The Theo Epstein Welcome Press Conference

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The Theo Epstein Welcome Press Conference

Chicago Cubs

Today, the Chicago Cubs will introduce their long-awaited savior President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein. It’s been a long, frustrating road, so it’s easy to forget that, just a month and a half ago, no one would have believed this would be happening today.

The press conference starts at 11 a.m. CST, and I’ll be updating this post with salient points, bullet-style, as the press conference goes on. Enjoy the moment, friends. We’ve earned it.

  • Is it embarrassing to say that I’m physically buzzing with excitement? It’s not like there will be any revelations or surprises. But … I can’t help it – I’m like a kid on Christmas morning before his parents have cleared him to go downstairs and start ripping into presents.
  • Tom Ricketts is on first, discussing the priorities of the organization. The first, and most important goal from the beginning has been to win a World Series. “Today, we take a major step toward achieving that goal.”
  • “I cannot imagine a better person for this job than Theo Epstein.” Epstein is in charge of all things baseball, and will report directly to Ricketts, as expected.
  • Ricketts compliments Randy Bush and – eh hem – Crane Kenney. “Crane is an excellent baseball executive who worked very hard to put this deal together.”
  • Ricketts says he’s thrilled as a fan and as the team Chairman by the results of the search. Interesting that he’s discussing the “search,” which was always framed as the “GM search” in the past. No mention of Hoyer, though. Not that it’s a concern.
  • Theo speaks: “It truly feels great to be a Cub today.”
  • Theo starts by thanking Ricketts and Kenney – “I look forward to working with you on the business side.”
  • “I’d also like to thank Jim Hendry, whom I really admire … especially for staying on this Summer, and signing a really strong draft class … I hope I can demonstrate that same class and loyalty.”
  • Epstein thanks the Cubs fans, and says he hopes he can reward us with a successful tenure. He then thanks the Red Sox, and wishes them the best.
  • Epstein is going into the tradition and history of baseball, but it’s “best of all when you win.”
  • “I believe we can preserve the things that make the Cubs special … and build a solid foundation that delivers sustained success.” Boing.
  • Epstein is going into the plans for player development and scouting – it’s a clear focus, as it should be (and as was expected).
  • Epstein wants a progressive front office, and he plans to bring in “the best and brightest,” but he says he isn’t going to cast everyone currently in the front office aside. He’s really hammering the “foundation for sustained success” theme. Fine by me.
  • Paraphrase: We’ll be searching for that next, great competitive advantage through research and development. Boing.
  • I get the sense that Epstein clearly recognizes a short-term turnaround is not going to be possible, and he’s setting us up for that expectation: it will be a process.
  • Epstein drops “the Cubs way” bomb, which is a cornerstone of Ricketts’ vision. Epstein wants kids who join the organization to buy into what it is to be a Cub.
  • Bruce Levine gets the first question, and he asks about Mike Quade’s future. “Mike seems like a great guy and he’s developed a great reputation … and I look forward to sitting down with him in person … we’ll get together as a group and decide from there.”
  • Phil Rogers asks about the 2011 Cubs draft and the international spend, and Epstein notes that “we could tell what [the Cubs] were doing … they’re going for it.”
  • Jim Rose asks about Epstein’s time in Boston, and Epstein has nothing but positive things to say. But, as his Op Ed this morning said, he feels like it was time to move on. “This is certainly the ultimate challenge.”
  • Jon Greenberg asks the rebuilding question. Epstein says the plan is to build a foundation, but working on the Major League club is a parallel process. Every season is an opportunity to win. “It’s sacred.” The fans deserve a chance to win every year. Interesting.
  • Paraphrase: There are no shortcuts in baseball. The long haul is what it’s about.
  • Dave Kaplan asks about culture change. Epstein says there will be change in the front office, which includes the vision for the organization, and getting everyone to “buy in.” Epstein says “working hard” multiple times. Hmm.
  • The culture change is in the clubhouse, too. He talks about preparation, fitness, and that winning is the most important thing.
  • Rick Morrissey asks the first really lame question: “What makes you think you can be the person to do what no one has done in 100 years?” Epstein says it won’t be just him, and that, when faced with a similar challenge in Boston, he rallied the troops, and got everyone to buy into the organizational vision, and forget about external pressure. Good non-answer.
  • Pedro Gomez (“Hey, Pedro”) asks about the difference between the Red Sox roster when he took over and the Cubs’ roster now. Epstein says there’s a gap between where we are and where we want to be (glad he sees it, and is honest). He says it’ll take some hard work and creativity to get the team to contend in 2012, “but it can be done.” He justifies the position with some examples of teams who’ve been competitive on a quick turnaround, but, to my ear, it’s clear that he doesn’t expect a quick turnaround here.
  • Epstein is asked if he’ll be working on the compensation issue with the Red Sox. He avoids the question – “it will be addressed.” There’s a good relationship between the teams.
  • Barry Rozner asks Ricketts the “baseball guy to watch my baseball guy” question. Ricketts says he knew there was always going to have to be a guy in charge – “last year it was Jim, today it’s Theo.” Basically, he avoided the question. Fine by me.
  • Ricketts discusses the process for the search. It didn’t start with a list, it started with a review of the other 29 teams and other 29 systems. Who’s winning, who’s producing ML-ready players? That lead to a handful of teams to focus on. At the same time, Ricketts was talking to some big wigs in baseball about who he should be talking to, and all of that ran up until the end of the season. By then, it was clear that Theo was the right man for the job.
  • Theo is asked about the Cubs’ crappy defense. He says pitching and defense are important. Fundamental play is important. “The Cubs Way” includes expectations about defense. Shrug. Very corporate answer, but I’m not sure what else you can say at your introductory press conference.
  • Theo talks about his initial meetings with Tom, which were “five or six hours” of talking about baseball. Theo felt like they clicked. Theo got a commitment from Tom that he could grow the baseball operations department (finally), and Theo says there will be plenty of resources available to win.
  • Theo is asked about his Boston Globe Op Ed (did reporters just come up with their questions this morning?), and about his theory that after a period of time in one organization, it’s time to move on. “There’s plenty we can accomplish here in the next 10 years.”
  • Epstein is most proud of building a scouting and development “machine” in Boston, and then obviously winning the World Series and seeing the fans’ excitement. He sees that parallel here, and knows that winning a World Series would be deeply impactful.
  • Ricketts indicates that Epstein was clearly his top option – paraphrase: before I moved on to the more realistic part of my list, I knew I had to check with Theo first.
  • Sahadev Sharma asks Theo how he’ll implement his statistical vision on both the player side and the front office side. Epstein notes the importance of both numbers and scouting, and kind of rambles from there. Nothing concrete.
  • Epstein has a policy of not commenting on player payroll because he believes being secretive about that creates an advantage (or at least, doesn’t put them at a disadvantage). There will be plenty of resources, he says, but those resources could go to the draft, amateur scouting, etc., not just player payroll. Good to know.
  • Epstein says he’s a purist when it comes to the game, so he loves coming to Wrigley Field after being at Fenway Park. The renovations at Fenway generated revenues, improved the fan experience, and allowed us to use those revenues to improve the organization. It also had a tremendous impact on the city (wow, talk about “on message;” well done, Mr. Epstein).
  • Epstein discusses the “prime age” of baseball players, and although the roster will be diverse, the goal is to focus on having as many “prime” players – hopefully homegrown – as possible. Vets play an important role, though. But you pay for future performance, not past performance (not a shot against Jim Hendry, explicitly, but it sure could be used as one).
  • Epstein confirms, unasked, that it was indeed him at that Starbucks. He did it with a joke, and it played very well. Nicely done, Mr. Epstein.
  • Epstein’s only concerns in taking the job were related to his happiness with the Red Sox in Boston. But, he still felt like it was time for a change. And the more he learned about the Cubs and the Ricketts, the more interested he was.
  • He talks about coming home from school and watching the Cubs on WGN in the afternoon – that’s how I became a Cubs fan! *swoon*
  • Wow – Epstein talks about “limbo” between jobs in Boston and Chicago, and how he felt like the character in ‘Office Space,’ (“That’s my stapler”) working in the basement each day he went to the office in Boston. That was a joke made here by a reader last week. That’s funny.
  • “I came here to help the Cubs win. I didn’t come here for a title.” He means the “President” title, not, like, a World Series title.
  • Press conference over.
  • Unsurprisingly, Epstein was just as billed: smart, funny, smooth, and with great things to say. His demeanor was very businesslike – very much like Tom Ricketts, I must say – and not overly affected. A small part of me wishes he had a little more enthusiasm, but I think that’s just not his bag at functions like this.
  • The fact that no one even asked about the GM position tells me that reporters were told in advance that the subject would not be discussed. Other subjects not discussed: Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano (he would have dodged them anyway), his Carmine statistical tool (that he built in Boston), and the state/quality of the Cubs’ farm system at present.
  • The reporters in attendance pounced on Theo as soon as the presser ended, so I’m sure there will be many more quotes and issues discussed in upcoming news articles. The one drawback of being a non-journalist, Mom ‘n Pop blogger? I’m not there to ask any of these questions or participate in the non-presser part going on right now. 363 days out of the year, I wouldn’t want to be a beat writer. Days like today (and the day of the Hendry presser) are about the only time I pause. Speaking of which, I didn’t hear any questions from Paul Sullivan, Gordon Wittenmyer or Carrie Muskat. What’s up with that?

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.