Epstein and Maddon Speak: Taking Big Swings and Being Wrong, Evaluating Personnel, More

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Epstein and Maddon Speak: Taking Big Swings and Being Wrong, Evaluating Personnel, More

Chicago Cubs

With a televised game yesterday, two of the Cubs’ men in charge slid into the broadcast to offer their thoughts on the state of the organization, the plan for the spring, and the season ahead.

Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein hit the booth with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies for an inning of typically thoughtful and interesting discussion. If you didn’t catch the broadcast, you can see a little bit of Epstein’s discussion here (with a bonus great play from David Bote in there):

Among the other things Epstein highlighted: the importance of being comfortable with your mistakes.

“I think it’s a sign of a good organization [to be] really comfortable being really publicly wrong about a few things and not caring how you might look or how it might come off, or, you know, trying to be safe and perfect all the time. I think in order to have any sort of breakthrough or advantage, you need to be comfortable being wrong.”

If you don’t take your shots, especially in such a data-heavy era, where so many organizations have access to the same information, you aren’t going to have any big wins. Doing so, though, necessarily means you’ll have some big whiffs, too.

“Baseball is an exercise in which we know we don’t have anywhere close to all the answers. We only understand a fraction of what goes on on the field in enough detail to be able to quantify it or predict it,” Epstein went on. “So if you’re in a field where you know you’re gonna be wrong then you should embrace it and work really hard to chip away at finding a few things that you might better understand just a little bit, enough to give you an advantage that might manifest once or twice over the course of a season. That’s what leads to a couple more wins and getting in the postseason.”

Relatedly, Epstein went into the “people” side of the game, and how important it is to know your players well.

“The ultimate competitive advantage is just understanding people and knowing when to ignore the numbers, or when to combine an understanding of data with an understanding of the person. Putting your players, human beings, in a position to succeed and understanding that they’re more than just numbers on back of their card.”

That is just so spot on with what we’ve seen in this era of the Cubs, especially with Joe Maddon as the manager. Among his many talents, he is so excellent at translating the analytical findings of the organization into something usable by the players – each of whom is a completely different and distinct thinker and communicator.

One other point I really appreciated from Epstein was a concession that, when you emphasize a player’s “makeup” before drafting him or trading for him or signing him, you’re looking for “baseball makeup,” which isn’t quite the same thing as “looking for someone to marry your daughter” (although Epstein was quick to add that that matters a bit, too).

Joe Maddon also got an in-game interview from the dugout, some of which you can see here:

Maddon really emphasized that you can’t just use Spring Training performance to evaluate personnel and make a decision, for example, like who is going to lead off. There’s a lot that goes into it, including the player’s comfort, and that might not have to do with how the Spring has played out.

Maddon also spoke to Spiegel and Parkins yesterday before the game, and you can watch right here:

Cubs Manager Joe Maddon live with Spiegel and Parkins!

Posted by 670 The Score on Tuesday, February 27, 2018

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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.