Cubs

Cubs begin building their 'Carmine' system

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Cubs begin building their 'Carmine' system

Information is everything to Theo Epstein.

The Boston media liked to make fun of Carmine, the computer system used by the Red Sox and a main character in a Sports Illustrated profile timed with the release of the Moneyball movie last September.

Epstein has downplayed the influence, pointing out that virtually every business has a way to organize and manage data. The Cubs arent going to be run by a laptop, but they are looking for cutting-edge technology.

Bloomberg Sports, a leader in analytics, announced a partnership with the team on Thursday to design a new player-evaluation system for the baseball operations department.

It will include video and a statistical database and have mobile capabilities. It will presumably be the central place where Cubs personnel will file reports scouting, background, medical on their own players, opponents and potential draft picks and international signings.

When Tom Ricketts began searching last summer for someone to run baseball operations, the chairman explicitly wanted an executive who would embrace statistical analysis and modernize the front office.

At his introductory press conference last October, Epstein promised to build a research-and-development wing for his department, so that the Cubs could get ahead of the curve and find the next competitive advantages.

Epstein knows that the concepts behind Moneyball arent revolutionary. The professional tools designed by Bloomberg Sports are used by more than two-thirds of the 30 major-league clubs. The company also says its tablet products are accessed by more than 200 big-leaguers. The entire industry now essentially looks at the market the same way.

No one ignores the numbers, and everyone understands the importance of good scouting. That battle has already been fought. Its just a matter of degrees, which way you might lean on a particular decision. This information-management system is supposed to help guide them.

Nearly a decade ago after becoming the youngest general manager in major-league history Epstein got credit for surrounding himself with some old-school baseball guys in Boston and placing a high value on traditional scouting.

Carmine 2.0 wont be taking over at Clark and Addison.

Baseball organizations are made up of human beings, Epstein has said. Theyre not just robots that put up numbers. Theyre not commodities traded. I know (Ive) referred to a player as an asset. Thats business speak. Thats not what I believe.

David Bote's unique perspective on the rise of the Cubs

David Bote's unique perspective on the rise of the Cubs

CLEVELAND — David Bote hugged and high-fived so many people he didn't even know.

In other words, he was just like every other Cubs fan.

Bote has been here since the beginning — an 18th round pick in 2012, Theo Epstein's first draft with the Cubs front office.

You better believe Bote was there at the end, too.

He sat down the right field line in Game 5 of the 2016 World Series, cheering on a gaggle of former teammates and a bunch of guys he had never played with.

Bote understands the family dynamic fans experience at Wrigley Field, celebrating with people he'd never speak to again.

And all along, he never told them who he was or that he had played with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell and Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. in the minors.

Bote is a Colorado native who got the call to the big leagues last weekend when Ben Zobrist went on the disabled list and played his first game in front of family and friends at Coors Field. To make it even sweeter, Bote doubled in his first MLB at-bat.

"I thought [Rockies CF Charlies] Blackmon was gonna catch it," Bote said. "I saw him kinda coastin' to it and I was like, 'No way you're about to catch this.' And then I realized he was playing it off the wall.

"I got to second base and turned around, all 24 of those guys are standing up on the top step, raising their hands, giving me the peace sign. I don't want to say it was a relief, but it's more of kinda like that jittery feeling of 'That was pretty sweet.'" 

Bote, 25, understands he's not up here to play a huge role — he's only recorded 5 trips to the plate in 4 games — but he knows the 2018 Cubs have a World Series or bust mindset and he wants to do all he can to get the team there once again.

He's never been considered a top prospect and played all over the field in the Cubs minor-league system — every position but catcher and center field (yes, he's even pitched 7 innings) — and realizes how hard it is for a utility guy to even make it to the majors.

"It's crazy because coming from where I have in my baseball career as a guy who's been bounced around or not looked at as what people say as an organizational player," Bote said. "Obviously the Cubs had belief in me and I've had belief in myself too of making it here and blocking out the outside noise.

"It was tough at times. And then to make your debut and play in the big leagues and then to be with these guys and be competing at the highest level for the highest prize in the game is something I can't even put into words.

"I'm super grateful, humbled and blessed to have been part of it and to make it and to be here with this club especially is a very humbling experience."

Bote has been at Wrigley a bunch, including the World Series contest plus Game 2 of the 2016 NLDS — where he celebrated Travis Wood's homer — as well as a memorable regular-season game in July 2015. The kid sitting in front of Bote was crying after the Cubs blew a lead and surrendered four runs to the Colorado Rockies in the top of the ninth inning on that July 27th evening. To help ease his pain, Bote told the kid they were about to witness a Kris Bryant walk-off...which is exactly what happened.

But for all the times he's been to Wrigley as a fan, Bote has never once stepped foot on the hallowed ground of the diamond.

That will change Thursday when he will finally get an opportunity to experience it as a player in those historic pinstripes and blue "C".

And you better believe Bote's got that day circled on his calendar:

"There's no better place on Earth."

Is this catch by Reed Johnson the best of the last decade?

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NBC Sports Chicago

Is this catch by Reed Johnson the best of the last decade?

Ten years ago today, Reed Johnson had one of the best catches in a Cubs uniform.

On April 26, 2008, the Cubs outfielder made a spectacular diving catch off of Nationals' Felipe Lopez's liner to center field. Johnson had to run to his right in what felt like a mile to track down. He then dove for it on the warning track going head first into the wall. Remember this?

How he caught it? Not sure. And how he didn't get hurt? Don't know that either.

But a lot of members on the Cubs at the time raved about the catch (Len Kasper's call was also phenomenal), and joked that they're happy it didn't happen on W. Addison St.

"At Wrigley Field they might have had to call a timeout to find his head in the vines," manager Lou Piniella said after that game.

There have been some outstanding catches since that catch in 2008. Jason Heyward's diving grab in San Francisco, Javier Baez's catch against the Miami Marlins where he dove into the crowd, Anthony Rizzo's tarp catches. There are a handful of them. 

But where does this one rank?