A National League player shook his head at the idea of the Cubs building from within: "You're going to have to buy it."Yes, there is skepticism about Theo Epstein's plans for Wrigley Field, just how patient this market will be and whether the baseball operations department will be at cross purposes with the business side that has to sell tickets and worry about television ratings.Epstein likes the cold, analytical New England Patriots model, and has quoted NFL wiseguy Bill Parcells: If you listen to the fans in the stands, pretty soon you'll be sitting with them.But you didn't see the dead-fish handshakes and disinterested body language that gets psychoanalyzed when Bill Belichick faces off against one of his ex-assistants.Around the cage on Friday at Wrigley Field, there was Epstein next to Jon Lester, Adrian Gonzalez chatting with general manager Jed Hoyer and scoutingplayer development executive Jason McLeod hugging Dustin Pedroia.The cameras closed in during batting practice and invaded their personal space. But for the Cubs, this was promotional material, advertising for the future, winning by association.So even while the Cubs threaten to break the franchise record for losses this season (103), they can still look back on the past few weeks and feel pretty good about selecting Albert Almora with the No. 6 pick, drafting 22 pitchers, winning the Jorge Soler sweepstakes and seeing Anthony Rizzo move closer to the majors."We have the long-term view," McLeod said. "It's hard to wake up every day, see our record and go through these losses. But, yeah, you feel good about the draft, you feel good about what you're doing on the international market and we understand it's a process. We have to abide by it. We believe in it."That process, which has evolved over the years, yielded Pedroia with McLeods first pick running the draft for the Red Sox in 2004.Pedroia is now one of eight major-league players who have won Rookie of the Year, MVP and Gold Glove awards, as well as a World Series title. The other seven: Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Thurman Munson, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Albert Pujols.Pedroia who declined to be interviewed was an Arizona State University infielder who isnow listed at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds. A finalist for the Golden Spikes Award college baseball's Heisman Trophy he fell to No. 65."We actually didnt think he'd be there," McLeod said. "We had lined up our board in a manner of having 20 to 25 guys (thinking): OK, these players are probably going to be gone, so let's work on this (other) board. And if any of these guys are still left, we'll come back and just take them over anyone (else)."It was a surprise to us, because (Pedroia) was such a good college player and he dominated year in and year out. Obviously, the knock on him was his height and he's in much better shape now than he was in college. He was a little thicker through the hips and that's my only explanation for it, because you couldn't find many people that could stack up against him performance-wise."McLeod said it was a "short discussion" between Pedroia and Cal State Fullerton catcher Kurt Suzuki, who went two picks later and has enjoyed a productive career with the Oakland A's.Epstein joined the Red Sox as assistant general manager in 2002 and watched the team win 93 games and miss the playoffs. Not long after that, he was promoted to general manager and watched his team make it to Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS."Maybe it was a little bit more of a subtle process," Epstein said. "But we did make moves at the big-league level and had some success right off the bat. That bought us time to commit to 'The Red Sox Way' of doing things, which we established there in scouting and player development."A lot of the work is similar here. There is clearly a mandate for change. That's why new ownership brought in new people. So we didn't have to do much convincing. We just got everyone together in the same room and talked about how we want to teach the game, what we're going to stand for as an organization and how we're going to execute it at the minor-league level."Forget reversing the curse in 2004 ex-Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon has said that wasn't really Epstein's team. Papelbon, now with the Philadelphia Phillies, thinks that the 2007 title validated Epstein's system.As much as Epstein says it's all about wins and losses, he doesn't do it as convincingly as he talks about the process."If you dig a little bit deeper," Epstein said, "you see a manager and a coaching staff that set high expectations and goals and players are working hard to live up to those expectations."We're very prepared, day in and day out, and they play hard day in and day out. So there's just a little bit of a talent deficit right now, but hopefully it will be addressed as we move forward. (I) like what's being established in the clubhouse and I think that will pay dividends down the line."
High School Lites is back with an exciting Week 9 full of thrilling matchups. NBC Sports Chicago has the highlights of some of the top matchups from Friday's games.
Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPREPS for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights.
DRIVE: Batavia (episode 9)
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Oak Forest football
VIEWERS' CHOICE GAMES OF THE WEEK: Fremd runs past Schaumburg
WINTRUST ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Notre Dame running back Ty Gavin
FRIDAY'S TOP 25 SCORES
(1) Lincoln-Way East 31, (16) Bolingbrook 0
(2) Batavia 24, Wheaton North 13
(3) Brother Rice 31, (17) Montini 0
(4) Marist 24, Benet 7
(6) Homewood-Flossmoor 56, Sandburg 0
(7) Cary-Grove 55, (15) Naperville Central 41
(9) Nazareth Academy 42, Marian Catholic 6
(10) Maine South 48, Niles West 6
(11) Oswego 22, Plainfield South 15
(12) Richards 41, Eisenhower 6
(13) Phillips 41, Raby 0
(14) Willowbrook 42, Downers South 20
(18) Oak Park-River Forest 48, Lyons 0
(19) Warren 43, Mundelein 7
(20) Glenbard West 35, Proviso West 6
(21) Hillcrest 43, Bremen 6
Joliet Catholic 33, (22) Notre Dame 17
(23) Hinsdale Central 21, Hinsdale South 12
(24) Rolling Meadows 34, Buffalo Grove 7
Wheaton Warrenville South 13, (25) St. Charles North 11
SATURDAY'S TOP 25 GAMES
Fenwick vs. (5) Mount Carmel
(8) Simeon vs. Curie
Chris Emma, Matt Zahn and Gabe Ramirez join David Kaplan on the panel.
0:00- NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh joins the panel to discuss the Bulls’ terrible defensive performance as well as Zach LaVine’s impressive season debut.
11:35- Khalil Mack is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Can the Bears pull off the upset against Tom Brady?
23:50- NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Tom E. Curran joins Kap to talk about how New England views the Bears and discuss how Matt Nagy’s team can exploit the Patriots’ weaknesses.
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.