Memo to Theo Epstein: Parts of old Cubs regime are worth keeping
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org October 23, 2011 6:40PM
FILE- This July 21, 2010, file photo, shows former Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein before a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics in Oakland, Calif. The Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs jointly announced Friday evening, Oct. 21, 2011, that effective immediately, Epstein has resigned from the Red Sox in order to become the new president of baseball operations for the Cubs. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
Updated: November 25, 2011 8:15AM
When baseball writer Peter Gammons blamed the ridiculous length of the Cubs-Red Sox negotiations on Crane Kenney and Randy Bush the other day, he may have been half-right.
‘‘The thing with the Cubs, they don’t actually have anyone negotiating that actually has been in [player] development, so they don’t know the players the Red Sox talk about,’’ Gammons said during a Boston radio interview. ‘‘They have the CEO of business and the assistant general manager, who wasn’t actually involved in the farm system.’’
In the case of the business guy, Kenney, Gammons was spot-on in identifying one of the problems with negotiations over player compensation for new Cubs baseball president Theo Epstein.
In the case of Bush, Gammons couldn’t have been more wrong.
‘‘I don’t know if there’s another assistant GM in baseball who has seen more players in his organization and knows more about those players than Randy Bush,’’ said one longtime, high-ranking major-league official from outside the organization.
‘‘He’s one of the most respected guys in the game. I’m surprised [Gammons] said that.’’
This isn’t so much about Gammons as it is about how quickly some of the most valuable members of the old regime seem to be easily — and foolishly — forgotten.
If the Cubs’ two-year ownership doesn’t want to risk repeating some of the mistakes of the franchise’s mostly miserable past, it might want to keep in mind some of the things that actually went right over the past decade or so and consider keeping some of those responsible.
Even in most successful transitions, the old isn’t necessarily all bad, and the new isn’t necessarily all-knowing and all-powerful.
Consider that the Cubs’ old regime had as many playoff appearances as Epstein’s and Jed Hoyer’s teams combined the last two years.
That’s not to suggest a change of direction isn’t the right move. And it’s certainly not to suggest Epstein and Hoyer, the Cubs’ soon-to-be GM, aren’t the right tandem to lead the new direction.
But to overlook important resources already in place is risky business.
Chairman Tom Ricketts already recognized the value of farm director Oneri Fleita with a four-year extension when the Detroit Tigers pursued him this summer, and he gave scouting director Tim Wilken a vote of confidence.
But few execs in the front office are as valuable as Bush, not only for his management skills, but also for his expertise in areas Ricketts talks about improving.
According to several sources with knowledge of the Epstein process, Bush and the Cubs’ baseball staff were left out of the loop long enough that the five-year deal was completed before orders to prepare for player compensation were given as an apparent afterthought.
It put the Cubs’ informed baseball people at a distinct disadvantage and left them exposed to the kind of boobs-by-association sniping Gammons did.
Fact is, every time Ricketts brings up his vision of a bottom-up scouting-development renovation of the Cubs’ already improving system — as Epstein and Hoyer did in Boston (and San Diego) — the first two comparisons inevitably made are with the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins.
Bush, a 1979 draft pick of the Twins, lived the ‘‘Twins Way’’ from early in the minors through two World Series titles under Tom Kelly.
If the Cubs find a way to overlook his value and let him — and/or other valuable personnel — go during this transition, then they’re feeding bigger curses than goats, black cats and Kenneys.