Theo Epstein: Advice Giver, Non-Fenway Park Goer

Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein opened up a bit today about his team’s atrocious start to the 2012 season, and the message, succinctly, was: chill out, we knew the team was going to struggle, and let’s think big picture.

Less succinctly:

“You never want to start out poorly,” Epstein told reporters today. “There are a lot of things we can improve upon, and we will. But you also don’t want to read too much into one homestand and one road trip. Certainly crystalize some areas we need to continue to strive to get better at.”

Epstein gave advice to folks who are getting antsy over the Cubs’ 3-10 start.

“You have to view every situation, every move, through the same lenses we discussed this winter,” Epstein said. “What’s going to help us maximize our competitiveness in 2012, and then bigger picture is how to we build a championship caliber organization? That’s going to be a longer term issue. When those two interests butt up against each other we will defer for the long term.”

This “two lenses” theme was offered throughout the offseason, and, indeed, Epstein and Jed Hoyer always noted that the longer-term goals would trump near-term ones. But it’s becoming more and more clear that, well, there really aren’t too many near-term goals anyway.

“There are things we can do, smaller moves that we can make and probably make over the course of this season to try and put together a club that can be more competitive,” Epstein said of the near-term. “We’re also looking for the best long-term interest of the organization. You have to keep the big picture in mind sometimes …. Baseball is best understood from bigger samples and from a distance sometimes.”

In other words, keep reminding yourself: this is a process, and the first step is a long one involving a painful re-jiggering of the roster and the farm system.

Of lesser import, Epstein also shared today via text to Jon Heyman* that he wouldn’t be heading to Fenway Park this weekend for a 100th anniversary celebration there. There were some festivities before the game for which all “uniformed” current and former Red Sox personnel were invited, but Epstein did not get invited to that one (the Red Sox explained the non-vitation by noting that they didn’t invite any other former executives). He got invited to the game tomorrow, but he did not receive his invitation (phone call) until today, apparently after CSNNE noticed Epstein wasn’t on the guest list and asked owner John Henry for comment.

The situation is being given a fair bit of attention, but I don’t see a whole lot there. No other executives were invited to the festivities, and I’d say it’s pretty understandable why the Red Sox would be reluctant to invite Epstein to the game (and why he would decline).

*Theo and Jon have a texting relationship? Very interesting. Cub-related rumors from Mr. Heyman will have to be regarded more closely.

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

55 responses to “Theo Epstein: Advice Giver, Non-Fenway Park Goer”

  1. Coal

    He had me until he started going all buzz-wordy. Enough with the “crystalize” and “lenses” nonsense. “Bigger samples?” “Viewed from a distance?” He could just say “we’re not playing very well right now, nobody’s happy about and we have to find a way as an organization to weather this and improve – while focusing on the overall plan to be a team that is playing the right way and is consistently in the hunt.”

  2. Kyle

    Marketing guy: “I predict flat growth for four years, and then a sudden upsurge in profits.”

    Dilbert: “Do you have any basis for that prediction?”

    Marketing guy: “No, but that gives me enough time to be promoted and leave you guys to take the blame.”

    Epstein has a pretty cushy gig here. He gets to have no accountability whatsoever for the product on the field. Then, maybe when he’s done taking a few years off, he’ll be around to take the credit if he ever gets around to feeling like trying.

    1. jr5

      That’s a reductionist view of things. His tenure will be measured by progress on the field. Rebuilding a professional sports team does take time, but not in the sense that nothing happens for years and then all of a sudden it’s there. You judge the progress based on influx of young, talented players coming up through the system. The Cubs had none of that for years. (Indeed, look how many home grown players are on the 25-man roster. I count 9. And there’s very little talent on the team, yet the payroll is over $100 million. You can’t flip that overnight.

      But you also do have to show progress. No one’s going to be sitting here in 2 years saying he’s doing a great job if the farm system is stagnant, the young players underachieve/fail to appear, and the major league team is losing. But all of those things could go well in 2014 and the Cubs might still not be winning the division. But it will still be a far better situation than the one he inherited.

    2. jr5

      But, props for the Dilbert reference.

  3. jr5

    Ah, just when I started to think the Red Sox couldn’t be more embarrassing, this happens. (And, then, Bobby Valentine will do something next week worse than this, I’m sure.)

  4. Lonnie

    I knew it would be rough, but I sipped the kool aid. I thought they would play better baseball and that would produce more wins. So far it doesn’t appear the Cubs will do anything except a lot of losing.

  5. Kevin

    After 103 years without winning the World Series I’m open to looking at the big picture and trust that Theo & Jed have our best interests in mind. Am I happy watching the Cubs this year so far? Absolutely Not but if their master plan plays itself out and the Cubs finally have a chance winning on a regular basis then I’ll wait as a loyal fan. Did anyone really think the Cubs were going to contend this year anyway? I suggest everyone sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. At least we can all have comfort knowing the Cubs finally have a long term plan.

  6. Cheryl

    Its hard to keep your eye on the big picture when the team is in the process of so much change. Fans don’t like to see losses even when we know that this is part of the evaluation curve for the FO. What bothers me the most is the tendency to pigeonhole players It seems to be a part of what is taking place now. I, for one, never expected the cubs to get off to this bad a start. But neither did I expet them to win their division. What I hoped would happen was the team might be three or four games over 500 at the end of the baseball year. Right now it looks like that hope will have to wait until next year.

    1. drew

      Care to give an example of your “pigeonhole” accusation? I have an idea of who youre talking about, i just hope im wrong.

