What does Epstein mean by 'The Cubs Way?'

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What does Epstein mean by 'The Cubs Way?'

Theo Epstein had enough self-awareness to promise that he wont answer every question by referencing his time with the Red Sox, even if thats exactly who the Cubs want to be.

Professionally, Epstein had started to become stale after almost 10 years in Boston. He also understands that his staff cant rest on what they did at Fenway Park. He promised that his front office would have a research and development wing to discover that cutting edge.

Because everyone understands that this is the information age. The Cubs will focus more on on-base percentage and run prevention. They need to see more pitches, make starters work and wear out bullpens. They have to improve their defense, because they werent very good in that phase by just about any advanced metric or eye test.

But every organization looks at the numbers and hopes to build up the farm system and create chemistry. The Cubs are looking to answer: Whats next? And define what, exactly, is The Cubs Way?

The offseason officially begins after the final out in Fridays World Series Game 7. Epstein went underground after Tuesdays press conference at Wrigley Field and brought in his inner circle, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, two Padres executives he used to work closely with in Boston.

So theyll continue to gather information. They have to make quick decisions on: manager Mike Quade and his coaching staff; the 16 million club option on Aramis Ramirez (which he can void); and Ryan Dempsters 14 million player option.

Epstein took this presidents job because he wanted to look at the bigger picture and create a vertically-integrated system where theyre playing the game the same way in the Dominican summer league, rookie ball, at Double-A Tennessee and Wrigley Field.

This isnt revolutionary, and it wont happen overnight. But Epstein will have a chance to help write the scouting and player development manuals, like he did in Boston, and remake this organization in his image.

Epstein will be given more resources than anyone else in the National League Central, and a direct report to ownership, so there will be no excuses.

During his first session with the Chicago media on Tuesday, Epstein went along with a question about last summers draft. The Cubs were aggressive and took risks and wound up spending close to 20 million in the draft and international signings.

Heres how Epstein described the reaction in the Red Sox war room: They finally get it. Theyre going for it.

The dollars that we spend in the draft (and) internationally (are) the best investments that we make, Epstein continued saying. It was a clear philosophical change (and) it got everyones attention in the game. It certainly aligns well with my vision for how to run a baseball operation.

McLeod has a good relationship with Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken, and the idea is that Epsteins front office will pool their resources, not shut out the Jim Hendry loyalists.

McLeod found impact players like Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Baseball America had his drafts among the top five in three of his first four years as Red Sox scouting director.

Epstein kind of rolled his eyes at the mention of Carmine, the computer system thats been played up in the media. He made it clear that decisions wont be made a by a laptop, that his staff will combine objective analysis with old-school scouting.

The way to see the player most accurately, to get the truest picture, Epstein said, is to put both those lenses together and look through them simultaneously.

Again, these arent earth-shattering concepts, and Epstein would admit as much. But its a clear vision that shouldnt get much interference from anyone else in the organization. He built up capital with a five-year contract and those two World Series rings.

In explaining his decision to leave the Red Sox, Epstein cited Bill Walshs theory that coaches and executives shouldnt stay around a team longer than 10 years. Walsh was 47 years old when he took over the San Francisco 49ers.

Now its time for Epstein to innovate and refine his West Coast offense.

Tom Ricketts mentioned how he sensed that Epstein wasnt content and still felt hungry. The chairman is betting that Epstein, at 37, is not one of those post-prime free agents being paid for past performance instead of future results.

Theres not one way to play this game, Epstein said. The Cubs Way will be a dynamic, living, breathing entity that changes every year.

After locking up homefield advantage, Cubs flummoxed by Cardinals in blowout loss

After locking up homefield advantage, Cubs flummoxed by Cardinals in blowout loss

At the end of the day, a loss means essentially nothing for the Cubs right now.

But the Cubs also certainly don't want to hand games to their division rival as the St. Louis Cardinals make a run at the National League wild card spots.

After the Cubs clinched homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs with the Washington Nationals' loss Friday night, they had no answer for the Cardinals in a 10-4 loss in front of 40,785 fans at Wrigley Field Saturday afternoon on national TV.

A few disturbing trends popped their heads above ground for the Cubs again Saturday, including the offense's struggles at manufacturing runs, Jason Hammel getting shelled and some bullpen woes.

The Cubs had no trouble putting runners on base against Cardinals phenom Alex Reyes, but they had a tough time plating those guys, cashing in only once with a runner on third base in six tries over the first four innings.

In two of those spots, a Cubs hitter came up with only one out, but failed to bring the run home as Addison Russell struck out in the first inning and Kris Bryant popped out to shallow left in the second.

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Hammel recorded only seven outs and was tagged for six runs on six hits and a walk, watching his season ERA rise nearly 30 points to 3.83. The veteran right-hander fell to 15-10 as he attempts to make a push for one of the Cubs' final postseason roster spots.

"Honestly, I would love to be a part of [the playoff roster], as the rest of the guys on the team would love to," Hammel said. "I know there's only a certain amount of spots, so if I'm handed the ball, I'll be ready. That's the way I'm gonna view it.

"Obviously you wanna be a part of something special like that, but I think everybody here has already been a part of something special to get to this point. We're all very proud. We still got eight regular season ballgames left to build some momentum. Whether I'm on the roster or not, I'm still gonna enjoy it."

