Results tagged ‘ Theo Epstein ’

10/10 Cubs update

On Friday, Theo Epstein and Crane Kenney met with Cubs season ticket holders at the Oriental Theater in downtown Chicago to discuss the 2014 season and look ahead to 2015. Here are some key points from the session:

* Kenney, president of business operations, said the team is in “extra innings” in terms of its television contract negotiations, adding that a number of potential partnerships have emerged. The Cubs’ agreement with WGN-TV ended with the 2014 season, which ended a relationship dating to 1948. The move now allows the team to get its broadcast and cable rights in sync. The Cubs have a contract with Comcast SportNet Chicago that runs through 2019.

A television deal is a significant revenue source. The Dodgers, for example, launched their own cable network this year, and are earning $8.35 billion over 25 years.

* The $575 million Wrigley Field renovations are underway, with the official groundbreaking scheduled for Saturday. The first phase involves the bleachers, and extending the outer walls of the ballpark to the curb of the current sidewalk along Waveland and Sheffield avenues to accomodate 300 additional seats in left field, 300 in right, and 300 standing room seats in the bleacher deck. Kenney said the changes will allow the team to install a 4,000-square foot video scoreboard in left and a 2,400-square foot video scoreboard in right field, as well as five other advertising signs.

“We’re not planning any ‘Kiss Cams’ or wild dance contests,” Kenney said of the video scoreboards, but they will show real time statistics, replays, historical highlights in response to fan surveys.

* During a Q&A, a fan wondered if the Cubs could buy all of the buildings around Wrigley Field to eliminate any conflicts with rooftop owners, and Kenney said it’s not feasible. Rooftop owners make $25 million a year from their businesses and “they don’t pay for the talent,” he said.

* The only boos from the crowd came whenever pitcher Edwin Jackson’s name was mentioned, and Epstein admitted it was “tough to watch” the right-hander struggle for the second straight season. Jackson will “have to make dramatic improvements to have a role on the team” next year and knows that,” Epstein said.

* Epstein said Kris Bryant, the 2014 Minor League Player of the Year by MLB.com and others, is in a position “to impact our 2015 season.” However, that doesn’t mean the third baseman is the Opening Day starter.

* Epstein said they have done “five to six years of work in three seasons” in restocking the farm system through the First-Year Player Draft, international signings and trades. He cautioned that the young talent still needs time to develop and there will be hiccups, but the players have taken a big step.

“I think it’s clear we have enough talent to compete,” Epstein said. “Do we have enough talent to win? That’s the beauty of baseball. You don’t know until you try. This is the first time we’ve had enough talent to compete. I believe when you’re competing, you have to set your sights high.”

* The Cubs plan to add impact starting pitching over the next 15 months, Epstein said, which means it could be this offseason or at the 2015 Trade Deadline or after next season. Is he wary watching top talent like Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, both free agents, who did not fare well in the postseason?

“This time of year is dangerous because we always take the small sample size events and create majestic narratives about what it means to build a winning team and a landscape in general,” Epstein said. “We’re not going to go out and lead the league in stolen bases next year because of the Royals. … We know that buying top of the rotation starters in free agency, those haven’t been the signings that bring the best return in investment.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/30 Theo: Goal in ’15 is to win division

The emphasis in the first three seasons under Theo Epstein has been to restock the Minor League system and build a foundation of impact players. In 2015, Epstein feels the Cubs will take a major step and not just develop players, but be competitive.

“I think we’ve proved we can be very competitive in this division and when you have a chance to compete, you should set your sights high and that means our goal is the [National League] Central title next year,” Epstein said Tuesday.

Here are some highlights from a 40-minute media session at Wrigley Field:

* The Cubs will be looking for impact talent via free agency but Epstein cautioned that any deal has to make sense and they will not “sell out just for 2015.” Among the needs are another starting pitcher, a left-handed reliever, and outfield help. The next 15 months will be key in terms of player acquisitions, he said. That time frame includes this coming offseason, the next Trade Deadline, and next offseason.

* They are aware that some of the young talent still needs time, such as Javier Baez, who batted .169 with 95 strikeouts in 52 games after he was called up Aug. 5. Baez is expected to be the Cubs’ Opening Day second baseman, Epstein said. He’s a perfect example of the theme Epstein projected for 2015.

