The Rundown Lite: Cubs Are MLB’s Best Recruiters, Gimenez Yells at Darvish, Mental Side Key for Pitching Prospects
Yesterday’s low-cal version of The Rundown went so well that I decided to jump back into the pool for another go-round. Wait, does that make this a skinny dip? Oof, this dad-bod isn’t prepared for that type of exposure.
What does bear a good looking-at, however, is the selection of topics I’ve culled from around the interwebs. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Cubs recruit like none other
If you’ve been loitering around the Cubs Insider halls over the last few days, you’ve probably noticed that I’m on something of a kick when it comes to the organization’s leadership philosophy. I’ve always been fascinated by the Cubs’ transparency, but it’s really been ramped up a notch or two as they now push to continue the success they’ve achieved.
More than that, though, it’s the way they’ve been able to operationalize a lot of the leadership theory mumbo-jumbo that looks good on paper but is hard to put into practice in reality. We heard Theo Epstein speak during a Cubs broadcast earlier in the week about the “ultimate competitive advantage” gained by understanding the human element. Jed Hoyer described how the team’s “flat hierarchy” encourages all members of the staff to share their input on various matters.
Then we got into the brief report that the Cubs have already begun to identify potential successors for when Joe Maddon moves on from his role. It’s all a matter of being wholly present in the moment while simultaneously preparing for the future. It’s also about understanding how people work and what’s important to them as individuals beyond the diamond.
Which I suppose is really fitting given that the recent column in the Wall Street Journal titled, “How the Cubs Mastered the Free-Agent Sales Pitch” was written by Jared Diamond. You’ll need a subscription in order to read the whole thing, but I’ve pulled some salient chunks out for your perusal.
This is the secret weapon that enables the Cubs to practically hand-select talent: a compelling personal touch that goes beyond players’ value on the field. In many cases, that means appealing to the people most important in their lives—their families.
This approach has helped transform the Cubs into the most attractive free-agent destination in the sport, an organization that players in its sights rarely turn down. In an interview with the Athletic last month after ace Yu Darvish became the latest big name to choose the Cubs, his agent, Joel Wolfe, compared their recruitment might to Alabama football.
Yet the Cubs approach differs from most rivals. They typically cast a relatively small net, homing in on a few coveted targets, which demonstrates to players the Cubs’ level of commitment and desire for them. Agents say that the Cubs often don’t move much from their initial offer, but in a way that projects honesty and positions them as straight-shooters.
Perhaps most important, the Cubs push harder than most for an in-person sit-down. Hoyer said they like these get-togethers because it enables them to “get a sense of what’s important to him and get a sense of who he is.”
While none of this is really eye-opening for those of us who’ve been following this team for more than the last year or so, there’s value in getting it from a more objective POV. Diamond also includes several anecdotes from players like Tyler Chatwood and Steve Cishek who’ve been with other teams and have gone through the recruiting process.
Among players and agents alike, the consensus is that the Cubs do the whole thing different from — and better than — everyone else. Beyond just ingratiating themselves to the players they covet, their sales pitch has enabled them to perhaps drive a harder bargain when it comes to contract negotiations.
But because they’ve gotten to know the players and their agents, they’re able to conduct that business with the same transparency and honesty that we get from their other conversations. That’s why they want in-person meetings, something Hoyer discussed earlier in the winter. Getting to know who a player really is carries weight in several areas.
Oh wow, already running long. Sorry, read Diamond’s piece (WSJ has a deal of $1 for two months, so there you go) and let’s get to the next section.
Yelling at Yu
We’ve worn a hole in the subject of the connection between Yu Darvish and Chris Gimenez, but Carrie Muskat added some depth to the topic with a recent piece on Cubs.com. In it, the backup catcher talks about how he and the All-Star pitcher were able to slowly feel one another out until eventually coming to a point of mutual understanding and respect.
“We’ve had our fights,” Gimenez told Muskat. “We’ve yelled at each other before. I’m also not afraid to yell back at him, and not in a mean way, by any means. It’s a complete loving way. He needs to understand that I care and that’s a way to show that, and I’m invested in this with him.”
I like this dynamic and I really believe Gimenez will make an excellent addition to the roster for more than just his relationship with Darvish. As we saw with David Ross, some guys have an ability to serve as a connective force. Maybe Gimmy (sounds like Jimmy) is that for this team.
Mentally developing top pitching prospects
The Cubs are confident that Adbert Alzolay, Oscar de la Cruz, and Thomas Hatch have the physical tools to make it to the big leagues. What they’ll be focused on this spring, however, is following a set script and soaking in what the veterans go through on a daily basis.
It’s more about learning how to prepare for the grind of the season, particularly the mental side, as the Tribune’s Mark Gonzales wrote. Hey, there’s that same idea again, the thing about readying for the future today and making sure everyone and everything is pulling in the same direction.
Friday walk-up song
Fortunate Son, Creedence Clearwater Revival – I am a huge CCR/John Fogerty fan and just scored tickets to see him perform this summer. My 9-year-old will be coming with me, which makes him a fortunate son.