Theo Sez

Saturday's weekly "Talking Baseball" show on ESPN 1000 radio, hosted by Bruce Levine and Fred Hubner wrapped up with a Q&A session with Theo Epstein. Bruce Levine asked Theo up front if he wanted to talk about playing electric guitar or baseball, ...and baseball it was. A summary was posted in the CCO but as it turns out I had a recording of the program and was able to get together several complete quotes from Theo on multiple topics, including:

• Dale Sveum's camp, the bunting contest and the 9am meeting  with a daily player "roast." (I doubt the roast would have gone over well in the Milton Bradley era)

• Lineup construction (after Hubner wanted Theo's opinion of Soriano leading off):

"Lineups are overblown to begin with. As long as you adhere to some basic lineup construction principles, it's really hard to screw up a lineup and also hard to get too great of an advantage out of it."

• On acquiring starting pitching depth:

"Frankly, going forward looking at the next several years, we don't have a lot of starting pitching coming up in the upper levels of the farm system and we didn't have a lot of starting pitching under control on the big league team."

• Samardjiza's opportunity to start:

"A quality starter is more valuable even than a quality closer, which is significantly more valuable than a setup guy or a middle man"

• Talent acquisition and the new scouting and player development manuals

• Matt Garza and any contract negotiations

• Hitting, Ted Williams and the number one foundational principle of hitting

• Theo's best organizational surprise upon coming to the Cubs, the Dominican Academy

the full quotes, after the jump...

Theo was asked about Sveum's camp:

A lot of attention to detail and fundamentals. Theo said Sveum shouldn't win the bunting contest, he should win a round or two and bow out gracefully.

The Cubs are "roasting" one player every morning in their 9AM meeting which is mostly a review of how things went the previous day. Good for team chemistry and all (some discussion of the value of the bunting contest and team bonding).

"The real team bonding occurs when you get down to 25 guys."

Theo was asked his opinion about Soriano leading off (by Fred Hubner): Theo said he wasn't paying attention to that.

"Lineups are overblown to begin with. As long as you adhere to some basic lineup construction principles, it's really hard to screw up a lineup and also hard to get too great of an advantage out of it. If there is ever a time to experiment, it's now. Dale (Sveum) understands the principles of lineup construction and I think you'll see lineups that reflect that during the course of the season."

Levine commented/asked about their off season depth acquisitions of (left handed hitters and) starting pitchers:


"Building starting pitching depth and acquiring controllable starting pitchers was something that was important. It serves both of our primary purposes. It was important for the 2012 club. It was something that hurt us last year as the injuries early in the (2011) season we weren't equipped to handle those. We needed to build depth to put ourselves in a more competitive position for 2012. Frankly, going forward looking at the next several years, we don't have a lot of starting pitching coming up in the upper levels of the farm system and we didn't have a lot of starting pitching under control on the big league team. As we look to our chances in future years, let alone this year, we knew we had to do something now, acquiring as much starting pitching as we can."

Quite a bit of commentary on Jeff Samardzija (after a Fred Hubner question whether Shark will get a chance to start):

"The primary factor is how he throws. Our job is to put our best players in a position to make the most impact in the short term and in the long term. There's no doubt that if you think you have a quality starting pitcher on your hands, you find a way to get him into the rotation. A quality starter is more valuable even than a quality closer, which is significantly more valuable than a setup guy or a middle man. Right now the focus is on him and what he can do and we'll see how the parts fit together later in the spring. This is part of his evolution and we'll see if that leads him to the rotation. A year or two ago he was not ready to be considered for a starting spot. He didn't have the command or the 3rd or 4th pitch to rely on. He wasn't mentally, physically or fundamentally ready to be a starting pitcher, getting through a lineup 3 times or all those things a starting pitcher has to do. Based on what he did the 2nd half of last year, that was a lot of progress. He had a great winter. Consolidate that progress and build on it. The way he's throwing right now, he's very interesting as a starting option. The biggest caveat possible applies, he hasn't had (faced) anyone in an opposing uniform with a bat in their hands yet. So you can't draw any conclusions in the first couple of weeks in spring training let alone spring training as a whole. We're going to take a long look and see what we have."

