Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer jumped on 670 The Score earlier today (interview embedded below), and it’s worth sharing what he discussed.
Among his comments …
• The Cubs (and presumably all teams) should use their anxieties towards COVID-19 to fuel their strict adherence to the health and safety protocols, because if they don’t take things seriously, the 2020 season is unlikely to happen.
• In terms of evaluation, these past few days are akin to the first week of spring training. There is no overt evaluation going on, as players work to find their footing and get back into the swing of things. With that said, the Cubs have shown up in great shape, underscoring their hard work over the hiatus. “The pitchers are throwing really hard. The hitters have had no problems with that velocity. But I think you’d be crazy to evaluate really until we get pretty deep into the second week.” Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair to anyone.
• With that said, the Cubs will have to make very difficult decisions with even less information than they’re used to. “The evaluation time is not going to be entirely thorough.” The front office will have to rely on track records more than usual. Of course (and this is just Michael talking), the Cubs biggest decision of the year “Chatwood v. Mills” has been decided for them. It’s both, because Jose Quintana sliced his thumb.
• There are going to be more absences than usual this year (out of an abundance of caution), but the Cubs certainly hope to avoid being the cause for any opt-outs by making the environment as comfortable and safe as possible.
• There’s no question that really good players could have bad seasons and vice versa, but 60 games is still plenty of time for guys to go from hot to cold or the opposite. The Cubs can’t panic if a guy has a rough week, because that happens all the time. “It’s not a 10-game season. It’s not a playoff series. It’s 60 games. So I think that’s a real balance. There’s probably going to be some times where you play the hot hand, but I still think we can’t run away from the guys and their track records and what they’ve done. Even over 60 games, you hope those things balance out.”
• Hoyer largely avoided the trade deadline questions, including specifically what he thought about Kris Bryant’s “I hope they wouldn’t ship me out during a pandemic” comments.
• In terms of competitive advantages from an extremely short season, all Hoyer is willing to say on air is keeping guys healthy and on the field (not just COVID-related, but injury related after a long period of nothing and a short ramp up period). That’s going to be the difference-maker. “The teams that can do the sports science exceptionally well, the teams that can keep guys out of the training room and can do a good job of keeping guys on the field … that is a massive advantage in a 60-game season.”
• Hoyer jokingly refused to acknowledge any competitive advantages “on the radio,” with an auditory wink.
• The DH is a net positive for the Cubs, who have “really good depth” from a position playing stand point and a “lot of good players.” The Cubs can use that depth – and the DH – to give guys a lot of rest and days off in what will otherwise be a sprint of a season. Without that depth and without these hitters, the DH wouldn’t be as useful for the Cubs.
• Hoyer expects the ball to fly at Wrigley like it does at this time of the year every year. He avoided answering too directly about “which ball” MLB will be using this year, which I took as a juiced ball reference.
• Handling these new rules (three batter minimum, the DH, the extra inning rule, etc.) is going to be the key to getting this season right (riveting stuff here, Jed). The Cubs R&D team is doing their best to figure out the best way to navigate these changes and David Ross has been extremely engaged in these plans.
• Hoyer believes the mental half of the game will be a particularly tough challenge this season, especially as the Cubs discourage their players from things like going out (dinner, drinks, friends, etc.): “When you take away some outlets that guys have to reset from a mental health standpoint, there’s a toll that’s going to be taken with that.”
• Hoyer shouts out Mental Skills Coordinator John Baker, noting that mental health may be even more crucial than physical health (relatively speaking) this season. The Cubs want to have an open dialogue about it, so that no one goes through anything alone.