It's Been a Rough Start to His Cubs Career for Yu Darvish, But Theo Epstein Still Has His Back

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It’s Been a Rough Start to His Cubs Career for Yu Darvish, But Theo Epstein Still Has His Back

Chicago Cubs

In our little corner of the baseball world, the biggest story of the day yesterday was the relatively shocking (and in my opinion, inappropriate) comments from Cardinals President John Mozeliak on Dexter Fowler and his alleged lack of effort and energy and hustle.

Whether those allegations are or are not true (you just won’t convince me that Dexter Fowler isn’t a hard worker), I was taken aback that Mozeliak would even consider saying something like that about his own player in public, especially after just a half-season of slumping. It just doesn’t make sense (even if it were based in some truth, that seems like something that should be handled internally) ,and there doesn’t seem to be much to gain other than shifting blame for the signing away from the team and onto the player.

The whole episode, among other things, reminded how lucky Cubs fans are to have a front office led by a compassionate, thoughtful President of Baseball Operations like Theo Epstein.

Case in point: Yu Darvish.

After signing a massive six-year, $126 million deal over the offseason, Yu Darvish’ Cubs career has not gotten off to the best start. The righty hasn’t been on the mound since May 20th, and even when he was pitching, he wasn’t getting very good results (4.95 ERA, 4.81 FIP). Given that he ended the 2017 season with two miserable World Series appearances for the Dodgers and has needed an MRI this season, it’s fair to say Darvish has had a rough go of it over the past half year.

But instead of throwing him under the bus and pushing the blame for his absence and poor performance on a lack of effort or, in this case, say, the proper conditioning, Theo Epstein was a more considerate (and accurate): “He’s human, and I think he’s a little more open than most,” Epstein said in an interview on 670 The Score. “I also think there’s a little bit of a language issue where things don’t always come across in the way they’re translated. But he’s certainly human, and I’m not going to penalize him for that.”

Epstein continued by praising Darvish’s honesty and openness, adding that there’s more than one way to deal with things.

But don’t get Epstein (or me!) wrong. He’s not saying it’s been all rainbows and sunshine. Things obviously haven’t gone as expected/hoped, but he just doesn’t believe it’ll last: “That’s just the nature of it, and he’s got to perform. But look, he’s actually somebody that once people to get to know him, they really like him and pull for him. Right now, he has not been healthy and he has not performed, so he has those two strikes against him. He wants more than anything to get healthy so he can go out and perform so he can show to his teammates and his organization and most importantly all the fans what he brings to the table. Because he wants desperately to be an important part of a championship team.”

Now THIS is how a leader handles a player when they’re going through a tough time. First, you acknowledge that things haven’t gone well (you can’t just pretend everything is honky dory), but then you make sure that everyone (from fans, to the player, himself) knows this is not what we expect. We expect him to be as good as he ever has been, and believe that he will get back there soon.

That way, the player knows you have his back, and you spare him embarrassment and any unnecessary public derision (all of which might have otherwise set him further back, which is even worse for the player, organization, and fans).

You can read/listen to more from Epstein on Darvish at 670 The Score.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami