It’s one thing for fans to lament the fortunes of their team when things aren’t going well, but they don’t always have the best perspective. And the media, even those of us — especially those of us — on the outer fringes of that designation, may sometimes be guilty of playing to those whims in search of clicks. But when the people running the show are telling you there’s a problem, well, there’s a legit problem.
Speaking through what sounded like a soup can connected to the 670 The Score studios by a string, Epstein bemoaned his team’s poor play and came across as a man who’d run out of answers. So I guess that would put him at the end of a string and his rope. While saying he was confident they could turn things around, he was very transparent about how that might have to happen.
“We want to to be in a position to have enough belief that we’re looking to aggressively add and sort of polish up what we think can be a championship team,” Epstein said. “If we’re not, that means this stretch of bad play has continued. And if this stretch of bad play continues, then certainly…a ton of change is in order.”
Without pointing the blame in any one direction, Epstein said it was the responsibility of everyone throughout the organization to be better moving forward. He talked about a team that had lost its identity and about players who weren’t as invested in team baseball, how the clubs was asking those players to be their best selves moving forward.
The Cubs have been sloppy out of the chute, he said, making mental errors and failing to put up a fight at the plate. While the root of the issue isn’t easy to pinpoint, the undeniable fact of the matter is that the team needs to play better.
“It’s not acceptable,” Epstein said of the Cubs’ current level of play. “There have been too many words about it and not enough action. There’s nothing I can say, especially on a radio interview, to make it better. It’s incumbent on all of us to find ways out of it.
“And obviously on our end, a big part of that is transcational. It’s the time of year to do that. Change is obviously called for if we keep playing like this.”
Huh, if I didn’t know better, I say that sounds an awful lot like something else I saw recently about turning big talk into bigger action. Which isn’t to indicate that Epstein is copping my style, even though I’d gladly welcome the flattery of his imitation. No, this is really just a matter of the organization’s flaws having become painfully obvious.
The edge they expected hasn’t been sharpened and the improvement from members of the young core has remained stagnant at best. To wit, the Cubs are calling up former Italian national team member Robel Garcia in the hope of sparking a moribund offense back to life while Ian Happ continues to work things out in the minors.
Happ had said he’d let go of the anger he had harbored since being optioned to start the season, but you have to wonder how long he’ll be able to keep that at bay. You might also wonder whether the Cubs might be looking to move him, with even inconsistent production at Triple-A being viewed as more valuable than halting playing time in the Bigs.
Now is the time for the Cubs to see what they’ve got and to really hone in on who can make them better. Though he eschewed that notion that there needs to be a cultural shift in the clubhouse and on the field, Epstein admitted that a shakeup to the status quo might be necessary given the direction things are heading.
“Certainly between now and July 31, if we haven’t started to play better and even if we have in some areas…change to just change the environment might be called for,” Epstein said. “Change as a catalyst. There are lots of different areas.”
Not change just for the sake of change, though, he later clarified.
He would probably prefer not to use the word “dejected,” but that’s exactly what Epstein’s voice conveyed. Though, again, I’ve heard better audio quality from a 1980’s Fisher-Price cassette deck, so it’s possible the tone was washed out and misinterpreted. Or it could be that the dude is legitimately pissed, which he should be, and that he’s pulling out his remaining hair as he tries to fix what’s gone wrong.
The good news is that it might only take a couple small tweaks to correct those mistakes. The bad news is that it might take a few really big adjustments. We’ve got a little less than four weeks to figure out which it’ll be, so hold onto your butts.