Cubs begin building their 'Carmine' system

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Cubs begin building their 'Carmine' system

Information is everything to Theo Epstein.

The Boston media liked to make fun of Carmine, the computer system used by the Red Sox and a main character in a Sports Illustrated profile timed with the release of the Moneyball movie last September.

Epstein has downplayed the influence, pointing out that virtually every business has a way to organize and manage data. The Cubs arent going to be run by a laptop, but they are looking for cutting-edge technology.

Bloomberg Sports, a leader in analytics, announced a partnership with the team on Thursday to design a new player-evaluation system for the baseball operations department.

It will include video and a statistical database and have mobile capabilities. It will presumably be the central place where Cubs personnel will file reports scouting, background, medical on their own players, opponents and potential draft picks and international signings.

When Tom Ricketts began searching last summer for someone to run baseball operations, the chairman explicitly wanted an executive who would embrace statistical analysis and modernize the front office.

At his introductory press conference last October, Epstein promised to build a research-and-development wing for his department, so that the Cubs could get ahead of the curve and find the next competitive advantages.

Epstein knows that the concepts behind Moneyball arent revolutionary. The professional tools designed by Bloomberg Sports are used by more than two-thirds of the 30 major-league clubs. The company also says its tablet products are accessed by more than 200 big-leaguers. The entire industry now essentially looks at the market the same way.

No one ignores the numbers, and everyone understands the importance of good scouting. That battle has already been fought. Its just a matter of degrees, which way you might lean on a particular decision. This information-management system is supposed to help guide them.

Nearly a decade ago after becoming the youngest general manager in major-league history Epstein got credit for surrounding himself with some old-school baseball guys in Boston and placing a high value on traditional scouting.

Carmine 2.0 wont be taking over at Clark and Addison.

Baseball organizations are made up of human beings, Epstein has said. Theyre not just robots that put up numbers. Theyre not commodities traded. I know (Ive) referred to a player as an asset. Thats business speak. Thats not what I believe.

Cubs go into damage-control mode after introducing Aroldis Chapman to Chicago

Cubs go into damage-control mode after introducing Aroldis Chapman to Chicago

About that heart-to-heart conversation Cubs executives absolutely needed to have with Aroldis Chapman over the phone before signing off on a blockbuster deal with the New York Yankees: The Cuban closer had been sleeping on Monday before getting on the call and didn’t remember anything specific about what chairman Tom Ricketts and team president Theo Epstein said in terms of off-the-field expectations.

At least that’s what Chapman expressed through coach/translator Henry Blanco during an awkward welcome-to-Chicago media session in a U.S. Cellular Field dugout before Tuesday’s game against the White Sox, forcing the Cubs into damage-control mode with a player who began this season serving a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

Even allowing for the language barrier, this was a completely tone-deaf performance, because reporters asked Chapman about that phone conversation at least six times, getting versions of “It’s been a long day” and “I just got here” and how the Cubs expect him to help this team win the World Series.

“My confidence right now is coming from within,” Chapman said when asked about facing the backlash. “Everything is going to be fine. I’m just going to be the best person I can be. I understand what I went through. And I’m a better person now.”

[RELATED: Cubs make business decision to look past Chapman's domestic violence suspension]

Chapman was accused of choking his girlfriend and reportedly fired multiple gunshots inside his South Florida home during that domestic dispute last October, though the Broward County State Attorney’s Office ultimately did not press criminal charges.

Sitting on the same bench the day before, Epstein had strenuously explained the organization’s rationale, answering questions for more than 33 minutes and recognizing that putting Chapman in a Cubs uniform would provoke all sorts of conflicting emotions.

This was a bad look for a franchise that always talks about doing things the right way, being extremely thorough and believing in character. Blanco sat next to Chapman in a difficult spot, as a quality-assurance coach who played 16 years in the big leagues but doesn’t have any professional training as an interpreter.

“It appears that there was something lost in translation,” Epstein said, “or (Aroldis) didn’t have the recollection immediately.”

Chapman is 28 years old and a four-time All-Star lefty who has been in The Show since 2010. Epstein said Chapman felt “nervous” and directed reporters to the one-on-one pregame interview he did later in Spanish with ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, who had also been in the middle of the group scrum.

“I’ve grown tremendously from that time,” Chapman said, according to an ESPN transcript. “I’m with my girlfriend still, with the family, and I feel that I have absolutely changed as a person. I’m working to be a better person.

“(Now I remember) because they just asked me in the previous press conference what the owners asked me. One of the things they did ask me was about being a better person and being a better neighbor to people. And that’s something that I think that I am now, much more so.”

