Theo Epstein: Taskmaster Grammarian

As a guy whose writing background – primarily the lawyer thing – has drilled into him the importance of proper grammar/spelling/punctuation/capitalization/etc. in all settings, I hope you’ve noticed that I do my best to honor that background. We all make mistakes, but, by and large, I believe that writing conventions exist because they provide for the clearest form of communication. And what’s the point of writing something if you’re going to be misunderstood?

So, you can only imagine how my heart swelled with professional affection when I read this, from the Tribune:

President Theo Epstein’s philosophy of running an organization may differ from other executives. At a recent meeting of the team’s scouts in Chicago, the scouts were reminded to be careful about punctuation and capitalization in their reports. It may seem like small potatoes, but the Cubs apparently believe in the credo of famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: “God is in the details.”

If you think Theo is just being a curmudgeon, remember how important scouting reports are to the continued health of the organization. And, while a misplaced comma isn’t going to be the culprit behind a mistaken first round pick, it could cause confusion and delays, which build upon each other and result in problems down the road. I’m quite glad to know the Cubs are taking this stuff seriously – it reminds me that they are leaving no stone unturned in the quest to modernize, professionalize, and, ultimately, improve the organization.

Don’t forget:


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

83 responses to “Theo Epstein: Taskmaster Grammarian”

  1. Spencer

    Haha, I literally tweeted that exact phrase two days ago.

  2. Seth

    To save time for those stupid people like me:

    A bad-tempered or surly person.
    niggard – miser – skinflint – tightwad

    1. Mick

      Where’d you find that definition, Jim Crow’s Unabridged Dictionary?

      1. Seth
        1. Spencer

          haha!!! awesome.

        2. Mick
        3. Mick

, nice find man, that is fun.

      2. Cedlandrum

        For serious? It means begrudgingly. It is not a racist term.

      3. Wilbur

        I offer this with a sense of humor and please take it lightly as I think that was the intent of the original comment. However, this post is also a half hearted backlash at anyone claiming a PC violation on the use of this word on some supposed link to a racial slur.

        Looking at several sources we all have at our finger tips the consensus is the word derives from the 14th century, N Germanic alteration of nigon, perhaps – nig “stingy” – references too many to site.

        While not a very skilled grammarian I do love words and what they say, hence my diversion into the root of “niggardly”! Bottom line, it’s a totally good, functional word that precedes Jim Crow by about 500 years and a very large ocean.

  3. Matt

    Something tells me that using that first synonym might not fly in a social setting.

    1. Seth

      Ahh and I thought the same so I looked into it. Found this:“niggardly”

    2. TWC

      Only if you don’t know what the word means.

      1. JB88

        “Only if you don’t know what the word means.”

        Exactly. I really hope the first few people were making jokes and not posting before reading their dictionaries …

        1. Matt

          Somewhat, I obviously read the definition (otherwise how would I have made that comment), but it’s still something that, if you checked out the link (and filled in the missing part), obviously hasn’t flown in certain settings in the past, and to be honest, it’s probably smartest to probably avoid using a word that has the potential to create a situation, rather it should or shouldn’t cause that situation. In this case it’s obviously fine due to the context used, it’d be impossible for someone to really make an issue out of it.

          1. JB88

            PREAMBLE: THIS ISN’T DIRECTED AT YOU MATT: Just because an ignorant person doesn’t know the definition of a word, won’t look up the definition of that word, and ignorantly and incorrectly claims use of that word is derogatory, doesn’t mean that I should change the way I speak. It means the listener needs to get some edumacation and some intellectual curiosity.

            1. FFP


              I was surprised to see how long ago it was when a DC employee was fired for using the other ‘n-word’–1999!

              But, I worry that further intercourse in this vein might bastardize the original intent here.

            2. Matt

              I know what you’re saying on that, JB88, but in my experience, the smartest thing to do is always to just avoid the trouble. In the end, rather you’re right or wrong, there will always be more trouble than just picking another word (which takes a split second) when you choose to use the word that may upset someone who doesn’t actually understand the meaning of the word. People these days have thin skin, and even when a word shouldn’t offend them, there’s always a chance that it will.

              I remember in high school working at a food place that served Italian Beef (already had some for lunch, otherwise this would make me hungry), and some guy was offended by the term au jou. He thought it sounded too much like “Jew”. The guy, when asked, said that he wasn’t even Jewish, he just felt like it was an offensive term. He made all sorts of threats and everything. If I had just said juice instead there would have never been a single problem. Should I have? No way, the guy was completely out of line, but it would have saved me one headache, which is enough to be worth it.

              I know your comment wasn’t directed at me, but I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents. Bottom line is that people are just offended way too easily today, or pretend to be to try to get something out of someone. Maybe it’s always been like that, I don’t know, but it’s just smarter to avoid the trouble. You’re not going to change anything by continuing to use those words, and it’s just going to cause you more of a headache in the end.

              1. JB88

                I appreciate what you are saying and know that logically you are right. But I have a huge issue with kowtowing to ignorant people. Righteous indignation is annoying enough as it stands, let alone righteous indignation from a fool.

                Life is too short to change the manner in which you speak because it might possibly offend someone who doesn’t know the meaning of something. My god, that sounds exhausting to me. Maybe my comment is naive seeing as in my job I don’t tend to work with people who would act like “au jou” guy, but I do hear what you are saying.

