Theo Epstein doesnt regret the Kerry Wood deal

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Theo Epstein doesnt regret the Kerry Wood deal

About 90 minutes after Theo Epstein said you cant make baseball decisions based on public relations, Kerry Wood walked out onto the balcony and heard the roar inside a Hilton Chicago ballroom.

It was a made-for-TV moment, Kid K returning just in time for the start of the Cubs Convention last January.

It had taken almost three months to reach a modest agreement a one-year, 3 million deal that contained a 3 million club option for 2013 (with no buyout).

Near the end of the 2011 season, Wood had joked about losing all his negotiating power by saying hed either pitch for the Cubs or else retire.

But Wood had built up capital with chairman Tom Ricketts and former general manager Jim Hendry. The talks stalled with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, the new administration.

Wood said at one point he had come to terms with another team and was waiting to get the call for a physical.

During his farewell press conference on Saturday at Wrigley Field, Wood made a point to thank Epstein and Hoyer for bringing him back. Relations seem to have improved. The Cubs president would do it all over again.

If youve got 3 million, Epstein said, and youre looking for a veteran reliever with swing-and-miss ability who has a chance to really perform and help, you could do a lot worse than Kerry Wood.

It made sense from a baseball standpoint and it just didnt work out. Thats the way things go. Kerry didnt know it wasnt going to work out either. (But) he really handled himself well and I dont really regret it.

Obviously, no one has a crystal ball, but I think you can never go wrong investing in good people as a rule. If it works out or not that particular time you know what well get the next one.

Epstein was in Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Thursday scouting for the draft when he got a call from Wood around 10 minutes before the Boston College-Duke University game was about to start.

This made it official, though for several days Epstein had an idea that Wood was heading in this direction. They had informal discussions about Woods post-playing career last winter, and Epstein would welcome him into the front office as a special assistant.

Thats all whenever hes ready to talk about it, Epstein said. I always recommend the guys take a period of time completely away from the game.

Its important to get that separation to stop seeing the game as a player and start to see it from a little bit of distance. But he knows that the door is completely open, whatever he wants to do. I can only imagine the benefit that hell have for young pitchers in our organization.

It will be cool to show him the scouting side of things, too. You never know when someone might have a knack for that and really like it. Theres scouting, theres player development, theres the daily machinations of the front office. (Hell) continue his big influence on the community here. So theres more than a full plate awaiting him whenever the time is right.

Epstein found fame inside the superstar culture of the Boston Red Sox. The Yale University student was a summer intern with the Baltimore Orioles during the second half of Cal Ripken Jr.s career. He worked for the San Diego Padres during Tony Gwynns final years.

It can be a really tough dynamic, Epstein said. Because of that, I have even more admiration for how Kerry handled himself. Its very hard for players to evaluate themselves clearly and to know when it might be time. (Its being) able to see their careers and their abilities from 10,000 feet instead of from right up close.

We didnt want him to walk away, but he knows himself better than anybody. I think he did it for all the right reasons. He showed a lot of maturity. I have a lot of respect for how he went about it.

Epstein admitted that he doesnt have the same history with Wood as others in the organization, or the fans in the bleachers. The Cubs president is still new to all this.

But Epstein was struck on Friday while watching Wood walk off the mound and hug his son Justin by the dugout.

The part that resonated most with me, and probably most people, is seeing his son, Epstein said. It was such a genuine moment. I think everyone whos a parent can relate to that. It was really special, genuine and authentic.

You hate to see him have to walk away sooner rather than later. But if it had to happen, its hard to script it any nicer.

Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’

Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Javier Baez plays the game on a higher plane and at such an instinctual level that he can point to the catcher and start celebrating before even catching the ball and dropping a no-look tag.

Baez believes it when he looks back on his World Baseball Classic experience and says: "We're not showing anybody up."

Because the adrenaline surged so quickly for Team Puerto Rico that Baez needed that play to go viral on Twitter to realize what actually happened. Even if elements of that style – and a preplanned win-or-lose parade through San Juan – may have bothered American players like Ian Kinsler and Adam Jones or anyone else with a hot take and a fun-police badge.   

"To be honest, I didn't know I did that until after the game," Baez said. "I got to my phone and I had so many messages and so many videos about it. I was like: 'Oh, whatever, I did it.'"

Baez skipped Thursday's parade after Team USA's 8-0 championship-game victory at Dodger Stadium, returning to Arizona and rejoining a Cubs team where he won't be an everyday player when everyone's healthy. Even after being a National League Championship Series co-MVP and the second baseman on the all-WBC team.

"I'm going to play a lot here," Baez said. "I'm just happy with that."

With a split squad in Las Vegas this weekend, Baez rolled into a quiet, mostly empty clubhouse on Saturday morning in Mesa and sat down in his chair to eat a McDonald's breakfast, a WBC equipment bag stashed in an extra locker. 

The Cubs made Baez their starting shortstop and cleanup hitter for that afternoon's Cactus League game against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Baez spoke with reporters for almost 10 minutes, explaining what it meant to unleash his emotions and represent his island during an economic crisis.

"We do a great job playing and having fun out there," Baez said. "That's what it's all about. This is a game. It's not as serious as a lot of people take it. But, you know, everybody's got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.

"It's their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it's really huge what we did, even though we didn't win. All of Puerto Rico got really together.

"We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that."

Baez appreciated the opportunity to play with Yadier Molina, the Puerto Rican captain and invaluable St. Louis Cardinals catcher. Before facing the Dominican Republic – and All-Star Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez – Baez said Molina joked to teammates: "I can't tell you many details, because then Javy will tell the Cubs."

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Baez confirmed the stories that Puerto Rican fans got so swept up in the tournament that the island ran out of blond hair dye: "Yeah, they really did."

Baez also said that he's not going to keep this look: "No, I'm going to cut it soon. Or dye it back black."

What will this do for Baez beyond his Q rating? Eh, Cubs manager Joe Maddon has already seen the swim moves and freaky tags and trusted Baez enough to start all 17 playoff games at second base last year.

"I don't know that there's going to be any greater impact than the World Series had on him," Maddon said. "There's a strong nationalistic component to this year's WBC. That was great. I think it was fueled by a lot of world events right now. I'm curious to see what's going to happen four years from now, if there's the same kind of interest or passion employed in the games.

"Hopefully, that's true. But it was almost like the perfect storm for the tournament this time around with world politics, national politics and the way everybody reacted to everything right now. I mean, you can't pick up a Twitter account without reading something volatile.

"I'd much prefer being fueled by a World Series than a WBC that happens every fourth year."

Over the years, instructors throughout the minor leagues, including Manny Ramirez, have tried to harness all this raw talent and help Baez develop a routine, make adjustments and play under control. But Baez said the Cubs haven't directly asked him to tone down the "Javy Being Javy" act.

"No, not really," Baez said. "Joe came to me last year about doing the routine plays and not (only) the great plays. That's about it.

"But in the Baseball Classic, I think everything counts. You can do a bat flip. You can pimp whatever you want, because it's the Baseball Classic. You don't know how many times you're going to do that in life. 

"I was really happy to be in it – and really happy that we enjoyed it."

Marian Hossa named Blackhawks' nominee for 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Marian Hossa named Blackhawks' nominee for 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

The Chicago chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association has selected Marian Hossa to be the Blackhawks' nominee for the 2017 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which recognizes perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

The 38-year-old winger has bounced back in a huge way following a 2015-16 campaign where he had only 13 goals and 20 assists in 64 games. 

Hossa is tied for second on the team with 24 goals and ranks sixth on the club with 42 points in 66 contests this season. He ranks fourth among active players with 1,131 points, and recently surpassed Pat Verbeek to move into 35th all-time in goals scored with 523.

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Three finalists from the 30 NHL teams will be named at the end of the regular season.

Pit Martin (1969-70) and Bryan Berard (2003-04) are the only two players in Blackhawks history to win the honor.