Even before the Cubs were officially eliminated from postseason contention last night, President Theo Epstein knew the score. This year’s team had disappointed in so many ways that describing it as a “worst-possible outcome” situation was both fair and necessary to understand how to proceed.
After noting the growth that can come from a best-possible outcome (2016), and the excuses you can make after a middle-of-the-road outcome (2018), Epstein suggests that you get the most out of a worst-possible outcome.
“When you have the worst-possible outcome like we’ve had recently, it reveals everything,” Epstein told reporters last night, per NBC Sports Chicago. “And I think, as painful as that can be, that also creates a real opportunity for everyone to learn from it and grow. I just flew in today and I’ll be with the team the rest of the trip. Just walking through the clubhouse, even for five minutes, three players come up to me and we started talking about things and they kept asking, ‘What can I do different? How can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?’
“Those are the right questions for all of us, me included, the whole organization. I think it’s important, if you’re going to suffer through something like this, to be really determined, really dedicated to making sure that you grow from it, learn from it, and something good happens.”
I’m glad to hear Epstein frame it that way, not only because it’s the right way to treat these kinds of situations in life, but also because it will make it that much more difficult for the Cubs to do what they did last offseason – even after recognizing the flaws, it’s debatable how much the organization did, if anything, to address them. Now? It’s all just laid so very bare, and every single person in the organization likely feels a measure of shame and necessary introspection.
You also want all of them to feel and embrace a challenge that is akin to the one they took up before 2016.
“Absolutely, the goal is to win a championship next year,” Epstein told NBC. “One-hundred percent. That’s what this organization’s about and I think the thing that gets you excited — even in the face of this adversity — is waking up and trying to build the next championship Cubs team. We want that to be as soon as possible. We have to build the next championship Cubs team.”
The work on that front started earlier this year behind the scenes, as the development infrastructure is overhauled, but will continue apace in the weeks and months to come. I expect – and I think it’s fair for fans to expect – significant work.