Levine asked about the plan to acquire new talent/players: Theo outlined their options including the draft and international signings, with some new limitations from the CBA. Trades and the rare free agent who are 27-8 (years old), most free agents are over 30. There are few opportunities to acquire new players so we have to make the most of it.

"The way we're choosing to put ourselves in the best possible position is taking a fresh look in how we scout and how we develop players. This is a great opportunity to do that. Any time there is a change in an organization, it's a great time to try some new ideas, take a look at what the organization already does well and enhance that. Take a look at what we don't do well and make sure we try a new approach. There's been a new collective spirit of stripping this down to the nuts and bolts, defining how it is we're going to scout. We wrote a new scouting manual to define how it is we're going to teach the game and how we're going to develop players. We're in the process of putting together our player development manual with input from a lot of people with a lot of wisdom and experience when it comes to developing pitchers, developing hitters, teaching defense, teaching base running. We need to be a machine. We need to be really efficient. We need to be on the same page. We need to know what it is we are looking for in players and how we're going to develop those players. That's a long process. You never figure that out. It's something you try to get better at every single day. I can promise you there is a lot of effort going into it. That's were we're going to do our damage is by being well organized, having good ideas, working really hard and impacting players. The bottom line is you can't go out and buy young players, there is no opportunity to do that any more. You have to make sure you are better than the other organizations at identifying it and developing it."

Levine did ask about Garza and a contract extension.

Theo said any info on that would be kept confidentially and private.

"I don't believe in talking about that kind of thing. It's between the player and the club and nothing good comes out from talking about it. We'll keep that between Matt and us and see where it goes." (thud...sound of door slamming on Levine's foot)

Hubner asked about hitting and Rudy Jaramillo.

Theo mentioned they had a 6 hour hitting meeting where (they) decided what (the Cubs) are going to emphasize.

"A lot of it boils down to controlling the strike zone and getting a good pitch to hit. Ted Williams said it in his book. It's the number one foundational principle of hitting, which is, if your not getting a good pitch to hit, there is not really much you can do as a hitter unless you are a once in a generation freak like Vlad Guerro or Yogi Berra who can put any pitch in play hard. You need to get a good pitch to hit, control the strike zone and be selectively aggressive and that's going to be the foundation of our hitting program in the minor leagues and at that big league level. Now, obviously there is a lot of mechanics that go into it, there is physical preparation, there are more nuances to the mental approach as well but that's the basics and everything springs off that. I think we're on board with that in the minor and major leagues."

The final Levine question about what surprises he encountered in taking over the Cubs:

Theo replied that one of the most pleasant surprises was the Dominican Academy.

"We're way ahead of the game in how organized we are down in the Dominican, in how we teach the game from a player development standpoint, not only from a scouting standpoint. Those kids down there were really working hard, playing the game well and were fundamentally sound. From the other academies I've been to, you see the balls getting sprayed all over the place and it looks a long, long way from the big leagues. We have some really good instructors down there. You could see the kids were ahead of where they should have been fundamentally. That's something that's hard to build. The fact that is already in place now is a competitive advantage for us."


from Wittenmeyer's quotes and notes, (Ian Stewart in the 2-hole, Barney 8th):

‘‘I know I can help this ballclub any way they need me to,’’ said Jay Jackson, whose best shot at breaking camp with the team is the bullpen. ‘‘So anything they want me to do, I’m more than willing to do it.’’

Brett Jackson, a 2009 first-rounder, is trying to change the staff’s mind about sending him to Class AAA to start the season.

The lineup for Sunday’s Cactus League opener against the Oakland Athletics: LF Alfonso Soriano, 3B Stewart, SS Starlin Castro, 1B Bryan LaHair, CF Marlon Byrd, RF David DeJesus, DH Jeff Baker, 2B Darwin Barney, C Welington Castillo. Rodrigo Lopez starts on the mound.

