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The Theo Misconception


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#1 Morken

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 01:46 PM

I understand that many in these parts believe that Theo Epstein is a God - Shit, Brett can't stop posting information reminding us of such a fact. And If you dare whisper a word of negativity regarding Theo's pedigree, the usual Theo groupies come out in full force - however, the sabermetrics genius; the progressive thinking innovator; the low-budget, "Money Ball" God, are complete misrepresentations for who Theo truly is. The common denominator in all of Theo's success, the variable that has followed Theo around to every World Series trophy, is spending; large amounts of spending.

Theo made some savy moves as presiding influence of the Boton Red Sox. But even one of his best moves - trading for Curt Schilling - was a result of financial flexibility. The truth is, Theo won to the extent that he did, because Boston's ownership allotted him a payroll that vastly exceeded most team's in baseball. In 2004, when Theo won his first World Series with the Red Sox, Boston had the second highest payroll in all of baseball. And it's not like they merely edged out the teams who followed them in payroll. No team behind Boston was within $20 million dollars. $20 million dollars! The same scenario existed in 2007, when Boston won it's second World Series, under Theo: second highest payroll in all of baseball, no team within $20 million. Not exactly the "Money Ball" blueprint!

I'm not going to get into the specifics of the many horribly bloated contracts that Theo handed out, like condoms in Amsterdam. No, that would be repetitive. I'm not going to get into the mess that Theo left the Red Sox in, on his way to Chicago. No, that wouldn't do any good. I just wanted to clarify perception, while extending feelings of incredulousness. Theo may win in Chicago. Hell, I sure hope he does. But if he wins in Chicago, it will mirror what he did in Boston: vastly high payrolls(with some awful contracts), luxurious spending in the farmsystem, cloaked in the guise of progressive thinking. You see, having a credit card with an unlimited curve, allows a GM to sign players without the same caution as other teams. You're allotted a ton of awful signings(Theo has already provided us with a minor league example, Concepcion, and a major league example, Baker); a courtesy not extended to most other teams.

Maybe it's because Theo went to Yale; maybe it's because he's young. Whatever the case, Theo's gotten way to much credit. If you think Theo is a brilliant GM, you've gotta think that Brian Cashman is a God, right? Anyway, tread lightly, Cubs' fans. It's funny how the Cubs' "new way" for which Theo has authored, won't result in winning until the Cubs boast a payroll that vastly exceeds everyone else's.



#2 hansman1982

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 02:06 PM

It is possible that someone on here still has the links to the months long debate Kyle and I had last spring through fall.

#3 Spencer

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 02:16 PM

Anyway, tread lightly, Cubs' fans. It's funny how the Cubs' "new way" for which Theo has authored, won't result in winning until the Cubs boast a payroll that vastly exceeds everyone else's.


For someone that prides himself on being a "smart motherfucker", surely you can recognize your improper use of an apostrophe in this sentence. Right?

#4 MichiganGoat

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 04:00 PM

Again the plan is not- NEVER SPEND MONEY ONLY SIGN AND FLIP PLAYERS. The reason the Cubs haven't spent money on Pujols, Fielder, Hamilton, Grenkie etc is because these contracts are only valuable for the first 4-5 years then they become a massive albatross. To think this is how the Cubs will always operate is naive and further your trollish behavior.

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#5 OCCubFan

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 05:31 PM

Question for Morken: Would you have signed Pujols, Fielder, Hamilton, or Greinke? If so, how high would you have gone? Who else would you have signed?

#6 OCCubFan

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 05:39 PM

I do not believe Epstein is a god, nor is he perfect. The bad free-agent signings in Boston bother me. Of course, it's not as though the Cubs, or almost any other team, hasn't made mistakes on free-agent signings. Free-agent signings are the riskiest moves. Few huge contracts are worth it in the end. Therefore, I'm not sorry the Cubs passed on the big names.

