Many More Quotes and Thoughts from the Theo Epstein Media Tour

The press conference introducing the Chicago Cubs’ new President of Baseball Operations wasn’t the only source of Theo Epstein goodness yesterday. From there, Epstein took a whirlwind tour of various media – from breakout sessions with the local beat reporters, to an appearance on Chicago Tribune Live, to a Five Good Minutes with the guys of Pardon the Interruption.

Among the many highlights:

  • Epstein reiterated that, before deciding on Mike Quade’s future as manager, he needs to “get to know Mike Quade better …. I had a great conversation with him on the phone. We’re going to get together over the next week. We need to sit down. I need to get a little bit of a ‘debrief.’” My guess is ‘Eppy’ finds Quade to be a pleasant enough guy – a grizzled baseball vet, even – but, ultimately, an unsuitable manager for this team.
  • Without naming names, Epstein addressed the vacant general manager position: “If we bring in someone as a general manager, it will be because there’s someone who I think is one of the best and one of the brightest in the game and someone who can make a real impact on the Cubs.” Jed Hoyer is blushing.
  • Epstein added: “Eventually we will [hire a GM], but we’re looking for the right people. Obviously there’s some scuttlebutt going on right now about things that are happening. I can’t comment on that. But I think it was important to develop a structure that allowed for the hiring of a GM if we got the right person.” Best part of all of that? Theo Epstein says “scuttlebutt.” Dig it.
  • “I don’t believe in curses, and I guess I played a small part in proving they don’t exist from a baseball standpoint,” Epstein said. “I do believe you can be honest and upfront about the fact that a certain organization hasn’t gotten the job done and hasn’t won a World Series in a long time. That’s the approach we took in Boston. It wasn’t a curse, it’s just that we hadn’t gotten the job done.”
  • Epstein tried not to discuss any specific players – internal or external – but did offer some thoughts on the subject. On the internal side, Epstein noted that “player decisions and the ones that involve options after the World Series, we’ll be sitting down with the staff and talking about those in the next couple days.” Ryan Dempster holds a $14 million player option for 2012, and wants to speak with the new men in charge before making his decision. The Cubs hold a team option on Aramis Ramirez for $16 million, which Ramirez can then void if he so chooses (which he has said he will). If the Cubs don’t pick up the option, they owe him $2 million as a buyout. Theo, you’re new. Let me help you. Pick up the option.
  • Further addressing internal players, Epstein was asked on CTL about the Carlos Zambrano situation, in light of the Cubs’ lack of starting pitching. “You said it yourself, this is a team that needs pitching,” Epstein said. “To be the organization we want to be, we’re going to need pitching. He’s got talent. Obviously things haven’t gone the way he would have liked or the organization would have liked the last few years …. I need to get to the bottom of [the situation]. I think the best organizations get the most out of their players, even the ones that might be harder to get the most out of it. But the best organizations also know when it’s time to move on.”
  • Epstein went into Bryan LaHair in great detail, to the joy of the various LaHair fans out there. “I have a soft spot for guys who hit everywhere they’ve ever been – hit, hit, hit and continue to hit,” Epstein said. “There’s this myth about the 4-A hitter. Guys who perform all the way up the minor leagues, dominate triple-A, get a cup of coffee, they hit a buck-fifty in the big leagues, and everybody labels them a 4-A hitter. The reality is, I’m not so sure there is something called a 4-A hitter. It’s just pretty good major league hitter who never got an opportunity …. [LaHair is] an asset. We’ll have to take a deeper look .… There’s more to this game, especially in the National League, than just swinging the bat. We’ll dig deeper on that one. But, look, we’re looking for assets. We’re going to scratch and claw and do everything in our power — in the draft, internationally, small trades, waiver claims. We need to build assets because we don’t have enough of them. We’re not going to look past one that might be sitting right there in our organization.” I’m not sure LaHair will ever be a productive Major Leaguer, but that’s the attitude you want the guy in charge to have.
  • Epstein was asked if Ricketts had given him authority to release unproductive, but expensive, players like Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Zambrano. “Yeah, I believe so … I know so,” Epstein said. “It’s also a sign of a good organization to understand the concept of a sunk cost, and to move on. Understand sometimes you’re gaining by saying goodbye, when it is time to move on.” More kudos to Tom Ricketts on that one.
  • On external players – the two most notable being Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder – Epstein said, “I think the impact free agent, the free agent who requires the long-term substantial commitment, there’s a time and a place for that type of investment. I think it’s important to understand when the right time is. It’s also important to understand the player. The player has to check every single box that you look for. He has to be an impact player offensively, you’d like him to be an impact player defensively. In an ideal world, you’d love for him to be an up-the-middle player. You’d love for him to be a player of high character who you can put your faith in and will represent the organization well over the years. You want to make sure the player is young, so you’re buying a lot of prime years. There will be a time and place for that.” Tea-leaving suggests Epstein isn’t gaga over Pujols or Fielder for the Cubs.
  • That picture to the upper right, by the way: is that not the most excellent piece of Theo porn yet? I have to keep reminding myself that I’m a happily married man.
  • On PTI, Epstein finally got the Bartman question (“Should the Cubs reach out to him and do what the Red Sox did with Bill Buckner?”), and his response was surprisingly earnest. “I haven’t talked to anyone here at the Cubs about that, but from afar, it seems like it would be an important step, maybe a cathartic moment that would allow people to move forward together. I’m all about having an open mind, an open heart and forgiveness. I think those are good characteristics for an organization to have as well. Look, he’s a Cubs fan. That’s the most important thing. We need to come together as an organization, the fans, the ownership, the front office, the players, everybody, if we’re going to get this thing done. I’m sure it’s something that will come up at the right time.” That’s all fine, I suppose. I’d rather just let sleeping dogs lie, for now.
  • Epstein was asked about Carmine, the statistical program, built by Epstein, which helped the Red Sox make various transaction decisions and scout players.  “We developed in Boston a program that was simply an information management system,” Epstein said. “Every team in baseball has an information management system of some form or another. With the Cubs, we’re in the process of sitting down and seeing what they have. Information is everything. In the Draft, for example, information is the single most important currency.” Dollars to – eh hem – donuts, Epstein doesn’t find a particularly sophisticated or helpful model already in place.
  • Epstein noted that, when you “succeed” in baseball, that simply means you’re making the right move 55% of the time. I love that this guy gets that baseball is won at the margins. Mistakes will happen. But the moral is to put yourself in the best possible position to succeed each year – a “foundation for sustained success,” to parrot yesterday’s theme.
  • Terry Francona’s departure from Boston may have hastened Epstein’s own. Epstein said he’d been planning on moving on after 2012, when his contract expired, but when Francona “quit,” and the Red Sox were in the market for a new manager, Epstein felt it was best that the new GM (Ben Cherington) be in place to make that decision. And, in a shocking (if slightly unnerving) bit of candor, Epstein admitted that, if Francona hadn’t “quit,” Epstein would probably still be in Boston today.
  • As a way of introducing himself to his new front office-mates, and to get to know them better, at lunch on Monday Epstein asked each in attendance to sing his or her college’s fight song, before singing Yale’s, himself. Kind of seems like a way of reminding everyone, “Hey. I went to Yale.” I’m sure it was all in good fun.
  • Epstein explained how the Starbucks incident went down, and it sounds pretty much like what was guess by a few of us here. “When I’m somewhere where I don’t want to be recognized, and someone recognizes me, I have a couple standard lines,” Epstein said. “I usually say, ‘Oh no, that’s not me, but I guess I look like him,’ or I say, ‘Theo Epstein? Who’s that?’ I was so excited to be in Chicago and so surprised to be recognized that I dropped both lines on this guy without stopping to think they really don’t work well in concert with each other.”
  • And what would a tour of Wrigley Field be without an introduction to, sigh, Ronnie Woo Woo (h/t TFB):

