Theo Epstein on Chicago Cubs’ Future: “We are excited about it and we hope we do look at this as a turning point.”

April 6, 2012 – 9:40 am by Michael Bean

The Chicago Cubs are one game into the Theo Epstein era, and though the Cubbies failed to get off on the right foot in yesterday’s season opener, expectations and enthusiasm is at a fevered pitch in the Windy City. Why? Because Cubs fans are confident they have the right man in charge to finally architect a World Series caliber team. It probably won’t happen this year of course, but in a National League Central that lacks a dominant team, who knows, maybe the Cubs will find themselves in contention for a precious playoff berth as early as this season.

Epstein joined WSCR in Chicago with Mully and Hanley to talk about if he thinks the Cubs are at a turning point as an organization with him serving as president, how he deals with all the mania and hype surrounding his arrival in Chicago as the leader of the Cubs organization, whether he thinks there’s enough power in the lineup, particularly at the corner infield positions, and his assessment of the personality and make-up of the Cubs locker room.

Whether he agrees that this is a turning point for the Cubs organization:

“Well I hope we look back on it as that, but it’s not appropriate to say any one individual is responsible. There’s so many people working hard behind the scenes to try to create progress and move in the right direction. We’re excited about what we were able to do so far in the winter and spring training. Dale and the guys ran a great spring training. So yeah we are excited about it and we hope we do look at this as a turning point.”

On dealing with all the expectations and mania surrounding his arrival in Chicago:

“Well a couple of different ways. One, I joke about it. I think if you take it seriously it can really affect your sanity as a human being. Number two, you have to not really attach any meaning to it because whenever you’re getting praised or expectations are heaved on you or things are going well and you’re getting a lot of attention, if you embrace that, if you let it in, then by connection, when things are going poorly, whenever you’re getting criticism, whenever people are on you for things, then you have to attach meaning to that as well consequently. So if you don’t want to bring yourself down by what people who you don’t even know you think about you when things are going poorly, and you shouldn’t, then you can’t really let it in and appreciate it when people are saying nice things about you. In the end, it’s all just noise. What we have to do is just focus internally on what we’re trying to do to create progress. And then as a human being, I have to focus on myself. I know my strengths and weaknesses, I know what I need to do to get better. In the end, what people who don’t know me think about me doesn’t mean a heck of a lot. I’ve got a job to do, we have a job to do collectively, and that’s what we’re focused on.”

Whether he’s concerned about there being enough power in the corner infield positions:

“I think we have power in the corner infield. If you look at Ian Stewart’s raw power and hopefully power frequency, it’s one of the strengths of his game along with his defense. He’s a guy who can hit the ball a long way, and pitchers have to be careful with him because of that. And Brian O’Hair has hit 35-plus home runs in the minor leagues in winter ball. He has the ability to hit the ball out of the park as well. They’re both not established Major League players yet, but they have plenty of offensive capability and plenty of offensive upside. There’s plenty of power there. Maybe we don’t have a ton of power up and down the lineup, we maybe lack power in some other places. But I think in the corner infield, those guys have the ability to hit the ball out of the ball park.”

If he thinks there’s enough personality on the Cubs roster:

“There are a lot of different ways to skin a cat — it depends on the personality of the team, the make up of the team. When I first got to Boston, the team was maybe a little too overly serious and was sort of bothered by the small clubhouse and the media attention and some dysfunctionality that was going on in the manager’s office and the front office. So we tried to loosen things up and add some character and some fun loving guys to the clubhouse — Kevin Millar and David Ortiz, guys with some big personalities that helped define the personality of that team. Then it reached a point — we won a World Series that way — but it went a little too far. Guys lost the professionalism and the grind and the attention to detail that you have to have, so we brought in some guys who would sort of bring it back the other way. So it ebbs and flows, each year is a little different, it’s a collection of 25, 50 guys by the end of the year will come through that clubhouse one way or another. So it really depends. I think right now, in Chicago, we want guys who want to work hard, who take pride in the uniform, guys who will be the most prepared and first and foremost, guys who care about the other 24 and support one another. I’m really pleased about the personality of this club — they do support each other and care about each other. And that’s how you overachieve in baseball. You need the sum to be greater than the whole of the parts. And that happens when players start caring about one another.”

Listen here to Epstein with Mully & Hanley on WSCR in Chicago

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