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Ricketts eyes Series return as Cubs open camp

Owner meets with players and coaches, hungry for another title
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Even though the Cubs won their division and reached the National League Championship Series last season, chairman Tom Ricketts said he enjoyed the 2016 season more than last year. Cubs fans can understand why, since the team ended a 108-year drought in '16 by winning the World Series. What about this year?

"Coming out of our team meeting, the vibe feels a lot like two years ago," Ricketts said Monday after addressing the Cubs' players and staff. "Everybody's in a really good place and everybody is hungry and wants to get the season off to a great start and make this a memorable year."

MESA, Ariz. -- Even though the Cubs won their division and reached the National League Championship Series last season, chairman Tom Ricketts said he enjoyed the 2016 season more than last year. Cubs fans can understand why, since the team ended a 108-year drought in '16 by winning the World Series. What about this year?

"Coming out of our team meeting, the vibe feels a lot like two years ago," Ricketts said Monday after addressing the Cubs' players and staff. "Everybody's in a really good place and everybody is hungry and wants to get the season off to a great start and make this a memorable year."

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Ricketts said he was happy the Cubs were able to keep the core of young position players together and said the rotation, thanks to the late addition of Yu Darvish, is most likely the best one the Cubs have had since he took over the team in October 2009.

"Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win a World Series, and everyone will be disappointed if we don't live up to that capability," Ricketts said. "We very much expect to win. We have the ability to win. Our division got a lot tougher, as you guys know, and the playoff opponents we faced last year are likely to be waiting for us again. We have to get off to a good start."

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During his meeting with the team, Ricketts provided an update on Wrigley Field's renovations, which are heading into the homestretch. The 1914 Club will open behind home plate, and a new hotel, located across Clark Street from the ballpark, will be ready for guests this year.

"We see the transformation of the entire neighborhood continuing forward," Ricketts said. "We're just excited to get that rolling. I think 2018 will be an incredible year for the organization, and we're looking forward to it."

Ricketts discussed some other topics as well:

• Ricketts had 12-15 conversations this offseason with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein regarding additions to the rotation.

"I think that, on paper, this is the strongest rotation we've had," he said. "I think being able to bring in a player of [Darvish's] caliber reminds everyone we're intending to win our division and go all the way."

• The slow-moving free-agent market created a "unique offseason," Ricketts said. Next year's free-agent class, which could include Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, may have influenced some decisions that teams made, he said.

"It's a competitive market, and every team is out there trying to manage their resources in a way they think will help them win," he said.

• Ricketts complimented first baseman Anthony Rizzo for how he dealt with a difficult time. Rizzo's high school was the scene of a tragic shooting last week in which 17 people were killed, and the All-Star delivered an impassioned speech to his alma mater in the wake of the tragedy.

"Anthony's character has always been one of the most amazing things I've seen in baseball," Ricketts said. "What he's done for his causes, and what he's done for cancer, and the amount of time he gives to kids and the amount of energy he puts into his own charitable effort is remarkable.

"Obviously, he was the Roberto Clemente Man of the Year in baseball last year as the most community-minded player in the game. Last week, he took it to the next level. It was his high school, he's close to it and he responded like a person with true character. I can't say enough about what a great person he is."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

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