Cleat Geeks

Wrigley Weekly Wrap-up

 

gettyimages-455499210-e1466451699504Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein had dinner in Arizona during Spring Training and the contract extension topic came up. Epstein’s deal, which he signed in October 2011, was to expire this month. “I told him I thought he was the best in the game at what he did,” Ricketts said, “and he told me no matter what I paid him, he wasn’t going to leave Chicago, so we were off to a good start.” The two met three more times during the season to finalize the details, and on Wednesday, Ricketts officially announced a new five-year extension for Epstein. “It’s everything I could have asked for,” Epstein said. “There’s no place I’d rather be. I think I said five years ago, it’s a great day to be a Cub, and I still feel that way. I still envision feeling that way for the foreseeable future.” Epstein brought several of his Red Sox staff with him when he came to Chicago, including general manager Jed Hoyer and player development and scouting director Jason McLeod. Both Hoyer and McLeod received contract extensions as well. “We had some good pieces and we had some good players in the beginning, but the organization itself was not in a position where you could believe there was sustainability and consistency and success on the field,” Ricketts said. He added: “Obviously, Theo and the guys he brought with him five years ago took the organization down to the studs and started rebuilding. I give a lot of credit to Theo and Jed and everybody on that team, but I also give a lot of credit to all of our fans who basically heard our story, listened to us throughout. I think the time and energy to do it the right way has paid off with a team that should be successful for years to come.” Under Epstein, the Cubs were 61-101 in 2012, 66-96 in ’13, 73-89 in ’14, and 97-65 last year, earning a Wild Card spot and advancing to the National League Championship Series. This year, the Cubs won the NL Central and they reached 100 wins for the sixth time in franchise history and first time since 1935. They also finished the year with the best record in the Major Leagues. “I see this contract and show of faith from the Ricketts [family] in me as a validation of everybody,” Epstein said. “The contract is a product of all the hard work that literally hundreds of people have performed to make this a healthier, better baseball operation.” When Epstein left Boston to take on the challenge of rebuilding the Cubs, he said it came at the right time in his life. “When you’re in one place for 10 years and have some success, pressure builds and things get more complicated sometimes,” Epstein said. “The more success you have, the bigger things get and sometimes the heavier the burden as well. Just given my personality, I felt like a new challenge would help me restore my passion and my spirit for the job, and being able to start anew and build something from the ground up was really appealing to me. This has been a wonderful environment in which to work, in which to build, in which to make great new friends and stand shoulder to shoulder with some amazing people from the top to the bottom of the organization, as we try to accomplish something that has a lot of meaning to all of us in the organization. I’m thrilled with the decision, I’m thrilled with how things have gone.”

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On Friday, Manager Joe Maddon admitted that he’s had the Cubs’ postseason rotation set in his mind for about a week, but he was not ready to reveal it until he can meet with the front office and coaching staff. “We haven’t had that final conversation with [president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] and [general manager Jed Hoyer] and everybody else, all of our coaches,” Maddon said. “What I like to do under these circumstances is talk to the players first before they have to read about it in the newspaper.” With Jason Hammel missing his start on Friday because of tightness in his right elbow, he could be the odd man out, leaving Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. The Cubs, who clinched the National League Central in mid-September, won’t know who they will face in the NL Division Series until the Wild Card Game is played on October 5th. The NLDS begins Friday, October 7th at Wrigley Field. The question is: would Maddon change the rotation depending on their opponent? “At this point, I don’t think it really does [matter],” Maddon said. “We haven’t finalized it. We have the right to change things.” Whoever starts Game 3 on October 10th will have an extended break. Maddon will meet with the team on Tuesday for a postseason pep talk, but it won’t be long. The topic will be how to keep your focus when things go wrong. Maddon also said he doesn’t want his players to change a thing in the postseason. “That’s the threat now, is that you have to do something more or greater than or know more or there’s more tricky stuff to do,” Maddon said Sunday. “I want us to prep the same way we’ve been playing.” As I mentioned before, the Cubs will open the postseason on Friday, hosting Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the winner of the NL Wild Card Game.

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