      1. Cheryl

        I think an example might be that certain players can’t hit lefties. Or, that a player was great in the spring, but he’s just a bench player, or another player doesn’t fit in the second spot in the lineup, he’s more an eighth place hitter. Some of its done by us fans. I didn’t like it when last year LaHair was dismissed because he was an older player. Maybe I felt that way because I’ve seen the older workers in real life passed over. Its easy to assume something about players and not give them a chance to prove you’re right or wrong. This is what I mean by “pigeonholing” people. After you’ve given them a chance, then make a judgment, not before.

        1. Kyle

          Unfortunately, major league roster spots and playing time are in finite supply. You can’t give everyone a chance. So you have to choose who looks like the most worthwhile to give a chance to.

          1. Cheryl

            But isn’t that what Spring Training and this “rebuild” mode is all about? I’m just saying don’t assume. Have a solid basis to make a decision. If you want to catagorize a player be sure its based on his performance.

            1. drew

              Thats exactly whats done in most cases. Joe Mather has a professional track record of being terrible. Darwin Barney is not selective and doesnt get on base. History tells us a 29 yo AAA player isnt someone you can rely on.

              A bank shouldnt finance a house for you if you have 5 years of horrible credit simply because you paid your latest credit card bill on time. The same goes for MLB players.

              1. Steve

                What an intelligent post Drew. You are the analogy whisperer!!!

              2. Cheryl

                I agree and you’ve given some solid reasons for your analysis. That’s all I want to see. Sometimes I don’t see it and as I said, that bothers me.

  7. Big Joe

    The guy wins two championships, and isn’t invited? The only GM to win it all in an 80+ year span? Classless.

    1. Corporal Bringdown

      Classless = Red Sox ownership.

      It says a lot when Red Sox “heroes” of recent decades announce they won’t be there (Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens), weren’t invited or were invited too late to go (Epstein), or were invited but derided when they initially – and understandably – said they wouldn’t go (Francona, who later changed his mind; I’m guessing because of some kind of ESPN thing).

      I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an ownership/management group of a sports franchise ever have as many bad PR moves in a few months as the Red Sox have. And being a Cubs fan (who lives near Boston) and whose team has benefited from at least one of those PR moves, it’s somewhat funny.

  8. Chris

    Seems like the Royals, Padres, mariners, etc. have been rebuilding for years. Too soon to rush to judgement but rebuilding seems to be another way of saying “don’t expect us to spend a lot of money”. Also anytime someone writes “do you really want Player A for 6 yrs 75 million.” I think Yes. Top notch players are going to command top dollar so those numbers are always going to be shocking. At the very least Yoenis should have been signed. We have not one scary bat in this lineup. Castro’s a good hitter but not scary.

  9. Jeff L

    I for one expected this kind of start. Any team in the league can say we are building for the long term. Believe it or not the Yankees and the RedSox have better minor league system than the Cubs. So, they’re winning now and are looking into the future. Getting a few big free agents this offseason for a team that has the 2nd highest ticket prices in baseball was the right thing to do. If Cub fans say, “hey we trust Epstein and the “long term plans” that can honestly be as long as he wants by saying long term!!! It’s a crime what Epstein and Ricketts is putting the Cub nation through. It is incredibly embarrassing also. I think if we as Cub fans let Ricketts know our frustration it will benefit us in the “long term”… Suggestions, (if you have time picket by the Wrigley and don’t pay to go to games) Those are two big ones. Epstein and Ricketts know that with Wrigley Field you can have a poor product on the field and will still get a large attendance. Bottom line we have to prove to him thats not the case anymore!!!!

    1. BeyondFukudome

      Not to worry. The way things are going, the stands will be very empty very soon.

  10. Michael

    Sometimes you get what you pay for. Either Jed or Theo made the comment about not going after power because playing at Wrigley, anyone can knock one out when the wind blows out. They stocked this team with singles hitters, and that’s what they’re getting.

    Theo can put any spin on it he wants, but this isn’t just “a homestand and a roadtrip.” They will be this inept all year.

  11. lou brock lives

    Lou Boudreau, former Cub manager & radio broadcaster, used to theorize that you needed 2 everyday lineups to play at Wrigley. A power lineup for when the wind blew out & a speedy – manufacture runs – lineup for when the wind blew in. Theo is going to try create a roster which can do both. It will require athletic, gap power, line drive hitters who can also play good defense. We have one of those on the current roster – we need seven more. Castro is the only one who has a future on this team. Two more – Brett Jackson & Rizzo are in Iowa. That leaves five more we need to develop or acquire. Cardenas 2B & Wellington Castillo (C) are borderline possibilities. Sappelt & LaHair can provide punch off the bench as 4th & 5th outfielders. Barney is a utility middle infielder – but he is a guy you want on your team. The rest will have to be drafted or signed as free agents or traded for.

    1. daveyrosello

      No pitchers. The Cubs have no pitchers. That is a huge problem. Garza is not the ace/long-term answer, I think he’s gone by July. And even if he WAS part of the rebuild, he’s one arm. You need 5, plus 2 or 3 decent arms in the pen.

      It will take a long time to rebuild this team because it’s hard to acquire that many pitchers. And none are arriving from the minors.

    2. Steve


  12. Blitzenjohn

    Patience, grasshoppers.


  13. die hard

    look on the bright side…We could have signed Pujols and be in debt forever for an over the hill going down fast used to be

    1. Steve

      I second what Mr Johnson said!

    2. Kyle

      I don’t think we should be glad that we avoided the fate of the 2-time defending league champions who are also in first place by 4.5 games already.