Epstein has stated his plan rather clearly. I like his goal of making the playoffs 8 out of 10 years. You can disagree with the plan if you like, or you can disagree with his execution of the plan. In the one plus year so far, I think the execution of the plan is pretty good: the farm system is clearly improved. How much is open for debate, but the direction is certainly correct.

However, if, at the end of June, the Cubs are on pace to lose 100 games again, or if progress is not apparent in the next off-season, then I will be unhappy.

#7 Brett

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 06:30 PM

No one anywhere believes Theo Epstein is a god.

Against that backdrop, it's hard to take anything else you wrote seriously. I tried to offer you advice on that.

#8 calicubsfan007

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 07:27 PM

Maybe Theo's stalker thinks that Theo is a god?

#9 T C

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 09:47 PM

Dude, you can't just point at high payrolls and declare that the Front Office isn't doing anything because they've been given money. There's plenty of teams every year with huge payrolls that fail to sniff .500, and plenty more teams with miniscule payrolls that make it into the playoffs. Based on your argument ("no team within 20 MILLION DOLLARS! 20 MILLION!) the Yankees should've won almost every title in the last decade. They didn't because it isn't all about money.

There's also downsides to running a team with a high payroll. Pressure is very strong, both from ownership, media, and the fans, to never have a down year. When your analytics department comes to you and says it's a good time to sell off pieces because you're likely headed for a steep decline, you can't. Rebuilding, or even a lone .500 year while the team waits on some prospects to get acclimated and a FA to hit the market, is not acceptable. Your FO needs you to patch up holes immediately, and you make signings like John Lackey's deal, or you trade a bunch of prospects for Matt Garza to try and stop the bleeding. If you do somehow find yourself in a rebuilding process (or in a season after you exited the playoffs early), every Big Name FA you don't sign represents tens/hundreds of thousands of fans abandoning their confidence in you, so you feel increasingly strong public pressure to flinch and give a 32 year old Albert Pujols 10yrs/250mil. Money may give you the flexibility to eat one/two bad contracts at any one time, but all the pressure from fans, ownership, and media (always worse in large cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago) pushes GMs towards a ton of deals they'd rather not make.

[Also, minor quibble, but the Scott Baker deal is not a "terrible" signing. He's making $5mil this year, and while a smaller market team might have trouble absorbing that loss (an argument that's increasingly tough to make in the current age of huge local and league TV contracts), it was a very good gamble on the health of Baker. They obviously understood the risks, but he could've been a 2-3 win pitcher if he'd been healthy by mid-April, and worth a lot in trade or possibly gotten a friendly deal from Baker for 2014 & beyond. And if Baker doesn't come back until June and only gives you a win or so, well, you got about the value you paid for.

Furthermore, and I don't know if you're one of these people, but a lot of people ripped the current FO for not spending a bunch of money in FA. But now you're/they're going to rip them over two $5mil contracts handed out? You specificaly Morken, can't on one hand call out guys like Theo for not being good executives because they have financial flexibility, and then call them even worse because they use a very small bit of that financial flexibility to take a calculated risk to acquire talent, especially in a rebuilding period.]

Less minor quibble: the plan most certainly is not "not win until the Cubs' payroll exceeds everyone elses." For many reasons. 1) not likely the Cubs will have the ability to spend in the $189million range until after 2019 and a new TV deal 2) the Dodgers are going to be spending more than everyone else anyway 3) most importantly, the plan is specifically not get stuck with all the bad contracts you just said they're able to get away with, at least until the minor league system starts producing some MLB talent to go along with it. Those contracts block prospects, eat payroll you want to throw at FAs when some prospects start seeing MLB PT, and leave you with aging and oft injured players like the Yankees. I don't know where you got the idea "The Cubs Way" is just eventually spend much more than everyone else, cause not a single move they've made so far appears to support that idea.