The Cubs used Alex Suarez, an assistant director in player development and international scouting, as their translator during the MLB-approved call, which also included Barry Praver, Chapman’s agent, who also showed up on the South Side for an introduction that went completely off the scripted talking points.

“(The phone call) happened and it was real,” Epstein said. “We talked to him about the incident and made sure that statement (released to the media on Monday) reflected his real feelings.

“Tom laid out the exact same standards that he lays out to everyone in spring training. He said extremely clearly: ‘Look, Aroldis, I tell all the players this in spring training. It’s important that you hear it. And I need to from you on this. We expect our players to behave. We hold our players to a very high standard with their behavior off the field.’

“That’s exactly what he said: ‘We need to know that you can meet that standard.’ And Aroldis said: ‘I understand. Absolutely, I can.’”

Kris Bryant shakes off collision, embraces opportunity to DH

Kris Bryant shakes off collision, embraces opportunity to DH

Kris Bryant knew exactly who the Cubs were facing Tuesday night in the second game of the Crosstown series.

In a way, Bryant had this game circled on the schedule. 

White Sox starter James Shields was on the mound (as a member of the San Diego Padres) as the starting pitcher for Bryant's big-league debut in April 2015.

Bryant finished that day at Wrigley 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

In the clubhouse before Tuesday's game, a reporter assumed Bryant did not want to face Shields, but the Cubs All-Star third baseman immediately corrected that statement saying he was excited to get another shot at Shields.

Bryant was penciled into the Cubs' lineup as the designated hitter Tuesday after banging his head on Tyler Saladino's knee diving into second base in the ninth inning of Monday's game. 

Bryant was a little shaken up after that play, but stayed in the game for the bottom half of the inning.

"Anything with the head is scary," Bryant said. "I was fortunate enough that it wasn't serious. But after that, I felt fine."

For Tuesday, manager Joe Maddon figured it'd be best to give Bryant a half-day off.

"His head took the brunt of it initially, but he also said he hit his hand on the ground," Maddon said.

[RELATED: Cubs make business decision to look past Chapman's domestic violence suspension]

Maddon originially had Bryant in Tuesday's lineup at third base, but thought better of it and changed his mind and put Tommy La Stella at the hot corner.

Bryant entered play Tuesday 1-for-6 career against Shields, including four strikeouts before striking out three times in four hitless at-bats Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

Bryant admitted DH'ing is a little bit different for him when he's used to the National League game.

"It'd be nice to get out and have fun with it a little bit," Bryant said. "Some of these American League games, it's good for some of us to get a DH here and there.

"It's a little [mental adjustment]. It's tough for us because we don't play DH a lot, so you don't really have anybody to ask here how to prepare for a day like that. But I've done it a couple times. We'll see."

Hector Rondon says Cubs had to take the chance and close Aroldis Chapman deal

Hector Rondon says Cubs had to take the chance and close Aroldis Chapman deal

Hector Rondon saw this coming and understood why the Cubs would target Aroldis Chapman, not letting the trade rumors dent his confidence, even if it would mean losing his job in the ninth inning.

Rondon had a big smile on his face when reporters swarmed his locker inside U.S. Cellular Field’s visiting clubhouse on Monday afternoon, wanting to get his immediate reaction after the Cubs finalized a blockbuster trade with the New York Yankees.

“Everything’s about the team,” Rondon said before a 5-4 walk-off loss to the White Sox. “I know the front office did a really good job to get Chapman. I think if you do have a chance to get that guy, you better take it."

[RELATED: How Joe Maddon plans to unleash Aroldis Chapman]

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein felt exactly the same way, weighing Chapman’s all-world talent and character concerns and giving up the organization’s best prospect (Class-A shortstop Gleyber Torres), a major-league-caliber pitcher (Adam Warren) and two minor-league outfielders (Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford) for a better chance to win the World Series this year.

“Hector’s done a phenomenal job for us and will continue to do so,” Epstein said. “The one thing I wanted to communicate to Hector was that at no point did we say we were worried about Hector Rondon (or) we need to go out and get a new closer.

“Instead, the question we asked ourselves was: How can we get even better so that we can put ourselves in a position to get to the playoffs and try to win three postseason series?

“We feel like this trade made us better because of the importance of having three or four shutdown relievers in the postseason.”

Success stories during the rebuilding years like Rondon – who gradually developed from a Rule 5 pick into a strong closer – allowed the Cubs to confidently make a game-changing trade like this. Rondon converted 18 of 22 save chances before Chapman’s arrival, posting a 1.95 ERA with 48 strikeouts and only five walks in 37 innings.

“I know I did a really good job with my role,” Rondon said. “I don’t care if we’re in the eighth or seventh (inning) – what only matters to me is to come into the game and do my job. It’s only about the win.”