The Rundown: Epstein Set to Meet With Ricketts, Cubs Express Hope for 2021, Phillies Clean House, MLB Playoffs Resume This Afternoon

Will today represent the “reckoning” Theo Epstein promised Cubs’ fans after the 2018 season? Over the weekend word leaked that the president of baseball operations was to meet with team owner Tom Ricketts to recap the 2020 season. More specifically, at least according to David Kaplan of ESPN Radio Chicago, the two would discuss Epstein’s immediate and long-term future with the organization.

Though nothing has been officially reported, many are speculating that Epstein may want to start the transition of power to Jed Hoyer. Likewise, Ricketts may signal that it’s time for the team to consider a new direction. Whether that means agreeing to promote Hoyer as has seemed like the plan all along or to just completely gut the front office is fodder for rumor, at least as of this morning.

Would Epstein just walk away with one year left on his contract, and would Ricketts want him to? I suppose that depends on how much Epstein believes in the team and farm system he would leave in the wake of his departure. Like any annual performance review, the two will determine how to put the best foot forward for the franchise after an open and critical discussion of the positives and negatives of the past season and beyond.

But before we write off the Golden Age of Cubs’ Baseball, it’s important to remember the state of the franchise when Epstein arrived in 2011. The man is extremely competitive by nature and would not seem to be of the ilk that would hand a box of rocks over to his successor, even if it is Hoyer. On the one hand, it’s fair to wonder if Epstein would want a new challenge, whether in sports or politics. On the other, the contracts of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, and Kyle Schwarber all coincide with Epstein’s, so he may want to personally drive that bus home.

If he believes that core is capable of one more World Series run, he may feel a little more comfortable relinquishing the reins, especially during a time of economic uncertainty and diminished revenues. It’s hard to predict if team ownership will be willing to ante up what it would cost to retain Epstein if an extension is discussed, and Hoyer’s ask may be too high as well. It’s entirely possible that the Ricketts family may decide some restructuring of the front office is necessary, hiring someone with less experience at a lower cost. Perhaps that person would be director of strategic initiatives for baseball operations, Craig Breslow. Then again, Ricketts may want to completely clean house.

That may include some of the team’s core players, too. If they are unwilling to sign team-friendly extensions, perhaps some or all are only a few months away from moving on. It may be five years or more before baseball begins handing out the types of contracts those players had counted on a year or two ago. Adding diminished production to the equation, even in a shortened season, can’t help. Three seasons without a playoff win is pretty big sample size.

Though it is almost a certainty that no extension is forthcoming, I don’t see Epstein leaving the organization a year early if he hasn’t left it in a position to win. On that point, any decisions he makes today should be a clear indication of his belief in the existing roster. What Ricketts decides to do, however, is anybody’s guess.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

I think we all identified with Big Yu this weekend.

Apropos of Nothing

Don’t forget, closing the books on the 2020 season comes with evaluations of all players and coaches. It will be interesting to see which coaches are retained or dismissed in the aftermath of this week’s year-end reviews.

Postseason Potables

MLB resumes its postseason with two American League games scheduled for today.

The Astros will meet the A’s at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for the first game Chris Bassitt, who was superb in his postseason debut against the White Sox last week will take the mound for Oakland. Houston will counter with Lance McCullers Jr., making his first playoff start since 2017. First pitch is at 3:07 PM CT.

The Rays will take on the Yankees in prime time tonight, in a matchup that features Blake Snell against Gerrit Cole. New York’s ace was 0-1 with a 4.96 ERA against Tampa Bay this year, but Cole was dominant against the Indians last week, joining Tom Seaver as the only pitcher to record 13 or more strikeouts without a walk in a playoff game. Snell faced the Yankees just once this season, winning 6-3 on August 18.

How About That!

The Phillies are completely restructuring their front office.

Philadelphia owner John Middleton said the Phillies have a “100-year-old problem with drafting.”

It looks like Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet will be unavailable for the Padres in their series against the Dodgers. Both starters are dealing with forearm issues.

Kenley Jansen has not been anointed as the team’s go-to closer by manager Dave Roberts.

Billy Beane said he would rather see the A’s grip it and rip it against the Astros instead of playing small ball.

Bauer may be not-sosubtly signaling to the Red Sox that they’d make a good match in free agency this winter.

It seems strange to imagine, but Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina could be leaving the Cardinals this winter.

Extra Innings

Baseball has such an iconic history. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time to see winter barnstorming.

They Said It

  • “It feels different than every other year where we get eliminated. I don’t know why. It’s just a weird feeling. That’s all I can describe it as.” – Kris Bryant
  • “We gave everything we had. To the last pitch, we were giving everything we had. Stuff didn’t go our way. It happens. I hate this feeling.” – Javier Báez
  • “I can tell you that we were focused on a very challenging 2020 baseball season and we have not made any decisions about his future. I love Theo and we plan on working together on a transition for the Cubs whenever that time may be.” – Tom Ricketts

Monday Walk Up Song

Avenues by Whiskeytown – Breakups are never easy. A few weeks ago I said that Cubs fans will really miss Epstein once he leaves. Just thinking about the organization without Theo at the reins hurts a little.

‘You know avenues run one way
The streets they run the same
It’s going to take a lot of shit for me
To not stay away”

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