Hammel was also clearly on the wrong end of some bad luck Saturday, as the four runs he allowed in the first came via a check swing and a couple hits just out of the reach of his fielders. 

Joe Maddon won't put too much stock into one rough start in late September.

"I'm not too worried about a good or bad outing right now. I'm not," he said. "Pretty much, you know who the guy is. You know if the guy's go this stuff going on or if he doesn't. ... The greater body of work matters."

Setup man Hector Rondon struggled in his appearance, needing 26 pitches to notch just one out, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk before handing the ball off to Felix Pena.

Of course, it's also just one game and one loss for a team with 98 victories and hopes of the World Series.

Rondon had been nearly unhittable since returning from the disabled list two weeks ago and the Cubs offense had been efficient and relentless in the past four games after Maddon's meeting with the hitters earlier in the week.

Maddon also used the blowout to get regulars like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Russell out of the lineup to help keep them fresh for October.

After the game, Maddon chose to look on the bright side.

"Our starter had a tough day today; that's it. Otherwise we did some nice things," he said, referencing the solid offensive days from Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. "We had chances to score runs - runners on third, less than two outs - and we didn't fulfill that.

"We made their starter throw 115 pitches in five innings; I think that's a positive."

The Cubs will close out their season series with the Cardinals on another nationally-televised showdown Sunday night between Jon Lester and St. Louis ace Carlos Martinez.

Cubs: Miguel Montero plays 'psychologist' to get the most out of Jake Arrieta

Cubs: Miguel Montero plays 'psychologist' to get the most out of Jake Arrieta

Lost amid the craziness of Friday's game and David Ross' emotional sendoff was Miguel Montero locking up a spot on the Cubs' postseason roster.

It's not official, of course. 

The Cubs don't have to get their National League Division Series 25-man roster until the morning of Oct. 7, Game 1.

But Montero proved his value to the Cubs, even in an 0-for-3 effort offensively.

The veteran catcher has struggled to find consistency at the plate this season, but his work behind the plate has proven invaluable, especially with reigning NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta.

Montero helped get Arrieta in rhythm Friday for a dominant performance - 10 strikeouts across seven shutout innings.

It was the first time the two had worked together in a battery since Aug. 12, with Willson Contreras catching Arrieta five times and Ross behind the dish once in that span.

"Quite frankly, I'm not gonna lie - I wanted to see that," Cubs manager Joe Maddon admitted after Friday's game. "Miggy did a great job with him. They were outstanding together."

The proof is in the numbers, too.

With Contreras over those five starts, Arrieta has posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, averaging 6.4 innings per outing.

In the last six starts with Montero behind the plate, Arrieta has a 1.99 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and is averaging 6.78 innings per outing.

Of course, Montero was also Arrieta's primary catcher for the pitcher's other-worldly run to close out last season.

Maddon believes there's a comfort level there between the two and with the Cubs essentially just biding time until the postseason, now was the time to make a change and see how they worked together again instead of worrying about getting Contreras more experience.

If Arrieta can find consistency pitching at that level, it absolutely gives the Cubs a new look alongside 2016 Cy Young contenders Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks.

"We work well together," Arrieta said. "I work well with Willson and with Rossy, but Miggy and I have worked together for quite a bit of time now throughout the last couple years. He knows the way my stuff works. 

"He has little nuances, little mannerisms that he makes behind the plate that can help me get back on track from time to time and it's nice to have a guy like that who can really pick things out visually and relay a message to me by something small that helps me get back in line."

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Montero admitted he wasn't even focusing on his at-bats throughout Friday's game, instead putting his full attention on getting Arrieta back on track.

It may only be one outing, but it worked, and Montero deserves credit for getting Arrieta to settle down, stop trying to be too perfect and just unleash his ace stuff.

"We have to be a psychologist. That's our job as a catcher," Montero said. "People don't realize that. People think the catcher needs to throw and hit. No, we need to be a psychologist.

"We need to know who we got out on the mound, how to talk to him, how to go about the business, how to explain to him how to do things. I like psychology a lot and he's one of the guys who you need to push him a little bit harder, and that's me.

"I'm gonna push a guy to the limits, 'cause I know I can get a lot more from him. I know who I can get a lot more from."

Maddon didn't tip his hand about who will pair up with Arrieta next start, but the Cubs don't have to make that decision right now. 

However, with a veteran catcher like Montero around who knows how to call a game and has been heralded as one of the best pitch-framers in baseball during his prime, it'd be hard to leave him off the postseason roster.

In October, the Cubs will place a premium on guys who have been there before and can work in rhythm with a veteran-laden pitching staff and in those areas, Montero has a leg up on rookie Contreras.

Montero handled his reduction in playing time gracefully when Contreras was promoted to the big leagues over the summer, but now, the 33-year-old looks to be reemerging for the Cubs as the "big boy" games loom.

"I don't know if I'm gonna catch [Arrieta] again, but I hope he keeps that momentum going, which I think is a good confidence-builder right there," Montero said. "... My main goal [Friday] was just Jake and just to get him out there and get him to throw a good game and build his confidence again.

"I went 0-for-3, but I don't care. I accomplished my goal - which was to get him to throw a good game and he did."