Theo Epstein passionately responds to Joe Ricketts' racist emails: 'All fans are welcome'

Theo Epstein passionately responds to Joe Ricketts' racist emails: 'All fans are welcome'

MESA, Ariz. — For a moment, it looked like Theo Epstein was simply going to sidestep the Joe Ricketts topic at the Cubs' initial spring training press conference Tuesday afternoon.

When the issue of the racist and controversial emails from the patriarch of the Ricketts family was broached, Epstein started by saying Tom Ricketts, Joe's son and the chairman of the Cubs, would meet with the team on the first full day of spring camp and address the players then.

A lot of team presidents may have decided to leave the discussion at that. After all, it's a very sensitive topic and is only related to baseball because Joe Ricketts' money purchased the Cubs. 

But not Theo Epstein.

Once again, Epstein showed that the Cubs could not dream up a better frontman for their organization.

At least a half-dozen times since the Cubs' 2018 season ended in disappointing fashion, Epstein has met with the media and passionately discussed a host of sensitive issues, from the team's collapse and lack of urgency to the Addison Russell situation to the Joe Ricketts emails.

After bringing up Tom Ricketts' future plans to address the team, Epstein took the opportunity to explain his own stance:

"Since you asked the question, I'd just like to take a moment to join Tom to state unequivocally that the views expressed in those emails have no place in our organization, in the sport of baseball or in society overall," Epstein said. "And join him in condemning racism and Islamophobia in all forms. The emails were upsetting to read and especially upsetting to think that some of our fans were put into a position where they had to even consider a conneciton between their favorite teams and some of those types of views. 

"So I just wanted to make that clear. I know I speak for all of us — that's where we stand. I think we all grow up in a bubble in some form or another and part of growing up is getting outside of that bubble. And for us and for almost everyone in this building, baseball has been a great vehicle to help us grow and to get outisde of our own little world and to start to appreciate difference and to start to celebrate diversity and to start to understand different people's perspectives. 

"When you play baseball, when you work in baseball, when you're around baseball every single day, you're forced to be exposed to and start to understand and respect everybody's different backgrounds. And to appreciate and celebrate difference and diversity. It's been such a force for good, for helping us expand our own views, help us develop empathy. If you want to win, in baseball, you have to embrace diversity fully. Being around people from different backgrounds has to help you increase your empathy and understand people, or else you won't last long in this game. 

"Honestly, that's what I think of when I think about baseball. When I think about the Cubs, I know it's an easy target right now, our slogan — Everybody In — but that's genuinely what I think about. When you look across our clubhouse, when you look at our front office, when you look at how we treat each other, when you look at how much respect we have for people of different backgrounds. We do stand for everybody in and so now that this has happened, I think the burden falls on us even more, not just to talk about it but to show it. 

"All fans are welcome. Diversity is to be celebrated. Every different background is to be respected. Everybody is welcome. Everybody in. Now we have a greater burden to show it. But I think this organization is up for that and that's something that we look forward to doing over the course of this year."

Epstein was again given something of an exit off the highway of the topic, asked by a reporter if he just chalked the whole thing up as one person's thoughts and opinions. But instead, he doubled down, talking again about the terrible position it put some fans in thanks to the "ugly" and "disgusting" views expressed in the email by the patriarch of the family that owns their favorite team. 

Epstein wants all fans to feel welcome and make sure everybody knows he and the Cubs stand on the opposite side of those emails and they want to show it with their actions, not words. They want to prove they believe diversity is important in every aspect — from running a team/business to the fans.

"Every single one of our fans should feel as welcome as the next," Epstein said. "One of the great things about baseball, when you walk through the turnstiles and you come into the ballpark, you should be able to set aside the problems of the real world for 3-3.5 hours and just enjoy the game. The reality of the situation now is some of our fans are forced into a position where there are other things we have to think about.

"We need to demonstrate through our actions that we believe in Everybody In and that walking through the turnstiles at Wrigley Field is a sanctuary from some of the broader problems of the real world and that baseball is a diverse, welcoming institution and it's here for all."

Similar to how he's approached the Russell domestic violence situation, Epstein would prefer to let the Cubs' actions take the lead because "words are cheap." Instead of sitting up there and spouting off how the organization plans to rectify this wrong, he instead wants to prove it with their actions. 

