Cubs will find out if Theo's right on the money


Cubs will find out if Theo's right on the money

MESA, Ariz. It doesnt matter how much Oscar buzz the film generates. Theo Epstein has zero interest in seeing Moneyball.

The Cubs president of baseball operations took it personally. He feels like that loaded term misrepresents how he looks at the game. It also destroyed a competitive advantage he had built while running the Boston Red Sox.

By Saturday, as pitchers and catchers reported to Fitch Park, the compensation issue still hadnt been settled by commissioner Bud Selig. But the Cubs are spending almost 20 million on Epstein, to find that next cutting edge, and build a team thats consistently playing in October.

Were just trying to teach the game the right way, Epstein said. I wasnt a huge fan when certain proprietary information was made available to the public in the first place. Instead of a handful of clubs knowing certain things within a year or two, 30 clubs knew. Its not my cup of tea.

But it sounds like they made a really good movie and a lot of people got entertained. Thats terrific, but its baseball time, not movie time.

Epstein seemed a little annoyed by the question, but that might as well be the starting point for a team that made one real blockbuster move all offseason. The Cubs Way will be playing at a ballpark near you.

Epstein spent the past few days running organizational meetings at a nearby hotel, where roughly 175 staffers sat in conference rooms and shared ideas and debated their visions for a championship model. Michael Lewis wont be getting a byline, but the scouting manual is already complete.

Theres also a rough draft for the book on player development, which should run a few hundred pages. Everyone who works for the Cubs from Clark and Addison to the Dominican Republic is supposed to be on the same page.

Everything from what foot you hit the bag with when youre making the turn, Epstein said, to how we run bunt plays to what our overall hitting philosophy is (as an organization). Were going to approach (it) the same way, (from) the Dominican summer league through A-ball, Double-A, Triple-A, right up to the big leagues.

It sounds obvious, but playing hard will be central to The Cubs Way. It will reflect first-year manager Dale Sveum, whos vowed to hold everyone accountable and jump anyone who doesnt run a ball out.

You can tell that he means that, outfielder Reed Johnson said. A lot of staff members can say that sometimes. You can tell that its not genuine or theyre not really going to follow through. But he doesnt care if youre making 15 million or youre making 450,000. Youre going to go out there and youre going to play hard. And if youre not, youre not going to play.

Thats really refreshing (because) throughout the league (and in) my experiences, that hasnt really been true. The players know that if you come in with that attitude, youre going to be in for a rude awakening.

Even though Epstein says the goal of the 2012 Cubs is to win the World Series, they are clearly building toward the future. They are banking on hustle, drive and desire from a largely unproven group. Maybe their improved pitching depth can carry them deeper into the season, and a few young players have bounce-back or breakthrough years.

Perhaps there are more big names here, and we just dont know it yet. But after all the hype about a game-changing hire in the front office, were about to find out. The focus will drift away from Epstein. The Cubs are stepping off the red carpet of stadium club press conferences and into the arena.

Thats the nature of the offseason, Epstein said. It really just boils down to a whole lot of talk and sometimes writing some checks. (But) this game is about what happens between the white lines and organizations are built or broken by what happens (there). This is what were all about, and now the real work begins.

Ozzie Guillen compared Sammy Sosa to Michael Jordan...and Michael Jackson

Ozzie Guillen compared Sammy Sosa to Michael Jordan...and Michael Jackson

Ozzie Guillen is no stranger to saying outlandish things.

So it's not surprising that Guillen would agree with Sosa when the former Cubs outfielder said he made the city of Chicago what it is today.

Thirteen months ago, Sosa gave a candid interview to Chuck Wasserstrom and compared himself to Jesus before saying: "When nobody knew who Chicago was, I put Chicago on the map."

Guillen echoed that sentiment on the latest White Sox Talk Podcast.

Maybe from where they sit, that's exactly what has occurred. Sosa and Michael Jordan certainly helped make the Cubs, Bulls and Chicago sports in general on the map internationally.

"People know who the Cubs were because Sammy put them back on the map," Guillen said. "... For the city of Chicago, when Sammy was Sammy — that race with [Mark] McGwire, then people noticed what Chicago was."

Ozzie said — from his perspective — when people hear about Chicago, they ask, "Oh, you know Sammy?" or "You know Michael?" referencing Michael Jordan.

Guillen also weighed in on Sosa's ever-changing appearance that has sparked A LOT of attention lately.

"But the color, I'm tired. I think he uses the same product Michael Jackson did," Guillen said. "It's funny because I work with him — we talked to him a lot for ESPN Deportes. When you're lying, that's when people don't get it.

"Listen, if you want to change your color, why not? You got the money, you got the time if that's what you want to be. But if you say, 'Well, I got too much color because of the sun when I was playing.' OK...You live in Miami, you grew up in the Dominican. To me, I just laugh."

Scouting the Cubs' competition: Will the Nationals finally win it all before Bryce Harper leaves?


Scouting the Cubs' competition: Will the Nationals finally win it all before Bryce Harper leaves?

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Washington Nationals

2017 record: 97-65, 1st place in NL East

Offseason additions: Miguel Montero, Matt Adams, Joaquin Benoit, Matt Reynolds, Jeremy Hellickson, Tommy Milone

Offseason departures: Adam Lind, Stephen Drew, Jose Lobaton, Jayson Werth, Matt Albers, Oliver Perez, Joe Blanton

X-factor: The health of their stars

Health is an X-factor for any team, but it carries more weight in D.C. than anywhere else in baseball.

Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Stephen Strasburg are three of the Nationals' best players and yet three guys that can't seem to stay healthy for a full season. Couple that group with leadoff hitter Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy coming off knee injuries, the health questions are running rampant in Washington.

Those are the Nationals' projected Top 4 hitters and No. 2 starter. If they all stay healthy, they'll put up some whopping numbers. But if history repeats, it will make the road quite a bit tougher despite a weak NL East.

Projected lineup

1. Adam Eaton - LF
2. Trea Turner - SS
3. Bryce Harper - RF
4. Anthony Rendon - 3B
5. Ryan Zimmerman - 1B
6. Howie Kendrick - 2B
7. Matt Wieters - C
8. Michael Taylor - CF

Projected rotation

1. Max Scherzer
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Gio Gonzalez
4. Tanner Roark
5. A.J. Cole


When healthy, this may be the most talented roster in the NL. Harper, Rendon, Murphy and Turner could all wind up as serious contenders in the 2018 MVP race while Scherzer and Strasburg figure to garner some Cy Young votes once again.

The Nationals also have the advantage of a pretty rough division, at least on paper. Three teams are rebuilding and the Mets haven't made the playoffs in a couple years now. Getting to play 18+ games against all four of those teams is a godsend.

Which is good news for a Nationals fanbase that is absolutely starving for some actual postseason success. Wade Davis and the Cubs knocked Washington out last fall and 2018 represents what figures to be the final chance to win it all (or even win A playoff series) with Harper before he gets a $400 million deal elsewhere (like Chicago??).

The 2018 Nationals have no holes. If any of their starters falter, they have Hellickson available. If any of their position players struggle, they have depth in the form of Kendrick (once Murphy is healthy), Montero, Adams, Wilmer Difo and Brian Goodwin.

And the bullpen is very, very good thanks to a bunch of moves before the 2017 Trade Deadline and also have Benoit and Koda Glover expected to start the season on the DL.

The Nationals will be playing in October this year. But what they do in the postseason is a question that won't be answered for 6 months. 

Prediction: 1st in NL East, playoffs