The Chicago Cubs (25-6) have clearly gotten off to a great start here in the early part of the 2016 season. In addition to the best record in baseball, they’ve recently won eight in a row (seven of which came against two of the best teams in the NL).
With a doubleheader on tap today against a struggling Padres team, the Cubs might even move up two more spots in the win column.
This start has been so good, however, that the already sky-high expectations for the Cubs coming into the season have now grown to even greater heights.
Speaking towards that hot starts, the increased expectations, and much more, is the Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, and you can read his comments here, here, here, and here, among other places.
Some of Epstein’s thoughts, together with my own:
- Epstein mentions that he and the rest of the front office are obviously thrilled by the start the Cubs have gotten off to, but that they aren’t going to let it blind them to the fact that winning isn’t actually this easy. He says that there’s probably going to be a long stretch this year when winning even a single game seems impossible. To one end, I’ll say that I understand the desire to temper expectations (Epstein’s right to do so), but you don’t want to start falling back on something like the gambler’s fallacy in reverse (“eventually they HAVE to lose because they’ve won so many before”). Still, there’s a reason teams don’t win 130 games a season, so he’s probably onto something.
- But to a second, different end, this is all exactly what you want your front office to say at this point of the year. Hopefully, they’re still looking for ways to improve, even at the margins, so when it comes time for a trade (be it by preference or necessity), the Cubs are ready, willing, and knowledgeable enough to pounce. Indeed, Epstein later added, “We still have vulnerabilities, we still have areas where we need to get better … we’re going to go through stretches of bad luck, we’re going to go through stretches of bad performance.”
- Of the Cubs’ extreme winning ways to start the season, Epstein offered a kind of disbelief, remarking that “This is not baseball reality …. Baseball reality is it’s really hard to win a single Major League game.” I’d amend his statement to say “It should be really hard to win … but for some reason it’s not.” (Smiley Face)
- Really, you have to admire Epstein, because through the hard work and condemnation of the rebuild, he and the rest of the front office stayed true to their goal and it’s finally paying off in spades. Unfortunately, it is the nature of his job to remain humble, patient, and quiet despite the desire, I’m sure, to head up to one of the newly-Ricketts-owned rooftops and scream at the top of his lungs, “SEE I TOLD YOU SO!” All he really wants, though, is to be able to say at the end of the year, “Hey, we earned what people are saying about us.”
- On that point, Epstein admitted discomfort with how much positive attention/predictions/odds the Cubs were receiving in the offseason when they hadn’t yet earned it on the field. Teams like the Atlanta Braves (made the postseason 14 straight times), the San Francisco Giants (won three out of five World Series), the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the St. Louis Cardinals are, to Epstein, among the teams that have earned that kind of attention and praise. And he’s right. The 2015 and 2016 Chicago Cubs teams are already very good teams. No one can take that away from them or Epstein, for that matter. But if they want to join the ranks of the greatest teams ever, they’ll have to find their way into some more postseason winning. That’s the truth of it.
- The 2015 Cardinals, for example, for all of their regular season winning and overcoming odds due to injuries and ineffectiveness, will largely be a forgotten team when all is said and done, despite winning 100 games, because they failed to win in the postseason. That’s the sad, but honest truth. (The Cardinals organization as a whole, however, will continue to be remembered/reviled for how dang successful they are year-in and year-out.)
- And Epstein naturally addressed his contract situation, but there is no extension or news to announce. Given the pending end of season deadline and relative infrequency with which either he or Tom Ricketts speaks on this particular topic, any update (even one that says there is no update) is somewhat noteworthy for those of us that are interested. I remain confident that a deal will get done, but it’s not done yet.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.