The day Joe Ricketts' emails were leaked, Tom Ricketts made a phone call to a Muslim-American organization to set up a meeting.

"Not as a PR effort," Epstein said, "but just to say clearly, 'We need to talk. We need to tell you how seriously we're taking this. We know this is a major issue and we want to start the conversation so we can get this right.' And not just announcing we're holding a day of appreciation so we can say, 'everything's better.' No. That might come down the road, but as part of a broader program of ourtreach.

"I hope that our actions as an organization, how we treat people, how we treat our fans, how we run the organization will speak for itself over the course of the year because we have this additional burden now to prove what we're all about."

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Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

Yu Darvish emotional after Cubs lose another tough one: 'I'm so frustrated'

With their postseason hopes fading by the day and the Cubs needing him most, Yu Darvish delivered on Sunday.

And yet, the game ended in a far-too familiar way for the Cubs: with a 3-2 loss, the Cubs’ fifth-straight one-run defeat — and third since Thursday when they were tied or leading in the ninth inning or later.

“If you just play back the tape, it’s almost unbelievable that it turned out this way,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Also, the games against Cincinnati. For the last six, this is really wash and repeat. Of course it’s frustrating."

Darvish was extremely emotional postgame, as evidenced by a mud stain spread across his locker resulting from an anger-laced throw of his cleat. He pitched well — 8 1/3 innings, three earned runs, 12 strikeouts and no walks — only running into trouble in the ninth.

“I’m so frustrated, you can see it, right?” he said, looking back at his locker. “We have to win, especially today, but we lost.”

The 33-year-old right-hander was rolling heading into the ninth, which started off with pinch-hit triple by Jose Martinez that hit off Albert Almora Jr.’s glove, despite a valiant diving effort.

“It sucks that we couldn’t win that game,” Almora said. “I really wanted to make that play there. Can’t catch them all, but I tried.”

For what it’s worth, Craig Kimbrel didn’t pitch Sunday because he was unavailable, though Maddon said he would’ve stuck with Darvish even if his closer was available.

"I was happy at that point, but right now everything just….There’s no words right now," Darvish said.

That’s neither here nor there, though. What matters is that the Cubs lost another game that they seemed to have in their grasp, only to see it slip away late. They're now eliminated from NL Central contention, and their elimination number in the Wild Card race is three.

Even Maddon struggled to explain the series, one where the Cubs played quite well but only saw their playoff hopes take a big hit.

“It’s really difficult,” he said. “You look at it, how did that all happen? How did we lose all those four games? They were just one runner better than us every night and they were really evenly matched. That’s all I will concede.”

Although Darvish admitted he feels responsible for Sunday’s loss, Maddon spoke highly of the right-hander, even comparing how he's pitched to what Jake Arrieta did during his tenure with the Cubs. 

“I saw Jake pitch really well and win a Cy Young, but this is equivalent of all of that,” he said. “The stuff, command of his stuff. [Darvish] absolutely deserved a better fate.”

Whether you think that Maddon was being too hyperbolic there or not, there’s no doubting that Darvish looked excellent for majority of his outing on Sunday. Baseball is a game of inches, something the Cubs experienced firsthand this weekend.

“They got us. They got us,” Maddon said. “Give them credit for that, but we did not leave anything on the field, man.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: Swept by the Cardinals (and playoff dreams dashed)

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki and Kelly Crull discuss the Cardinals sweep, Yu Darvish taking the loss so hard, and what to look for over the final six games of the year.

01:00 - Reaction to being swept by the Cards

03:30 - Darvish taking the loss really hard

05:30 - This is the Yu Darvish Cubs fans thought they were getting when he signed with the Cubs

07:00 - Almora's miscue in the 9th inning of the loss

08:00 - It feels like the end of an era

12:00 - Is this the end of an era for the Cubs?

16:00 - Surprised Rizzo was available on the field for the entire Cardinals series?

20:00 - There is no one thing you can look to that didn't work this season

22:00 - What do you want to see over the final six games?

25:00 - Seeing a cornerstone being helped off the field for a second Sunday in a row

29:00 - How much will we see the injured guys on the field?

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Cubs Talk Podcast