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

109 responses to “Many More Quotes and Thoughts from the Theo Epstein Media Tour”

  1. Fishin Phil

    Great bunch of bullets!

    My favorite is #7. Not so much as it applies to LaHair, but as a philosophy.  I’m still squealing baby!

    1. jstraw

      His statements about Lahair send a message to a couple of agents.

      1. Fishin Phil

        Hopefully to some players as well.

  2. Fishin Phil

    The other thing that he mentioned yesterday that got me excited was the concept of “The Cub Way” and teaching the same philosophy and and fundamentals throughout the entire system.  I have long thought this was missing in the organization.

    1. Bails17

      A great model on that Phil would be the Twins….they have it figured out organization wide on what the Twins way is.  IF we can get as good at what they do with OUR payroll…we will be there at the end of the year almost all the time.

  3. Cliffy

    Epstein will be on WSCR live at 820 today.

  4. jstraw

    Ronnie Woo-Woo needs an endorsement contract for the new-for-2012 Chicago Cubs ball gag.

    1. Internet Random

      Ronnie Woo Woo is one of the few things that I would change about a trip to Wrigley.  He’s a nice guy, but, damn, is he ever annoying.

      1. JulioZuleta

        The sound of him haunts my dreams. Whenever I sit in the bleachers and leave my seat, my girlfriend comes with me because last year, twice when I got up for 2 minutes, he sat down next to her and got creepy. Note to all Cub fans who drink a few too many before the game DO NOT LET RONNIE WOO WOO TALK YOU INTO BUYING HIM A TICKET.

        1. Internet Random

          The staff frequently lets him in free.

    2. Dan0mite

      Who the Frak is Ronnie Woo Woo and how or why is he well known?