                1. Wilbur

                  Amen …

                2. Matt

                  I agree with you, it’s incredibly annoying to have to watch what you say so much. Where I work now I luckily mostly interact only with people in my office, and those people all know me and who I am, and they would think twice before ever accusing me of being racist or hateful in any way. Life is too short to change the manner in which you speak, I agree, but it will be hindered even more by having to deal with the BS that those morons will give you if you don’t. Then again, like I said before, now it’s barely an issue for me and has been for quite some time.

              2. Stinky Pete

                I guess I associate it with raising kids.

                I feel we should be able to use words that are not offensive and hate filled = I feel my kids should not get to watch TV if they leave dishes in the basement.


                People get upset and cry with righteous indignation = My kids get upset and cry with righteous indignation.

                You have to put up with some whining to make things how they should be. Granted, it may take longer to “raise” society than my children. Then again, maybe not.

  4. Bruce Miles

    Two headlines:

    Man eating shark seen on beach

    Man-eating shark seen on beach

    Yeah, that kind of stuff!

    1. DocPeterWimsey

      Sadly for the world’s sharks, the former is more apt to be the correct sentence…..

      1. Cubbie Blues

        But, it is soooo tasty. It has a fish taste but a steak feel.

        1. Cub2014


      2. ETS

        Depends on the breed. Some are overpopulated. I think people would be surprised how many bulls and lemons are in or around “swimming areas”.

        1. Cubbie Blues

          There were I’m wanting to say 52 shark attacks in the US last year. Most since 2000.

          1. DarthHater

            The sharks are just trying to get on Shark Week!

    2. JoeJohhnyFrank

      Ya know what else is important?

      I once helped my Uncle Jack off a horse.

      1. DarthHater

        That joke was first told to me by my parents, the Pope, and Mother Teresa.

  5. Where's Gene Hiser?

    Better a curmudgeon than a misanthrope!

  6. scorecardpaul

    I agree with this. This is one of the main reasons why I love your site. I, unfortunately, am just a stupid old fart who isn’t very smart. I can apreciate me some well writen articles tho

    1. Tom A.

      Unfortunately, I am … ;>)

  7. Diggs

    As an editor in my professional life, I find this blog to be very clean, and rarely do I see typos. Good job with that, Brett.

    And I agree with you: reading that about Theo makes me inexplicably happy.

  8. MaxM1908

    I love this post. It seriously made my day. My admiration for Theo Epstein keeps finding new ways to expand.

  9. Cubbie Blues

    Ace, how many times did you proof read this article? Not that I found any but, I know I would have been very leery about it.

  10. DocPeterWimsey

    Oh, I got excited: my first thought was about punctuated equilibrium!

    1. Internet Random

      The cool kids say “punk eek”… well, I had a professor who did anyway.

  11. Cub Fan Dan

    I’m Ron Burgundy?

  12. ETS

    Who gives a “care” about an Oxford comma?
    I’ve seen those English dramas too
    They’re cruel
    So if there’s any other way
    To spell the word
    It’s fine with me, with me

    Why would you speak to me that way
    Especially when I always said that I
    Haven’t got the words for you
    All your diction dripping with disdain
    Through the pain
    I always tell the truth

  13. Bwitty

    Vampire Weekend!

  14. Bwitty

    Um, shouldn’t grandma be capitalized in the second one?

    1. Bwitty

      Both of them, actually.

  15. mak

    I learned the importance of grammar when I worked at a “BigLaw” firm. The penalty for a typo is cutting off a finger. True story.

    1. Spencer

      That seems unconscionable.

    2. DarthHater

      This was one of those big law firms in Teheran, wasn’t it?

    3. Cubbie Blues

      That wasn’t Bryan Salamone Law Firm by any chance was it?

  16. TSB

    Strange, no comments from Darth or Hansman on this subject. I guess grammar school writing skills are beyond their “expertise.”

    1. DarthHater

      I’m being niggardly in my comments today. ;-)

    2. hansman1982


      (comma intentionally left blank)

      1. TSB

        Sorry, I’m not into that gay stuff…

        1. hansman1982

          Not sure if cannibalism is a happy or homosexual event…

  17. Evolution

    I love this friggin’ article.

    Poor grammar is the rotting core of a great democracy.

    I love this, friggin’ article.

  18. Jono

    Nice insight into the team. Little articles (is this considered an article?) is what makes this a cool blog. Every blogger writes about possible trades and free agents. Not many give this kind of insight

  19. DarthHater

    Little articles ARE what MAKE this a cool blog. :-P

    1. TWC

      Little articles… smh!

    2. Jono

      why I aughta…..

    3. Jono

      Thats it, it are go time

      1. DarthHater

        Me ready!

  20. Internet Random

    Bert’s care with the language is one of the primary reasons this site accounts for 95 percent of my Cubs reading. His care with the facts is another.

  21. StevenF

    Now if only we can start using the word “like” in proper context. Instead of like um, I’m like, you know what I like, mean? It’s bad enough that intelligent people have to listen to it, let alone read that in a sentence.

  22. StevenF

    :) So you DO read the posts (I’m smiling again)

  23. Stu

    Is there a sabermetric for organizations with the best grammar correlated with the best WAR?

    Seems someone is wound up a little tooooooo tightly.

  24. Stu

    Does Theo also reorganize his desk everyday because it is never “just right”.

  25. Ryan

    This changed my mind about the Oxford (serial, Harvard) comma:

  26. Kansas Cubs Fan

    Alright, Mrs. Tolbert, I understand. Oh wait… This is a baseball site, not high school.