Theo Epstein Speaks: No Excuses, Calling Up Nico, McLeod's Move, Terrible Leadoff Numbers, More

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Theo Epstein Speaks: No Excuses, Calling Up Nico, McLeod’s Move, Terrible Leadoff Numbers, More

Chicago Cubs

Things are … not going all that well for the Chicago Cubs at the moment, and there’s really not all that much time left to fix anything. Nevertheless, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein joined 670 The Score today to offer his perspective on the season/roster/decisions/etc., and we’re going to share that stuff alongside some thoughts and comments of my own.

You can listen to the interview in full right here, and it’s also embedded at the bottom of this post. Off we go …

  • Theo Epstein began by acknowledging the Cubs challenges (re: injuries to key players), but refused to use them as an excuse: “We have our challenges, but every team has their challenges. And honestly we’ve been essentially a .500 team for months now. Even when we’re pretty healthy … we didn’t do what we needed to do to separate. We had chances. I don’t think there’s any excuse for how we’re playing.”
  • I do appreciate Theo Epstein’s bluntness and honesty – he’s always been this way when things aren’t going well – but it’s not quite making me feel better anymore. We’ve just gone too long without being good this time. Sigh.

  • Epstein went on, discussing the various ways the Cubs have not been able to use their otherwise excellent on-paper talent to the fullest degree: “Second most errors in the league, most outs on the bases in the league – those things chip away at your margin of error. When you do those things you can’t just have your talent roll out and win games … The only good news is that we’re very fortunate that we [still] have a chance….”
  • Epstein admits that the way last season ended, the way the offseason went, and the way this season has been going is “immensely frustrating” and was made worse because he can tell/hear the fans feeling the same way.
  • “We had not anticipated bringing [Nico Hoerner] up this year.” Epstein said that even though they have been aggressive with certain prospects in certain situations in the past, it wasn’t the plan for Hoerner this season: “He hasn’t even gotten a full year in, because of the injuries he’s gone through.”
  • According to Epstein, the plan after both Javy Baez and Addison Russell were out was supposed to be Dixon Machado, but he got hurt as well. Zack Short was another option, but because he had dealt with a few injuries and wasn’t quite playing at the top of his game (while Nico was) they made the move.
  • “Nico’s just got a special mental makeup.” Epstein went on an absolute compliment tear (and I didn’t even grab all of them): He’s intelligent, self-aware, he’s got this “it” factor about him, he’s very involved in his own development, off-the-charts makeup, etc. You get the idea. The Cubs believe he could handle this ultra-aggressive move, and so far they appear to be correct.
  • When asked whether his conversations with Joe Maddon (implicitly regarding day-to-day strategy) have become more frequent, Epstein did a bit of a tap dance, refusing to entirely answer the question. But in general, it sounded like, yes, Epstein believes it’s more appropriate to “make a suggestion” around this time of the year, even if the process itself hasn’t really changed.
  • Epstein also discussed the Jason McLeod role change:

  • Put bluntly: the lateral move was explained as a way to help McLeod get the sort of day-to-day big league experience that could be useful in GM interviews/opportunities down the line (McLeod has had a few shots to lead other teams in the past). Of course, it was then also explained as a way to get a new voice in the scouting/amateur player development department, which feels like the true driver of this decision. “The player development landscape is changing more rapidly than it ever has for as long as I’ve been in the game.”
  • The Cubs, according to Epstein, are looking both at external candidates as well as some people already within the organization.
  • Epstein ended on a down, but true note: “It’s shocking to me. I feel really honestly embarrassed by the on-base numbers we’ve had out of the leadoff spot.” Same, Theo. Same.

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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