Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs have never been shy about discussing their need to take their time in rebuilding the franchise. The Cubs lost 101 games a year ago, finishing with the second-worst record in all of baseball, but Epstein says fans have relatively patient with him and he still sees the team as being headed down the right path. Theo Epstein joined WSCR in Chicago with Mully and Hanley to discuss this season’s expectations, the patience of the Cubs’ fan base, the talent of first baseman Anthony Rizzo and the situations with Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano.
What are you expecting in 2013?
“The most important thing that can happen is we continue to develop our young core and those guys continue to get better and we identify members of the nucleus that’s going to serve us well for a long time. And hopefully it will lead to a winning and successful season. I think Cubs fans will notice a lot of differences right off the bat, especially with respect to our pitching staff. I think we’re undeniably deeper and have more talent.”
Do you have a sense for where the fan base stands right now when it pertains to patience and the rebuilding process?
“We’ve been very transparent about the fact that we’re building something and we’re not going to take short cuts. … I never put a timeline on anything. We’re trying to win this year, too, but we’re being open about the fact that we should continue to progress and days in the future are probably going to be better than the days in the present. … They’ve been incredibly patient. To sum it up, I’d say most are along for the ride. They’re buying in.”
Do you see Anthony Rizzo as an elite talent?
“I think he’s got a chance to be. He’s got a lot of growth opportunity remaining and he needs to grow, because the bar is set so high at first base. He’s got to get on base a ton. He’s got to have a lot of power. You’ve got to continue to be a well-rounded player. He’s got a 250-pound frame right now, and he’s 23 years old. As he moves into his prime, he’s got to find a way to maintain his all-around game.”
What’s up with Carlos Marmol and his future with the team?
“First off, we’re in the same place that we’ve been all along. In the case of Alfonso [Soriano], he’s a very important part of the team, not only with the production he brings to the table but also the leadership that he brings. If you’re trying to develop young impact players, it really helps to have a veteran who goes about business the right way. … That said, we’ve been open with him that if the right team came along … we’d sit down and talk to him about it. We have not been in that position this winter. … In Marmol’s case, first off and most importantly, we take those type of accusations very seriously and have looked into it. I’m happy to report that every single piece of information we’ve attained … shows that this will follow a very similar path to the Castro incident, where as information comes to light, he’ll be cleared of charges, but we have to let that play out. That said, Carlos is our closer.”