Season Ticket Holder Event – A Theo Epstein Teaser

epstein conference cubsI just got out of a presentation to season ticket holders at the Bank of America Theater downtown – entitled On Deck 2014 – and I’ve soon got to hit the road so that I can be back to Ohio before midnight. (The Little Boy is a touch sick, and I’d like not to sentence The Wife to another solo night punctuated by solo baby cries.)

I will give a full write-up of the event, which featured presentations by the Presidents of Business and Baseball Operations – Crane Kenney and Theo Epstein, respectively – soon. There are interesting bits to share, and things to look forward to in 2014. But this is just a quick and dirty teaser, partly because of the need for me to rush out of here, and partly because there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to spoil the whole thing for folks who are going to one of the three later sessions (today and tomorrow). There was one kinda-sorta surprise appearance. Can’t spoil that.

So, here’s a quick tease on some of the things Epstein discussed during his portion of the presentation. The following are my best notes on parts of his presentation, and are paraphrased (although in first person voice for convenience):

Seeing all of you and the plans for Wrigley, I’m reminded of why I’m here. I was told by a friend when I joined the Cubs that it takes great courage to be patient. I’ve called him several times to tell him he was right. I don’t think of me in relation to that, I think of you. You are the ones being patient, and thus courageous. So thank you.

Did you notice how there was a tremendous amount of young, homegrown talent on both teams in the World Series? Of the 50 players on active rosters, 35 were homegrown or acquired using homegrown players. That’s the way to build successful organizations. [Epstein made a joke about an oath to Tom Ricketts to hate the Cardinals – he said he won’t call them a “model franchise” for that reason.]

Why spend so much time and money on young talent? Many reasons – young players tend to get better, tend to stay healthy, can be groomed to support ethos of org, fans enjoy getting to know young players, etc. The main reason? Cramming as much talent onto the big league roster as possible. Peak age is 27 years old. Young players are cost-controlled – so you can fit more of them onto your roster. Average free agent is 32 and much more expensive than he was in his 20s. We want as much talent as possible on the roster. Since you cannot get impact, mid-20s talent in free agency, only way to get it is via draft, int’l FA, and trades.

[Epstein noted an evaluation that indicated the Cubs were the worst in MLB production from the players taken in the drafts between 2002 to 2010 (I believe I got those years correct, and I believe we've discussed this before)].

With the big revenue still a couple years away, it was clear to us that the only way to succeed was to go full-on into young player acquisition mode (and develop them, and get the most possible/best possible information about young players).

We now have one of the top scouting operations in baseball. [Lengthy discussion about The Cubs Way - it's a 350-page manual, and it covers everything.]

Talent acquisition: spend as much as we can on draft (despite CBA’s limitations) and on int’l FA. Epstein called signing Jorge Soler before the new CBA kicked in “exploiting a loophole,” and also called the 2013 int’l spending spree “exploiting a loophole” (hey, that’s what I called it way back when!), and then lots of trades. We’ve traded four years of veteran years (8 players) to receive 78 control years of 14 different young players. [Big applause.]

But there’s a cost, obviously. When you go into full-on talent acquisition mode, it better work. We don’t take your August and September pain for granted. Happy to say that thus far we’re very pleased with the results. Top five system per all the rankings (will be), and we believe we have three of the top 10 to 15 prospects in baseball (interesting cutoff). Now video on the prospects – Baez, Almora, Edwards, Soler, Bryant. (Edwards was an interesting inclusion, and Epstein mentioned multiple times that he was the pitcher of the year.)

(Here I started to wonder whether it was risky to focus on these young guys in addressing season ticket holders, given that the young guys likely still won’t be big league impact talent for a while, and … ) Right on cue, Epstein: we’re under no illusions that they’re all going to be stars and that they’ll come right up and we’ll win. It’s not linear. But the plan lines up so well with our business plan – the revenue will come online, and the renovation work will be underway/finishing up, at the same time as these young guys are up and ready to contribute.

So, there’s your quick and dirty tease on portions of what Epstein said. Kenney also had some interesting comments, and the overall presentation was well done. Again, I’ll have more robust thoughts soon, but this should tide you over.

