The Chicago Cubs have been eliminated from postseason contention for the first time since 2014! Wowza! Who would’ve thought we’d be talking about that in September of 2019? I certainly didn’t. In fact, I thought the 95-win 2018 club that just missed winning the division would’ve been the blip in the story … not the first of consecutively disappointing seasons. Especially since last year exposed the very weaknesses that wound up sinking this year’s team, too. Alas, here we are.
One day after elimination, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein jumped on 670 The Score to discuss the collapse. I’ve done my best to jot down the most notable comments from his interview, though it should be available as a recording later today – at which time we’ll pop it in here. Until then, paraphrases from Epstein …
- I’ll have more on our [message to Cubs fans] next week. We’re still planning what we’re going to do. There’s going to be a lot of a dialogue and a lot planning. I’m not ready to discuss anything right now [other than answering your questions to the best of my ability]. I think the severity of the fall off over the last couple weeks has been alarming and shocking, but … many of the issues were foreshadowed over the course of the year. Nothing completely shocked us and I don’t think anything that happened was out of the realm of possibilities.
- I will not get into the conversation with Joe Maddon publicly at all (Theo Epstein wouldn’t even comment on when he’d talk to Joe).
- There’s a tendency to overuse the message you’ve been using when there has been success in the past. It can be subconscious and that’s what makes it a trap of winning. If you’re holding onto the past, you’re not moving forward. In order to move forward, we have to let go of the past. I’m sure there’ll be many players and many personnel from this team on the next Cubs championship team, but I think it’ll still be a fresh/new start.
- Outs on the bases … those are things that really add up and eliminate your margin for error. And it’s an area where I really think focus can help. Those are things that you feel are avoidable. Certain times you’ll get dominated by a pitcher or taken deep, but self-inflected wounds like outs on the bases and making mental errors in the field … those are just self-defeating, because they eliminate your margin of error. It’s up there on the list of things as to why we were less this year than the sum of our parts. We might be the second team in the history of this modern two-wild-card format to miss the playoffs with a 100+ run differential.
- I still do believe leadership change after 10 years is healthy. But there’s no hard-pressed rule or anything magic. I do believe in something like “term-limits,” because you reach a point where you start to get diminishing returns. Everyone in a leadership position should contemplate a term-limit. There will be a time when it’s clearly appropriate for a change, but I actually feel invigorated right now. [Note: Epstein just finished year eight with the Cubs.]
- I’m extremely motivated to get it right. When you’re heavily invested in something and responsible for something, it brings great highs [when you win the World Series]. But when you fall short and you don’t accomplish your goal, those same dynamics bring great pain. You feel like you let a lot of people down. The key is to funnel that into something productive. Instead of wallowing in the pain of what coulda been or pointing to the run differential, you recognize what it was and channel that into fixing it.
- Next year’s going to be a lot more challenging than this year in a lot of ways. Why? We have less control of our best players, some other players departing via free agency … there’s going to be some unique challenges. All possibilities are open to us, too. We look forward to it.
- MICHAEL: Epstein refused to answer a question about the team lacking enough of a “red-ass” in the clubhouse. He said again that he’d possibly discuss that more in the future, after he does exit-interviews.
- We’ll find out if the late-start/lack of a Spring Training was the reason for Craig Kimbrel’s rough 20+ innings. He’ll need to have a productive offseason, but he’ll also have the benefit of a regular Spring Training next year.
- What is David Ross’ value to the franchise in his current role? He’s been a good advisor in his current role and resource for the players and for Joe Maddon, immersing himself in different departments.
- I agree with Jon Lester that Joe Maddon should be revered as a legend in this city.