In the run-up to Opening Day, and with the Wrigley renovation on the periphery of all Cubs-related discussions, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects with a variety of media (including Patrick Mooney here, Mooney again here, Paul Sullivan here, and Paul Sullivan again here).
- On how the front office would react to another 90+ loss season: “Well, we’d be disappointed. If we had a 90-win season but we had a horrible draft and we had a bunch of our prospects take a step backward and we have several key injuries to core players at the big league level, I would consider that a disappointing year, to be honest, because we need to build this organization up and be better than where we are today. Now if we unfortunately suffer through a 90-loss season, to use your example, but have an unbelievable draft and lots of prospects take steps forward and other players develop in core at the big league level — it would be disappointing at the big league level … but in the big picture it will still be a successful year for the organization …. There should be two areas of focus. One is the big league team. Do we succeed or fail? And one is on the organization. There is just no other way to look at it right now. That’s the reality of it.” Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be looking back at another successful year in the organization come November, even if not a successful big league season.
- On keeping Alfonso Soriano no matter what, because he’s such a good presence on the team: “No, you have to leave all options open. Because if we reach a point this year where we’re not going to have a season where we sneak up on people and contend, then we have to at some point contemplate our future …. It’s up to him too. He’s got the no-trade now, so if he doesn’t want to go anywhere, he doesn’t have to. But if there is something that puts him in a good position and also makes the future of the organization better, we’ll bring it to him. But that’s down the road. Our priority now is for him to repeat his 30 bombs, and having some other guys step up and try to have a season like the Orioles and the A’s had last year.” Pretty much exactly what you’d expect – and want – him to say. Soriano wasn’t keen on accepting a trade until midseason anyway, so let’s just hope for productivity. That means the Cubs are good, or Soriano is tradable for value. Either way, that’s a good thing.
- On the value he sees in finally getting the Cubs back to a place where they’re competitive every year: “Now and then I see clips of what it was like during the ’03 playoffs, and that sea of people body-to-body on Waveland and Sheffield and how great a contrast it is to what it’s like now, especially on a cold April night on a Tuesday. That kind of pops into my head sometimes when I’m walking over to the ballpark: Hey, all this hard work [and] so many different people making sacrifices to make the organization healthier and better [is] so that we can have that sea of people out there, having a great time. [It’s] so we can play when the ivy’s starting to turn colors.” I remember that feeling. It was actually pretty great in September in 2007 and 2008, too. If you’re anything like me, you crave it again.
- On his desire to avoid being the story when it comes to the Cubs: “Obviously, we live in a world where things are boiled down to 140 characters [on Twitter]. If you can focus on one person, that’s the most convenient thing to do. But it doesn’t mean I have to be comfortable with it. I recognize the realities of it. That’s why I pick my spots. That’s why I’m not always down there during BP. That’s why I say no to 95 percent of media requests from national writers or people that want to write things about me. And also just for my own privacy. Once you start thrusting yourself out there, I think you become a hypocrite if you then decide to draw a boundary and pull back.” That one comes from a Mooney piece, so I’d say that 95% comment is a compliment to you, Mr. Mooney. (That particular piece is a great look at the person that is Theo Epstein, so definitely give it a read.)
- On schmoozing, which Epstein views as an unfortunate, but necessary, part of the job: “I can turn it on. It’s a requirement of the job to do it. But it’s work and I actively hate it as I do it. I can go into situations – like a cocktail party or things like that – where I need to schmooze and I have to set my soul aside. It’s not something I can pull off on a daily basis. I loathe it. But it can be an important part of the job and I need to challenge myself to be better at it and maybe not take myself so seriously. If they’re going to suffer this fool, then maybe I can suffer fools as well.” (The last bit was a joke.) Should I find myself talking to Theo at a party, I’ll remember that he is absolutely uninterested in speaking with me. Most people are.