#10 Ron

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 11:21 PM

Your entire argument is lost in the first two sentences of paragraph two. It is all about having financial flexibility. For whatever reason the Cubs had very little financial flexibility when Ricketts purchased he team. The team was loaded with aging stars, bad contracts and litte to no flexibility with the payroll. The team did not first and foremost have the pitching to compete at that level and could not afford to purchase enough to get them there. A certain amount of tearng it apart had to happen to give them the flexibility. The fact is if you want great pitching you need one of two things, a great farm system or very deep pockets. The Cubs had neither. Oh yeah, and we just stared the second year of the process.

#11 Tommy

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 11:54 PM

Great explanation, Tommy. Trying to rationalize with Morken is pointless, however. The only thing he's concerned with is name calling and insults. If most of us felt the exact opposite, he'd be telling us we were all idiots for thinking that.

You broke it down beautifully, though!
- diehard fanclub member #002

#12 T C

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 11:45 AM

Great explanation, Tommy. Trying to rationalize with Morken is pointless, however. The only thing he's concerned with is name calling and insults. If most of us felt the exact opposite, he'd be telling us we were all idiots for thinking that.

You broke it down beautifully, though!


Thanks man. And I haven't personally had to talk to the guy yet, so I guess I'll give him the chance.

#13 Mike Taylor (no relation)

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 03:27 PM

The raw observation is that "Theo Epstein" is just a brand that players, agents, and owners recognize as being smart, calculated, and associated with winning. I'd say it's 35/65 on the brand alone that sells players into joining an organization when being presented options. How many players are going to jump at the opportunity to play for the Marlins next year? Only aging veterans and fringe-types who're OK with accepting a split contract.

I've had a pretty good track record (as Brett can attest to) for predicting what this Front Office has done this off season and it's all about being smart with allocated funds, while always keeping in mind the big picture (or "Cubs' Way-if you so choose to drink that media-driven kool-aid). It's not hard to evaluate the state of the farm system that Hendry and the Tribune left it in, recognizing where your strengths and weaknesses are, letting go of ineffective, older players with similar pitch types, and moving old contracts as best you can.

I think any idiot with a brain could have told you that there was no way out of losing money or games last year. So, we invested in foreign markets and made efforts to sign players, but most importantly, not overpay. Think where we would be had we not invested $30M the first year in rebuilding the farm system and had ultimately went about things in a way that fans got their quick fix:

2012
LF Alfonso Soriano - 3 years, $54M left
CF Yoenis Cespedes - 4 years, $40M
RF Bryan LaHair / Reed Johnson - $1.5M
1B Prince Fielder - 9 years, $215M
2B D.J. LeMaheiu / Darwin Barney
3B Aramis Ramirez - 3 years, $36M
SS Starlin Castro
C Steve Clevenger / Welington Castillo - catcher injury trouble regardless
SP Yu Darvish - 6 years, $110
SP Ryan Dempster - 1 year, $14M
SP Mark Buerhle - 4 years, $58M
SP Matt Garza - $9.5M
SP Jeff Samardzija - $2.3M
LR Chris Volstad - ($18M of Zambrano's contract)
RP Manuel Corpas
RP Shawn Camp - $1M
RP James Russell
RP Rafael Dolis
R5P Lendy Castillo
RP Michael Bowden
SU Sean Marshall - $3.5M
CL Carlos Marmol - 2 years, $16.8M left
7+3.5+0.5+0.5+1+0.5+18+2.3+9.5+14.5+14.5+52(posting fee)+9.6+0.5+0.5+0.5+12+0.5+0.5+23.9+10+18=
$199.8M payroll - 52 (posting fee) = $147.8M

