Countdown to the Cubs Cactus League Openers: 13 days
Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Joe Maddon met with the media Thursday afternoon to discuss the State of the Cubs the day before the first official workout of the spring. Pitchers and catchers reported to Mesa and start practicing Friday, even though several of the pitchers and catchers have already been participating in drills.
Theo Epstein sounded upbeat and confident during Thursday’s press conference. He likes where the organization is at this point of the process and emphasized it’s time for the Cubs to win games.
“I think our fans are certainly entitled to get excited. We’ve put them through a lot these last few years. We like where we are. We’re realistic about what we are. We’re talented, we’re young. We’re excited about the season ahead, and I don’t want to temper our fans’ enthusiasm,” Epstein said. “As the same time, there’s still a need to be patient with a lot of our players, especially our young players.”
The Cubs spent Tuesday and Wednesday in organizational meetings and Epstein liked what he heard from the scouts and minor league coordinators.
“It’s impressive when you look at the volume of players we have coming, the options at different positions,” Epstein said.
“There’s an impressive amount of talent in this organization. I think there’s a really nice culture, in the front office, in the minor leagues, all the way up and down the organization. We recognize we haven’t done anything yet, but you still can feel good about where you work and about the organization.”
Theo Epstein admitted not everything has gone according to plan. He’s made mistakes and bad decisions. Epstein would not “do these last three years over.” Epstein acknowledged it’s been tough on the fans to go through as well but it “will be that much sweeter” when the Cubs get to where they want to be.
The owner of the South Bend Cubs was in the headlines Thursday. Andrew Berlin might have slipped up at a chamber of commerce luncheon in Elkhart, Indiana and divulged to early that he is one of the minority investors in the Chicago Cubs.
Andrew Berlin tweeted that “reports of any of my involvement with the Chicago Cubs in premature.” Berlin said he and the South Bend Cubs love being an affiliate, but that is his only connection to the Cubs right now.
Andrew Berlin has ownership stock in the Chicago White Sox. It is not believed MLB would allow a minority shareholder to have interests in two Major League franchises. According to Jon Greenberg, Berlin would have to sell his stake in the White Sox.
The Ricketts family is reportedly close to completing deals with other investors to sell as much as 20 percent of the team according to the Tribune.
Joe Maddon and Respect 90
During Thursday’s press conference with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, Joe Maddon explained his Respect 90 philosophy.
“I always talked about if you could get a baseball player to run hard to first base and it he respects that 90 feet, that will permeate the rest of his game in a positive way,” Maddon said.
The Cubs skipper told a story about Andrew McCutchen and why the Pirates’ All-Star, MVP centerfielder is his favorite player in the game. The Rays were playing the Pirates at Port Charlotte in a spring game several years back. It was late at night and with two outs in the ninth inning, McCutchen ran out a routine grounder to shortstop. Maddon was so impressed with what he had just seen out of McCutchen that he said something to Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle after the game.
Maddon explained Thursday, “It doesn’t take talent to run hard or play hard. It just takes want to in a sense. We’re going to pull that out of our guys. I really have a hard time understanding why you have to pull that out. Part of that Respect 90 is just respect the game in general, just respecting the game.”
Maddon believes his “lead bulls” or clubhouse leaders should take care of issues, like players not hustling or giving it their all, once he is on the same page with his team leaders.
“I should be the last guy always to intervene if this is running properly,” Maddon said.
All players should understand, according to Maddon that it’s “a pretty cool thing” to be involved with Major League Baseball. Maddon does not understand why a player that has worked his entire life to get to where he is would not respect himself, his teammates, the game or the ones that came before him, like Ernie Banks.
When asked if Kris Bryant could make the team out of Spring Training during Thursday’s press conference, Theo Epstein responded, “Anyone in camp can make the team, that’s why they’re here. We’re going to meet with Kris [Bryant] and outline where we see him. We see him really, really close to the big leagues.” Epstein pointed out Bryant needs to work on his defense at third base.
Epstein explained, “He’s coming to camp to work, he’s a great kid, he’s here early … no surprises there. We love everything about him. He’s got his work ahead of him. We’ll see where we are at the end of Spring Training.”
Pace of Play Rules
According to reports from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, Major League Baseball will announce Friday rules changes that should impact the pace of the game.
Three key points will be included: Mangers must challenge replays from the dugout, rather than on the field. Batters must keep one foot in batter’s box unless an established exception occurs. Play will resume promptly once broadcast returns from commercial break.
News, Notes and Rumors
The bar is set higher this year for the Cubs and the players are excited about it according to Anthony Rizzo.
And Anthony Rizzo was happy to see the Cubs beat the rooftops in court according to Comcast SportsNet.
Kyle Hendricks met with reporters Thursday and said he worked on building up his strength this winter, not for velocity, according to Bruce Miles, but to log more innings this season.
Javier Baez, Chris Coghlan and Addison Russell were among the position players that participated in drills Thursday.
According to Jon Paul Morosi, the Blue Jays are currently not involved in trade talks for Dioner Navarro.
Jon Lester looks comfortable with the Cubs and is already showing his teammates what he’s all about according to a report from Carrie Muskat.
The Cubs are a national story once again according to Jesse Rogers.
Jon Heyman provided an update on INF Yoan Moncada. Heyman didn’t really add anything to the story that hasn’t been previously reported. The Cubs are interested, longshot at best, the Yankees and Dodgers are the favorites. And for some reason, Heyman hasn’t noticed the Brewers interest in Moncada until recently.
Anthony Castrovince made five bold Spring Training predictions. The Cubs were one of the four and his bold prediction, Javier Baez being sent to the minors.
According to the Sun-Times, the business side of the team “has done a great job of executing their plan” as far as Theo Epstein is concerned.
Veterans can be just as risky as prospects according to Dave Cameron, just ask teams like the Angels.
And last, but not least, congratulations to Wayne Randazzo for landing the Mets pre- and post-game show hosting job. Randazzo was the play-by-play man for the Kane County Cougars and Bruce Levine’s partner on Inside the Clubhouse.
This Day In Cubstory
2009 – Cubs released Bill White
1986 – Julio Borbon, born
1985 – Ryan Sweeney, born
1957 – Jesus Figueroa, born
1943 – Cubs owner Philip ‘P.K.’ Wrigley and Branch Rickey drew up the charter for the All-American Girls Softball League which became the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL).
1920 – Frankie Gustine, born