“We’re being open about the fact that we’re here to compete and our goal is to win the [division] title, but at the same time we’re not going to bail on our young players, we’re not going to abandon our vision,” he said. “We just have to make the tough decisions and strike that balance the right way.”

* Epstein admitted Renteria had some limitations with the roster, such as relievers who were restricted because of past injuries and youngsters without much experience. But the manager did fulfill many of the criteria laid out for him, such as developing a positive attitude, setting a good tone for the players and getting them to play hard.

“He established an environment where our young players could continue to grow and feel support, and where they could learn how to be big leaguers, and where they could learn how to win,” Epstein said.

* Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm will stay in the bullpen for 2015, and not be considered for the rotation.

* The Cubs have not made as much improvement in terms of on-base percentage as Epstein would like.

“Frankly, it’s one of the areas where we haven’t had a lot of success,” he said.

* Epstein’s feelings on the Cardinals? He says: “How do you balance admiration and contempt? I’m a Cub, so I have to hate the Cardinals, but I also admire the way they run their baseball shop. They’re really consistent, they make good decisions, all the way back to George Kissell. They teach the game the right way, they stay true to the vision of how to play Cardinal baseball. In some respects, and I hate to say this on the record, but we have to do a lot of things that they do to be successful. On the other hand, I think we’re building something that has a chance to go toe to toe with them and surpass them. I think we have a chance to win this division and win it on a consistent basis, and we’re going to need to beat them to win the World Series.”

He feels the NL Central is becoming a powerhouse. When Epstein first joined the Cubs in October 2011, he thought the NL Central would be a little easier than the AL East.

“I was dead wrong,” Epstein said. “If you look forward over the next five years, or so, I think this has a chance to be the most competitive and best division in baseball. When you have the talent to compete you should set your sights high.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/26 Extra bases

* Javier Baez went 4-for-41 with 20 strikeouts on the Cubs’ final homestand, and leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts this month. And Theo Epstein isn’t that surprised.

“It’s gone very much as expected,” Epstein said Friday of Baez’s first two months in the big leagues.

“His confidence is high,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Baez. “Just like everyone, he understands he needs to make adjustments and knows he needs to do better.”

Renteria is quick to remind everyone that Baez is just 21 years old. Epstein said Baez is aware of what he needs to do, adding that sometimes it just takes an offseason to make those adjustments. Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro both did that after struggling in 2013; both had All-Star seasons this year. What’s encouraging, Epstein said, is that Baez is open to making adjustments.

“It’s like getting comfortable in the big leagues — you can’t just tell someone, ‘Get comfortable,'” Epstein said. “He readily admits he’ll be more comfortable in the big leagues than he is now. Sometimes you have to just experience it for yourself and the light goes on with one swing or one video session or one offseason when you can take a deep breath and come back differently.”

* Asked if Renteria will return to manage in 2015, Epstein said “absolutely.” However, there could be changes with the coaching staff. Epstein and Renteria said they expected to announce something Tuesday.

* Jacob Turner will start Sunday in place of rookie right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who is being shut down after reaching 183 innings. Hendricks totaled 102 2/3 innings in 17 starts at Triple-A Iowa, and 80 1/3 innings in 13 starts with the Cubs.

* Edwin Jackson has accepted the late season switch to the bullpen but Epstein said Friday the right-hander needs to come into next year and show he can be counted on. This year is the second year of Jackson’s four-year, $52 million deal, and it hasn’t gone that well. He led the National League in losses last season with 18, and is third this year.

“I think Edwin’s aware that he needs to turn his Cubs career around and work hard and show better form that he’s someone who can be counted on,” Epstein said Friday. “I think the default position is that given the competition we’re going to have, guys will have to need to pitch well to have a spot.”

– Carrie Muskat

9/25 The South Bend Cubs

The Class A South Bend team announced Thursday it is changing its name to the South Bend Cubs. Team owner Andrew Berlin made the announcement during a news conference in South Bend.

“We are now The South Bend Cubs,” Berlin said. “Affection for and loyalty to the Chicago Cubs goes back generations in this community. We’ve listened to fans throughout the region, and this is a name that we know they are thrilled about.”

