Theo: Winning environment before wins, losses
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter March 30, 2014 9:36PM
Chicago Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts, left, talks to President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein during spring training baseball practice, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Updated: March 30, 2014 10:01PM
PITTSBURGH — Like Dale Sveum before him, new Cubs manager Rick Renteria’s job performance won’t be judged on wins and losses, at least not this year.
Just don’t try telling him that.
“We have a lot of expectations for ourselves,” he said. “We want to shoot for the stars. I want to win a World Series. . . . Why not?”
There isn’t enough room on this page to list all the reasons for that one.
Fact is, the Cubs are still playing for the promise of something in the future as they take the field Monday at PNC Park to start the season.
Entering the third year of team president Theo Epstein’s regime, the front office won’t be focusing on whether the team wins more than the 66 games it won last year, Epstein said — or even on identifying so-called core guys for the future.
“I think too much has been made about identifying core guys,” he said. “You can be a good player and not be a core guy.”
The front office will measure this season “just by the progress of our young players,” Epstein said. “Are they in an environment where they can go through some adversity, make adjustments and thrive? Are our guys getting the most out of their ability at the big-league level? Are we putting them in a position to succeed, giving them the support system that they need and also holding them accountable, and holding them to high standards, and creating a winning-type environment?”
That’s a mouthful. And one Sveum arguably had trouble with last year, frequent malapropisms aside.
During his first six weeks running the team, Renteria has shown at least the positive, encouragement side of his managing skills in his first go-round at the big-league level. Where accountability and high standards come into play when the inevitable adversity and losing streaks take hold remains to be seen.
“We’ll be talking,” Renteria said. “I think anytime you have an opportunity to address something, you do it as quickly as you possibly can, pick the moment that’s appropriate, then you move on.”
Certainly, how Renteria handles his first season in the big leagues with a club expected to lose 90 or more games is a big story line — along with how young players Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney respond to last year’s tough seasons.
Will Mike Olt establish himself as a long-term Cubs third baseman? Will top prospect Javy Baez get to the big leagues this summer — and stick?
And what about this World Series thing?
“Anything can happen,” said right fielder Nate Schierholtz, a member of the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 World Series winner. “We won in 2010, and in 2011 we looked great again. But Buster Posey goes down, and that just took us down, too.
“So anything can happen at any time with any team. So it’s just a matter of staying consistent as a team and not getting too high or too low, and going out and playing with a chip on your shoulder every day.”