Theo Epstein thinks big with Cubs, braces for the backlash

722292.png

Theo Epstein thinks big with Cubs, braces for the backlash

MESA, Ariz. On the day the Cubs put his name in lights on the Wrigley Field marquee, Theo Epstein joked that he should immediately hold another press conference to resign, because his popularity was at an all-time high.

As the jam-packed stadium club began to thin out, it came across as another moment of self-awareness for Epstein, who had grown restless last October after almost 10 years in a dream job, general manager of the Boston Red Sox.

So as the Cubs shut down spring training at HoHoKam Stadium on Tuesday and headed for their United Airlines charter flight back to Chicago, their president of baseball operations understood that you have to be braced for the backlash.

The message boards and talk radio will second-guess manager Dale Sveum. The 40,000 fans at Clark and Addison will boo Carlos Marmol when he blows a save and when Starlin Castro spaces out at shortstop. People will wonder why the Cubs are charging so much for some of their premium tickets.

For all the hype on the North Side, it wasnt hard to find Red Sox fans who were glad that Epstein was gone, remembering the expensive free-agent mistakes, instead of the two World Series titles that became deeply emotional experiences throughout New England.

I can go ahead and write your stories for you right now if you want, Epstein said. At some point, youre going to write about: Oh, the honeymoon is over. Were not seeing enough progress. I dont know when thats going to be.

It might be two years from now. It might be three years from now. It might be two months from now. It might be two weeks from now. But because progress as an organization isnt linear, (we know) thats coming and we just dont let it bother us.

Its important to just focus on what were doing internally and understand that everything outside is really no offense just noise in the end, whether it comes from you guys (in the media) or even comes from some fans who are deservedly upset at a given point. Its really just noise. And if we let it effect our decision-making, shame on us.

So as (Bill) Parcells said: If you listen to the fans in the stands, pretty soon youll be sitting with them.

When Epstein left the Red Sox almost six months ago, longtime Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy remembered how in 1993 a college kid approached him in the Yale Bowl press box.

Turned out it was Epstein, showing off his column in the Yale Daily News. Shaughnessy wrote how it was a rip job on legendary Yale coach Carmen Cozza and marveled at Epsteins meteoric rise in his own column headlined: Any way you write it, its still a success story.

Epstein had grown up not far from Fenway Park, so he knew the nature of the beast and felt that part of the Red Sox problem for many, many decades was focusing too much on the next days sports section, on what people thought (and) a little bit too much on the Yankees (instead of) focusing on just building something.

So Epstein insists the goal of the 2012 team is to win the World Series what else is he supposed to say? and then points out that there is a subtext to the narrative.

In Epsteins mind, the year will be a failure if the Cubs dont establish a culture of hard work, preparation and accountability. They must integrate young players onto the major-league roster and develop impact players in the system.

Top prospects Anthony Rizzo (first base) and Brett Jackson (outfield) should be mashing at Triple-A Iowa, but it doesnt sound like the Cubs will automatically promote them if Bryan LaHair struggles or Marlon Byrd is traded or either one gets injured.

The best decisions are made when you focus almost exclusively on their development, Epstein said. Not necessarily the short focus of: We have a 15-day vacancy at a certain position in the big leagues lets rush this guy up here.

Epstein said triggering major-league service time and the financial ramifications will not really be a factor. After an offseason in which the Cubs showed fiscal discipline and didnt go hard after Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, they could reach another crossroads with Matt Garza by the trade deadline.

Its easier to sit back and sort of evaluate how to balance short-term and long-term interest in a boardroom during the winter in sort of a cold, clinical, objective environment, Epstein said. It becomes a lot more difficult (during) five-game losing streaks when your bullpen blows four games in a week and you lose some one-run games and its really frustrating the same problems are manifesting over and over again.

Everyone in the building coming to work has a frown on their face, the medias starting to pick at you a little bit, the fans are getting restless. Thats when it becomes harder to maintain that objectivity and properly balance short- and long-term interest.

So one of the things that we do now, right before the season starts, (is) in the front office pledge to each other: Lets maintain the proper perspective no matter what happens. We get off to a hot start and were in the middle of this thing, yeah, were going to prioritize winning this season.

(But) lets not get carried away. Were still operating on two fronts. As much as 2012 will matter and will become increasingly important if we get off to a good start, were still doing everything we can to build a championship-caliber organization for the long-term.

And on the flip side, if its miserable during the course of the year as it is for just about every team at one point or another during the season lets not lose perspective and overreact.

The noise is about to get cranked up louder. The fans want one thing. Its the reason you take this job.

Ultimately, the only way to make them happy, Epstein said, is to (give them) baseball in October on a consistent basis and a World Series championship, eventually.

87 Days to Kickoff: Woodstock North

highschool_lites_opening_montage_11-28_640x360_575804995702.jpg

87 Days to Kickoff: Woodstock North

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26.

School: Woodstock North Thunder

Head coach: Jeff Schroeder

Assistant coaches:  John Fredericks, Matt Polnow, Chris Jackowiak

How they fared in 2015: 4-5 (2-4) Fox Valley (Fox). Woodstock North failed to qualify for the 2015 IHSA state football playoff field.

