Drawing conclusions on the first day can be dangerous, but hey, it’s what we do.
And so, the conclusion from the introductory news conference for the Cubs’ new general manager and new scouting and player development honcho Tuesday is that titles mean little. For now, at least.
Theo Epstein is the president of baseball operations, but he sounded like the GM he was in Boston.
Epstein seemed to run interference for his new GM, Jed Hoyer, on some of the big questions about the major league club --- questions that were directed to Hoyer, by the way. Epstein said with a chuckle that Hoyer should get the softball questions on his first day, but it felt as if Epstein was protecting Hoyer from, well, what exactly? Sounding like he was the GM, perhaps.
I could be wrong, but if Hoyer could trade Adrian Gonzalez, he could certainly offer a thought on manager Mike Quade, dissident Carlos Zambrano, and big-money, 30-something, free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
But Epstein jumped in, offering answers you’d expect from a GM, titular or otherwise.
Ramirez is gone, not worth the ransom when his future production won’t match his past performance.
Quade will be gone within a week. Epstein said he and Hoyer spent six or seven hours with Quade, and while I have no idea what could take up that much time, other than mastering Quade’s nickname decoder ring, I’ll give the new guys points for being complete.
Zambrano likely will follow. Epstein said he and his new gang of three have to “go through our process,’’ which is more than Zambrano would seem to deserve.
Fine. Good. Those moves would be the right thing in the wake of a new administration bent on changing the culture from top to bottom.
Start at the bottom when dealing with scouting and development, but start at the top when it involves the product you’re presenting to the fans.
Hoyer certainly seems facile enough to deliver such answers, but it felt as if Epstein will make the GM decisions. Or at least the early big-money GM decisions.
I believe Epstein’s bunch when the new guys say they’ll all have a voice but also will come to a consensus. I just think it will be the consensus that Epstein wants. For now, at least.
Fine. Good. Because that, too, would be the right thing. That’s the way the Cubs should want it.
I feared that new Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts would commit the old TribCo stupidity of over-promoting the Next Great Hire. See Stanton Cook --- yeesh --- for details. Same goes for Andy MacPhail. The Cubs' tradition was practicing the Peter Principle of promoting people to their level of incompetence.
Ideally, the Cubs would bring in Epstein not to politic the city’s alderwonks but to create a baseball organization for the new millennium. They would hire him to build a scouting system that feeds the major league monster the way it did in Boston on the way to two World Series. They wanted him to make big-money decisions on players.
When they named him president, there was worry. But a week after his coronation, it’s clear that Epstein is the de facto GM, no matter the titles. Obviously, the titles were done to free them from their previous teams, but Epstein and Hoyer are resuming their GM-assistant GM roles and relationship. But that’s what you wanted the Cubs to hire.
It would be easy to remark that you never saw Epstein’s lips move as Hoyer answered questions. Especially easy for me. But I won’t. Do you know how much discipline that requires for me?
Hey, it’s a new era, and I’m all for it.
At least until Epstein puts Zambrano on the opening day roster. Then, it’s batting practice.
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