Berlin also unveiled a new logo for the team that he described as the model that the team expects to use in the design of new uniforms, apparel and other South Bend Cubs branded items.

“We’re moving fast,” Berlin said. “Officials gave South Bend a special waiver so that we could show you this today, but something as important as a logo needs to be approved by the league and by the Chicago Cubs. So, I can’t call it official yet, but it is what you’re likely to see on all our uniforms, apparel, advertising and merchandise from now on.”

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein attended the news conference.

“We’re thrilled to begin this partnership with South Bend and we’re looking forward to working with everyone here,” Epstein said. “It is important to have first-class facilities not only at the big league level, but also throughout our farm system. South Bend provides exactly what we were looking for both as a community and as a farm club.”

Players will have a new 15,000-square foot facility in South Bend next year that will include batting cages. There also will be a new fitness center and clubhouse for the players.

The Cubs’ Class A team had been at Kane County the last two years, and won the Midwest League championship this season under manager Mark Johnson.

9/18 Cubs move to South Bend

The Cubs announced a partnership with South Bend to host their Class A Midwest League affiliate, leaving Kane County after two seasons. The deal with South Bend runs through the 2018 season.

“It’s tough to disappoint those people [in Kane County] and leave but I wouldn’t be doing my job if we weren’t doing the right thing for our players,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Thursday. “One area we don’t mess around with is player development. Our success will be impacted in large part by how we develop our young players and get them ready for the big league level.”

South Bend had been the Diamondbacks affiliate from 2007 through this season.

The Cubs had moved to Kane County because of its proximity to Chicago, and even though the Cougars ownership had promised to make changes that met the Chicago team’s specifications, it wasn’t enough to stay. Epstein knows the news wasn’t well received in Kane County.

“I don’t think in this industry you can avoid looking like ‘bad guys’ and just have to roll with it and make sure you’re making decisions for the right reasons and in this case, we have to do what’s best for our prospects and the organization moving forward,” he said.

South Bend will announce new names, logos and uniforms on Sept. 25, as well as some renovations planned for the facility. The South Bend Silver Hawks won five Midwest League titles and 12 division titles in 26 seasons as an affiliate of the D-backs and the White Sox. The Cubs Kane County team won a franchise record 91 games this year, and went unbeaten in the playoffs to win the Midwest League championship.

Epstein complimented the ownership and staff at Kane County, saying they did a “first class job.”

“The South Bend renovation offers a facility that we feel will make a profound difference for our prospects and that was the key factor in the end,” Epstein said.

– Carrie Muskat

9/14 Renteria: “I don’t worry about my job”

Rick Renteria is wrapping up his first season as manager, and was eager to build on what the Cubs did this season. Last week, Theo Epstein complimented Renteria, saying the challenge for the rookie manager was to “provide an environment for the young players to develop and thrive at the big league level.” Renteria did just that.

Is Renteria comfortable in his job?

“Fortunately for me, the players, [the media], the front office, everybody has made it an easier transition than I would have imagined,” Renteria said. “I think everybody’s been very supportive. Everybody has a sense of what the organization is trying to do, so maybe that’s made it easier for me in my transition to manager as opposed to being a coach.”

He admitted that sometimes he’s done things that may seem a little odd, such as batting Javier Baez second — he’s more of a middle of the order hitter — and carrying an extra reliever in the ‘pen.

“There are things you do to make sure guys are gaining experience and knowledge in key situations that they need to develop those roles that they’ve fallen into,” he said.

But the Cubs development phase may be ending soon. Does Renteria expect more pressure next year?

“I don’t think it’s pressure,” he said Saturday. “It’s what you expect to do. Any club at any Major League sport is expected to win. I’ve been the first one to say it and I won’t be the last, I place expectations on myself to lead men and hopefully not get in the way and allow them to perform and win ballgames. The results are truly their process of how they play the game and giving yourself a chance. In the end if I don’t do what I was brought here to do, change is inevitable. My hope is I’m able to do a good enough job and our staff is able to do a good enough job to continue to move us forward and ultimately win.”

He isn’t losing sleep over the season.

