Cubs

What does Epstein mean by 'The Cubs Way?'

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What does Epstein mean by 'The Cubs Way?'

Theo Epstein had enough self-awareness to promise that he wont answer every question by referencing his time with the Red Sox, even if thats exactly who the Cubs want to be.

Professionally, Epstein had started to become stale after almost 10 years in Boston. He also understands that his staff cant rest on what they did at Fenway Park. He promised that his front office would have a research and development wing to discover that cutting edge.

Because everyone understands that this is the information age. The Cubs will focus more on on-base percentage and run prevention. They need to see more pitches, make starters work and wear out bullpens. They have to improve their defense, because they werent very good in that phase by just about any advanced metric or eye test.

But every organization looks at the numbers and hopes to build up the farm system and create chemistry. The Cubs are looking to answer: Whats next? And define what, exactly, is The Cubs Way?

The offseason officially begins after the final out in Fridays World Series Game 7. Epstein went underground after Tuesdays press conference at Wrigley Field and brought in his inner circle, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, two Padres executives he used to work closely with in Boston.

So theyll continue to gather information. They have to make quick decisions on: manager Mike Quade and his coaching staff; the 16 million club option on Aramis Ramirez (which he can void); and Ryan Dempsters 14 million player option.

Epstein took this presidents job because he wanted to look at the bigger picture and create a vertically-integrated system where theyre playing the game the same way in the Dominican summer league, rookie ball, at Double-A Tennessee and Wrigley Field.

This isnt revolutionary, and it wont happen overnight. But Epstein will have a chance to help write the scouting and player development manuals, like he did in Boston, and remake this organization in his image.

Epstein will be given more resources than anyone else in the National League Central, and a direct report to ownership, so there will be no excuses.

During his first session with the Chicago media on Tuesday, Epstein went along with a question about last summers draft. The Cubs were aggressive and took risks and wound up spending close to 20 million in the draft and international signings.

Heres how Epstein described the reaction in the Red Sox war room: They finally get it. Theyre going for it.

The dollars that we spend in the draft (and) internationally (are) the best investments that we make, Epstein continued saying. It was a clear philosophical change (and) it got everyones attention in the game. It certainly aligns well with my vision for how to run a baseball operation.

McLeod has a good relationship with Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken, and the idea is that Epsteins front office will pool their resources, not shut out the Jim Hendry loyalists.

McLeod found impact players like Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Baseball America had his drafts among the top five in three of his first four years as Red Sox scouting director.

Epstein kind of rolled his eyes at the mention of Carmine, the computer system thats been played up in the media. He made it clear that decisions wont be made a by a laptop, that his staff will combine objective analysis with old-school scouting.

The way to see the player most accurately, to get the truest picture, Epstein said, is to put both those lenses together and look through them simultaneously.

Again, these arent earth-shattering concepts, and Epstein would admit as much. But its a clear vision that shouldnt get much interference from anyone else in the organization. He built up capital with a five-year contract and those two World Series rings.

In explaining his decision to leave the Red Sox, Epstein cited Bill Walshs theory that coaches and executives shouldnt stay around a team longer than 10 years. Walsh was 47 years old when he took over the San Francisco 49ers.

Now its time for Epstein to innovate and refine his West Coast offense.

Tom Ricketts mentioned how he sensed that Epstein wasnt content and still felt hungry. The chairman is betting that Epstein, at 37, is not one of those post-prime free agents being paid for past performance instead of future results.

Theres not one way to play this game, Epstein said. The Cubs Way will be a dynamic, living, breathing entity that changes every year.

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: