There are two Chicago Cubs-related interviews that you’ll want to check out today if you’ve got some time: GM Jed Hoyer spoke with Jesse Rogers on the eve of heading out to Mesa for Spring Training, and Chairman Tom Ricketts spoke with Bruce Levine and Wayne Randazzo over the weekend (it doesn’t look like The Score has an audio replay available, but the CCO has a transcript).
Some of the interesting bits, together with my own thoughts:
- Hoyer concedes that the big unknown for the 2015 Cubs is how quickly and how well their young position players start hitting. His hope is that some of the veteran bats can perform well to take some of the pressure off of the younger guys. That all sounds right, and is yet another reason I was glad to see the Cubs adding guys like Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero this offseason. The range of possible outcomes for this offense is pretty extreme – if guys like Baez, Soler, and Alcantara all hit well (and, eventually, Bryant), the Cubs could realistically have a top five offense in the NL. If those young guys are still developing and adjusting throughout 2015 (which, let’s be honest, is more likely), the offense is probably going to be in the bottom half of the league. Fortunately, if guys like Fowler/Castro/Rizzo/Coghlan/Montero hit reasonably well, the Cubs will only need one or two of those young guys to really break out in order to have a productive offense.
- Apropos of this morning’s Bullets (which included plaudits for Joe Maddon’s relational abilities), Hoyer says Maddon will be a big part of making sure the players feel comfortable without succumbing to the pressure of increasing expectations.
- Ricketts says the Cubs are working on ways to memorialize Ernie Banks this season, but he doesn’t want to get too far ahead in saying exactly what (other than a uniform patch) before it’s totally locked down. I imagine it’s a little trickier than you might think to do Ernie Banks tributes in-season the right way. You want to make sure it’s a big enough event/moment/etc. to properly memorialize such a legend, while at the same time not making it look like a mere promotion. Whatever the Cubs do, they know they’ll be heavily scrutinized, and when it comes to Ernie Banks, it’s simply not something you can afford to screw up. I’m not surprised they’re taking their time with this, because it’s a delicate thing, even if everyone agrees that honoring Ernie Banks this year is going to be an important thing to do. (I know that having a Let’s Play Two day at the ballpark with a doubleheader is the obvious thing, but I suspect it’s difficult to get that scheduled with another team now that the schedule is already out and the season is rapidly approaching. I hope they can make it happen, but, I’m just saying: don’t be disappointed if it’s not logistically possible at this time.)
- Each of Ricketts and Hoyer essentially said that it’s fun to have the attention and expectations – and the Cubs certainly have a chance at doing something special this year – but no one wants to get too far ahead of themselves.
- Ricketts emphasized that the Cubs want to “control the experience” in and around Wrigley Field, which is likely something you will see expanding over the next several years of the renovation and development. I think we’re going to find that Wrigleyville is increasingly a part of the Cubs’ official footprint, which will come with some good and bad. To the extent the Cubs are able to incorporate the rooftop buildings into Wrigley/the Cubs’ world, I think there’s a lot of potential there. And I think the plaza is going to be a fantastic addition to the area.
- Hoyer commented on the falling offense within the game, and, in my opinion, totally nailed his response. In sum, Hoyer believes that MLB needs to be flexible and remain open to the possibility of making changes. Relatedly, he sees the dropping number of balls in play as taking some of the excitement out of the game for fans. He didn’t get into specifics on how to address these issues, but – and, yes, I know not everyone agrees – it sounded to me like he really gets it. To that, I add: Whether we hardcore fans care about the length or pace of games, or whether we hardcore fans don’t need to see more action or offense in the game, we are not the target audience for any potential changes. The concern needs to be with respect to marginal fans and future (younger) fans.