Theo Epstein introduces his team but is still the star of the show
By Rick Morrissey firstname.lastname@example.org November 1, 2011 10:02PM
Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, center, introduces new Senior Vice President/Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, and Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer, at right, in the United Club at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 in Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: December 3, 2011 8:23AM
If I knew how much fun we were going to have with Theo Epstein’s name, I would’ve pushed for his hiring a long time ago.
There already are “Theology’’ T-shirts for sale. Sun-Times Cubs writer Gordon Wittenmyer has named the triumvirate of Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod the Theo Trio.
If I might add to the effort: Although the Cubs’ three new executives are adamant that their work will be a collegial endeavor, this clearly is a Theocracy. All three might talk, but Epstein’s word is gospel.
That was clear Tuesday, when Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, introduced Hoyer as the club’s executive vice president/general manager and McLeod as senior vice president/scouting and player development. (Epstein’s next move should be to abolish lengthy titles.)
He, rather than Hoyer, answered questions about the status of Carlos Zambrano (unresolved) and Aramis Ramirez (likely gone). He said he intercepted those questions because Hoyer had been on the job for only a day. As opposed to Epstein’s seven days on the job.
You had the distinct impression that the team’s president not only had anticipated every question but had already graded them and would ask that they be returned with a parent’s signature.
I asked Hoyer who would be the smartest guy in the room if the three of them were alone. He didn’t hesitate.
“Theo,’’ he said. “But it doesn’t really matter who else is in the room. He’s probably the smartest guy in [any] room. I’ve worked with him for a long time. He’s as down to earth a guy as you’re going to find, but I will say when he turns it on, it’s pretty clear he’s got a gear that the rest of us don’t have.’’
All three of them look like they’re out of the Men of the Wharton School of Business calendar. This is the logical response to the Jim Hendry Era. In sports, whenever there’s a regime change, you often get the opposite of whatever came before. Hendry, the former GM, was rumpled and earthy. This group is all neat creases. No one should have been surprised when Hoyer talked about “a culture of empowerment.’’ If Hendry had said that, you would’ve asked him to pee in a cup.
All three men said the right thing: that building up the farm system is the way to build a champion. All three were with the Boston Red Sox for their World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, which tells Cubs fans the trio is in possession of “The Secret.’’ It’s something about statistical data, right?
If you want to get Hoyer worked up, ask him about the reputation of Epstein and his staff as stats freaks.
“People try to paint us in different corners,’’ he said. “To me, it’s about information, whether it’s scouting, whether it’s quantitative [analysis], whether it’s medical background information. The key is to really get all the information together. No piece of information is too small. . . . A lot of it is about old-school baseball scouting.
“You’d be missing out on so much if you just focused on the quantitative part of the game. Obviously, one of the beauties of baseball is a batter-pitcher matchup happens so many different times that you do have a lot of information to make decisions on, and track record’s important.
“Scouting is crucial. If you start balancing one way or the other, you’re just missing out. . . . Where I am on the scale, hopefully you’ll never figure out because I want to be in the middle.’’
Epstein and Hoyer emphasized that the proper way to judge free agents is not on their stats but on how they might perform going forward.
“The key to free agency is making sure you’re always paying for future performance,’’ Hoyer said. “There’s no reason to pay for someone’s résumé. The key is the production of ‘yet.’ ’’
But past performance does matter. If it doesn’t, then Mike Quade has a shot at returning as Cubs manager. And that can’t be, right? Right ? I’m sure there’s a good reason Epstein recently met with Quade for six or seven hours, though I can’t fathom what it would be.
But we’ll leave that to the smartest guy in the room and hope he makes the right decision. Because it is his decision. There was a lot of talk about the importance of working together, having “spirited debate’’ and making “staff-wide’’ decisions.
But there’s one person looking over it all.
Then again, that’s just a Theo-ry.