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

410 responses to “Season Ticket Holder Event – A Theo Epstein Teaser”

  1. CubsRLost

    I am not paid to surf the net,…. I could watch tv, talk on the phone to your mom..etc and I would still get paid a lot of money……As long as the redlight doesn’t go on… I can do anything I want…….and I chose to speak my mindz……..upsetting some on here is way to easy…….. others I don’t chose to upset and others like you Mike…….I actually like to banter back and forth with……. Brad is an easy one to get mad……

    1. EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      Don’t think you are making anyone mad, you are just looking dumb as hell.

      1. TOOT

        Are you?

  2. CubsRLost

    See what I mean Mike……… You have to see it……. Tell me you got what I just did………Come on Mike.. You seem like your smart so please tell me you get what I did

    1. mjhurdle


  3. Lwilson

    what did he do? I’m confused

  4. waffle

    I like debate. This doesn’t feel like debate. I feel like statements are just being taken (selectively) to play gotcha and provide zingers. And by persisting I am in fact encouraging this behavior…, basically I am the root of the problem….I always knew it, drats.

  5. CubsRlost

    Its so easy to find something to make them comment on and get upset about……. They make it so easy to take over the page….. Give me your ages……… Please give me your ages………

  6. CubsRlost

    No, No waffle……… I am the Root ……….. you are the water that keeps feeding the root

    1. ClevelandCubsFan

      Caution: TROLLS

      No Posts Past This Point

  7. MichiganGoat

    Anyone else checked out Cubs Den’s article about possible coaches RR might consider adding?

    Specifically the parts about Mariano Duncan, who Baez attributes to helping him develop into the hitter we saw this year.

    1. King Jeff

      I’m a big fan of Mariano Duncan as a coach. While the Cubs minors would miss him, I think he would be a great addition to the big league staff.

    2. Mike F

      I did thought it and the observation about Seattle as a trade partner was interesting. I find him interesting, has some interesting stuff. I don’t know that I hold in much of the same regard as this site, but he’s at least interesting. But then again he’s no sccop Brett…..

      1. MichiganGoat

        It’s a great site and a regular stop for me after BN.

      2. Professor Snarks

        Both John and Brett are great. This site, however has, how should I say it? a more ‘colorful’ cast of characters on the comment threads.

        1. Mike F

          nice… like that colorful, eccentric cast of characters. It ain’t all bad is it? Moment break from some moon talk……..

        2. Brains

          yeah the insanity and fantasy of most of the comments is what drew me in originally, and then it set me free. “when in bleachernation, do as the goats do”

  8. Diamondrock

    Yeah, the “hate the Cardinals” bit really sells me. I’m glad the people who own this franchise know that they’re the enemy.

  9. YourResidentJag

    So, apparently according to the Score, the Cubs have their sights on trading for Rickie Weeks???

    1. Professor Snarks

      Did they give a reason why? Unless they can get him for nothing, to hold 2nd base until Baez is ready, and they think they’ll get something for flipping him, it doesn’t make sense to me.

      His lifetime batting average does fit in well with the Cubs roster, though.

      1. YourResidentJag
  10. kq

    I could see them buying low on J. Weeks from oak. It sounds like they want to be aggressive on the bases this yr, so replacing Barney with some speed makes sense.

    1. YourResidentJag

      It’s not him though. It’s his brother? from Milwaukee.

  11. YourResidentJag

    Jed Hoyer on @davidkaplanshow when asked about Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka…. “He’s going to help somebody and we will be in on him.”

  12. kq

    I think they have a good shot to land Tanaka and I think Shark will be traded if they land him

    1. TOOT

      That’s a leap for sure. Don’t know why you think we have a “good” shot at getting Tanaka, and why Shark would be traded. The FO said they would be in on Tanaka, that’s all. They did NOT say at any cost.

      1. kq

        Hes the best fit in FA by far considering his age. Tanaka will be the cubs top target, signing a 26yr old TOR pitcher would be huge progress in the rebuild. If shark is still off on the contract negotiations now is the best time to deal him, weak FA market, at the deadline less teams will be involved and if he struggles out of the gate his value can drop. Shark could land a monster return he has two yrs control. If he doesnt progress and you deal him next offseason with only 1 yr plus him demanding a huge contract, then they missed out on a good opportunity.

        1. Eternal pessemist

          I wonder if trading shark now vs waiting till midseason whe teams realize they are in the race will give the cubs the most value. There is also the issue of getting some better performance from shark prior to the trade….and fielding a respectable team to start the season for ticket sales, and because anything could happen.

  13. Corey

    Hey Kyle, do you have a blog or twitter?

    Everything you post is absolute gold.

    So we’re bad for a couple more seasons.

    Does that mean I won’t watch?

    Nope. Rizzo, Lake Castro, castillo etc are all exciting and fun to watch.

    1. Kyle

      I do not. I am an artist and wherever Cubs fans congregate on the internet is my canvas.

  14. Greenroom

    After reading all of the comments from some of the masses, I finally understand their theory.

    1. Ricketts was not making enough through his business ventures. Living off his capital gains and various director positions was not profitable enough for him to solely remain in those positions.
    2. He buys the Cubs because he needs to find a way to quickly make more money and gain more wealth in the process.
    3. Ricketts secretly wants to pay for Wrigley field upgrades out of his own pocket, so therein he can really start to suck the “cash cow” dry.
    4. He builds the DR facility and the Arizona training complex to reap said “cash cow” for more money to add to his wealth.
    5. Ricketts will never try to win a World Series, because he knows Cubs fans do not care if we win. We are just a sub-culture that loves failure.
    6. All of these factors suggest to Ricketts that this is the fast track to more wealth versus his other business ventures.
    7. He is a sadist.
    8. Anyone who does not believe partially or all of the above, is simply a fool and a dreamer.
    9. The regulars on here are simply “plants” to critique, yet accept to some extent, not all, of the Ricketts decisions, so the rest of comply.
    10. 1+9 = Truth.

    thanks for helping me see the light.

    1. MichiganGoat

      Yeah that’s it in a solid gold nutshell that Rickett is hoarding

      1. YourResidentJag

        And also really not moving on that renovation thing which Theo tied to new revenue streams. It’s all we’ve been hearing for three yrs now.

        1. cub2014

          jag, you are joking right?

          1. YourResidentJag

            So, we haven’t been hearing about the renovation plans for three years now? If there’s something you’re missing, @cub2014, I don’t know how that’s a joke. BTW, is your handle reminiscent of the old 2012 philosophy that this team will be playoff bound in 2014. I don’t see that happening, either.

          2. cub2014

            well jag, you said not moving on the
            renovations like they really have any
            control over that. until the litigation is
            complete there will be no renovation.
            it would be ludicrous to do so.

            and yes I believed that this would be the
            year they would start towards there playoff
            run. but if they dont spend any money this
            FA off season I will have been WRONG!!!

            1. YourResidentJag

              So, once again, the renovations are stuck without moving forward. Thanks.

              1. cub2014

                “also really not moving on that renovation
                thing we have been hearing about” your
                obvious intent is to blame the FO for the
                lack of renovations correct? This is my
                point. Find something real to complain
                about in regards to this FO if you dont

                1. YourResidentJag

                  Wrong. My intention squarely lies on the shoulders of the Ricketts family. Nice try, though. :)

                  1. YourResidentJag

                    So, what is the timetable for the renovations, then?

                  2. cub2014

                    So Jag, you feel Theo and the FO are
                    trying to win but are just inept. Whereas,
                    Ricketts is just greedy and trying to suck
                    every dollar he can out of the Cubs?

                    “Paranoia it’ll destroy ya”

                    1. YourResidentJag

                      No, that’s apparently what you feel from this poor interpretation.

                    2. cub2014

                      So Jag, give us a breakdown of
                      this FO and ownership. What you
                      like and dont like and what you
                      would have done differently, if you
                      would who knows we might agree
                      on a few things.

                    3. YourResidentJag

                      So, you can criticize me every step of the way….

                    4. cub2014

                      Jag, thats what I thought!

                    5. YourResidentJag

                      Well, this argumentation style of yours is rather pointless…so if that’s what you thought….I would say a resounding…yes.

                    6. Kyle

                      “So Jag, give us a breakdown of
                      this FO and ownership. What you
                      like and dont like and what you
                      would have done differently, if you
                      would who knows we might agree
                      on a few things.”

                      I’m not JAG, but I’ll take a swing at that pitch.

                      OK, first, ownership.

                      Tom Ricketts should have walked away from buying the Cubs under the sales conditions that Zell and the Tribune were insisting upon. All of the credible buyers did. It was a poison pill. There weren’t really any serious buyers who were willing to accept those terms besides the Ricketts, although the Tribune tried to scrape one up.

                      Instead, Ricketts took a look at the poison-pill and convinced himself he could work around it thanks to an overoptimistic set of assumptions. He thought he could get government funding to expand Wrigley Field and use that revenue to offset the debt payments. He also didn’t foresee the team becoming bad and revenue tanking. “They always sell out” was even allegedly one of his big selling points to his father on getting him to approve the family buying the team. When Ricketts bought the team, they were in the middle of a run of success that he clearly (judging from his interviews at the time) expected to continue.

                      Since taking over the team, Ricketts has shown a persistent ability to derail the team by being far too optimistic in his assumptions. Once his plan A (gov’t funding) fell through, he was forced to come up with a plan B (pay for the expansion by cannibalizing the revenue you hope to generate from it) that only worked if he naively assumed that people wouldn’t try to press the lack of leverage he’d walked himself into. Oops.

                      OK, now for the front office.

                      First and foremost, Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod are, by the evidence, pretty good at what they do. Hoyer I’m not sure about, but it’s hard to tell. Epstein isn’t nearly as good as some Cubs fans want to believe, and it remains to be seen if he’s good enough. McLeod seems like he might be a golden god, though.

                      The ultimate problem here stems from Theo Epstein’s goals in the fall of 2011 not meshing with the Cubs’ needs. Epstein, apparently stressed out from his time in Boston, wanted a blank canvas on which he could paint a portrait entirely his own. The Cubs needed someone who could handle the difficult task of simultaneously navigating an aggressive and ambitious offseason to avoid falling off a cliff at the MLB level (and losing all the revenue that comes with that cliff-dive, creating a self-perpetuating spiral of losses) *and* begin the process of slowly but surely fixing the scouting and development system. Epstein wanted to do half of the job twice as fast, and the unfinished half is biting him in the butt right now. He tried to pull the team up out of that death spiral last offseason, but it was too late, he waited too long, and now the rebuild is going to take several years longer than it needed to.

                    7. Brains

                      i often kid about the FO but in truth i do worry that Jed is just not up for the job. i can’t point to one good signing, favorable trade, or coach-stress-easing move yet. if anything he’s botched several high profile trades, let player sit on the trade stove way too long until no one wants them for a fair price and the players get upset, and he’s spent inordinate amounts of money on terrible waiver signings. the guy is just in over his head and is better suited for a less stressful job.

    2. Kyle

      It feels completely unfair to label Ricketts as greedy when it can more easily be explained by ineptitude.

      1. YourResidentJag

        Thanks for summarizing that. It was too long for me to read. :)

      2. cub2014

        Kyle, you and Jag are good at what you do.

        1. DarthHater

          Which is what, exactly? Making the goat have a stroke???

          1. cub2014

            No, filling this blog up with negative
            minutia (I think they may have tutored
            under Brains)

            1. Kyle

              I sometimes fill up this blog with positive and/or neutral minutia, too.

            2. YourResidentJag

              I do as well, and I would second Kyle’s point.

            3. Brains

              not really accurate – a lot of you guys like to dump on anyone who bursts your bubble. but your bubble is made of soap suds. and it’s being burst by the ricketts, not brains.

              after repeated temper tantrums, i reply in kind but not in content. then you throw more temper tantrums. then kyle or jason says something brilliant, then you attack his family.

              that’s how things run here, and it’s great.

          2. Soda Popinski

            There were a few times I could imagine Goat’s eye twitching as he read. haha.

            1. MichiganGoat

              Meh I’m kinda done with these trolls, combating them only grows and feeds more of them.

              1. Soda Popinski

                They’re like hydras, man.

                1. MichiganGoat

                  I was thinking the exact same thing

                  1. Brains

                    nice one, did you draw that?

    3. Bilbo161

      Hmmm….that didn’t seem well thought out to me at all. The new owner is trying to make money, but he is a big fan as well. There is no reason to bad mouth the guy for trying to put together a long term winner and make money. My opinion is that he is doing everything for the long term betterment of the team with an eye to winning the World Series because that is the way to make money in baseball.

      1. mjhurdle

        Makes sense, but it isn’t as fun as whining about ‘greed’ or pontificating on the business acumen of people based on a tiny sliver of understanding of the situations involved.

        1. Kyle

          It makes sense because it’s what you want to believe/

          1. cub2014

            Kyle in your world does anyone ever try
            and succeed? Or is failure a prerequisite
            of your thinking.

            1. Kyle

              That didn’t make sense. Could you restate?

