spot, on Cubs winning formula

SHARE Sweet: Ricketts, up for Commerce spot, on Cubs winning formula

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., meets on Tuesday with Cubs Board member Todd Ricketts, who is President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the deputy secretary of Commerce. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Follow @lynnsweetWASHINGTON — How do you boil down the formula that led to the Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 World Series?

Cubs Board member Todd Ricketts, who is President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the deputy secretary of Commerce, in 157 words highlighted how the Ricketts family turned around the long-suffering Cubs and made them winners.

It’s in the questionnaire he had to fill out for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Ricketts wrote it as if it were a mini-case study for a business school, not the sports pages.

Freshman Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., is among the 25 members on the Commerce panel, and she huddled with Ricketts on Tuesday afternoon. He’s been making the rounds on Capitol Hill, meeting with about 20 senators so far. Ricketts’ committee hearing has not been scheduled.


Follow @lynnsweetA touch: Duckworth had a Cubs blue World Series champion cup on the table where they were seated.

Ricketts told me after meeting with Duckworth that his Cubs distillation was a matter of “I was just trying to be as concise as possible.”

Here’s the B-school version of how the Cubs broke the 108-year curse.

“Several years ago, my family and I led an effort to become the majority owner in the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball franchise. Of course, as any sports fan knows, buying the Cubs presented us with the ultimate turn-around opportunity.

“As a member of the board of directors, I have worked closely over the last seven years to bring about the type of organizational change that we believed was necessary to achieve our ultimate goal of winning the World Series.

“I have been involved in the efforts to do a bottom-up review of all business and baseball operations: grow our management and front office teams; rehabilitate old facilities and construct new ones; and create a culture of winning.

“The hallmarks of this effort included setting long-and-short-term goals; setting and keeping realistic deadlines to achieve those goals; establishing metrics to measure success; identifying the right talent for the mission; and promoting accountability at each step of the process.”

Former President Barack Obama honored the Cubs organization — including board member sister Laura, a Democrat, and brother Tom, the team chairman — at the White House on Jan. 16, the last event of his presidency.

Ricketts, 47, a Wilmette resident, said the senators hit on baseball in “pleasantries” in their meetings, and then moved on because “I think there is a lot of stuff that has to be done in DC, so people are a little more focused.”

Trump tapped Ricketts and Commerce Secretary nominee Wilbur Ross on Nov. 20. Duckworth met with Ross on Nov. 10.

Duckworth told me that in both meetings, she brought up how Commerce could spur business development, especially in minority communities.

Ricketts “actually brought up the South Side of Chicago,” Duckworth said. They also talked about Trump’s anticipated infrastructure funding proposals, supporting manufacturing and “opening up trade with Cuba.”

Obama reopened relations with Cuba, though there is still a trade embargo. Trump has threatened to end the Cuba deal. Under Obama and former Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, the Commerce Department helped win approval for 738 licenses for potential Cuba export deals.

Duckworth said Cuba “is really important for Illinois agriculture” — corn, soybeans and hogs.

Ricketts was noncommittal on Cuba.

Duckworth is not committed to a yes or no on Ross and Ricketts. She wants to continue vetting them.

Ricketts “has been pretty active politically, I just want to make sure that those clear lines of separation are there,” Duckworth told me.

Ricketts and his parents, Joe and Marlene, have been major donors to GOP and conservative candidates and causes. After being nominated, Ricketts stepped down as the CEO of Ending Spending and its affiliated groups, the conservative advocacy organization founded by his father. Ricketts has ceased all political activities, I am told.


On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador. Duckworth and fellow Illinois Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin, voted yes.

Durbin and Duckworth also approved James Mattis for Defense secretary and John Kelly for Homeland Security secretary. They both voted no on Mike Pompeo for CIA chief.

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