Theo Epstein Speaks: Mission Not Accomplished, Thoughts on Russell/Maddon, Bullpen, Javy, More

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Theo Epstein Speaks: Mission Not Accomplished, Thoughts on Russell/Maddon, Bullpen, Javy, More

Chicago Cubs

There are one million and one things going on the Cubs world right now – from on-field issues, to off-field issues, to postseason issues, to offensive issues, to defensive issues … basically the Cubs have issues – but President Theo Epstein nevertheless joined the Bernstein & McKnight show on 670 The Score today to address them all.

Here’s the full interview if you’d like to listen, but we’ll also cover some of the highlights alongside some thoughts of my own below:

  • The Cubs do not have a sense of “mission accomplished” and they won’t until they win the division, according to Epstein. In fact, he suggested that until the walk-off, last night didn’t feel like a celebration and most of the players didn’t even know they had clinched a playoff spot with the Cardinals’ loss. But Epstein likes that. He believes there’ll be a time to sit back and enjoy the fact that the Cubs have made it into the postseason for four straight seasons (for the first time ever), but that time is not now.
  • Epstein seems to love the fact that Cubs fans feel more anxious than accomplished right now, because those “raised expectations” are exactly what he wanted to bring to the Cubs when he first came aboard. After that, he discussed the enigmatic dynamic between different seasons, all of which ended in the playoffs: “There’s nothing quite as innocent and completely enjoyable as that first one,” Epstein said referring to the 2015 season, even compared to the World Series run in 2016. I never quite thought of it that way, but it does square with my emotional memory, right? That 2015 season was so magical and exciting (and I’m somewhat concerned it’s what the Brewers are experiencing right now …).
  • Epstein suggests this has been the toughest regular season for him as the Cubs President of Baseball Operations. “It hasn’t been the most enjoyable what hopefully becomes a 95-win season of all time ….” LOL. Agreed.
  • On to a much more serious topic. Earlier this morning, MLB extended Addison Russell’s administrative leave through the end of the regular season, as they work toward a resolution of his case. Of course, that news came out after Theo Epstein spoke this morning – still, everything he said in this interview remains relevant and I think it’s important to hear his full comments on the topic. Again, you can listen you can listen to this in full at 670 The Score or in the embedded audio above:

“Look, my view is that domestic violence is clearly everyone’s issue, both from a standpoint that it’s a major problem in our society, and so it deserves all of our collection attention. Any time there’s an accusation, it’s not just an issue between the husband and wife, but everyone in their orbit should give full attention and concern to it. And then beyond that, as leaders in the organization, we are responsible in some important ways for the conduct of our players while they’re in the organization. Beyond that, our players’ wives are also a part of our organization, a part of our larger family. That also makes this a matter of our attention and concern. While we’re not the investigative body and it’s not at a point where anyone should draw any conclusions, I think the organization cares.

  • Epstein continued, by touching on the disappointing initial reaction and comments from Manager Joe Maddon: “It deserves all of our attention and care. And Joe does care. And so when he made his comments, I thought it didn’t accurately reflect the level of care that I know that he has as a person and as a leader of the organization. So we simply talked about it. We had a very nice, civil conversation about it and explained our viewpoints. And so Joe, he did read the piece. And I think his comments yesterday more clearly demonstrated the level of attention and concern that he has and certainly that we have as an organization.”
  • Maddon’s most recent comments, after the conversation with Epstein, if you missed them:

  • Make no mistake, Theo Epstein is covering for Joe Maddon here, but at least he is doing so thoughtfully and with a much better message. Again, Epstein’s remarks ares how Maddon should have responded in the first place. He didn’t, but I’m guessing he would want a do-over. In any case, Epstein continued to say that MLB has complete authority over this investigation – in fact, the Cubs explicitly CANNOT investigate, according to Epstein – but there is no update yet. Epstein concluded by saying that he does not want the investigation rushed, no matter the cost to the Cubs, because timing and convenience don’t and shouldn’t matter in these cases. Good.
  • Epstein said the fan-interference incident last night is understandable, because it’s just a natural human reaction from any baseball fan. He doesn’t want to demonize anybody, but added “[With] that said, if it’s possible, while we’re in the field and you feel that instinct to grab the ball, if your brain can overpower your heart,” we would really appreciate if you could hold yourself back. But if it’s an opposing player, maybe not so much. Heh. Nicely done, Theo.
  • At this point, Epstein discussed the bullpen – at large – but I just don’t have the heart to get into it. The truth is with Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop out, Steve Cishek’s heavy usage, Carl Edwards Jr.’s current struggles, and Justin Wilson’s unevenness, it’s just not going to be pretty. There WAS so much talent there, but because of the rotation’s deep struggles in the first half of the season, the bullpen is weaker now. It’s probably not going to change, and if the Cubs win the World Series this year, it’s at least as likely to be despite the bullpen as because of it.
  • But don’t blame them! They got the Cubs here! Now maybe the offense or rotation can take the Cubs the rest of the way.
  • Emotionally, Epstein is dying for Javy Baez to win the MVP award, because he believes he deserves it both on and off the field. Epstein discusses how, behind the scenes, Baez offers so much to the team that everyone can’t see (he called him tough and extremely team-oriented). Epstein also mentioned that he’s the ultimate team player, who commands the respect of everyone in the dugout, plays through pain all the time, is constantly working at getting himself better and improving his teammates. And I have to say, whether or not he wins the award, these comments – with so much sincerity from Epstein – made me like Baez even more. I didn’t know that was possible.
  • The Cubs are eager to get Kris Bryant back out there. Gasp! Shock!
  • To conclude, Epstein explained how strange it was to look up last night with the game on the line … while Jaime Garcia was on the mound and Mike Freeman was at the plate. Yep. It was weird. Let’s get to October already, please.

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Author: Michael Cerami

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