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At his personal charity event in Boston Monday night, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein discussed a wide range of things, most notably the outstanding compensation issue.

But Epstein also spoke at length about his first offseason with the Cubs, and about the process of building – not rebuilding – a long-term winner.

Among his notable thoughts, together with some reactions:

  • On the Cubs’ successful offseason: “You never accomplish everything that you want to. We wanted to get younger, we wanted to get a little more athletic, we really wanted to bolster the starting-pitching depth, which was fairly non-existent. We wanted to get better defensively, we wanted to get a little bit more left-handed, we wanted to convert some short-term assets to long-term assets, we wanted to acquire some prospects along the way. To varying degrees, we were able to accomplish all those things.” It’s not as if Epstein is creating a set of plans after the fact, contorting them to match what the organization did. These were, indeed, the tasks he and Jed set out to accomplish back in November. I think they’ve done a good job.
  • On “building” versus “rebuilding,” and the future in Chicago: “I don’t agree with the word ‘rebuilding’ ever. Because, for one thing, it denotes that you’re building something that already existed, but that’s not how baseball works. You’re constantly growing and moving onto the next iteration of the club, so I think building is the appropriate [word] – sure we’re building in Chicago, but we went through some building phases here. The art of it is trying to do it in a way where nobody notices. When you’re winning 95 games a year and getting into the playoffs, then people don’t notice that we’ve integrated a lot of this talent and we’ve made a lot of short-term sacrifices for long-term stability. I think there were a lot of times when we were able to pull that off here [in Boston], there were a lot of times that we failed as well.” I don’t agree with Epstein’s refusal to use the word, “rebuilding,” but, hey, Epstein is a lawyer, and lawyers are wont to beef about certain words because of the particularities they associate with that word (if you use “disinterested” around me, and you use it incorrectly, I will bite you). What matters is the message, and, with that, I agree.
  • On the difference between being in a small market and a large market, and how it impacts your strategy: “At some point, there’s sort of a lot of pressure to have big names or to win every single year, which is not part of the small-market mentality. It’s usually more of a building effort …. It’s more of a balancing, a need to take a small step back to ensure a better long-term future. You fight that fight for a while in a big market, I think when you’re at your best, you fight it successfully …. Sometimes the sheer force of being a big market kind of takes over. But, it is what it is. There are tremendous resources that come with being a big market, there’s also potential pitfalls. I think every small market would trade places for the opportunities that come with more resources.” What can I say? That’s the perfect attitude – think like a small market club, but avail yourself of the benefits of being in a large market.

Given that the Chicago Cubs are one of the “favorites” (inexplicably) to win the World Series this year, at least according to those who are into MLB Betting Action, maybe Epstein’s “building” job is going more quickly than even he had hoped. Or maybe too many people like to throw dollars down on the Cubs.

  • mac

    I too am disinterested in using the word rebuilding.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      NOOOOOOOO! BITE!

  • TWC

    “we wanted to get a little bit more left-handed”

    Jim?  Jim Hendry?  Jim, is that you?

  • Swaz46

    I could listen to/read Theo Epstien’s thoughts about baseball for hours.

  • Kyle

    And what a building process it’s been. I am really anticipating this baseball season with a lot of excitement.

    I’m beginning to suspect that we’re close enough to ST now that we won’t see any more major trades, so guys like Garza, Soto and Byrd will be breaking camp with the team.

    If that happens, my back-of-the-napkin statistical projections have the Cubs at about 77-85.

    If things go very well and a lot of guys play to their upside, I can envision this team winning 82-84 games. If that happens, we can at least have a “We’re only 7 games out of the second wild card, it’s not impossible” sort of August and September.

    Meanwhile, there will be a lot of intriguing players joining the mix. By August, we should have promoted at the very least Rizzo and Jackson, with Mcnutt, Castillo, Clevenger all possibilities. When rosters expand in September, we’ll have our first looks at guys like Vitters.

    In the minors, this is a *huge* year for the system. We have a massive amount of guys looking to prove themselves in the high A/AA levels, and those are the real proving grounds. If even half of the guys we are excited about can do well at those levels, then our farm system becomes stocked. If most of the succeed, we are among the best in the majors. If most of them fall to attrition, then we are nowhere near as good as we hoped. It’s a major tipping point.

  • die hard

    Theo would do better to remain silent until after All-Star break as he is starting the spin too early…..not becoming of a GM/Pres who is being paid millions to be making excuses so soon…..isnt he showing up as often in the news as that Kardashaian girl?…Hendry to Yankees makes sense as he is laying ground work for going after Soto and/or Castro….Ricketts taking a vacation so soon?…he can run but he cant hide….Garza deserves every penny as the Cubs are disrespecting him…..going after Cespedes is senseless especially since money would be better spent paying Garza what he deserves…

    • Jim

      If Theo can stay quiet until the All-Star break, will you stop posting until then?

      • Katie

        Jim, you just killed me dead.

        • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

          get out your garlic, here comes a troll!

        • EQ76

          Point for Jim!

      • die hard

        neither likely to occur…hope this post helps Katie recover

    • Quintz

      “die hard” is 100% right, all of the time. No way I’m going to trust some new GM/Pres just because of his “resume”. Those two World Championships do nothing for me (duh, I’m a Cubs fan). Has anyone considered that maybe he isn’t that smart. I know…….he got his degree at Yale, but have you seen there athletic department, pathetic. Yea, he has a law degree, but lawyers are A-holes. If 17 years in baseball, two WS championships, a bunch of fancy degrees makes you lemmings willing to trust his decision making skills then I feel sorry for you. “die hard” is THE voice of reason.

      • TWC

        Quintz, I’m glad to see you’ve fully embraced the Dark Side.  Darth Doofenshmirtz (die hard) has been searching for a new apprentice.

        • Dave H

          Is he related to Lord Dark Helmet?

        • MichiganGoat

          Nice Phineas and Ferb reference, perfect!

    • Matt

      I wish I wouldn’t have read your post Diehard. That is 10 seconds of my life I will never regain. Here is hoping to next time being a little more of an educated post.

    • Dave H

      You might say I’m disinterested in any thought that comes from diehard.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        NOOOOO! BITE!

        • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

          Brett, I don’t know why I keep coming back to your site. Every day I am on here I realize, more and more how much I don’t know about the English language.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Might that be why you keep coming back? :) I kid.

            • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

              nah, its you’re rugged good looks, otherwise, I am greatly disinterested by the ’012 Cubs.

    • bt

      Die Hard, you have to work at this stuff. Andy Kaufman was much better at this.

  • ferrets_bueller

    You can’t rebuild if nothing was ever built.  You can’t rebuild if you’re starting with nothing.

    So, I guess avoiding the word makes sense.

     

    Either way, this is by far the most promising the organisation has looked in….well, ever.

    • http://bleachernation.com loyal100more

      theo could have said…”bla,bla,bla,bla,bla…” for an hour, and i would of been all “yea thats right, you heard what he said! what! thats that cub fan loyalty!

  • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

    My favorite line of Theo’s:
    “it denotes that you’re building something that already existed”
    Not sure if this was a backhanded slap at what existed when he took over.

  • Zachary Brady

    Long time listener and first time caller here but for Brett’s sake I figure’d I’d help the rest of you.

    Disinterested
    dis·in·ter·est·ed   /dɪsˈɪntəˌrɛstɪd, -trɪstɪd/ Show Spelled[dis-in-tuh-res-tid, -tri-stid] Show IPA
    adjective
    1. unbiased by personal interest or advantage; not influenced by selfish motives: a disinterested decision by the referee.
    2. not interested; indifferent.

    Please use appropriately. Oh, here is where I got that definition that way I am not criticized for plagerism: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disinterested

    Most importantly go cubs!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Zachary. I accept only the first definition, as the second has developed as a colloquialism, adopted by dictionaries only because of the repeated incorrect usage.