Biggest storyline in 2016: How will the Thunder fare in the new Kishwaukee River Conference in 2016?

Names to watch this season: OL/DL Zach Schau RB/DB Collin Mergi QB/LB Matt Zinnen

Biggest holes to fill: The Thunder will need to get some numbers and depth this season with several starters planning to play on both sides of the football.

EDGY's Early Take: The Thunder, along with sister school Woodstock, move into the new Kishwaukee River Conference along with several former Big Northern schools. The conference should benefit Woodstock North from an overall enrollment standpoint. Expect the Thunder to compete for a conference title and a state playoff spot.
 

The Bulls had the NBA's second best combined record against Cavs, Warriors

kris_dunn_05-31_640x360_695916099945.jpg

The Bulls had the NBA's second best combined record against Cavs, Warriors

The Bulls' successes this season against the best teams in the NBA have been documented, and only make their inability to make the playoffs all the more baffling.

Those playoffs saw its number of teams dwindled down to two after the Warriors knocked off the Thunder in Game 7 Monday night in Oakland.

That means it'll be a rematch, as expected, between Steph Curry and the Warriors against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Bulls, like all but nine teams this regular season, lost all their games against Curry's Warriors, which set an NBA record by going 73-9.

But the Bulls had quite a bit of success against James and the Cavs, winning their of their four matchups.

That gave them a 3-3 record against the two teams competing in this year's Finals (they were a combined 6-0 against the runner-ups in either conference, Toronto and Oklahoma City).

That's significant, as only one other team (Detroit) had a combined record .500 or better against the conference champions.

Here's a look at how the 28 eliminated teams fared against the Cavs and Warriors this season.

Rank Team Record Diff
1. Detroit 4-2 +1.8
2. Chicago 3-3 -6.0
3. Miami 2-3 +2.4
4. Boston 2-3 -6.0
5. Portland 2-4 -0.8
6. Toronto 2-4 -4.0
7. Washington 2-4 -4.3
8. Milwaukee 2-4 -6.0
9. San Antonio 2-4 -8.3
10. Minnesota 1-4 -8.8
11. Houston 1-4 -9.0
12. New Orleans 1-4 -11.4
13. Indiana 1-5 -3.1
14. Dallas 1-5 -4.5
15. Charlotte 1-5 -7.1
16. Utah 1-5 -7.3
17. Brooklyn 1-5 -8.3
18. Denver 1-5 -11.3
19. LA Lakers 1-5 -12.8
20. Memphis 1-5 -19.1
21. Atlanta 0-5 -8.6
22. Oklahoma City 0-5 -10.6
23. Philadelphia 0-6 -10.0
24. LA Clippers 0-6 -11.1
25. Phoenix 0-6 -14.1
26. Sacramento 0-6 -14.6
27. New York 0-6 -15.6
28. Orlando 0-6 -17.0

Only four teams beat both Golden State and Cleveland this season: Detroit, Boston, Portland and Milwaukee.

The Bulls' average point differential against the two finalists was -6.0, tied for eighth best in the NBA.

The Bulls had myriad issues against the cellar dwellers - their 9-3 record against the NBA's final four teams was the same as their 9-3 record against the NBA's worst five teams - but they held their own against the game's elite.

NBA Draft Profile: Providence PG Kris Dunn

kris_dunn_05-31_640x360_695916099945.jpg

NBA Draft Profile: Providence PG Kris Dunn

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2016 NBA Draft we will provide profiles of more than 50 prospects, including video interviews with each player, what they're saying leading up to draft day as well as their potential fit with the Bulls.

Kris Dunn, PG, Providence

6'3" | 205 lbs. | 22 years old

2015-16 stats:

16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.5 steals, 33.0 minutes

Projection:

Top-7

Quotable:

“You’re going to get someone who works hard every day. A guy who has great character. My personality resonates because I’m so goofy, I love to laugh. I like to make other people smile and I’m a very hard worker. I like to say I’m a blue-collar worker,” he said. “Nothing was ever given to me. I go after it with everything I have.”

Rotoworld mock draft selection:

6. New Orleans Pelicans: Kris Dunn, PG, Providence – Jrue Holiday has only one year left on his current deal, so the Pelicans could look to find their point guard of the future here in Dunn. A strong defender and excellent in transition, Dunn could create scoring chances on both ends of the floor, plus he has the passing ability which could continue to help Anthony Davis shine, as long as Dunn can cut down on his mistakes. Perimeter shooting has been an issue for Dunn, though he has looked good at times.

Fit for the Bulls:

The Bulls would likely need to move into the first five selections of the draft to have a shot at Dunn. But they're reportedly intrigued at the idea of having him as the point guard of the future. Though he's already 22, Dunn's size, defensive pressure and ability to play in transition all translate at the next level. He could theoretically learn under Derrick Rose for a year - something he said at the NBA Combine he'd love to do - before Rose becomes a free agent in 2017. A backcourt of Dunn and Jimmy Butler would be one of the best defensive tandems in the Eastern Conference. Then again, to get in position to draft Dunn the Bulls may need to part with Jimmy Butler, an unlikely scenario.