              1. cub2014

                I’m sorry you cant understand.

                1. Kyle

                  I am too. Could you restate it?

                  1. cub2014

                    Kyle thanks for laying out your
                    thoughts on the FO and ownership.

          2. mjhurdle

            How do you know what I believe?
            Some of us are capable of saying an argument makes sense without necessarily agreeing with the conclusion.

            1. Kyle

              Well, that seems rather pointless.

              1. mjhurdle

                In the arena of internet trolling, it serves no real purpose.
                But it has many valuable applications in other areas of productive discourse.

                1. Kyle

                  Your position here requires you to assume you know what I know or believe on several issues, which is rather amusingly hypocritical at this point.

                  1. mjhurdle

                    You lost me. What about my position references you in any way, shape, or form?

                    1. Kyle

                      “trolling” assumes intent.

                      ” based on a tiny sliver of understanding of the situations involved.” assumes a level of knowledge.

                      Now, you could play the game that you weren’t directly referencing anybody despite the context being clear, and if that’s how you want to play it (technically winning the point but admitting that your posts have no contextual purpose or meaning) I guess I can’t deny that.

                    2. mjhurdle

                      I think it is pretty obvious i wasn’t referencing you.
                      It was a simple explanation.
                      You yourself said it was pointless, It wasn’t like I brought the topic up. I explained why and where I feel it is appropriate and useful, in response to your post.
                      If you felt that was some direct shot, then that is on you, but if I wanted to call you a troll, i would just do it.

  15. MichiganGoat

    Well I see BN is going to be a very tiresome place this winter just a bunch of “I know you are but what am I” bullshit enjoy the sideshow everyone.

    1. Kyle

      Thanks, we will.

      1. MichiganGoat

        I’m sure you will enjoy the loneliness of bitterness.

        1. Kyle

          Well, it’s certainly better than the bitterness of loneliness.

    2. cub2014

      Goat, I know but I get sick of the people
      that come on here and try and bully every
      one with their negative thoughts. If you dont
      like the way they believe then it gets personal.
      Heck any idiot can do that.

      1. MichiganGoat

        The world if full of negativity and BN used to be a place to escape all that… oh well time to move on.

        1. cub2014

          i think maybe I will

        2. MoneyBoy

          I hear ya Cub2014 and MG… I read the posts and move on!!

          1. Internet Random


        3. toby

          I remember, when I first started coming here, because I was tired of the negative overtones that pervaded I finally found a place where one wasn’t afraid to speak their mind and receive positive feedback and the conversations were cordial. Now, I hardly come here because the comments have dwindled down to snarky trolling of the lowest denominator. A good example is within minutes of RR, officially, being named the new manager the comments were mostly about how RR is the wrong choice. Those comments were probably from the fan contingent that will not accept anyone, but Ryne Sandberg as manager and still believe that Sandberg was screwed over. It is also, this same fan base, that have been crying for a massive rebuild, but when there is an actual rebuilding plan are too impatient. It is also, this same fan base, that were crying about overpaying for the likes of Soriano, A-Ram, Howry, etc that put the Cubs in such a horrible situation that want the FO to go out and spend on guys like Cano, Choo, etc which would put the Cubs back to where they started. I have waited for quite some time a FO that has an actual plan that will keep the Cubs in a position where they are competing for a World Series every year. I knew that there are going to be 3-4 years in which they were going to be horrible, but I am getting more and more excited as I can start to see the signs of an organization whose better days are not that far away.

          1. Bwa

            Bravo, well said.

            1. TOOT

              My ear is exploding. Should of went to school!

          2. Brains

            RR was a fine choice. those who criticize him then attack those who support players/coaches as trolls and then it devolves. pay attention most to those who call others trolls, not those being called trolls. i mean they’re attacking Kyle at this point, for gods sake. Kyle might as well inherit the blog from Brett when he joins Cubs middle management.

            1. Brains

              BTW all of this is great for business, lots of clicks means lots of $$$ for advertisers. it’s a bear trap here, wear some steel boots and enjoy this strange corner of subculture.

    3. Brains

      admit it, you just want to go offline because i haven’t been posting as much and you don’t have anyone to spar with. you’re whole purpose here is to fight with bloggers, not talk about the team. my whole point here is to disillusion spin, which i am amazing at.

  16. YourResidentJag

    Story for anyone interested in the new road jersey the Cubs will unveil in 2014.

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