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.
— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) October 3, 2020
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
- The mood among Cubs’ players after Friday’s early exit from the playoffs was melancholy to say the least.
- If a mild case of World Series hangover cost the Cubs a repeat in ’17, what do you call what’s happened since?
- The 2016 Cubs may have been a dynasty that just couldn’t escape its cocoon.
- Speaking positively, the six-year run of success is unprecedented on the history of the organization, but the results of the last four years taints that somewhat.
- The Cubs gave the city of Chicago the baseball season it needed, just not the ending it wanted.
- Jon Lester has high hopes for the 2021 Cubs, whether he remains with the team or not.
- Báez wants to remain with the Cubs for the rest of his career, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
- If Epstein decides to move on, he should have plenty of options available, and not just in baseball.
- Keith Law of The Athletic says that Yu Darvish should be given the Cy Young Award (subscription required). He has Trevor Bauer fifth on his hypothetical ballot.
- Former White Sox and Marlins manager Ozzie Guillén had a good laugh trolling the Cubs and their fans on social media after Miami knocked Chicago out of the playoffs.
- Cubs players are donating their equipment to the Gear for Good initiative of the Players’ Alliance.
Odds & Sods
I think we all identified with Big Yu this weekend.
— ダルビッシュ有(Yu Darvish) (@faridyu) October 5, 2020
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.
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.”
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-so–subtly signaling to the Red Sox that they’d make a good match in free agency this winter.
Baseball has such an iconic history. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time to see winter barnstorming.
16 PLAYERS. 16 CYLINDERS.
Sixteen members of an amateur baseball team (sponsored by @Cadillac) pose with a magnificent 1930 V16 Cadillac sedan.
— Alex Cheremeteff (@AlexCheremeteff) October 5, 2020
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”