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epstein on sports talk liveChicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was on Sports Talk Live on CSN last night, addressing a variety of offseason Cubs topics. If you missed his appearance, you can catch most of it on video from CSN here, here, and here. The videos total about 25 minutes, so, if you’ve got the time, they’re worth a viewing. It’s a deep, wide-ranging discussion.

For those who haven’t the time or inclination, here are some of the things Epstein had to say (the things I found most interesting, anyway), in all of their paraphrased goodness …

  • On the distinction between a Japanese player’s posting price and his salary, in terms of the Cubs’ spending restrictions, Epstein said, “It all comes out of the same pool of money.” That seems like a pretty black-and-white rebuke of what Joel Sherman and Gordon Wittenmyer (who asked Epstein the question) have reported, but I’d be cautious about putting too much into any of this (on either side). The complexities of the financial situation are still emerging (over the course of several years), and it’s probably not quite as simple as saying “the posting fee is like free money that the Cubs can spend without any restrictions whatsoever” or saying “the posting fee and the salaried contract are identical in every way.” The gray in between is probably where the truth lies, and it could be a while yet before we have a better understanding of how these things work. Hopefully by then, it’s all academic – which is to say, hopefully within a couple years, the Cubs are generating so much revenue that the restrictions no longer matter or no longer exist.
  • As for Masahiro Tanaka, specifically, Epstein said he doesn’t like to talk about specific players out there because it can put you at a competitive disadvantage, but he said that the Cubs are in the market for impact pitching, and they prefer guys in the prime or about to enter their prime, who can be controlled for a long time. So, like, Tanaka. Epstein said the Cubs would be as aggressive as they can be on guys like that, assuming their internal reports match what the industry seems to think about the player.
  • On Jeff Samardzija, Epstein didn’t say anything new. The Cubs like him, want to keep him, but they have to be flexible to do the best thing for the organization. “It’s very possible” that Samardzija will still be with the Cubs come Opening Day.
  • On why fans should pay to watch the 2014 Cubs, given that they might not be competitive, even if those fans understand and appreciate the long-term plan: Epstein said that it’s enjoyable to be on the ground floor, and stick with an organization/players through the ups and downs, because it’s then more rewarding at the end (as opposed to folks who bail now, and come back only when the Cubs are dominating). Epstein has said this before, and philosophically, I agree. But it’s a contentious point among fans, so I’m just going to leave it alone.
  • On the rebuilding effort’s progress: Epstein didn’t want to put a number on it, but, since he was asked, he said things were maybe about 50% of the way to where the front office wants to be. The scouting and development staff is in place and effective, young talent is being accumulated, and the big league roster is a work in progress.
  • Epstein wouldn’t say that the organization was “bad” when he took over, but he would describe it as “unhealthy.” He referenced signing win-now type players when the organization wasn’t actually ready to win (and deferring payments to them into future years), signing amateurs with deferred payments (that was happening?), and focusing too much on the next day’s headlines (i.e., making sure the team “looked” good, even if it wasn’t a realistic pennant contender) at the expense of doing something sustainable. And people question why I generally speak so positively and deferentially about Epstein and this front office? It’s because they get it, in a way “it” hasn’t been got in 25+ years in Chicago.
  • Epstein on the necessity of the rebuild, and the pain of it (I’ll quote this one): “It had gotten to the point where [the organization] was really unhealthy. So what we’re doing now is having to strip some of that away, in a lot of different ways – financially, and in terms of our scouting and player development. We’re resetting baselines so we can build it back up and make it healthy. It had to happen. You can get on me for being the one to do it, that’s fine. But I promise you, it had to happen. We don’t like having days like [Tuesday] happen where there are big trades and free agent signings, and we’re sitting it out. You think we want to be there sitting it out? No. But there will be a day really soon where we’re right in the middle of that because we have more financial flexibility, because we have lots of talented young players and assets that everyone wants around the game, and we’re going to be the ones dictating all of those big moves.”
  • The talent and the financial flexibility are coming, and Epstein once again referenced the business plan and the baseball plan more or less syncing up. “We can’t make time go faster.”
  • When the show referenced Baseball America’s recent, very specific farm system rankings, I love that Epstein corrected that Baseball America didn’t rank the Cubs’ farm system 5th. They were ranked 5th in terms of Major League ready prospects, which is a pretty important distinction (one I highlighted when that list came out).
  • Epstein was extremely confident in the Cubs’ ability to significantly increase their television revenue take (although it was a little unclear if he was speaking broadly about TV revenues for the Cubs when both the WGN and CSN deals are up, or if he meant specifically the WGN portion, which available now for bidding, but covers less than half of the games, and will probably be renegotiated again in 2019). It was clear that Epstein couldn’t get into specifics – and Gordon Wittenmyer was pushing hard for specifics – but he said, “trust me – you would want to buy stock in the Cubs’ TV rights if you could. You definitely would.” That’s a message that’s easy to say, but if you watch Epstein (it’s in part three up there, around the 4 minute mark) deliver the message, you can tell he really believes it and is frustrated that he can’t say more to “prove” it. I am suddenly re-energized about the Cubs’ ability to generate more revenue in the near-term from the new TV deal. There was always going to be an increase, but maybe the Cubs really will be able to bump things up significantly.
  • Speaking of which, Epstein noted that he has come to believe that the Cubs have been, in the past, very dependent on ticket sales for revenue. With a new TV deal in place, he thinks that will change. In other words, once the Cubs have the kind of TV deal Epstein believes they should have in a market like Chicago, the team’s revenues will become largely fixed (and you won’t have the considerable ebb and flow of dollars to the extent the Cubs have apparently had in the past).
  • Epstein intimated that, although there are unique and difficult circumstances right now, the Cubs will eventually be able to get back into the top tier of teams in terms of payroll. But that happens only after the business plans and baseball plans are hitting on all cylinders.
  • Epstein said the morale in the minor leagues right now is unbelievably good. He says the minor leaguers look at each other and see how good their teammates are, and think “it’s a big secret” just how good the Cubs are going to be down the line.
  • Important quote: “There’s no way I could make our business side happier than if I put a winning team on the field.” Put it in flashing lights and remember it: everyone wants the Cubs to win. It’s better business, even if you don’t care a lick about the ethereal qualities of being a fan. So, if you want to see the Cubs win because you love them and you’re a passionate fan, just know that you’re on the same side as the Cubs’ front office and the business guys (and who cares what their reasons are?). Everyone wants the Cubs to win, and win consistently for a long time.
  • Jeff

    If they don’t make a hard push for Tanaka, I will no longer buy into the “rebuilding plan”.

    • Jeff

      Change your name Rookie…there’s already a Jeff here.

      • Jeff

        I’m Jeff. Both of you change your name.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      My names Jeff too. haha

      • C. Steadman

        Jeff Woody? ur not ISU’s RB are you?

        • Cheese Chad

          Yes, some cyclone love!

      • Jeff

        Now I know how King Jeff felt when I started posting on the board and he decided to change his name…lol

        Lord Jeff? Prince Jeff? I tried the “Poster Formerly Know as Jeff”….is it time to change the name???

  • Kyle

    I hate how they use the “syncing up” of baseball and business as some sort of badge of honor.

    They are syncing up because both have been botched pretty consistently since Ricketts took over.

    • Timmy baseball man

      Really? Do you have evidence of that? That is a pretty bold claim, I would like to hear why you think that. I am pretty confident that your view of “botched” is not accurate

      • Kyle

        Which side? The baseball side where we’ve set a franchise record for losing the last two seasons, or the business side where attendance has cratered and the Wrigley project still isn’t moving forward with any real speed after four years of bumbling?

  • Rebuilding

    Theo is starting to get a few more grey hairs and pounds. Too many late nights looking at this roster

  • Kyle

    Words are wind, Epstein.

    It is wise to be skeptical of people who are always willing to promise you less in the near-term when there’s accountability, and much more in the vague future.

    • Brains

      yeah it’s still hard for me to get on board seeing that by year 4 he’ll probably have the worst win/loss franchise GM record in the history of baseball. it’s so dire, and i think they’ve made a lot of huge mistakes in baseball fundamentals by trying to become the next oakland, but without the cleverness. but we can’t deny that they’ve done a great job with the minors, and that a strong minor league base is useful for future lineup, trade, and salary control factors.

    • DarthHater

      “Words are wind”

      Self-verifying statement of the week.

      • ETS

        I think you missed the reference (perhaps).

    • BT

      when did you go into the fortune cookie business?

      • ETS

        Fortune cookies are more useless than nipples on a breastplate.

    • aaronb

      Excellent point Kyle,

      It seems like any accountability is always getting pushed back to a later date.

    • Cubbie in NC

      The longer the promise of the future being bright while the current gets worse, the more it seems like we are buying into a ponzi scheme…

  • Brains

    ok you’ve placated me for another couple months, especially with your last paragraph.

    i still don’t believe theo is talking on the level, but not because of his own failings but that of ownership. and just for the record, 50% after 2.5 offseasons = 5 season rebuild. that means 5 seasons until we try, which means 8-9 years until we’re competitive barring some miracle predicted by a lot of the posters here. there’s no miracles guys, just honest evaluation. and you’re not applying it to this case most of the time unless you’re kyle.

    • hansman

      “that means 5 seasons until we try”

      Given what we know about the Cubs financial situation, meaning that Epstein has spent every dollar available to him for big league payroll, how have we not been trying?

      Maybe signed/traded for some wrong players, sure. That happens everywhere. Not tried, fat chance. If you want to see not trying, look at the 2013 Astros. I am positive if Epstein truly wanted to give the Cubs a 0% chance of making the playoffs on Opening Day, we would have had a 120-loss season by now.

      • Norm

        Edwin Jackson didn’t have a good year, Castro regressed, Samardzija didn’t step forward, and Rizzo was meh, so they’re obviously not trying.
        If the opposite of those things happened, THEN they’d be trying.

        • hansman

          Ya, if only their spending last year had worked better!!!!!!

          Theo has whiffed on the IFA talent he has/has not brought in, but they are trying.

        • Cheese Chad

          Failure is always do to lack of trying. FACT!

          • Brains

            you guys are alright by me, even mountain goat

          • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/653cc0c5f0eded621ab13b4f631de7da.png Cizzle

            Ron Swanson says there’s nothing wrong with failure as long as you tried your hardest.

      • CubFan Paul

        The Cubs had a 0% chance to make the playoffs at the beginning of ’12 & ’13.

        All hail the plan.

      • YourResidentJag

        Why do you have such a problem with the Astros? You realize the guy running things there built the Cards farm system. You know the team we are trying to DESPERATELY emulate. They tanked to get the top every year he’s been there. Their farm system is almost ready to produce. Their SP, combined with guys like Springer, are going to make them potent for years to come.

    • JulioZuleta

      Epstein took over in November 2011. There have been precisely 2 baseball seasons since then, not 2.5. Not even 2.5 offseasons, really. Also, I could be wrong (I’m not) but I would assume that “100%” suggests being a consistent winner/contender. I don’t see how you could think “100%” just means “trying,” with the winning not to come for a few more years. Wouldn’t that be, like, 160%?

    • Rich

      There was or is no distinction of that each year is exactly the same as far as progress. Progress ( and lack of it ) is not linear.

      They could put a jumbotron up at the allstar break next year and add revenue or trade Jeff S. and get 2 or 3 younger players that are ready for 2015.

      I think next year will be the last year of the ground floor business and greatly improve from that point.

  • Isaac

    “And people question why I generally speak so positively and deferentially about Epstein and this front office? It’s because they get it, in a way it hasn’t been got in 25+ years in Chicago.”

    Spot on, Brett. Spot on.

    • Khross

      True dat!

    • Randy

      Isaac its because you think Theo is god. I agree w/ Brains on this one. My faith is dwindling fast.

      • Cheese Chad

        Nobody is here to convince you otherwise. You can either be here to enjoy it when it happens or be on the opposite side of an “I told ya so”

    • aaronb

      Did Andy McFail (fresh off of 2 WS titles in Minnesota) not get it?

      • terencemann

        I think MacPhail’s success in Minnesota was in bringing in pieces to compliment the players in the system. The 87 Twins had some luck to make the playoffs with their record and he did a good job in 91 of bringing in some players playing in their prime.

        • aaronb

          How is that different than what Theo did in Boston?

          Manny Ramirez
          Nomar Garciaparra
          Pedro Martinez
          Jason Varitek
          Trot Nixon
          Derek Lowe
          Johnny Damon
          Tim Wakefield

          And a good Minor league system were already in place. He took over a team that had just won 93 games and was already a perennial playoff attendee.

  • praying the cubs get ready to win

    I believe in the Front Office, but it’s been painful. The future looks great but wow the past has been tough.

    • Brains

      this isn’t a religion. it’s a bureaucratic process behind the scenes and preparation, chemistry, and talent on the stage. you guys have to stop taking theo to be a savior and treat him like a businessman that’s done a shaky job with his interests.

      • Timmy baseball man

        You are not smart, thank you for making that clear to all of us

  • CubFan Paul

    “he said things were maybe about 50%”

    So 2016 (again)…

    • DocPeterWimsey

      No. The Sox never were 100% to where Theo wanted them to be, yet they made post-season almost annually. This sort of thing never gets to 100%.

      Look at the Cubs as a “fix ‘er upper” house. In 2011, the Cubs house was a wreck: it was in bad shape and crumbling. You can tear it down, you can let it rot, or you can play “This Old House.” The Cubs did the third. One upshot is that your progress follows an S shape: slow at first, faster in the middle, and then asymptoting. After all, once you’ve got the entire house built, then something breaks, something needs to be replaced; then you get around to finishing the basement; then you decide that you need a new kitchen; etc. etc.

      • Kyle

        Point of order: They made the playoffs 6 times in 9 years under Epstein.

        Even when things were up and running at full speed, they missed 1/3rd of the time. Something to keep in mind for the “it’s okay if we lose a bunch of years now, because we’re going to make it every year starting in 2018!” crowd.

        • Rebuilding

          I’ll take 6 out of 9. Statistically that should have us winning a WS every 15 years or so.

          • Kyle

            The problem is, you only get the 6 out of 9 if you lose for four or five years first.

            • Rebuilding

              After the last century I think 99% of Cubs fans would take 5 years of nothing and then making the playoffs 6 out of every 9 years for perpetuity in a heartbeat

              • Kyle

                Six out of 14 in total?

                In a big market, I’d take that very reluctantly.

                • Rebuilding

                  Oh Kyle. That’s the first 14. After that it is 6 out of every 9. That’s why you build the foundation. If the foundation takes 5 years to build and then we get 6 out of 9 forever tell me where to sign up.

                  The Yankees have “only” made the playoffs 7 out of the last 9, Red Sox 6 out of last 9, Dodgers 4 out of last 9, the vaunted Cardinals 6 out of last 9, the Giants 2 of last 9.

                  So if it takes five years of pain to get 6 out of 9 I’ll take it. Your iron fist has really been rusty the last few days

                  • Jono

                    I love discussing different ideas and being challenged with sound logic. But having to defend logic itself is just not enjoyable.

                  • Kyle

                    6 out of every 9 in perpetuity? You have no evidence for that.

                    • Rebuilding

                      It sounded like that is the scenerio you set up. But ok, how about this – I’ll take 6 out of 14 as opposed to the 3 out of 14 the previous way of running things produced, or the 1 out of 14 the regimes before that produced, or the 0 out of 14 the regimes before that produced.Especially if at the end of this 14 we have set up an organization that looks capable of future success

                    • Kyle

                      “It sounded like that is the scenerio you set up. But ok, how about this – I’ll take 6 out of 14 as opposed to the 3 out of 14 the previous way of running things produced, or the 1 out of 14 the regimes before that produced, or the 0 out of 14 the regimes before that produced.Especially if at the end of this 14 we have set up an organization that looks capable of future success”

                      Sure. If we pretend that ‘what we’re doing now’ and ‘what previous regimes did’, then what we’re doing now doesn’t look so bad.

                      But that’s a false choice fallacy.

                    • Rebuilding

                      Fair enough, but it dos point out that what you are painting as disappointing is something that hasn’t been done in the Chicago market by either team ever.

                      But I’ll concede that going forward has little to do with the past. It’s my contention, however, that there is no baseball executive (Billy Beane, Andrew Friedman, etc…) that could have taken the Cubs roster and seeming financial restrictions and made the playoffs 6 out of the 9 years from the date Epstein was hired. We maybe could have patchd things a bit and tried to sneak into the WC, but eventually we would have been in the same position we are now w/o the prospects. Just MHO

                    • Kyle

                      That’s where these disagreements always stem from. It would have taken audacity and ambition, but I think the Cubs could have begun their sustained success immediately with the right front office making the right moves.

                    • JB88

                      Point of clarification, Kyle, you think this is the wrong front office? That’s the implication I draw from your comment that “It would have taken audacity and ambition, but I think the Cubs could have begun their sustained success immediately with the right front office making the right moves.”

                      And, if that is your contention, who pray tell was the right front office and what were the right moves?

                    • Kyle

                      “And, if that is your contention, who pray tell was the right front office and what were the right moves?”

                      Yes. I think that this front office, while not awful, could certainly have been improved upon.

                      No, I’m not going to go back and redo two years of Cubs history in a single post.

                    • JB88

                      Ohh, goodie. Another extremely vague post, where you talk in absolutes but don’t offer ANY suggestions on how things would have been improved with a different front office or how this team could have improved. Some of the commenters on this site are starting to become awfully tedious …

                    • Kyle

                      “Ohh, goodie. Another extremely vague post, where you talk in absolutes but don’t offer ANY suggestions on how things would have been improved with a different front office or how this team could have improved. Some of the commenters on this site are starting to become awfully tedious ”

                      We discussed those alternatives in detail almost daily when the decisions were being made back in 2011-12. I’m not going to reproduce it all on command just because you either weren’t around or don’t remember.

                  • hansman

                    6 out of 9 along with an average of 88 wins in seasons where you miss the playoffs and they clean house after a 90-win season.

                    Ya, I’ll trade 5 years of crap for a decade-plus long run of that. Hell, I’d throw my wife into that trade if we could do it for perpetuity.

                    • Pat

                      What makes you think you’re going to get that decade long run. The history of teams with great farm systems hardly suggests it’s a sure thing.

                      The only thing you are guaranteeing is that the team will suck during the rebuild years.

              • Jono

                I would be VERY happy with making the playoffs 66% of the time after a 5 year drought!

                • frank

                  “. . . I think the Cubs could have begun their sustained success immediately with the right front office making the right moves.”

                  Assuming sustained success is the goal–and that isn’t always the case, e.g., the Cubs under Tribune Co. ownership, that could be said about any organization in any sport. Sustained success generally comes about because the right front office makes the right moves. Of course, “sustained” is the key word. Success through luck can happen, but that is generally not sustainable. Though to be fair, Kyle said from the start of the process that he believed that the plan wasn’t necessarily the best one.

        • hansman

          Theo didn’t take over the 2002 Red Sox, not even close.

          • Kyle

            That has nothing to do with anything that was said in the post you were responding to.

            • hansman

              It does, if you can’t see it (or chose to be obtuse), I can’t help you.

              • Kyle

                My post referred to “when things are up and running.”

                It implicitly gave Epstein the time to get things to the point of the 2002 Red Sox. It already had the point you tried to make baked in.

                • hansman

                  Ok, I will grant you that, I missed the When up and running bit.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              It actually is relevant if we were to play the game over ridiculously long time spans. Let’s say that once Theo gets a good team, he can sustain a 0.667 post season success rate indefinitely. (That’s absurd, obviously, but this is a first principles exercise.) Let’s say the lag time needed to go from a really bad team (say, 2011 Cubs bad) to a good one is 5 years. That gives you the expectation of 6 in the first 14 years: but then 6 in the next 9 years, not the next 14.

              Of course, Theo (probably) won’t be here for 20 years: FOs simply are not that stable. Moreover, that might not be what you really meant by 6 in 14: but I think that is what Hansman was thinking.

        • noisesquared

          In nine years in Boston, Theo’s team never won less than 86 games, and only twice won less than 90. I think every year they went into the season thinking playoffs were expected, and a championship was a realistic goal (all while playing in arguably the toughest division in baseball over that time frame). If the Cubs are at that point for a decade beginning in 2016-2017, I’ll take it. The current situation sucks, but I give some leniency as a fan as the FO is doing everything right in terms of the minors, drafting, and player development.

          • Kyle

            “the FO is doing everything right in terms of the minors, drafting, and player development.”

            That third thing is pretty hard to say with a straight face. We’ve had some spectacular failures with player development in the last two years. Some successes too, sure, but certainly not “everything right.”

            • noisesquared

              I don’t know what they could have done better in terms of player development/drafting. A couple of international signings haven’t worked out (Concepcion/Paniagua), but there was nothing wrong with those types of gambles. The prospect crash and burns will happen in even the best organizations. That was my issue with the Hendry regime – he could draft and accumulate talent, but the crash and burns in development were so frequent. So many failures, so few (even moderate) successes.

              Taking the system from where they were pre-Theo to now looks to me like a straight-faced ‘doing everything right’. There have been a few missteps, but I’m not expecting perfection with every acquisition. Developing a system that churns out useful MLB players and trade assets is the goal, and I believe they’re well on their way to that.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Yes, I know that: I am (and always will be!) a Sox fan! Still, twice in every three years is nearly every year, or at least it is for me. (It’s a vague phrase, to be certain: but 0.67 rounds to 1.0.)

          I would love for the Cubs to get to that level.

          Heck, I would love for the Cubs to make it 6 times in 14 years: that would be a better 14 year run than they’ve had in generations. Yes, yes, the expanded post-season will make that easier, but that still would be cool. (I might have about two 14 year runs left in my life, and 12 post-season appearances between now and death is more than my father got in his 5 total 14 year runs!)

          Of course, by now, we are looking at post-Theo Cubs to say the least: many MLB players being born now will be veterans by then.

        • North Side Irish

          Point of odor: Lisa stinks. (Sorry…involuntary reflex)

        • aaronb

          He also took over a team that won 93 games under the previous administration. And had the resources to outspend ever non Yankees competition by 20-30 million dollars each and every year.

  • Roscoe Village Fan

    There’s no make or break for me this season. The next two years are important for development and getting the organization in the right place to win. Not about throwing money around so “the organization looks good” or outta fear of threats from fans. I’m still way in on all of it. The top 50 prospect list on MLB looks pretty sick in terms of top end talent. Gotta go pitcher, right?

  • Edwin

    “He referenced signing win-now type players when the organization wasn’t actually ready to win (and deferring payments to them into future years), signing amateurs with deferred payments (that was happening?), and focusing too much on the next day’s headlines (i.e., making sure the team “looked” good, even if it wasn’t a realistic pennant contender)”

    What player signings is he talking about?

    • mdavis

      Garza trade. Carlos Pena. Milton Bradley.

      those come to mind just off the top of my head

      • Kyle

        Milton Bradley was added to a team that had won 97 games the year before. You can’t say that team didn’t look “ready to compete.”

        • The Logos

          It’s true they won 97 games the year before. I am of the belief that previous year’s record does not necessarily mean anything about the next year. Every position should be evaluated year-to-year. A very good team could just be very good because a few players had career years and there was a lot of luck to go along with it.

          I am not going to go back and look at that team specifically to see if that’s the case, but I certainly think it’s possible. Theo sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. Maybe he’s already done the math on those teams and knows that to be true.

          • terencemann

            The ’07-09 Cubs were all really old teams and they had a poor farm system. That’s a good sign that things are about to fall apart.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Also, I think that Theo was referring to guys that the Cubs did *not* pursue: e.g., Pujols, Hamilton, etc.

        If Theo was thinking of signings like Bradley, then he was contrasting the state of the team: as Kyle noted, the ’08 Cubs were a really good team (well, at least for the first 5 months of the season!), and looked like they were in the “90+%” state. People got it into their heads that the Cubs lost the playoffs because they didn’t have a big lefty bat (I don’t know how many times I read that the Cubs struggled against Righties all of 2008: how can team struggle in 2/3rds of its games and then win 3/5ths of its games?). Ergo, Bradley seemed like that piece to take a bite out of the remaining 10%.

        • Kyle

          The Cubs supposedly offered Pujols 5/$150

          • Andrew

            I gotta question where you got that information from, I’ve never seen those numbers anywhere.

            • Kyle

              It was a rumor during the winter meetings in 2011.

      • Edwin

        Pena was what, a one year deal for $10MM (with the money spread over 2 years)? I think Theo is creating a false narrative, at least when it comes to the Cubs signing players when they weren’t in “win now” mode.

        • MichaelD

          Yeah, I think that Theo might have been over-blowing the win now element. The Cubs should have been in a win now mode in 2008, 2009 and probably 2010. So basically his point really only applies to the first half of 2011.

        • terencemann

          It wasn’t just the players they signed, it was also the extensions. Marmol and Zambrano also got more money than they should have. In total: Soriano, Fukudome, Bradley, Zambrano and Marmol were all splashy win now contracts. The Garza deal didn’t make any sense on its own, either. If you’re going to gut a poor farm system to bolster a poor team, they should have just gone all the way and thrown everything they had at acquiring better talent at that point.

          • Edwin

            So, the Cubs should not have extended Zambrano, a pitcher who just turned 26/27 coming off of WAR’s of 4.4, 4, and 3.8 over the past three seasons, with an ERA- 70 over those past three years? Because the Cubs were not actually ready to start winning in 2007/2008?

            When the Cus signed Soriano, Fukudome, Bradley, and Zambrano, they were ready to win. In 2007 and 2008, they won the division each year. They were obviously still in “win now” going into 2009. The deals might have gone south, but that happens.

            • hansman

              I think Epstein is referring to the period from the trade deadline in 2010 through 2011. That is when the Cubs should have left the WIN NOW!!!!! mode and started rebuilding.

  • Khross

    I don’t know how anyone can read or listen to the things Theo says and not feel that “the plan” is working. He, and the whole front office, are smart business AND baseball people. Sure, maybe I drank too much of the Kool-Aid, but I’d rather believe that be a pessimistic fan.

    I can’t wait for the next couple years to unfold and remember all the nay-sayers whining! It’ll be golden!! :)

    • Edwin

      How do we know The Plan is working, though?

      • When the Music’s Over

        No one knows for sure. It’s still in it’s relative infancy (which is sad considering its going on year 3). Sure, there are some sexy names in the minors, but until these names produce consistently at the MLB level, it’s all still a massive gamble. Take Castro and Rizzo for example. 1-2 years of success at the MLB level does not by any means guarantee sustained success at the MLB level.

        The issue is that so many of the die-hard, f*ck everyone else who’s not on board “Plan” backers have already written the success of the “Plan” into stone as if it’s a 100% guarantee it will play out close to the best case scenario outcome.

        • Ivy Eater

          There is never a guarantee in anything. Anyone who looks at the organization before he took over to now should be able to CLEARLY tell that sustaining success is in the future. The caliber of players (even if they are the minors now) will have a lasting impact for many years to come.

          Flooding the entire system with top prospects will do this. Castro and Rizzo having a good year does not guarantee sustained success, nor does anything else, but an organization as stacked as the Cubs are gives all the hope in the world.

          • Kyle

            “Anyone who looks at the organization before he took over to now should be able to CLEARLY tell that sustaining success is in the future. ”

            Pros:
            Farm system better
            Financial commitments lowered

            Cons:
            Attendance down
            Value of media rights depressed
            MLB roster significantly worse
            (beyond their control) Divisional rivals significantly better long-term

            I think it’s pretty easy to see sustained success not coming.

            • Ivy Eater

              No, you’re right, that makes total sense.

              Keep things going the way they were (no farm system), while division rivals continue to bolster theirs.

              Anyone that thought this process would take just a couple years is insane. An entire rebuild from the bottom is is happening. The fact that he has done as much as he has in his short time there is ridiculous. Success right now – no, but long-term it would be difficult to debate that this is not the absolute right approach.

              • Kyle

                We didn’t have “no farm system.”

                The fact that some fans only started paying attention to the farm system recently doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

                • Ivy Eater

                  In fairness “no farm system” was a stretch, yes. That still doesn’t change the fact that the system was severely depleted. Point being, look at the Cardinals and their system. They have top talent everywhere and the only way the Cubs can even potentially compete is to have a team that is replenished by young talent as well as the addition of free agents as needed. The core should be from within and gaps filled from the outside.

                  Buying a free agent team might give you one good, expensive year, but it sure as hell won’t last.

                  • Edwin

                    Did the Cardinals go through long stretches of losing to build their farm system and get their young core?

                  • Kyle

                    In 2011, the Cubs were thought to have a better farm system than the Cardinals, iirc.

                    • terencemann

                      The Cards were already a good team with a good farm system at the turn of the century and continued to build on both ends over the last 10+ years. You can’t compare the Cubs to the Cardinals or a team like the Yankees because they weren’t doing what those teams were doing over the last decade.

                    • MightyBear

                      Evidence please.

                    • Edwin
                    • Kyle
                    • MightyBear

                      Fangraphs in March of 2012 had the Cubs farm system at 22 and the Cardinals at 6.

                      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/ranking-the-30-minor-league-systems/

                    • Edwin

                      After the Garza trade, baseball America had the Cubs at 16th. Baseball Prospectus had the Cubs at 23rd (and the cards at 21st, so basically a push). I’m not sure what Keith Law had the Cubs or Cards at for 2011.

                      Still, good point by Kyle. This idea that Theo took over a farm system that was supposedly thought of as completely barren at the time is a myth.

                    • Kyle

                      I said
                      “In 2011, ”

                      Your rebuttal is
                      ” in March of 2012″

                      the crap I’m willing to deal with…

                    • MightyBear

                      Baseball America totally whiffed on that ranking. Look at the talent that came through the Cardinals system from then and what came through the Cubs system. I believe Fangraphs was a lot more accurate.

                    • MightyBear

                      March of 2012 was for the 2011 minor league system. You believe what you want to believe. Look at the players that have come through the respective systems and keep denying it.

                    • MightyBear

                      Yeah no reply on that one. That’s what I thought.

                    • Kyle

                      “Yeah no reply on that one. That’s what I thought.”

                      Waited all of 17 minutes before declaring victory. Nice.

                      2012 is how the systems were perceived in 2012.

                      2011 is how they were perceived in 2011.

                      Yes, it seems they whiffed now. But I said “was perceived” in the post you disagreed with.

                  • When the Music’s Over

                    The approach used to build up the farm system has not, and will continue to not, come with great costs.

          • When the Music’s Over

            There are so many examples of top notch minor league collections that have failed, and have done so fast. Placing almost 100% of the rebuild on prospects is about as risky as it gets. I get it though. Trust me. I just fail to understand why the militant plan backers a) think the plan is literally fail safe, and b) act like those in question of the plan are committing heresy.

            • Kyle

              After this year’s BA lists are out, 14 teams will have had a top-5 farm system in the last four years.

              I don’t know how the league is going to have room for that many teams to have sustained success simultaneously.

              • JulioZuleta

                What bothers me about you is that I know you are a very smart guy and I suspect that you purposely ignore your own common sense and intuition to put a negative spin on things. That being said, if you really don’t think this team is better positioned for long term success than it was before, maybe you aren’t as smart as I’ve always thought. Also, with regard to the above post, surely you understand why there is a lot of turnover in the “top 5 lists” right? Good farms graduate top players and fall, sometimes slightly, in the rankings, from #3 to, say, #7. Also, contending teams trade top prospects to acquire MLB-ready talent and fall slightly. But you knew these things already…

                • Kyle

                  I think it’s easy to think this team is positioned for long-term success if you willfully ignore all the problems we’re facing and only obsess over the prospect rankings.

                  The turnover in prospect rankings is *exactly* my point. We have a big farm system ranking. Hooray. We still face massive problems long-term that could easily prevent us from reaching the sustained success.

                  There are two teams in our division right now with comparable prospect pools and *much* better young MLB talent. How are we going to pass them?

                  • C. Steadman

                    the Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds are the most scary reason why we might have to wait longer than 2016 for playoffs…we can have sustained competitiveness starting in 15 or 16 but its gonna need a big leap and a whole lotta luck to jump those teams…I think Pirates will win a WS in two years

                    • terencemann

                      I think the Reds are running out of steam. I’m only worried about the Cards and the Pirates and I also think the Pirates might not be consistent year-to-year since they rely on a lot of stop-gaps and catching lightning in a bottle to address holes.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    Money, money, money, mooooney. MON-AY.

                    • C. Steadman

                      yeah and a whole lot of money too haha

                    • Kyle

                      Getting harder to usefully leverage every year that goes by. That’s a big reason why I wanted us to strike while we could in 2011-12.

                  • JulioZuleta

                    Are there problems now? Of course there are. The low attendance will undoubtedly go up if and when the team is competitive. The depressed payroll SHOULD go up with attendance bumps, TV deals, and the renovation that should happen one day.

                    My problem is that most of the fan criticism is aimed at Epstein and Hoyer. They don’t want to be spending $80M a year, and probably thought there would be more money to spend immediately when they came here. I think that they have done a remarkable job with what they’re been given. They have obviously fixed a terrible farm. Sure it was ranked 21st-ish when they got here, but that was with guys like Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, Trey McNutt, and Josh Vitters leading the way. Credit where due…Baez was a Hendry product, and the 2011 draft has certainly helped a bit. But, the farm has gone from 20-something to easy top 5 despite the fact that so many prospects from the last FO have crashed and burned.

                    I argue less fervently with people that complain about Ricketts. While the decreased payroll can possibly be explained by certain theories (debt structure…), the fact is that we still haven’t seen that he is willing to spend on the level that the Cubs SHOULD be spending. Now, I’m 98% sure that the payroll will revert back to where it was and grow from there, but until I’m 100% sure, I don’t fight with the Ricketts bashing too much. The FO criticism is just misguided.

                    As far as catching the other teams. No one can guarantee 10 straight division titles. The key is to get competitive and then use what should be a substantial payroll advantage to surge ahead. So far, the FO has done a good job with the part that they have control over, and I presume Ricketts will hold up his end.

                    • Kyle

                      “Credit where due…Baez was a Hendry product, and the 2011 draft has certainly helped a bit. But, the farm has gone from 20-something to easy top 5 despite the fact that so many prospects from the last FO have crashed and burned.”

                      As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t remarkable. Farm systems go up and down all the time. The year before it was 20-something, it was top-10. In the last four years, 14 teams will have had top-5 farm systems. When the farm system is their biggest accomplishment, they’ve accomplished little.

                    • aaronb

                      I think most people have much more issue with Ricketts ownership than Theo and Jed in the front office.

                      However what Theo has done isn’t rocket surgery. Who COULDN’T tank 2 full seasons of MLB baseball and accumulate prospects by trading vets?

                    • Brains

                      this is right, any team could have sabotaged a record and made good drafts. but most other teams would have also built a better mlb infrastructure in the process. and yes, i personally blame owners over theo and jed. why would they want to look so bad? but i still think that jed lacks creativity and heft to get his way with other gm’s.

                  • hansman

                    “There are two teams in our division right now with comparable prospect pools and *much* better young MLB talent.”

                    So the answer would be to sign old MLB talent to big contracts?

                    • Kyle

                      “So the answer would be to sign old MLB talent to big contracts?”

                      There probably isn’t an answer at this point. But sustained success isn’t automatically in our future.

                    • JulioZuleta

                      Again, you know nothing is ever automatic, especially in sports. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the steps to maximize the odds of it. If you take Ricketts out of the equation (he would have been here, and probably spending the same amount no matter how the FO was constructed) the Cubs are poised for a much brighter future than they were two years ago. And I’m not relying 100% on prospects to come to that conclusion.

                    • Kyle

                      “Again, you know nothing is ever automatic, especially in sports. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the steps to maximize the odds of it.”

                      Sure. Then you can join me in the fight against “Guys, the plan is going to work, the bright future is coming!” posts.

                      ” If you take Ricketts out of the equation (he would have been here, and probably spending the same amount no matter how the FO was constructed) the Cubs are poised for a much brighter future than they were two years ago. And I’m not relying 100% on prospects to come to that conclusion.”

                      Things were pretty bad two years ago. It’s not that hard to be a bit better. How much better are we? Not as much as we should be, in my estimation. Too much lack of ambition, too many mistakes.

                    • JulioZuleta

                      I’ve never pushed the “The Plan is perfect and will result in 4 rings over the next 10 years” mantra. I just don’t get the posters that act like they know it is NOT going to work.

                      For your second point, you seem to be saying that you are disappointed because the plan is not going as well/quickly as it could be. That seems like a pretty unrealistic standard to hold things too. I think there has been marked improvement on a consistent basis in the areas that the FO has control over. I remember when Theo took over he said the goal wasn’t to be right 100% of the time bc it was unrealistic. I believe he said that if they can be right, or “win” 55%-60% of trades/signings and have good drafts, they will have a leg up on the competition. I think they have done that.

                    • Kyle

                      “I’ve never pushed the “The Plan is perfect and will result in 4 rings over the next 10 years” mantra. I just don’t get the posters that act like they know it is NOT going to work.”

                      Those guys are wrong, too. It might work.

                      But I think the confidence that many fans have that it’s likely to work is based on the fannish tendency to focus on the positives surrounding your team and ignoring the negatives.

                      For total talent 25-and-under in an organization (including MLB and prospects), Cubs are fighting for third in the division with the Reds. The future is not as bright as the farm-system rankings make it look.

                      “For your second point, you seem to be saying that you are disappointed because the plan is not going as well/quickly as it could be.”

                      I’m disappointed they didn’t use a better plan that would have yielded quicker results.

                      ” I think there has been marked improement on a consistent basis in the areas that the FO has control over.”

                      I don’t think that’s true at all. Many things have gone wrong.

                      “I believe he said that if they can be right, or “win” 55%-60% of trades/signings and have good drafts, they will have a leg up on the competition. I think they have done that.”

                      I think they’ve goosed up their averages by taking on very low-risk, low-reward trades and signings the vast majority of the time.

      • Joseph

        The same way da Vinci knew his vision and execution of the Mona Lisa had worked… when it was done.

  • Matt

    Brett,

    To Devil’s Advocate the first point in re: the pool of money for signing Tanaka; if we believe that Theo was being honest and direct about each other bullet point, isn’t it fair to concede he was being just as honest and direct about that as well?

    Honestly, it was the only point that you hesitated at with a “take with a grain of salt,” comment, after all.

    • Rebuilding

      I think it was appropriate for him to answer this way. Technically, it really is all coming out of the same pot of money. And I don’t think he, or anyone else on the business side, wants to get into the financial restrictions placed on certain portions of the money in any specific way.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        That’s where I’m at. I wasn’t calling Epstein misleading or anything. It’s one of those weird, gray things where both sides can be right, even though they seem to be saying opposite things.

  • rich

    I agree Jeff with you ! I feel that they ownership won’t unfortunately won’t spend the money for him !

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    Future Stars? Bryant then who? You add the Super stars when they are available. Cano is worth 25 mil to secure a weak positional slot. Pitching? Shark then who? Tanaka makes Shark a strong #2 even if he is also a strong #2. The Cubs have a strong OF but Choo would solidify the line up. So, Things to do Sign Cano, Choo and Tanaka and the Cubs are a playoff team right now. Fill in the blanks later to add a continued flow of talent. Trade off surplus players such as Castro, Lake, Vogelbach etc… Boom!!

    • terencemann

      That’s a >$140MM payroll for 2014 you’re talking about and they’d still have holes on the opening day roster at 3rd, possibly catcher, 2 outfield spots and the bullpen.

      • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

        Last I checked the Cubs are a Major market team. Time to put on the Big boy pants and fill the holes with Stars. 3rd Bryant Trade for Wieters. The OF is the biggest depth position in the minors.

        • frank

          Can Bryant even be traded yet? Weiters is good, but he’s a career .739 OPS and 98 OPS+ guy, with a .319 OBP. We already have a good defensive catcher who’ll probably continue to improve offensively. Even if you could, I don’t think you trade Bryant for him. At least pick a position of greater need.

        • C. Steadman

          Bryant cant be traded till after 2014 draft and no way I’d want to do that trade…Bryant is probably the best of the big four and we already have Welington showing some good promise

          • terencemann

            The problem is the Cubs have too many fans who don’t know how to use or how to read Baseball-Reference.com or any other websites with stats.

    • Randy

      agreed

    • On The Farm

      You’re right its so easy, that’s why every MLB team in baseball is looking to make those moves because they make the most sense and would instantly make any team a playoff team.

      I am pretty sure the Cubs need more than Tanaka to take their pitching to playoff caliber, you state nothing that helps the bullpen, which was god awful. Apparently we only need two position players (Choo and Cano). They still are going to have holes on offense, your next suggestion to terence is to down grade at catching for Weiters?

  • terencemann

    As far as winning this season, if the rotation holds, Rizzo and Castro bounce back and they are able to add a couple of arms like Wright to bolster the bullpen, then you’re conservatively looking at a 5 win improvement right there. These are not unreasonable things to believe in. If you want to dream a little on what call-ups might add at the end of the season, it could get even better.

    • Kyle

      None of those are unreasonable individually, but it is unreasonable collectively.

      • terencemann

        LOL I think I probably was saying something similar at this time last year.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Better put, each of those is fairly probable: but the bad thing about multiplying fractions is that the product rapidly becomes very low. That’s why all of those “everything went right!” teams always “lose the magic” the next year.

        That written, I think it’s entirely possible for the Cubs to be in the vicinity of 0.500 this year. However, it’s not 2003: 0.500 could be good for 4th in the NLC next season.

      • Cubbie in NC

        re: unreasonable collectively…

        Am I the only one that feels the same way about the farm system? We have great players individually, but in the history of prospects, they do not always pan out.

        We are counting on guys all working out, if they do not then what? We are bad until we can draft 5 move?

        • Kyle

          You aren’t the only person who feels that way. I suspect even the front office feels that way, which is why they aren’t done with their “asset accumulation mode” or whatever they want to call it.

          We have an impressive prospect base right now, but we’re so deficient in the majors that it’s not enough to project it filling all our problems right now.

          • Cubbie in NC

            Plus the quantity of players to fill in holes that fit the criteria (young, cheap willing to sign short term deals) I am not sure they are going to be available.

            • terencemann

              The thing about free agency is that it’s always shifting, though. If after 2010 I had posted that the market would award Jacoby Ellsbury with over $150MM in free agency, I would have been laughed off the internet. That was just 3 seasons ago.

        • Norm

          Not only that, but they think they will be good players instantly rather than taking 2, 3 or 4 years to get there.

          • Professor Snarks

            Norm, you are so right. Anyone who believes we are going to fight for a playoff spot in 2015 because of our prospects isn’t being realistic. Bryant, Baez and Alcantara could be the real deal and all perform at their peak in their first few years, but history says that’s entirely unlikely.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          The other thing to remember is that having a strong farm system is allows you to trade for pieces that you cannot get on the FA market. If you look at some of the Cubs most glaring holes, and then look at the FA market, then you’ll see that supply has not met demand. However, if you have a lot of young talent, then you have another avenue for acquiring what you need.

          The other key is that we keep talking about the Cubs big 4 or big 5 or whatever is if that’s it. However, the FO obviously intends to aggressively stockpile as much young talent as possible. This is r-selection at it’s finest: yes, only 2 or 3 of the “Big 5″ will amount to much, but you have to keep adding to that 5, too.

        • aaronb

          Not the only person who feels that way.

          Bryant is the only guy who is really a sure thing. Every other prospect has significant flaws/concerns attached to them.

          • Rebuilding

            After what he did at AA at age 20 Baez is about a sure thing as a prospect as you can get (other than Bryant)

            • Norm

              Not true. He is still one of the riskiest in the Top 20.

              • hansman

                It depends, is his true talent that of a guy who K’d 28% of the time in AA as his season average says or is his true talent the guy we saw in the later part of the season who walked 12% of the time and K’d 18% of the time just that was hidden by an overly aggressive approach?

                If it’s the former, the hope would be that he hits his ceiling as a Mark Reynolds type.

                If it’s the later, a video game scouting report would read: “Future Hall of Famer”

              • Rebuilding

                Sorry Norm, you don’t do what he did at age 20 in AA or hit 37 HRs in your age 20 season and not become at the very least a solid MLer. You would be hard pressed to find any player who did what he did this year in a season before age 21 that didn’t become a star. Not worried about Baez in the least

                • Norm

                  Brandon Wood says hello.

                  • Kyle

                    Hi Brandon. You did all your mashing at A+. Big step up to AA. But point taken.

                  • Rebuilding

                    Nice find Norm. I almost said except Brandon Wood because he really is the exception that proves the rule.

                    • Norm

                      Well, I wish I could take the time to look at every year a 20 year old made it to AA and had a line similar to 294/346/638, but that’s a lot of work.

                      Mike Moustakas?

          • hansman

            Bryant has swing and miss issues and a concerning K rate.

            • Rebuilding

              He struck out 25-30% of the time in the AFL and put up a 1.500 OPS. He was not a swing and miss guy in college. I chalk up both his and Baez’s K issues to being a little bored frankly. I think they are both trying to hit a few too many HRs because they aren’t really being challenged.

              • hansman

                The AFL is a long way to the bigs and high K rates in the low minors and college (I believe he had a 22% K rate which, based on a study I saw, doesn’t translate well to the pros).

                Now, that’s not to say that he won’t make adjustments or that maybe the K rate we saw last year was artificially high (due to adjustment to pro ball). That’s why I said concerning.

            • terencemann

              It seems to me that the “if things keep going like this” comparison I’d make for Bryant at this point is Justin Upton?

              • Rebuilding

                I would say Paul Goldschmidt. Although Bryant has a better pedigree and has put up slightly better numbers in the minors so far. I think he’s that good

        • JulioZuleta

          Everyone who’s realistic knows that not all of the prospects will pan out/reach their ceilings. I don’t think anyone is expecting Almora, Soler, Bryant, Baez and Edwards to all be perennial All-Star type players. Realistically, if out of the “Big 4,” you get 1 star, 2 solid regulars, and 1 bust, you’ll have done pretty dang well. If I had to guess-Bryant is the perennial All-Star, Almora will be a very, very nice player, but not a true megastar. Maybe a minor step down from prime Tori Hunter with a little higher average and a little less power. Soler will be the bust/disappointment, and Baez is a wildcard.

          • Blublud

            Actually, Julio, 3 of these guys are top of the draft types, on a similar talent, and Edwards is a hidden gem. I expect allof these guys to make it, because that’s what happens to high draft picks. I suspect one will go on to have a HOF career, 2 more to be all-stars, one perrenially, one to be above average, and one to be a bust(which means he will only be average) By The way, if Edwards is in the big “5”, shouldn’t it really be a big 6. I still have Johnson as the better prosect.

            • JulioZuleta

              ” I expect all of these guys to make it, because that’s what happens to high draft picks.” Can’t tell if that’s sarcasm or not. The bust rate of picks, even top picks, is extremely high in baseball.

      • aaronb

        Also look for major regression from people like Schierholtz and Travis Wood.

        • CubFan Paul

          LOL, Schierholtz already regressed.

        • JulioZuleta

          Yeah, I don’t think there actually will be a huge regression in Schierholtz’s overall season numbers because he was ice cold at the end of the year. I bet his season line will end up looking similar (not all that great), but will be spread out more evenly over the course of the year. Maybe a slight power dip.

    • Randy

      To many ifffffssssss Terrencemann

  • RunningCub

    Loved the interview. Theo has done a great job, and I am fully on board with everything. I don’t care if it takes two more years. It is worth it. Our organization is one of the strongest right now, and it will translate on the field. I am sick of seeing huge contracts for underperforming players like Soriano, Marmol, etc. Being smart with the money will help the entire organization when it is ready to contend. Love having a committed plan as opposed to throwing money at the problem. When the plan actually works and gets in place it will be interesting to see who was doubting them tuck their tail between their legs and journey back to Wrigley. It has been 105 years people, going on 106, and this could be the first time in Cubs history where they will contend for years upon years and hopefully decades. Believe in the plan.

    • Edwin

      So once The Plan works, then it will have proved that The Plan was right all along?

  • RunningCub

    By the way…Gordon Wittenmyer…bitch slapped.

    • YourResidentJag

      Actually, I thought Wittenmyer held his own and kept putting the pressure on additional revenue which Theo was incredibly VAGUE on these things.

    • Randy

      Hey Runningclub- Without Wittenmeyer and other news writers you get nothing in the form of news… Maybe you could do better

  • Cheese Chad

    I found it interesting that he did say there is ONE guy in the minors they believe will be the face of the franchise. My bet is on Almora.

    • C. Steadman

      my bet is Kris Bryant

      • Jono

        Bryant

    • gocatsgo2003

      There can also only be ONE “face of the franchise,” so… there’s that.

    • Spriggs

      My bet is Baez!

  • DK

    It’s a tough question to answer, no doubt, but… Theo gave a really, really weak answer when the guy asked him “why should current season ticket holders keep paying to see a team that we know isn’t even trying to compete?”

  • eminem

    Ricketts and Theo are selling us “Cubs Crack and we are all Crackers.” They are not even selling Kool-Aid anymore. Theo has invented a new and improved, “Cubs Crack.” We must all be high.

    “Cubs Crack, one try and you will be hooked for life. Go Cubs Go. Third highest ticket prices in baseball with a small market payroll? No problem with Cubs Crack, thank you Mr. Ricketts may I have another. Go Cubs Go. Guaranteed to lose from 2010 to 2016, no problem with Cubs Crack, thank you Mr. Ricketts may I have another. Go Cubs Go. $77M in MLB TV money to be pocketed by the Ricketts, increased Cable TV prices with new media deals, thank you Mr. Ricketts, may I have another. “Cubs Crack” Hey Chicago what do you say, The Cubs are gonna win today, Go Cubs Go, Go Cubs Go.”

    • terencemann

      I think the Cubs ticket prices are probably driven up by mid-summer tourism and group sales as much as anything.

    • Randy

      I love it Eminem

      • willis

        Wonderfully done and so accurate, eminem. Good stuff.

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    Start using the kids and disregard that extra year of control. If they pan out you will never reach that extra year because you will have signed them to an extension by then.

    • terencemann

      The kids aren’t ready. If they were 6 months ahead of where they are now, I might be ok with the Cubs being a little more aggressive but Baez only spent half a year at AA and Bryant hasn’t been there yet. These guys aren’t Bryce Harper.

      • terencemann

        I don’t want another crop of Corey Pattersons who never get time to figure out how to play baseball before they’re on the major league team and get promoted based on tiny sample sizes and a lot of hoping and wishing.

  • Jon

    In terms of “getting it”…Andy McPhail tried pretty close to the same thing when he got here…….

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That has become a popular fable, based on things he said.

      The fact that he was operating under a very differently-motivated ownership group is not unimportant.

      • Kyle

        Differentiationizing with distinctification incoming

  • North Side Irish

    BP ran an article this morning listing trades they think should happen at the Winter Meetings. One of them was the Cubs trading Vogelbach for Brett Anderson. Given that Vogelbach may not have a future position with the Cubs and the Cubs lack of pitchers with TOR potential, I think I’d have to breathe deep and make that trade. But I wouldn’t feel good about it.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’d pass, but mostly because I’d like to see where Vogelbach can get his value in one more year.

      • On The Farm

        Has someone like Christian Villanueva reached his “prospect peak” value where he could be worth something in a trade? I would like to think he could be worth a reclamation project, maybe even if they have to pair him with a fringe 20 system guy.

        • Kyle

          Christian Villanueva may have reached his peak prospect value a year ago and is now past it

          • On The Farm

            So you are saying he is worth less now than he was a year ago? I thought his AA numbers were encouraging and maybe someone might like what they see in him? I don’t know I think he would actually be a solid trade chip (assuming the 2014 Cubs will be using Olt, Vitters, *maybe* Bryant).

            • Kyle

              I think he’s probably worth a little less.

              There’s starting to be some rumblings that maybe the bat just won’t quite play at the MLB level beyond a second-divisio nstarter.

              • terencemann

                I wouldn’t trade anybody for a bottom of the rotation starter. The Cubs have plenty of those and I’d like to seem them have an opportunity to give a lot of guys a shot in the rotation this season.

        • C. Steadman

          he probably has reached peak…maybe let him rake in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League for a year and get his value even higher! he could get 25 HR i bet

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    The Cubs should be managing their payroll at the max level. 85 mil projected payroll?
    189 mil Cap? Soler, Alcantrara, Lake, Olt, Vogelbach, 2nd Tier Pitching prospects, Castro,
    Trade candidates and 80 mil get you to the Playoffs for years to come. Perfect world, Price Tanaka, Shark, E. Jax, Choo, Cano, Bryant, Almora, Rizzo All would put the payroll between 150 mil and 165 mil

    • gocatsgo2003

      SIGN ALL THE PLAYERS!!! TRADE FOR ALL THE OTHER ONES!!!

      This isn’t MLB 2K14, amigo.

      • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

        2 or 3 Free Agents and a few trade’s doesn’t blow up the Plan. Don’t fool yourself, this is MLB2k14. The only difference is these players are gettable.

        • gocatsgo2003

          1) You don’t trade for Price without also extending him. Given that guys like Ubaldo Jimenez are looking for nine-figure deals you’re realistically looking at spending $20+MM annually for Price (at minimum).

          2) With the proposed cap on posting fees, Tanaka’s salary will probably be bumped slightly higher. I would imagine he ends up signing somewhere for more than Darvish’s $10MM, so let’s call it $12.5MM annually.

          3) Cano will likely sign for about $25MM annually.

          4) Choo is looking to cash in and will probably be in the $15MM annual range, but let’s call it $12.5MM due to age concerns.

          So now you’re looking at spending $70+MM plus for four players, two of whom are already into their 30s. You want to explain to me how that makes sense?

    • On The Farm

      Except by time you can get Bryant and Almora to the MLB level or even giving you decent MLB production they would most likely be two years into the Choo and Cano contract (production is starting to tail off most likely, unless they are on PEDs). Shark and Price would be in their big contract money phase.

      Worst part of trading for Price, you just destroyed your depth to help make you a perennial playoff team. You need those youngsters to not only restock your team, but also need them in case something happens in season and you need them as trade chips. Getting rid of them right away leaves you with little in the cupboard.

      • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

        And the Cubs will be polishing their championship Trophy for the 2nd time in 3 years.

      • When the Music’s Over

        To assume that every player in his early 30’s that’s still producing results similar to his late 20’s is on PED’s is extremely entertaining (and absurdly ridiculous).

        • On The Farm

          That’s not what I said at all. I said most likely results will *start* to tail off. Meaning he isn’t going to be producing more, but there is a good chance its when he will start producing less. I think just about anyone will tell you when you are signing a FA you know you are getting most of your production at the beginning of the contract and taking the hit on the back end because the front side value was *worth* it.

          So two years into a contract of a guy who was already in his 30s when he signed on the dotted line. No you should not be expecting late 20s production from him.

  • Crazyhorse

    Always bipolar about MR . Epstein President of baseball operations but not President of the Cubs. This is what i got from the interview. He has a plan and a vision and he is handcuffed by the Business side , He has a budget and most of those resources are allocated towards the foundation in player and development because he feels in order to stay competitive and be a consistent winner , a baseball organization must be able to fall back on both fronts the farm system and at a time when monetarily spending for certain players to archive the desired level in maintaining a winning and profitable organization its a SOLID PLAN and the goal is still on process, ( and always will be thereafter).

    Spoken as a true Farm director or President of player development of every major league baseball team. I get that .Its the decisions He makes as the President of baseball operations that affects the 25 man roster that can be frown upon. His failures in signing players that have an impact in not only winning but sustaining in being healthy on the 25 man roster. His inability as a A Cub executive to provide fans with productive product in Wrigley Field while rebuilding the farm system. its those failures that Cub fans are tired of the excuses. Very little sarcasm in this post.

  • JulioZuleta

    One of my all-time favorite Epstein quotes came from that interview when Wittenmeyer questioned him about the TV profits. It was something very close to, “(sarcastically) Gordon, I know you’ve become an expert on this over the past week or two, but let me just tell you…you’re wrong on this one.”

    • Kyle

      That was awesome.

  • johnny chess Aka 2much2say

    Is winning the World Series the goal or fielding a contender year after year like in the 80’s/90’s. Is 1 World Series win worth 10 years of competitiveness?

    • Kyle

      The best way to try to win the World Series is to aim for consistent competitiveness.

  • Ivy Walls

    Major points from an exec or decision maker level.

    A) Epstein disarmed the panel by saying he was the 5th smartest in the room, only the smartest in the room can say that and not be laughed at even if it is flattery, he was really saying I am here learning from everything you inquire about, not saying I am going to someday smoosh your disbelief in your collective faces.

    B) He describes ‘bad’ as unhealthy because two trading partners are the former heads of Cubs state, (plus the Tribune Co of which they are negotiating $$ contracts with) so he says I understand their big picture situation and empathize with the pressures of that day, but at some time the Cubs had to totally reorganize from the bottom up. He demurred Telender’s comment as why was it so bad that the previous regimes put lipstick on pigs for a hope and prayer? What he said is if you are a real fan, that this path is the only path to compete and beat the Cardinals.

    C) That the organization at the Hi A (and probably AA) is really building that culture and attitude of a winner within themselves. He did mention or allude that there was one super leader among the top 4, someone he mentioned was a leader in how not only how he is developing but how others are….my guess based on peripheral reports is Almora, based on his friendship of Soler in AZ and possibly stuff we haven’t seen in KC and Daytona we haven’t seen.

    D) The by word was ‘MLB control’, Ellsbury had seven years in his prime, I think the Cubs have a duo plan in Asia Tanaka and another, either another Japanese or a Korean, it is talent and control and in their prime.

    E) Lastly it is not a simple linear effect that Wrigley has like Petco, Yankee, Fenway but the conditions at Wrigley he described as necessitating a tough player, (probably ability to adjust to daily conditions and the intangible conditions of expectations from the media and fans) the love and love lost. n my mind Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins were tough, as were Rick Reuschel and Greg Maddux, Ryne Sandburg and Andre Dawson, they performed regardless,

    Interesting.

  • Ryno23

    If some of you don’t like what there doing jump ship.not only are they building from the ground up,we will also get a great owner who learned at the feet of theo.example john henru

    • Kyle

      Whenever someone says something like this, they are basically saying “I’m a bandwagon fan who would jump ship if I was unhappy, so if you are unhappy, that’s what you should do.”

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Two and a half years to be 50% finished he says. And the business plan needs to be addressed before anything will happen. I really don’t know what is going on with the renovations. Seems the roof top owners are holding them hostage. When will that ever end? Samardzija says he wants to stay, but I have to wonder. So much of a pitchers year statistically aaare tied to the team. Runs scored and defense etc. . He and Wood easily could have been double digit winner for a decent team and had a winning record. If I were Jeff you would really have to pay me well to have me trot out there game after game and lose games because my team couldn’t put even four runs on the board.

    This is what pisses me off. We are depending on the same lineup that couldn’t score runs last year. That couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position. For petes sake they couldn’t even make contact half the time to bring a runner home from third with one out. Everybody is putting blame on Rizzo, but he never had any protection in the batting order. Aside from Schierholtz there is not one guy in the order that even remotely qualifies as a middle of the order bat. And Schierholtz is unproven against left handed pitching. If I were a pitcher I would lay awake at night if that was all I had standing behind me on game day. We’ll see if that is addressed during the off season. At a minimum a guy like Corey Hart that could be had on a two year contract.

    • bbmoney

      Splitting hairs, but, November 2011 to December 2013 is an awfully short 2.5 years.

      • roz

        Stop it, you’re ruining the Theo sucks circle-jerk.

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