      1. Internet Random

        He’s the black guy in the Cub’s uniform shrieking, “Theo! Woo!”, in the video above.  He’s at most every home game, shrieking “Woo! Woo!” incessantly.

        1. Dan0mite

          I got that much. But who is he in relation to the Cubs? Is he simply a guy that shows up to games and is annoying? Is he known only for his annoying demeanor?

          1. Internet Random

            He’s a quirk of the neighborhood whom the Cubs don’t seem too eager to discourage.  He is simply a guy who shows up at games and is annoying.  And, so far as I know, he’s known almost exclusively for making the extremely grating woo-woo noises… that, and I guess, being a loyal fan.  You can hardly go to a game at Wrigley and not see the guy… especially once you’re on the lookout for him.

            It’s kind of like not being able to ignore Yoko Ono on a John Lennon track once somebody points out that she’s on there.  Now that you know about Ronnie Woo Woo, you’ll see him every time you go.

          2. Laura

            There’s a documentary about him called “WooLife”. As a teenager, I thought he was a little too ‘flirty’, also. Then I found out his background. I was actually happy to see him at a game last summer. He’s still a flirt, but harmless, and I definitely recommend getting to know about his life.
            (FYI his birthday is Halloween…)

  5. hansman1982

    I loved the Starbucks incident because that sounds like something I would do and it reminds you that Theo really isnt much different than any of us…well outside of the fact that at 28 he was the GM of a MLB team and I am a poor schlep in a cubicle…

  6. gblan014

    “That picture to the upper right, by the way: is that not the most excellent piece of Theo porn yet? I have to keep reminding myself that I’m a happily married man.”

    Haha. Touché Mr. Taylor. Touché.

  7. Edwin

    Color me impressed.

  8. EQ76

    Is it tea-leaving or tea leafing?  I really don’t know.

  9. Cliffy

    I reading between the lines with Theo just a hunch he goes young rather than free agents. Duh.. but i also think he will seek out speed guys. Speed does not concern themselves with if the wind is blowing in or out.

    1. Luke

      The Cubs system has some speed guys for him. Castro is up already, Lake has 30+ steal speed, Jackson can steal 20+, even LeMahieu has 8 steals in the AFL this year (didn’t really peg him as a steals guy…).

      I could easily imagine next season’s Cubs having more steals than home runs. Matt Szczur is further down the system, as is Evan Crawford and Zeke DeVoss.

      Toss in some very patient hitters (LaHair) or extremely good contact hitters (Castro, LeMahieu, Vitters), and it is not hard to imagine a revamped Cub offense built on the steal, the hit and run, and manufacturing runs.

  10. CubFan Paul

    “In an ideal world, you’d love for him to be an up-the-middle player” hmmm

    1. jstraw

      That’s a curious statement. Where do big bats usually play? Can you rely on home-growing guys that hit for power? Sometimes a team really is a piece or two away and it’s often a guy that drives in runs that’s needed. Those guys are rarely up-the-middle guys.

      1. hansman1982

        I get from that statement that The Epster would love to have the 3,4,5 hitters be the SS, 2B, CF and be home-grown so that they are cheap and then you aren’t overpaying for the Fielder/Pujols types of the world.

        1. Luke

          Catcher is also considered ‘up the middle’ by most baseball people.

      2. Jason

        I’ll respectfully disagree. A baseball player’s contribution to winning can’t be defined in terms of absolute numbers – they have to be defined as their numbers relative to other players at the same position. As a result, middle infielders, catchers and centerfielders who can hit while still playing strong defense are a great way to extract significant incremental value because there are so many middle of the diamond players who can’t hit but that have to play because they can play the defense required at those positions. Look at the best teams in baseball – all of them have guys up the middle that can hit while still playing great defense

        Yankees: Cano, Granderson
        RedSox: Pedroia, Ellsbury
        Phillies: Utley, Rollins
        Rangers: Kinsler, Hamilton
        Tigers: Avila, Peralta (don’t laugh – his numbers made him an elite SS this year)
        Brewers: Weeks

        The only playoff team that did not have an impact bat up the middle was the Cardinals.

        For a specific example, according to Fangraphs, Dustin Pedroia was a more valuable player than Ryan Braun this year even though Braun put up far superior statistical numbers. Why? Because lots of leftfielders can hit (since it’s considered a relatively easy defensive position to play, you have to be able to hit to play there) while very few 2B can hit.

        Another example:
        As a 2B, Dustin Pedroia posted a WAR of 8.0 this year – the league average 2B (Robert Andino) had a WAR of 1.8. That’s a difference of 6.2 wins
        At 1B, Miguel Cabrera led with 7.3 WAR this year – Mark Trumbo was 15th at 2.3. That’s a difference of 5.0 wins so having the best 2B and the league average 1B is 1.2 wins better than having the best 1B and the league average 2B.