◆ Catcher Geovany Soto, who has been slowed for more than a week by a mild groin strain, is expected to be ready to play by the end of this week.

and a Campana article from Wittenmeyer too...

Ian #2? inspired choice and unexpected.

at least he makes the pitcher work before ultimately striking out.

Wow all that bold text is really difficult to get through.

Wow all that bold text is really difficult to get through.
Fixed. Got carried away with all the bullet points in the intro.

Hendry interview in the NJ Star Ledger...

Includes JH answers to the following:
4. How do you explain the Cubs’ championship drought?
5. How much did it weigh on you?
6. Is that tradition of losing a real obstacle to overcome?

Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo seems to have taken his focus away from the Cubs and Theo.

This weeks only mentions:

Cubs president Theo Epstein has acknowledged that under the new CBA, he will need more time to rebuild the team’s farm system.

If things had turned out differently, Dale Sveum might have been the Red Sox manager. While the Red Sox made the right choice in Bobby Valentine, Sveum may also have been the right choice for the Cubs. He arrives to the ballpark at 5 a.m. every day and has been emphasizing accountability and defense from a team that finished last in the NL in fielding last season.

I know it's just spring training, but no game chat going?

A's broadcaster just introduced Jeff Beliveau as "Jeff Bev-a-low." I guess in my brain I was saying "Bell-view." Does anyone know which is right? I'm taking the broadcaster with a grain of salt since he spent 5 minutes referring to the Cubs catcher as Wellington Castro.

OK, nevermind, I went to the BR and came back and it was now "Bell-i-view." Must've been corrected again.

As for Mr. "Bell-i-view," it's never good not getting to finish an inning early in spring training. Couldn't throw strikes. Never a good first impression with your new manager.

Any longtime hockey fan knows that name.

Have trouble with Boudreau and Durocher?

I think it's "Bell-i-voh".

Sun, 03/04/2012 - 2:50pm — John Beasley New
Re: Theo Sez
A's broadcaster just introduced Jeff Beliveau as "Jeff Bev-a-low." I guess in my brain I was saying "Bell-view." Does anyone know which is right? I'm taking the broadcaster with a grain of salt since he spent 5 minutes referring to the Cubs catcher as Wellington Castro.


JOHN B: The P. A. announcer in the AFL last year called him "Believe- O". He was called "Bell-uh-vo" by Cubs P. A. announcer Tim Sheridan at HoHoKam Park today. I can remember one of the Cubs pitching coaches calling him "Bell-View" a couple of years ago at Fitch Park.

His name is pronounced Jeff Bell-Biv-Devoe. His game is poison.

rhee = not ready.

hell of a 4th so far.

soriano leading off again with stewart 2nd...i have to assume SWAIN wants these guys to see as many ABs as possible

...and stewart needs to take defensive practice grounders at 3rd as much as possible...another one off the glove going foul for a single.

...and brandon allen has 6 RBI today. 1 grand slam and a double. 4 for 5 on spring for him so far. supuhstah.

welcome to the cubs trevor miller...1st pitch very wild leading to a scored run. i think we got a new 8th inning guy.

...welly gets the 1st cubs homer of spring on a fast linedrive homer that got out in about .001 seconds (wind is blowing straight out, btw)

...and ian stewart takes a swing at a 3-0 pitch for crap results...theo's gonna whip him Roots style.

...mota comes in to play 3rd and shows off a wild throw to 1st...error. neat.

...len keeps calling the OAK dugout the "ARZ dugout"

...carenas 3-run stand up triple vs. his old team to bring the cubs within 1 with no outs in the 6th...and the game is tied on a single by j.ha with 1 out.

Trevor Miller = Wade Miller

and that's what it seems to be...

Why don't you show the factual basis behind your predictions more often? Wait - Nevermind

"i have to assume SWAIN wants these guys to see as many ABs as possible"

That's the same reason my gay friend gave too when he signed up for a gym membership.

it's spring training for ...ahem... "top 5 prospects" too...

