If you were listening to 670 The Score Thursday morning, nobody would blame you if you confused Theo Epstein for a random Cubs fan.
But that wasn't Bob from Berwyn chatting with David Haugh and Mike Mulligan about the infuriating 2019 season the Cubs have played to date — it was the president of baseball operations for the club, who told it like it is and pulled no punches.
Like usual, Epstein was measured in his response, but his frustration was palpable, as he explained how there are simply no excuses for the way the Cubs have played this year and especially lately.
He did not point to the recent string of injuries as a reason or use any other potential excuse in the books to explain away the fact that this team woke up Thursday morning tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for the second Wild-Card spot.
When asked which area of the Cubs' game has been inconsistent, Epstein offered his take:
"I just think our failure to play up to our ability, play up to our potential," Epstein said. "We just lost two games in a row to a team that I think we're more talented than (we have a 150-run differential better than), we were just caught from behind by a team that our run differential is over 100 runs better than. But they're playing better ball — the Brewers. And they just beat us five out of seven in huge games and we put them back in the race.
"It's just the inability to show up and play winning baseball, for the whole to be as good as the sum of the parts. It's not right now. I think our guys said it [Wednesday] night — we're not playing good baseball. We're playing bad baseball. We [have the] second-most errors in the league, most outs on the bases in the league — those things chip away at your margin for error. When you do those things, you can't just roll out and have your talent win games and that's the reality of where we are at this point. Those are some of the attributes that have marked our play this year.
"The only good news is we are very fortunate that we have a chance with a few weeks left to change that script. If we finally start playing good baseball on a consistent basis and show up every night and win a bunch of games, we can change the script of what the 2019 Cubs will be known for. That's an opportunity that should not be taken lightly because at this point in the season, I don't think any of us associated with this team are going to be proud of what our identity is here for the 2019 Cubs, what we're going for — those things we just talked about.
"We're the only ones who can get ourselves out of this. All we have to do is play really good baseball for a couple weeks, so we should relish that opportunity to change the script here."
After the Cubs closed the gap in the division to only a 4-game deficit with a win Monday night in Nico Hoerner's debut against the Padres, the Cardinals lost back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday night. Yet the Cubs couldn't draw any closer, losing a pair of games to a Padres team that has been well out of the playoff race for weeks.
Meanwhile, the Brewers lost Christian Yelich for the season, yet they won both games Tuesday and Wednesday night, moving into a tie with the Cubs for the final playoff spot in the NL. This is the same Brewers team that looked to be falling out of it as the calendar moved into September, but — as Epstein said — the Cubs let them back into it with subpar showings on back-to-back weekends.
This season, the Cubs have essentially had just one good stretch, where they went 22-6 from mid-April to mid-May. But since then, they've gone 52-54 and that includes the addition of Nicholas Castellanos and Craig Kimbrel:
Cubs season breakdown (before tonight:) pic.twitter.com/hUNIbsy0CZ— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) September 12, 2019
Epstein's 19-minute interview was jam-packed with interesting tidbits from the leader of the Cubs baseball department, but the overall point was apparent — he is frustrated by the way this team has underachieved for over a calendar year now.
Even in talking about Jason McLeod and his lateral move from overseeing player development and amateur scouting to senior vice president of player personnel, Epstein drove the same point home:
"Really, this is about the organization and getting some fresh perspective and some change," Epstein said. "Clearly, for over a year now, we haven't been getting the most out of our talent. We haven't been getting the most out of our big-league roster. So there's gotta be some small things that we can tweak, adjust, do a little bit differently short-term, medium-term, long-term to try to get more out of that.
"Jason's a great baseball guy; he's a fresh set of eyes. If he's around the team more, it gives a new perspective that maybe he'll say something that helps a player or helps the front office or helps Joe [Maddon] or a coach just with a new set of eyes.
"We're taking a fresh look at every aspect of the organization."
That sounds like a man looking to make some major shake-ups with the Cubs this winter if they can't turn things around over the next two-and-a-half weeks.