Friday, November 8, 2013
Epstein admits to mistakes in rebuilding
By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- Even while continuing to sell his plan for rebuilding, Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein admits to mistakes over the course of his first two years in charge.
Theo Epstein says the Cubs have to teach hitting in a way that allows players to be themselves.
Although the Cubs have been able to acquire talent throughout the organization over the past two seasons, Epstein says he hasn't provided the best atmosphere at the major league level for development.
"I haven't done a good job at that," he said to a room full of season-ticket holders at the Bank of America Theatre on Friday.
Epstein believes he's fixed that problem with Thursday's hiring of San Diego Padres bench coach Rick Renteria, who replaces Dale Sveum as manager.
The biggest missteps have come in the handling of the offense and specifically his shortstop, Starlin Castro. The Cubs ranked 14th in on-base percentage -- an admitted critical category -- in the National League while Castro hit .245, the lowest of his career.
"That's one area where we had mixed messages," Epstein said. "We had players being pulled in a couple different directions."
That might not bode well for the return of hitting coach James Rowson or his assistant, Rob Deer. And it may have helped cost Sveum his job. Epstein said the Cubs will make coaching decisions in the coming days, and hitting coach will be an important one.
"We do stand for something from an offensive standpoint," Epstein said. "We like to control the zone, we like to get on-base ... We have to teach it in a way that allows players to be themselves."
It's a notion he said often late in the year regarding Castro, who has regressed in his two seasons under this regime. The hope is Renteria can help the two-time All-Star return to stardom.
"When I first saw Starlin Castro come up to the big leagues, he was a kid who had a lot of energy, a lot of joy to go out there and play the game," Renteria told the "Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I get that everybody says here's a kid who has [mental] lapses. I actually know him from the other side, and I've always thought if I believe a young man has a particular limitation -- and let's assume it's just a lapse or focus at a particular time -- if I know that, then it's my job even from the bench quite frankly, to continue to keep guys in tune to what's going on."
Epstein said: "[It's] not the same message for every player, but every player gets just one message."
Epstein wasn't done being "self-critical." A season-ticket holder asked him about pitcher Edwin Jackson's 8-18 season after signing a four-year, $52 million deal last winter.
"Given the situation, I think we could have been more patient," Epstein said. "We could have been more in line with the plan. That said, when there is no pitching you have to find pitching.
"I was being self-critical. Anytime you make an investment that doesn't immediately pay off, especially when you don't have tremendous freedom to make a variety of significant investments, you should be hard on yourself."
Epstein was quick to point out Jackson has three years left to prove himself a worthy addition.
"We believe there is a lot better ahead for Edwin Jackson," Epstein said.