        Also, Ryan Howard posted 33 HRs and 116 RBI this year – he was the 17th rated 1B according to WAR. Offensive numbers are not difficult to find at 1B because everyone has to hit to play there.

        Sorry for the length of the post – just had to fit a lot of information here to make my point.

        1. Hawkeye

          “The only playoff team that did not have an impact bat up the middle was the Cardinals.”

          Excuse me, are you serious?   Apparently you don’t think to highly of one, Ryan Theriot?  ;)

          1. Luke

            Cardinals got the wrong end of the Cajun Connection. Fontenot was “Little Babe Ruth.”

          2. Jason

            Unfortunately, Sabermetricians have yet to find a way to value scrappiness. Maybe that’s one of the new competitive advantages that Theo will try to exploit? :)

            1. Hawkeye

              If we don’t have a way to evaluate scrappiness, we may have seen our last days with Campana?

  11. Cliffy

    In case you cant get enough Theo he will be on AM 1000 at 9 AM.

  12. Dan0mite

    “Yeah, I believe so … I know so,”

    This line, especially the way Theo delivered it, tells me him and Ricketts have already discussed the possibility of dumping some players.

    1. wax_eagle

      I’d guess it was part of the contract negotiations.

      Ricketts: “Hey what do you need from us”
      Theo: “Permission to take out the trash from the roster”
      Ricketts: “That’s it?”
      Theo: “Well that and 20mil..”
      Ricketts: “Done”

  13. Mom's A Cubs Fan

    Is Theo packing up Quade’s stuff for him? He can bring it when he and Mike meet face to face and Mike doesn’t come back.

  14. Cliffy

    Theo talking about Castro, cutting him slack on defense very impressed with his offense at his age. Im betting the “Theo System” will allow Castro to become the superstar we all hope he can be. They will surround him with the right tutors and players to make that happen.

    1. Jason

      This is a great idea and one I figured he’d pursue – Castro needs to learn how to play defense so we need to bring in a coach who can teach him. Teaching Castro to be a great defensive SS should be one of this organization’s top priorities for 2012.

  15. Cheryl

    Any further word on compensation? From what was said earlier McNutt is probably a part of it now. Ryno may be here for other reasons but there will probaly be some contact with Theo.

  16. cccubfan

    Glad to have Theo on board and look forward to a bright future. As for my feelings of Steve Bartman throwing out a first pitch, I say opening day 2012 would be great. Put it ALL behind us and let’s get this thing rolling along smoothly. To really top of the day let Moises Alou catch that pitch.Let by-gones be by-gones….This is officially my personal plea to you Steve Bartman. Come to Wrigley and let’s all get together and say forget what was and go with what is….Come on Steve, Moises…..please!!!!!

    1. Hawkeye

      That would be a beautiful thing…

    2. Deer

      Bartman can throw out the 1st pitch after we win a world series. Pretty sure that’s what Boston did with Buckner. If Bartman throws out the first pitch next season, guaranteed the man will get booed off the mound and will still need an escort out of the stadium. Hell, Cub fans still boo Corey Patterson just because.

  17. die hard

    If Theo can negotiate the compensation issue by talking Boston into Soriano, Zambrano, and Ramirez provided Cubs pick up 90% of salaries, Id say hes done his job. By the way, I think we should decline Ramirez’s option because if we exercise then he could decide to stay. Whats $2 mil at this point?

  18. bacboris

    This line, “We’re going to scratch and claw and do everything in our power — in the draft, internationally, small trades, waiver claims.” Made me dream in a way that I haven’t as a Cubs fan in a long time.

    1. cccubfan

      That’s not a bad thing. If we exercise the option and he stays we have a third baseman for another year until someone good comes available, maybe. If he declines we save 2 mil for someone else….

  19. Toosh

    “Value” is exactly why Epstein should decline to pick up Ramirez’ option. If he offers to pick up the option, and Ramirez changes his mind AGAIN and decides to stay, the Cubs are stuck with a third baseman who doesn’t play defense at all and doesn’t hit until June. Just say no, Theo.

    1. Shawn

      Do the Cubs have to pick up the option to receive a compensatory pick?

      1. JulioZuleta

        Unfortunately, he’s a type B free agent, so the compensatory pick wouldn’t be a good one.

        1. Luke

          Not necessarily. Type B picks come in the sandwich round. For a team willing to go for tough signs and guys demanding over-slot money, that’s still a pretty lucrative pick. It’s not as nice as getting someone else’s first round pick, but I wouldn’t say the pick won’t be a good one.

          That assumes that there is no hard slotting in the new CBA; I don’t think there will be, but that may be wishful thinking.

          1. Kansas Cubs Fan

            Do you guys remember how many first and “sandwich round” picks the Rays had last year, It was ridiculous almost unfair.