Theo Epstein says plan to build Cubs into contender has ‘no shortcuts’
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org September 14, 2012 11:44PM
Alfonso Soriano and Luis Valbuena high-five Starlin Castro after his three-run home run in the sixth. | Paul Beaty~AP
Updated: October 16, 2012 6:12AM
Cubs president Theo Epstein is confident future Septembers will bring playoff excitement for his team again.
But even Epstein can’t be positive about how long the wait will be for those times to return.
“Obviously, we really care about our fans and want them to have the best experience. But we try to be transparent about it,’’ he said Friday. “We have a plan and a vision, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Given the way of things, I think this is the best way to go.
“We’re not trying to hide the ball. We’re trying to be honest with them. There might be some tough things we have to tell them along the way. There might be another trade deadline in our future where we trade away about 40 percent of a really good rotation. You do that because there will be a day when you acquire two starting pitchers at the deadline to cement your club.
“The goal is we’re going to do what we have to do to put ourselves in position to be contending year in and year out. That means no shortcuts. When you acquire prospects and work through the draft, it’s pretty obvious it’s not a quick road.’’
This September for the Cubs is only about playing spoilers, and that’s exactly what they’ve done against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Cubs won their fourth in a row against the Bucs with a 7-4 victory Friday at Wrigley Field. The Pirates, who are fading in the National League wild-card race, lost their seventh in a row overall.
Before the game, Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and vice president of player development Jason McLeod watched first-round draft pick Albert Almora take batting practice. On Saturday, Cuban prospect Jorge Soler gets his turn to practice with the team before both head to the fall Instructional League.
They hold keys to the future, but they are developing. Though manager Dale Sveum spoke of scouts telling him Almora could play in a major-league outfield “right now,’’ that is unlikely even for next year.
“There’s a choice: You can take a Band-Aid approach to things and try to polish it up as best we can and make that presentable and squeeze every last fan we can in and deal with [improving] next year,’’ Epstein said. “Or say, ‘We want to do this right no matter how tough this is.’
“Obviously we want to make this right no matter how long it takes. We’ll take the path we feel is right.’’
Avoiding a 100-loss season is an important goal, he acknowledged.
“No one wants to be associated with a 100-loss team. It would be nice to avoid it. But the at the end of the season, you are what your record says.’’
Whatever that record is, Sveum won’t be judged by it “for the first couple years,’’ Epstein said.
“He’s done a fantastic job, to be honest. For a team that’s where we are in the standings, this is one of the best clubhouses I’ve been around. They show up every day, they like each other and they prepare.
‘‘Except for a few rare exceptions, we played hard all season. Usually when you have a losing team on the field, it starts to seep into the clubhouse. I haven’t seen that this year.’’