New Cubs GM Jed Hoyer demonstrated ability to put team together since he was 13
November 1, 2011 10:55PM
Jed Hoyer addresses the media. Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein introduces new Senior Vice President/Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, and Executive Vice President/General Manager Jed Hoyer in the United Club at Wrigley Field on Tuesday, November 1, 2011 in Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: December 3, 2011 8:24AM
New city, new team, new curse?
Maybe. But in some of the most important ways, Jed Hoyer is stepping into familiar territory as he takes over the Cubs’ general manager role — right down to reuniting with pals Theo Epstein and Jason McLeod at the top of the baseball hierarchy.
If anything, Hoyer has been doing this GM thing at a pretty high level for almost 25 years — and back then without the help of the Internet or quantitative analysis beyond what he could contrive with a pencil, paper and a set of box scores.
‘‘He was very seriously into it . . . from just going to the paper first [to scour box scores],’’ Jed’s dad, Dr. Robert Hoyer, said of the fantasy league his 13-year-old son joined through a family friend and Boston attorney.
Except for the junior-high upstart from New Hampshire, the league was made up of adult professionals in Boston.
‘‘At first people traded with him, treating him like it was kind of cute, this kid with his team,’’ said Jed’s mom, Annie Hoyer, a psychiatric nurse at East Carolina University, where Robert also practices. ‘‘They were indulgent at first, but pretty soon they learned he was a shark and weren’t cutting him any slack.’’
Hoyer, now 37, downplays the success he had as a kid fleecing some of Red Sox Nation’s best and brightest, but he does admit he won his league at least a ‘‘couple of times.’’
Of course, this new gig’s not nearly as cute, and Cubs Nation doesn’t have much indulgence left in its tank after all these years.
But he won’t be going it alone, either.
‘‘He’s been a general manager for two seasons now, but he’s been thinking like a GM for a long time,’’ newly minted Cubs president Theo Epstein said of his former ‘‘right-hand’’ man in Boston.
With the news conference Tuesday at Wrigley Field, Hoyer took a prominent seat among the reunited Theo Trio of former Red Sox executives who pulled all-nighters, damaged office interiors with late-night games of golf and Wiffle ball and, along the way, helped produce World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.
They are nearly a decade older now — wiser, Hoyer says — but energized, it seems, by their renewed alliance in their purpose on the North Side.
‘‘There is something intoxicating about going into a new situation,’’ said Hoyer, who spent the last two seasons as the San Diego Padres’ GM, with McLeod running his scouting and player-development efforts.
Epstein calls Hoyer ‘‘as dynamic an operator at the major-league level as there is in the game.’’
Epstein calls McLeod ‘‘the rarest commodity in the industry. . . . He’s an impact evaluator of baseball talent.’’
Together, they take the reins of a still-growing Cubs front office that is in the midst of such an extreme overhaul — down to the language of evaluation and possibly the scouting grading system — that the organizational meetings have been pushed from this month to February.
But it’s nothing new to the new guys in charge, who were part of a similar overhaul in Boston.
And while their relationships and like-minded purpose remain key, the big difference this time around is the new age dawning for them. In other words, they’re all older and married now — and more likely to spare the cramped interior of the Cubs’ offices after hours.
‘‘It changes,’’ said Hoyer, whose wife, Merrill, and he are expecting their first child in January.
Epstein has a young son, and McLeod has three kids.
‘‘The hard work certainly doesn’t stop, but working until 9 and going
out to dinner, then going to the gym together at 11 o’clock at night, that stuff’s not going to happen anymore,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘The other thing is, I think we all know how to do this job better than we did at that time. Experience allows you to know the landscape. You know what things are really important, what things aren’t.
‘‘Think about it then: Theo was 28, I was 28, and he was sort of drinking from the fire hose of being a GM. And it resulted in a lot of crazy hours. We still really work hard; we’re just a little more sane about it and a lot more family-friendly.’’
That said, it’s an overtime job Hoyer, Epstein and McLeod are taking on, regardless of the division of executive labor and the ‘‘consensus’’ decision-making model that involves the inevitable ‘‘debates’’ and ‘‘arguments’’ they’ll use to make some of those decisions.
It’s only because of his strong
relationship with Epstein, Hoyer said, that he was willing to give up some of the autonomy he had as the Padres’ top baseball-operations guy and join the Cubs’ revamped front office.
For Hoyer, this 103-year-strong challenge was a lifetime in the making and a destination few people who knew him as a kid or a college kid didn’t see coming.
‘‘I couldn’t imagine him not having a life that had baseball in it,’’ his mom said. ‘‘I’ll put it that way.’’
A Little League star who went on to become a three-sport standout in high school and the best player on his Wesleyan University baseball team — he still owns the school record for career saves — Hoyer grew up in a family of doctors.
‘‘But I don’t think that ever crossed my mind — or his,’’ said his dad, who points to a day in 1986 when, on a trip to Florida, he and Jed’s grandmother dropped Jed off at a Cincinnati Reds spring-training game to get autographs.
‘‘We went to get lunch, and when we came back, we couldn’t find him anywhere,’’ Robert said. ‘‘He was in the dugout.’’
Jed was picked from the crowd to be the batboy for manager Pete Rose’s Reds that day. It turns out it was his first job in major-league baseball.
Twenty-five years later, he’s in position to try to pull off the most elusive achievement in major-league history, one that has devoured countless others in his job before him.
‘‘His great skill is that he is
focused in the moment better than anyone I know,’’ said Wesleyan baseball coach Mark Woodworth, Hoyer’s teammate and roommate during the school’s run to the
Division III finals in 1994. ‘‘He once started both games of a doubleheader and won both of them. He showed up one day and was told he was starting the first game [on the mound] and ended up catching both games. He shows up as an assistant video guy for the Red Sox, and within a year he’s a special assistant to the GM. That takes focus in the moment.
‘‘It’s making whatever you’re doing in the moment the most
important thing, and, in turn, he turns it into gold. I’ve seen it over and over. . . . I’m not surprised that he’s a national baseball executive, that he’s famous or well-known in his field. Not at all.’’