      Disinterested = unbiased.

      Uninterested = not interested.

      • Kyle

        If you aren’t going to accept meanings and changes that came about because of misuse, then there isn’t much of English left for you to use.

        Descriptivism 4 life, bro.

        • TWC

          Others may quibble, but I think you make a perfectly cromulent observation, Kyle.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Never. And the lines I draw are totally arbitrary, too, so it’s even worse.

          • DocWimsey

            Irony is my pet peeve. Someone needs to tell Tim McCarver what that word actually means……

      • Hrubes20

        It would help if i refreshed the page before replying. I could have avoided posting altogether.

      • Dave H

        To be honest, I made sure I was using it incorrectly before I replied. CHOMP!

      • ReiCow

        Brett,

        Actually, you have the development backwards according to to that site (dictionary.com):

        Usage note
        Disinterested and uninterested share a confused and confusing history. Disinterested was originally used to mean “not interested, indifferent”; uninterested in its earliest use meant “impartial.” By various developmental twists, disinterested is now used in both senses. Uninterested is used mainly in the sense “not interested, indifferent.” It is occasionally used to mean “not having a personal or property interest.”
        Many object to the use of disinterested to mean “not interested, indifferent.” They insist that disinterested can mean only “impartial”: A disinterested observer is the best judge of behavior. However, both senses are well established in all varieties of English, and the sense intended is almost always clear from the context.

        I will forgive you this pet peeve, however, as I go batshit when people misuse good in place of well. For example, “he did good” when it should be “he did well.”

        Moo!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I guess I’m one of the “many” referenced in that explanation.

    • Hrubes20

      That’s odd, since the second definition is actually that of “uninterested”. The first definition is the one most associated with the word. Perhaps the second definition is the reason why so many people confuse uniterested with disinterested.

  • Smitty

    Bruce Levine reported yesterday on ESPN.com that the Cubs are still looking for a backup catcher and a utility infielder.

    My question is, if we are trying to “build,” why would we fill these spots with free agents if we have some options already in house? In particular at Catcher.

    • http://CubbiesCrib.com Luke

      The in house options are going to get a look. As far as I can tell, Welington Castillo is the clear front runner for the backup catching job going into the spring. Jaramillo was signed as insurance in case Castillo or Clevenger need more time in the minors, get injured, or Soto is traded. I would be very surprised, though, if the Cubs roster on opening day featured both Jaramillo and Soto.

      On the infield, the Cubs don’t have a backup shortstop so long as Barney is the starting second baseman and there aren’t any guys in the minors quite ready to step into that roll. Junior Lake needs to be playing everyday and isn’t read for the majors anyway. Jonathan Mota will get a look, but he is far from a safe bet. There is an opening there.

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        The problem with being a backup catcher is that Castillo needs to play every day. I think he goes to Iowa with Clevenger getting the back up spot.

        • baseballet

          I’m also surprised that the Cubs would be interested in a backup catcher, as that is precisely the role Jaramillo would fill, and that Castillo should be ready to fill sometime this year. If the Cubs expected to contend then it would make more sense to get yet another backup catcher in the pipeline in case Castillo needs another full season in the minors.
          I suspect that their search for more catching depth reflects that the Cubs are confident they’ll trade Soto by the trading deadline.

  • HOUSE

    Theo is a genius! If we do what he is aiming to do- “we really wanted to bolster the starting-pitching depth, which was fairly non-existent. We wanted to get better defensively, we wanted to get a little bit more left-handed, we wanted to convert some short-term assets to long-term assets, we wanted to acquire some prospects along the way.” If Theo does everything he claims we will be league contenders for not only a season but many years to come! Go cubs!

    • die hard

      careful, with that sarcasm you’ll give Katie another stroke

      • HOUSE

        haha! she cant die twice die hard!

        • Katie

          Um, what? To both of you.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I don’t know what you mean by that, but my Spidey Sense is tingling.

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