Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer seem to have a problem. A big problem. The Cubs’ top two baseball wonks appear to have developed a hole where their credibility and integrity used to be.
Understand, credibility and integrity rank pretty high in a scouting report of general managers and team presidents acting as general manager. In fact, credibility and integrity might rank right behind having good players to trade to other teams, and here’s why:
Other teams won’t deal with you if they can’t trust you to keep your word.
Given what happened with Ryan Dempster the week before the trade deadline and the week after it, Epstein and Hoyer might need to be strapped to a polygraph.
Characterizing Epstein’s and Hoyer’s words and actions as credibility and integrity issues is a polite way of saying they might have lied. Call it what you want, but on Sunday in Los Angeles, Hoyer changed the story the Cubs had been telling about the aborted trade with Atlanta, failed trade talks with the Dodgers, and the last-second deal with Texas.
To recap, about a week before the trade deadline, the Cubs worked out a swap with Atlanta that included highly rated Braves prospect Randall Delgado. After apparently telling the Cubs several weeks earlier he would waive his no-trade rights for Atlanta, among other teams, Dempster refused to accept the trade. In an attempt to force a trade to his desired team, the Dodgers, Dempster claimed he was “blindsided’’ by the Braves deal.
During a session with the media the day after the deadline, Epstein indicated Dempster was wrong, claiming the Cubs had told Dempster at least three days earlier the trade to Los Angeles was unlikely and a deal with Atlanta was nearing.
It was also during that post-deadline session that Epstein offered the surprising revelation that he and Hoyer invited Dempster to sit in their offices in the final hours to hear the trade talks for himself.
“Once (Dempster) came to our office and actually heard the conversations we were having with L.A., he realized, 'OK, maybe that’s actually not going to happen,’ ’’ Epstein said Wednesday, adding it was “helpful to have him there so he could hear first-hand that (a trade) wasn’t going to happen.’’
Sounds like Dempster was in the Cubs’ offices, sitting down and listening in, doesn’t it?
And if it wasn’t clear Wednesday, then Hoyer seconded Epstein’s account Friday during an interview on “The Mully & Hanley Show’’ on WSCR-AM 670. Hoyer said Dempster was brought into his office at the trade deadline for the precise purpose of letting him hear how dead the talks with the Dodgers were.
What’s more, Hoyer cheerily related an anecdote about getting a call from another GM on another deal and telling Dempster to leave his office and find a TV to occupy him for the time being.
For those of your keeping score at home, Tom Ricketts’ top baseball decision-makers were telling the same story to make the same point.
Then, oops. Then the Dodgers heard the story. Then the Dodgers blew up.
Over the weekend, the Dodgers let it be known they were angry over what they viewed as a serious breach of ethics in letting Dempster listen to such conversations. The Dodgers never approved of Dempster’s eavesdropping. They couldn’t because the Cubs never asked them.
Then, suddenly, Hoyer had a different story to tell. Or he needed to cover-up about what really happened. Hard to tell right now, but by Sunday, the man Epstein brought in as his GM was denying all of it and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti supposedly got a call to that effect.
The Cubs’ position is that Epstein’s remarks were “misinterpreted.’’ Didn’t sound like anything was “misinterpreted’’ for several days, did it? Nope, the stories Epstein and Hoyer told matched up -- right up until the Dodgers got mad, exposing a major problem for Epstein and Hoyer.
Here’s the thing: If you listened closely to Epstein during the post-deadline media session, you heard him attempt to defend Dempster while actually exposing the pitcher for his disingenuous ways. Reason is, Epstein needed to protect his ability to trade with the rest of major league baseball, so he made sure that he made public who the bad guy was in the aborted Atlanta trade. Right in the middle of Epstein’s plan was that revelation about Dempster’s listening in on trade talks. Hoyer backed up his boss.
And then suddenly, when their backsides are hanging out there in relation to working with potential trading partners in the future, Hoyer has a different story to tell. Sounds like his nose is growing.
Credibility and integrity are in the eye and ear of the beholder. But the appearance of credibility and integrity issues can be as bad as actual credibility and integrity issues. Epstein and Hoyer seem to have a problem. There’s a hole where their reputations used to be.