Soriano
.262/.322/.499/.821, 615 PA, 147 H, 32 HR, 68 R, 108 RBI, 153 SO / 44 BB
Cespedes
.292/.356/.505/.861, 540 PA, 142 H, 23 HR, 70 R, 082 RBI, 102 SO / 43 BB
LaHair / Johnson
.259/.334/.450/.784, 380 PA, 088 H, 16 HR, 42 R, 040 RBI, 124 SO / 39 BB
.290/.337/.398/.735, 288 PA, 078 H, 03 HR, 30 R, 020 RBI, 061 SO / 13 BB
Fielder
.313/.412/.528/.940, 690 PA, 182 H, 30 HR, 83 R, 108 RBI, 084 SO / 85 BB
LeMahieu / Barney
.297/.332/.410/.742, 247 PA, 068 H, 02 HR, 26 R, 022 RBI, 042 SO / 13 BB
.254/.299/.354/.653, 588 PA, 139 H, 07 HR, 73 R, 044 RBI, 058 SO / 33 BB
Ramirez
.300/.360/.540/.900, 630 PA, 171 H, 27 HR, 92 R, 105 RBI, 082 SO / 44 BB
Castro
.283/.323/.430/.753, 691 PA, 183 H, 14 HR, 78 R, 078 RBI, 100 SO / 36 BB
Clevenger / Castillo
.201/.260/.276/.536, 215 PA, 040 H, 01 HR, 16 R, 016 RBI, 039 SO / 16 BB
.265/.337/.418/.754, 190 PA, 045 H, 05 HR, 16 R, 022 RBI, 051 SO / 17 BB

Jeff Baker
.239/.279/.378/.656, 201 PA, 045 H, 04 HR, 18 R, 025 RBI, 048 SO / 11 BB
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
5275 PA, 1338 H, 164 HR, 670 RBI, 944 SO / 394 BB = .328 OBP, 670/162=4.14 RunsPerGame

Darvish
191.1 IP, 29 GS, 3.90 ERA, 221 SO, 16 - 09 (83 ER)
Dempster
173.0 IP, 28 GS, 3.38 ERA, 153 SO, 12 - 08 (65 ER)
Buehrle
202.1 IP, 31 GS, 3.74 ERA, 125 SO, 13 - 13 (84 ER)
Garza / Volstad
103.2 IP, 18 GS, 3.91 ERA, 096 SO, 05 - 07 (45 ER)
111.1 IP, 21 GS, 6.31 ERA, 061 SO, 03 - 12 (78 ER)
Samardzija
174.2 IP, 28 GS, 3.81 ERA, 180 SO, 09 - 13 (74 ER)
------------------------------------------------------------------
956.1 IP, 155 GS = 6.17 IPPGS, 4.04 ERA, (429 ER) 58 - 62

Corpas
46.2 IP, 5.01 ERA, 0 - 2 (26 ER)
Camp
77.2 IP, 3.59 ERA, 3 - 6 (31 ER)
Russell
69.1 IP, 3.25 ERA, 7 - 1 (25 ER)
Dolis / Castillo / Bowden
38.0 IP, 6.39 ERA, 2 - 4 (27 ER)
16.0 IP, 7.88 ERA, 0 - 1 (14 ER)
36.2 IP, 2.95 ERA, 0 - 0 (12 ER)
Marshall
61.0 IP, 2.51 ERA, 5 - 5 (17 ER)
Marmol
55.1 IP, 3.42 ERA, 3 - 3 (21 ER)
-----------------------------------------
400.2 IP, 3.89 ERA, 20 - 22 (173 ER)

78 - 84, 3.99 ERA (not including the missing 100 IP)

Cubs actually scored 3.78 Runs per Game
Cubs actually put up a 4.51 ERA
Cubs actually went 61 - 101

What does this mean? Who knows... I'm sure the W/L total would be different if we had this different, hypothetical over-inflated payroll, and because I'm missing the 725 PA "bench" stats from Valbuena, Mather, Campana, Byrd, and Soto.

#14 calicubsfan007

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 05:09 PM

Nice set of stats Mike. How long did it take to get all that together?

#15 fromthemitten

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 08:56 PM


Anyway, tread lightly, Cubs' fans. It's funny how the Cubs' "new way" for which Theo has authored, won't result in winning until the Cubs boast a payroll that vastly exceeds everyone else's.


For someone that prides himself on being a "smart motherfucker", surely you can recognize your improper use of an apostrophe in this sentence. Right?


Not to mention ending mad sentences with prepositions




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