On Saturday of the Cubs Convention, Randy Bush, Jed Hoyer, Theo Epstein, Shiraz Rehman, and Rick Renteria appeared on a panel in front of a packed ballroom audience. Cubs management appeared upbeat with Bush talking about multiple World Series championships, Epstein speaking of “sustained success,” and Hoyer stating that the way to win the World Series is to make the playoffs on an annual basis.
Epstein contended that to be youth-centric, the Cubs must build a good system that teaches kids the right way. He indicated that the club’s responsibilities to develop players extends all the way to the major league level with manager Rick Renteria. Speaking of the Cubs’ new skipper, Renteria alleged that he excels at working with young players including those at the major league level (I noted a definite undercurrent at the Convention that management was unhappy with how Dale Sveum failed to develop young players on the parent club, i.e. Castro, Rizzo, and Barney). Renteria focused on accountability with his players. The manager explained he will not jump on players who acknowledge mistakes because yelling at young players kills an otherwise teachable moment. According to Renteria, his players will run through a wall for the Cubs (figuratively I hope) because they believe in the team and doing things the right way. He stressed that the Cubs’ theme will be “family” and he views the players as his “kids.”
A few other notes and tidbits:
- Hoyer believed that the league’s reduced offensive production is proof that the game is cleaner from a performance enhancing drug standpoint.
- Rehman addressed the club’s philosophy on “opt out” clauses in long-term contracts such as the one that Clayton Kershaw recently received from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Per Rehman, the club views “opt out” clauses as a “tough give” for the team. Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the team will address these situations on a case-by-case basis.
- Bush said that the Cubs look for high-ceiling players in the draft – especially middle-of-the-order hitters and starting pitchers.
- Epstein touted the club’s rookie development program. The Cubs recently brought sixteen top prospects to Chicago to give them a feel for the big leagues (and the big city too).
- Epstein told the audience that the Cubs are not done looking for impact players who fit the team’s rebuilding timeline to add to the team this offseason. As we now know, Masahiro Tanaka will not be one of those players.
- When asked by an audience member how the team planned to instill good attitudes in young players when the team is failing to realize success on the field, Epstein spoke vaguely, but stressed not rushing players through the system.
- Epstein noted that bringing Brett Jackson up to the major leagues in 2012 was a mistake made by then-manager Dale Sveum. Josh Vitters, on the other hand, needed the exposure to major league pitching despite the underwhelming results that followed. In Epstein’s opinion, Vitters has a chance to take a big step forward this spring training.
- Finally, in response to a fan who questioned why they should go to the ballpark this season, Epstein replied that he was not telling them how to spend their money. Epstein admitted that the fans should not expect to see great on-field results this year, but that the team appreciates fan support. For those fans who stick through the rebuilding process, the eventual playoff success will be even more rewarding (after 100+ years, the Cubs’ fan base seems well prepared for that reward).