"After relieving an ineffective Randall Delgado, Julio Teheran gave up six homers and seven runs in two innings against the Tigers on Sunday."

c.hart (MIL) getting MRI on his right knee...may require surgery...very swollen.

len just said he's going to need surgery...4-6 weeks.

Pitcher's duel today. 12-10 A's. Top 9. Marcus "Fat Chance" Mateo gives up two so far.

final boxscore...

it doesn't show in the boxscore, but according to radio j.lake made some decent plays in his chances.

also, i wonder wtf is up with SD's compensation. there's a list of 12 players on the table, supposedly...agreed on by both clubs.

SD gets to wait until spring training is over so they can assess where their greatest organizational need lies, and choose accordingly from the Cubs' list. If they unexpectedly have an injury in March, or they decide to promote someone in their system, that leaves a hole at the prior level and bingo--the Pads choose a Cubs player that fills that hole.

Sorry if 3/44

Late night fun over Cubs. (looks at Soriano)

mark grace could have been a HOF'r i guess. =p

good luck enforcing that almost unenforceable window dressing rule.

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  • RIP Zoobrest.

    crunch 23 min 10 sec ago view
  • He'll be fine. He's not some wimpy young pup.

    Old and Blue 52 min 44 sec ago view
  • In all seriousness the Cubs have the fewest amount of games played in the NL which means they're gonna be facing quite the grind later on including 24 games in a row at the end of June and beginning of July so I hope he does get a few days off.

    johann 2 hours 48 min ago view
  • Meh. He only got one hit today. Maybe give him a rest?

    Old and Blue 3 hours 24 min ago view
  • 34-14...awww yeah.

    crunch 4 hours 21 min ago view
  • Good thing the Cubs have five left-handed batters in the lineup. Velasquez is just tearing thru the righties [edit - doesn't seem to faze Bryant!]

    Eric S 5 hours 41 min ago view
  • ben zobrist gets to ride up front tonight cause he's a good guy at sports.

    cubs with a 5 run lead and a lackey shutout through 3ip \m/

    crunch 6 hours 15 min ago view
  • HAGSAG: I have not seen Joe Nathan out on the field, but he is supposedly at the UAPC. 

    Arizona Phil 9 hours 12 min ago view
  • ERIC S: Best outing I've ever seen from Manny Rondon, and I've seen most of his outings since the Cubs got him from the Angels. 

    M. Rondon is competing with six others (Dylan Cease, Bryan Hudson, Jose Paulino, Pedro Silverio, Jesus Castillo, and Erling Moreno) for a starting slot at Eugene, and (as you can probably tell from the EXST box scores)  the competition has gotten fierce over the last couple of weeks, With the exception of Moreno, the Eugene SP candidates have upped their game lately, and M. Rondon's outing yesterday was especially impressive/dominating. 

    Arizona Phil 9 hours 14 min ago view
  • E-MAN: Pierce Johnsion was mixing a 92-94 MPH fastball with a plus-change-up AND curve, and he threw strike-after-strike-after-strike with all three of his pitches. I believe that was the best command and pitch-efficiency I've ever seen from Johnson, who often pitches from behind in the count and issues too many walks.  

    Of course now he has to avoid a recurrence of the lat strain (whch he has had previously in his career) as well as all of the other miscellaneous physical problems he's had over the last three years (hamstring, quad, back, etc).  

    Arizona Phil 9 hours 24 min ago view
  • PHIL: Any movement on P. Johnsons pitches? What was his "out" pitch? I know he was working on a 4th pitch, so wondering what he is looking like these days. Thanks.

    The E-Man 10 hours 7 min ago view
  • AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.

    Hagsag 14 hours 52 min ago view
  • Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!

    Hagsag 14 hours 53 min ago view
  • Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.

    Eric S 1 day 34 min ago view
  • With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.

    johann 1 day 3 hours ago view
  • it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.

    crunch 1 day 3 hours ago view