Theo Epstein pleased but realistic after a July full of Cubs fortune
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org August 2, 2013 11:40PM
Kris Bryant, Theo Epstein
Updated: September 4, 2013 6:16AM
No wonder team president Theo Epstein happily points to July as having been an all-around winning month for the Cubs.
The team signed top collegiate hitter and No. 2 overall draft pick Kris Bryant, stockpiled more young pitching arms in its farm system through trades, saw its major-league club post a winning record and won City Hall approval of long-sought Wrigley Field renovations.
‘‘It’s been a great month for the Cubs,’’ Epstein said Friday before the Cubs fell 6-2 to the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers. ‘‘Right now, it’s a good time for people who are wanting things to go well and looking for progress to seize onto it.’’
But there’s always a ‘‘but’’ — the one Epstein says the organization, as much as fans, must remember.
‘‘It’s an important time to remind everyone and ourselves that the progress won’t be linear,’’ he said.
‘‘There are going to be other really bad months. There are going to be prospects who go through difficult months, half-seasons and seasons. And you think, ‘Hey, you thought these guys were going to be impact guys, and now they’re scuffling. What’s going on?’ There are going to be times we have really difficult times in the big leagues. Unfortunately, just like a player’s development, the progress of an organization isn’t always linear.’’
Keeping a volume of young pitching prospects and maintaining a development process throughout the farm system continues to be the Cubs’ focus. That’s still the ideal in baseball, even for teams such as the Dodgers that have the option of being big spenders to augment their rosters.
‘‘I’m a big believer in Theo and [general manager] Jed [Hoyer] as people and professionals,’’ Dodgers president Stan Kasten said, ‘‘and also in what their plan is and going about the exact right way, in my estimation — and they’ve made real progress. I love the moves they’ve made this month. So I know they’re going to have success here. I think that’s the right way to do it.’’
Kasten built the once-struggling Atlanta Braves into the National League powerhouse of the 1990s largely on pitching and a farm system that produced steady quality.
Times have changed since then in baseball’s financial structure and operational rules. It can take longer now to reach sustained success.
Kasten has been able to tap into the Dodgers’ lucrative television resources to help turn things around quickly this season.
‘‘But if I could choose one or the other — and almost every franchise does have to choose — I would choose the Theo and Jed plan because that’s what I believe in as well,’’ he said.
Epstein won’t even estimate when the Cubs will turn ‘‘potential’’ into ‘‘contender’’ because he can’t.
‘‘I think it’s easier when you look at our prospects’ development to pinpoint when they might get here than when we might have a winning young team,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘Those are two different things. When you look at teams historically that have had five or six impact young prospects come up at the same time, they don’t automatically start winning right away. We’re trying to get ahead of that and thinking about ways to create a winning environment.
‘‘There are going to be peaks and valleys, but right now we’re excited about certain things that happened this month, even as we brace for what’s an uncertain future. You keep working hard and taking advantage of every opportunity we have going forward.’’