“He’s brilliant, he’s sabermetrically inclined, he understands old-school-scouting techniques, he understands the game … But of all the guys I’ve met, he’s more empathetic than all of them. He understands people.”
That’s Cubs manager Joe Maddon on his boss, the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein – who continues to be the most interesting enigma of a man (to me) in professional sports.
In a recent must-read at Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci (who is writing a book about the Cubs’ 2016 season) writes about how the Cubs’ architect ended the second epic title drought of his career, with a World Series win for Chicago this fall.
In addition, there are many new quotes, stories, and anecdotes from Epstein’s storied, 14-year career.
Trust me, you’re going to want to check it out:
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 16, 2016
Of course, some of the fan favorites are in there as well (the gorilla suit, his connection to Pearl Jam/Eddie Vedder, and the fact that his grandfather and great uncle literally wrote the screenplay for ‘Casablanca’), but there’s a lot of new, unfamiliar ones as well.
For example, one of the most impressing (in the impressed upon me sense) bits from the article was Theo Epstein’s ever-evolving mentality about roster building and winning:
“I used to scoff at it, when I first took the job in Boston,” Epstein says. “I just felt like, You know how we’re going to win? By getting guys who get on base more than the other team, and by getting pitchers who miss bats and get ground balls. Talent wins. But … it’s like every year I did the job, I just developed a greater appreciation for how much the human element matters and how much more you can achieve as a team when you have players who care about winning, care about each other, develop those relationships, have those conversations. It creates an environment where the sum is greater than the parts.”
For me, that sort of message (particularly from someone like Epstein) resonates a lot. Increasingly, I’ve found that I have to fight the urge to dismiss the other side of the game in favor of the raw statistical analysis upon which the entire foundation of my analytical baseball life has been constructed. This is a complicated sport, and, while advanced stats opened up a whole new world, there is much more to it than that. And I think we can all agree that the 2015 and 2016 Chicago Cubs featured a perfect confluence of talent meeting the human element, right?
So read up on Epstein’s past, his experiences building up and finally winning it all with the Cubs, and what he plans to do over the next five years (spoilers: win).
(Also: remember the deep and revealing Epstein profile in late September? Go back and check it out if you missed it and you’re in the mood for more on the Cubs’ top man.)