Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:20 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 5:32 pm
By Evan Brunell
Theo Epstein was introduced as the new leader of the Cubs during a news conference at 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday as Cubs' president of baseball operations.
"It feels truly great to be a Cub today," Epstein said in his opening remarks. "I'd like to thank Cubs fans for being so incredibly welcoming to me and my family already. ... I was ready for the next big challenge, and this is the ultimate challenge."
Prior to the conference, owner Tom Ricketts said the club sought commitment to player development, a strong analytical background and someone from a winning culture with a strong record, Alex Speier of WEEI relays. Epstein himself concurred, saying he wouldn't be in town without Rickett's "commitment to the fans and long-term vision for the organization."
In Ricketts' opening remarks, he said, "The major goal is to win a World Series. Today we take a major step towards acheiving that goal with the hiring of Theo Epstein."
"We look forward to going to work, because we have the best fans and the bast ballpark in baseball," Ricketts added, also noting that Cubs president Crane Kenney was "critical" toward bringing Epstein to the team. Kenney is expected to transition to overseeing the business aspect of the team with Epstein's arrival. "We look forward to saying that we have the best team in baseball," Ricketts said.
When Epstein began his remarks, he gave a shout-out to his former employers on top of his brilliant his op-ed piece published in the Boston Globe Tuesday morning.
"[A] quick thank you to [ex-Red Sox manager] Terry Francona and all the players and fans [in Boston]," Epstein said. "I'm really proud of what we accomplished, and I wish you all the best. ... I wouldn't trade my time with the Red Sox, but it was time to move on, and they're in great hands."
At the end of the press conference, Epstein admitted he would probably still be with the club if Francona hadn't left. That's interesting, given reports that he recommended to ownership in the late summer that Francona had lost the team and it was time for a new voice.
But this press conference was about his new role with the Cubs, and much of the conference was based on what is to come in Chicago.
"Baseball is better with tradition, baseball is better with fans that care, baseball is better during the day. Finally, baseball is best of all when you win," Epstein started off saying. He also promised the Cubs would be playing in October "regularly" and will win a World Series, a lofty goal that Epstein will be judged by his entire tenure in town. He promised "sustained success".
"When we win a World Series, It won't be because of any one person. It'll be because of all of us," Epstein said. "It'll happen because a scout drove the extra six miles to see a prospect. It'll happen because a minor league pitching coach took the extra time to work on a young pitcher's change-up... it will happen because of all of us."
Epstein spoke about "The Cubs Way," which should certainly mirror "The Red Sox Way" he instituted in Boston that led to two World Series rings. That way should be expected to include strong defense, a discerning eye for hitters and a strong bullpen along with a rotation that minimizes walks.
When asked "What makes you think you can do what nobody has done in 103 years?" Epstein didn't blanch. (Naturally -- it's not as if he had any opportunity to win with Chicago in 1940.) "It'll be all of us doing it," Epstein responded. "When I got to Boston, they hadn't won in 86 years, and we didn't run from that. We embraced it. And part of that is bringing in players that care more about each other, and more about winning, than any of those external voices."
When asked about incumbent manager Mike Quade, Epstein said that the manager, coming off his first full season as skipper, "seems like a great guy," and the two will speak in the coming week.
As for the question of compensation, Epstein seemed to skirt the issue and admitted a third party would probably be needed to finalize compensation.
Ricketts jumped back into the fray to note that he "talked to about 20 people in baseball who I trust -- people who could tell me who I should be looking for. And at the end of the process, it was apparent that Theo was the right man for the job." The owner also made it clear that Epstein is reporting directly to him.
In further remarks, Epstein referenced his op-ed piece and brought up Bill Walsh again.
"I mentioned in the article, and I cited Bill Walsh, on the theory that he and others have had that says that most coaches or executives gets about 10 years to make an impact. After that... it's time for a new challenge," Epstein said. "And that happens accross the board. You'll see that university presidents see their peak effectiveness in the first 10 years before they move on."
The discussion then shifted to how Epstein will approach putting together a team.
"My personal approach is that it's best to use non-traditional scouting and objective analysis," he said. "When you can use these at their best, you can view the player in an accurate lens... but when you put both together, that's when you get a really accurate picture." He did refuse to speak specifically about payroll and a couple of onerous contracts, such as Alfonso Soriano's. "I have a personal policy never to comment on player payroll issues," he said.
But Epstein did speak as to the best age to have a player in the fold.
"I think that there's a prime age for players. Maybe from 26 or 27 to 32, when you get the best production and bang for your buck," Epstein said. "If we do our job in the right way, we should have the most players in their prime, hopefully home-grown players moving in to their prime. And there's certainly a role for veterans, but we'll pay for future performance, not for past performance."
One could argue Epstein didn't do this in Boston, when he handed out large contracts to John Lackey and Carl Crawford. Crawford will only get two of his prime years in town and one of them was a disaster. However, Epstein didn't say he was going to follow that line of thinking completely -- only have an overall emphasis on it. That remained true in Boston, even with the signings of Lackey and Crawford, among others.
You can expect Wrigley Field to eventually undergo changes much like Fenway Park. Epstein hinted that upgrading the stadium would lend itself to more revenue.
Near the end of the press conference, Epstein references the movie Office Space as to what his last two weeks were like in Boston. "I felt like the guy in the movie Office Space, who kept showing up and nobody told him he didn't work there anymore," Epstein said. "So, I did end up in the basement with my cubicle and stapler, and I knew it was time to go to Chicago."
Stay tuned to Eye on Baseball as Boston will have its own conference at 3 p.m. ET to announce the ascension of Ben Cherington to Epstein's vacated GM spot.
Read up on the Theo Epstein madness here.
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