“I’ve always said I’ll do my job and in the end, I’m always hopeful that what I do is good enough to take care of me and where I’m supposed to be,” he said. “I don’t worry about my job, never have. I’ve never done it as a Minor League coach, big league coach. I focus on my job. I think there are a lot of good things in place here. I think the organization is moving in the right direction here. I sincerely believe that. I sincerely believed that when I first interviewed for this job. It’s legitimate.”

Look at Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Both have bounced back from disappointing 2013 seasons.

“We’re all individuals and we all do what we think is best and we all have to feel comfortable in our own skins, and I think at the end of the day, when I look in the mirror, good day or bad day, I want to make sure I did everything I could,” Renteria said. “If it didn’t work out, I have to put it to rest. If it did, I put it to rest, and then I go to bed. That’s the way it is, that’s the way I live my life. It’s not going to change.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/25 Trade rumors

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Friday the Cubs may hang onto Justin Ruggiano and Luis Valbuena at the Trade Deadline even though both have drawn interest and could help a contending club. On Wednesday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told Chicago media that they are evaluating the current roster and trying to decide who to keep. What they want to determine is which players now will help the next generation make the transition.

“There’s value to keeping players who have roles here for the sake of continuity and leadership and performance on the field,” Epstein said at Wrigley Field. “We’re not in any rush to make trades for the sake of making trades.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/23 Trade deadline

The Trade Deadline is approaching, but Theo Epstein says the Cubs aren’t frantically trying to make changes to the roster.

“We’re not in a rush to make moves,” Epstein said Wednesday.

The Cubs made their splash on July 4 when they dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s. Epstein said they are evaluating the current roster to determine who they’d like to keep, who can help the team going forward, and what they can do on the field with the next generation coming up.

“There’s value to keeping players who have roles here for the sake of continuity and leadership and performance on the field,” Epstein said. “We’re not in any rush to make trades for the sake of making trades.”

– Carrie Muskat

7/23 Looking ahead

The future is bright for the Cubs. Theo Epstein was asked what the team needs to do to build for 2015.

“We were ranked the top farm system in baseball and that’s nice to the extent that it reflects a lot of hard work by our scouts and the player development people and the players themselves, but it really doesn’t mean anything,” Epstein said Wednesday. “We’re in last place. Almost by definition, our work lies ahead of us, it’s not behind us. What do we have to do? We have everything to do.

“We have to continue to build the organization, we have to continue to improve the Major League team. That generation, they’re going to break in at some point and the process of adjusting to the big leagues starts.”

Epstein said Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are key pieces of the Cubs foundation.

“True baseball fans really like young players and they like following players along the whole journey, and players who are homegrown, they get to know,” Epstein said. “If all goes according to plan, we’ll be able to provide [fans] with that experience and maybe a whole group of players they can get to know for a decade and appreciate and win together.

“You have to balance it out,” he said. “We don’t deserve to be on the covers of magazines, we don’t deserve to be lauded right now because we haven’t done anything yet. At best, what we’ve done is put ourselves in a position to make a lot of interesting decisions going forward and hopefully, have two of the most important currencies in the game in young players and available payroll dollars and go make some hay. We’re not there yet. We haven’t accomplished anything yet. We’re in last place, so all of work remains ahead.”

– Carrie Muskat

6/21 Hot Stove Cool Music

The third annual Hot Stove Cool Music Chicago Benefit Concert on Friday night at Metro in Chicago raised an estimated $200,000 for Cubs Charities and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s Foundation To Be Named Later. The event featured Epstein, Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons and Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper, who joined an all-star lineup of musicians and personalities.

Tom Morello of “Rage Against The Machine” was the headliner for the event. Other performances were by Future Monarchs, and Chicago Hot Stove All-Stars Jimmy Chamberlin of “Smashing Pumpkins,” John Stirratt of “Wilco,” Scott Lucas of “Local H,” and Eddie “King” Roeser of “Urge Overkill.” The event ended with a surprise performance by Cheap Trick.

Hot Stove Cool Music, which was founded in 2000, has raised more than $6 million for the Foundation To Be Named Later and the Jimmy Fund. Epstein and his brother, Paul, started their foundation in 2005 to create positive opportunities for disadvantaged children and families.

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