Theo Epstein told Cubs fans on Wednesday, October 3rd that the team needs to start re-evaluating players based on production, and not just on sheer talent and potential. And Cubs fans, you should welcome that approach.
Too often in this city, general managers, coaches, and even fans become enamored with their own players or are overwhelmed by their own investment in a particular player, that they are blinded to the true realities of each player’s skillset.
After a late-season collapse and vanishing offense, Theo Epstein says Cubs will shift emphasis from evaluating talent to analyzing production https://t.co/V6nrZkmywe via @MDGonzales pic.twitter.com/YyiifECHOS
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) October 4, 2018
Just look at the Bulls. There was no reason why energizer Joakim Noah or ‘Captain’ Kirk Hinrich should’ve lasted as long as they did with the Bulls, or how Cameron Payne still has a job just to try to prove the team actually did get value in the Doug McDermott trade. Gar/Pax over-valued the try-hard era of the Bulls for way too many seasons, and that is why they had to start from scratch with Fred Hoiberg just a few years ago.
The Cubs are in an interesting spot where they are coming off 4 straight playoff appearances, yet need to answer these same questions. Some key players that fans have grown to love after historic 2016 and even 2017 seasons, are now facing the true reality that their long-term future may not be with the Cubs. And that’s ok.
Epstein made it clear that after two disappointing playoff exits in a row, that change is coming. So sorry for those of you that were upset after having to sell your favorite Fontenot or Theriot jerseys upon their departure, because the same could be true for Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Carl Edwards Jr, Addison Russell and potentially Albert Almora.
These 5 players are still all ‘potential’ players and have yet to prove themselves into the players they were supposed to become. Will they be able to achieve their greatness, or will they simply be a miscalculation as Fontenot and Theriot were?
While hideous domestic violence allegations have followed Addison Russell off the field, he was supposed to be a cornerstone at shortstop for a decade. Even Len Kasper called him a future MVP. Schwarber was supposed to become the Cubs’ home-run leader at DH, assuming the NL adopts the practice in the next few years, and Almora and Happ would round out a gold-glove outfield alongside Jayson Heyward. And Carl Edwards Jr.? He was supposed to be groomed into the shut-down closer after sitting behind Chapman, Davis and Morrow over the last 3 seasons.
Question: Why is Kyle Schwarber on the Cubs if not for moments like the one that just passed: bases loaded, a playoff game, and the season on the line?
— David Haugh (@DavidHaugh) October 3, 2018
But at the end of the 2018 season, while Cubs fans have grown used to seeing these players each and every day at Wrigley Field, are they the right players to get this team back on track to contend for another World Series title? Or are they just still here because of their name, and not necessarily their production?
Besides Almora in the outfield, all five players regressed this season both offensively and defensively, with not enough flashes of greatness to provide an optimistic outlook for 2019 and beyond. And the player not on this list with the most questions coming into 2018, Javier Baez, put together an almost-MVP 2018 season if it were not for Christian Yelich getting in the way down the stretch of the season.
Players that were locks in 5 positions for the next 5-10 years are suddenly question marks. All of these players should not be taking their spots on this roster for granted, and Epstein made that very clear in his end-of-season press conference.
In addition to all of these questions comes the more recent news regarding the firing of one-and-done hitting coach Chili Davis. And these two topics are not unrelated.
While a whole article could be devoted to the Cubs offensive struggles in 2018, the most important aspect to me was the quotes from Sahadev Sharma in the Athletic, that our very own Aldo Soto, brought up in his latest article for Sports Mockery.
Sharma wrote that it was not necessarily that Davis was at fault for the bad offense, but that players were not ready to understand or embrace what Davis had to offer. Maddon said that the Cubs players were now entering their graduate program with a coach like Davis at the helm, but it was clear they were ‘a few credits shy’ in 2018 according to Sharma.
As the #Cubs part ways with Chili Davis, we look at their numbers at the plate BEFORE and AFTER the All-Star break.
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) October 12, 2018
If that is not an indictment of the 2018 Cubs players on offense, I don’t know what is. If we just focus on the hitters, what does that say about Schwarber, Happ, Almora and Russell? Were they just betting on their raw talent and clout on the team that they didn’t think they had to embrace a coach who was trying to make them better? Did they think they’re too good and have achieved so much already that they don’t need any more coaching? Whatever they thought, they were wrong.
Theo Epstein: "I've never been part of something like this offensively and I never want to be again. … We should be an offensive force."
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) October 3, 2018
So if that’s the case, why fire Davis if it was the players’ fault and lack of commitment day in and day out? Epstein even brought that up, calling out daily commitment to each and every game as a factor.
Unfortunately, I think a move had to be made, and before the Cubs can take a full re-evaluation of their roster, they had to find some scapegoat for the struggles of 2018. It doesn’t make the move right or just, but it buys them some time to take a deep dive into their roster. And fans will simply have to wait and see what newly-named hitting coach Anthony Iapoce will bring to this group in 2019.
But in the aftermath of this frustrating season and firing, Cubs fans need to know one thing. The Cubs are not done making moves. And if the reports are true above, there are many players who need to take a look in the mirror and understand that their jobs may not be safe just because of past performance or future potential. If a player could not take the time to engrain themselves in a new offensive approach because they had a World Series title to their name, will they ever re-commit themselves to the game they’ve spent their life training and playing?
Imagine if Mitch Trubisky showed up and said he didn’t care what Matt Nagy’s offensive philosophy was and that he was just going to bet on his arm strength and instinct vs game planning, footwork, pass progressions and more. He would fall right on his face. The NFL would eat him up.
This backward mentality is exactly what the some of the Cubs young ‘stars’ are doing by betting on themselves and past performance to get them through any adversity, instead of re-committing themselves to the game and upgrading their offensive approaches.
The Cubs have put all players on notice after their latest press conference, and if you’re Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Addison Russell, Albert Almora Jr, and even Carl Edwards Jr, you cannot take that lightly.
Re-evaluating the Cubs roster based on production and not talent alone should be a cause for excitement for Cubs fans, and also serve as a strike of fear, for many in the Cubs clubhouse.