Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer dug out from their Draft-induced seclusion yesterday for long enough to address the media about a wide range of topics (for example write-ups on the media session, which write-ups include the quotes discussed below, here’s one from the Tribune, from ESPN, from Cubs.com, and from CSN). The highlights from each executive are below.
- On the long, slow turnaround process: “The fans have a right to be upset any time we’re not playing winning baseball, especially during stretches like this. I understand it. If we start making decisions based on it or scrap plans because of it or try to put Band-Aids on situations, we would be doing the fans a disservice in the long run. I always operate with the belief that the only way to make fans happy in the long run is to get to a point where we’re playing baseball in October on a regular basis, and nothing’s going to get in the way of that. Sometimes, when you rip the scab off, there’s some pain until we grow some new skin. We’re going places. This is a tough road.” Feel free to speculate on which players are the “scabs” in the comments.
- On the 12-game losing streak: “I don’t think this is indicative of the type of team we are. I think we’re clearly better than this and we’ll get back to that level …. We had five pretty good series against decent teams coming into this stretch. Were we quite that good? No …. When you’re not the most talented team on the field on a regular basis, you have to play well to compete. And if you don’t play well, you run the risk of stretches like this.” So, Epstein just said, in no uncertain terms, that, on a regular basis, the Cubs are the less talented team on the field. He’s right, but I’m surprised to hear him say it so plainly.
- On which players he would consider trading: “I’ve always operated under that philosophy [that no one is untouchable]. I never understood why there would ever be an untouchable. All you’re doing is limiting your opportunity. That said, there are core pieces that it’s almost impossible to foresee movement. You have to be completely blown away to even contemplate it. I think everyone knows what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build a nucleus of talented young players who can form a core of an annual contender. So if you have a piece like that, the only way you’d contemplate ever moving him would be if you’d get multiples back of that same caliber, and those deals are hard to make.”
- On Anthony Rizzo’s timetable: “We’re not going to rush him. We’re going to wait until the time is right, with his development being the primary factor. We’re waiting for an update today. He came out of that game. He swung and missed and felt some soreness in his wrist. He saw a doctor in Memphis and had an initial X-ray, which was clean.” Hopefully Rizzo’s injury isn’t serious, and instead is a blessing in disguise – it will give fans (and possibly Rizzo) a moment to step back, calm down, and remember that Rizzo isn’t going to save this season’s team. He’ll come up when he comes up, and he’ll do his best. But he’s young, and it will be a process.
- On the Draft, and Draft preparation: “We have basically been in information-gathering mode for the last year and over the next week you synthesize the information, do all the analysis, ask all the questions and hopefully come up with the right answers and try to get the board in order. That process starts in a couple of hours and goes right up to draft day.” I want to see that board!
- On making trades now versus in a month or two: “We’re also very open to making moves. A lot of our conversations are about what we can do to shake things up, what we can do to change the roster a little bit. We’ll keep looking at those things. [But] we don’t want to get in a situation where we’re sort of dumping guys off just to make a point or just to change things up …. This time of year is not a big trading time. People are still filling their team out and deciding where they are. That’s why the solutions have to come from within. This isn’t an external time of year [and] we need to fight through this.” That’s charitable of Hoyer to say, but, when it comes to trades, the Cubs aren’t going to be looking for solutions. They’re going to be looking to sell, and build for the future.
- On the losing streak, and the juxtaposition with the long-term future: “Better times are ahead. There’s no question in my mind we’re going to build a consistent winner here. This is a really painful bump that we’re going through right now on the way to get there. It might help us certainly, years in the future, looking back on this as a character building thing. Right now it doesn’t feel like character building at all. It feels like a 12-game losing streak.”
- On the Cubs’ focus in the Draft: “We don’t have a ton of arms in the minor leagues. I think the best organizations are the ones that are littered with power arms. Some guys will become starters, some guys relievers, but the best bullpens are built internally, and the more we can add arms through the draft, the better, and I think that will be the focus, not just in 2012 but in every year.”
- On calling up Anthony Rizzo: “We are still evaluating that. The one thing that is important with Rizzo and all of our young guys is, right now [it isn’t fair to] bring him up to save an offense that is struggling to score runs. He is a young player. He will have to make adjustments. No young player should be viewed as the savior of a struggling major league offense.”