Chicago Cubs: Change has come, just not in the way you’d like

Theo Epstein, David Ross, Chicago Cubs (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
Theo Epstein, David Ross, Chicago Cubs (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

Change has come to the Chicago Cubs this winter. The only problem is it’s not change fans can see as it’s taken place almost exclusively behind the scenes.

It might sound like a cop-out for Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein. In an offseason that’s seen the Cubs make a whopping two big league free agent signings to-date, talking about the array of internal improvements that fans can’t see makes for a tough sell.

"“In general, I think what most fans focus on – and rightfully so – is major-league transactions over the winter,” Hoyer told fans at last month’s Cubs Convention (subscription required). “So much of our job is taken up not only on major-league transactions but also making sure that we have the right infrastructure to support everything in baseball. In some ways, this has probably been our most active winter that we’ve ever had.”"

More from Cubbies Crib

When the team emerged from a lengthy rebuild halfway through the 2015 campaign and erased more than a century of championship drought, they stood atop the baseball world in multiple ways. Not only did they hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy after Game 7 in Cleveland, but by most accounts, they were the model organization in every way.

Teams like the Houston Astros followed the Cubs’ blueprint – winning a title of their own and emerging as an American League powerhouse in following years. But as teams like the Astros built on what the Cubs started, it’s widely believed Chicago let their foot off the gas and are now trying to catch up to the league’s best teams in many regards.

That starts with this offseason’s overhaul of the front office. Epstein has gone outside traditional avenues to add to the organization, bringing in guys like Driveline instructor Casey Jacobson and Justin Stone, who had founded his own baseball training facility and worked for the Cubs in recent years. These aren’t traditional hires – but they fall into line with the growing trend of hiring the best minds, rather than baseball lifers, in key roles.

Data and science are king in today’s game – like it or not. You might believe the good ole’ eye test is still the best way to evaluate players and I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Numbers don’t lie – and having analysis and figures at your disposal that other teams don’t gives you an inherent competitive advantage.

"“I’m not the smartest guy in the room,” first-year manager David Ross said during the coaching staff panel at Cubs Convention. “I’ve got a lot of guys (who) are going to help me be a lot smarter and look a lot smarter. That’s what I’m going to depend on. I’m going to rely on guys who interact with me, push me, make me better.”"

Next. What the Betts trade can tell us about a Bryant deal. dark

It starts at the top – with Epstein and Hoyer rewriting the book every part of the organization lives by on a day-to-day basis. Ross and his coaching staff already buy in, which is huge in and of itself. Now, you have to hope it pays dividends, because we’ve seen the Cubs trend in the wrong direction in recent years and without major moves this offseason, everything is riding on internal change.