If yesterday wasn’t one of the greatest baseball days of the year, it was certainly in the team photo. Four playoff games fed our baseball jones for nearly 11 hours and, if you’re like me, provided a decent workout for your remote control. There’s nothing quite like postseason baseball, even if your favorite team is sitting out this year’s festivities.
That doesn’t mean that 22 teams are sitting idly by waiting for someone to light the hot stove. The Cubs have already made two coaching decisions: The team will be looking for a replacement for hitting coach Anthony Iapoce while seeking someone to fill the shoes of esteemed strategist Mike Borzello. Jed Hoyer is also negotiating an extension for manager David Ross and, as we’ve discussed in the comments section for most of the week, he will likely name his general manager soon.
On Wednesday I identified a couple of intriguing GM candidates that could be under consideration, and on Thursday I detailed the qualifications of Red Sox assistant vice president/assistant GM Raquel Ferreira. Yesterday we discussed how Hoyer should avoid irrational exuberance when it comes to shopping the free-agent market. One thing we haven’t talked about is risk management, which may be the most important aspect of running an MLB organization.
The attribute that most separates Hoyer from Theo Epstein is how each manages risk. Epstein usually takes calculated risks but will handcuff himself when given too large a budget. It happened in Boston and it happened again here in Chicago, where the former president of baseball operations kept trying to throw money at his mistakes until he exhausted his bank account. Entering the Winter Meetings with the equivalent of pocket change is no way to sustain success, especially when your organization has failed miserably to develop starting pitchers. Epstein has now struck out twice in avoiding a dreaded rebuild.
"Things can change quickly. I think that's the goal."
Jed Hoyer watched Schwarber and Rizzo belt playoff homers for other teams Tuesday night, On Wednesday, Hoyer discussed how to start building toward getting his team back on that October stage:https://t.co/8wJXMTEbgo
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) October 6, 2021
Hoyer, on the other hand, almost
boldly coldly understands the necessity of mitigating risk. He traded Yu Darvish within a month of taking the reins from Epstein because analytics indicated Darvish was on the precipice of regression. He traded away his core at the deadline — not an easy task given the players’ popularity — because he knew he could net more than had he kept them and given each a qualifying offer. Though he kind of threw his players under the bus a day later, let’s not forget he moved each of them to playoff-ready teams and/or ideal personal situations.
He also freed each from the possibility of receiving a qualifying offer, which will enable Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Báez to enter free agency unfettered so they can maximize their value on the open market. That should go a long way toward disproving he is simply a hatchet man for Tom Ricketts or an Epstein flunky.
Most companies have a risk manager or team in place to protect company assets, limit detrimental incidents, and maximize productivity. Good baseball teams do too, and the best ones usually operate with lower payrolls — like the A’s, Rays, and Cardinals — because those teams have no other choice. When Hoyer says he is more interested in winning than “winning the offseason,” he is speaking like a true risk manager. Proper operational strategy and decision-making require reliable, timely, and up-to-date information rather than boatloads of cash just waiting to be spent willy-nilly in the open market.
Running a baseball organization is no longer tied solely to talent evaluation, and most top executives have a staff to handle those types of player appraisals. Mitigating risk, making sound operational and financial decisions, and anticipating and avoiding potential negative events will lead to optimized and sustained on-field performance. The Rays have proved that better than anybody.
Epstein failed miserably in that respect after winning the championship in 2016. Other than letting Kyle Schwarber walk away for nothing, Hoyer seems to be on top of things and has given the Cubs flexibility and mobility that has been missing since 2017. We may not like every move he makes, but he does have the best interests of the organization in mind. The smart money says he will hire a like-minded individual to be his second in command.
Cubs News & Notes
- If you haven’t seen Hoyer’s end-of-year presser and you have an hour to kill, you can watch it in its entirety here.
- Though Rizzo thoroughly enjoyed his time with the Yankees, an AL East rival may prove to be a better fit for the first baseman next season.
- Hoyer stopped short of naming Frank Schwindel the team’s starting first baseman, but he did say the fan-favorite will be an integral part of next year’s squad.
- You’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to read it, but Nico Hoerner can help bridge the gap to whatever comes next for the organization.
- Craig Kimbrel had a rough outing yesterday and White Sox fans aren’t very happy that Rick Hahn gave the Cubs Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer to acquire the reliever.
- Though there will be plenty of moves before Opening Day, Chicago’s top 30 prospect list remains loaded with the likes of Brennen Davis, Brailyn Márquez, and Cristian Hernandez with a lot of intriguing players making up the midrange, such as Jordan Wicks, James Triantos, Owen Caissie, Alexander Canario, DJ Herz, and Caleb Kilian. Those players should move up the ladder before next season.
- In case you missed it, Davis and Herz were named the organization’s top minor league players for 2021.
From the Front Office
“I think pro scouting and all the other guys in the office [research and development], analytics, we’re obviously looking carefully at both the free-agent market and the trade market. I think it’s our job to get ahead of that to make sure we’re as prepared as possible from an evaluation standpoint, [and] as prepared [as possible] from a strategic standpoint. We will spend this whole month preparing and then we’ll be ready to go when the offseason starts.” – Hoyer
Odds & Sods
I can’t love this picture of Dave Parker and teammates enough.
— Vintage Jerseys & Hats (@PolyesterUnis) October 7, 2021
Postseason News & Notes
The Astros, who are just one victory away from their fifth straight ALCS, have a .584 postseason winning percentage since 2015.
Broadcaster Jim Kaat is in some hot water for an insensitive statement he directed at White Sox third baseman Yoán Moncada. Kaat apologized (Ed. note: The “apology” was super weak sauce) for the remark.
The Red Sox blasted five home runs and pounded out 20 hits on their way to a 14-6 win over the Rays, tying their series at one game apiece.
In a pitchers’ duel that never really felt like the classic description of such a game, the Brewers beat the Braves to take the first game of their series.
The baseball catchphrase in Milwaukee this summer has been “claws up.” Make of it what you will.
The Giants went one up on the Dodgers last night thanks to a masterful performance by their starting pitcher.
Buster Posey caught his 13th postseason shutout last night, which is a major league record. He also came really close to being the first right-handed hitter to smoke a home run completely out of Oracle Park.
- Logan Webb – Raise your hand if you heard of the Giants starter before he stifled the Dodgers with 10 strikeouts through 7.2 innings last night.
- Rowdy Tellez – He was just 1-for-3 last night, but he nailed Jorge Soler at home to complete a 1st inning double play, and his two-run homer off of Charlie Morton was the difference in Milwaukee’s 2-1 win over the Braves.
- Kiké Hernández – The Boston outfielder had five hits last night, tying an MLB postseason record, and also became the first Red Sox player ever with four extra-base hits in a playoff game. Hernández received no love from FOX Sports after hitting a home run though, and baseball fans had a field day on social media.
- Tanner Houck – When Houck struck out Manuel Margot in the 4th inning of last night’s game, it marked his 27th consecutive out over two relief appearances.
- Bryant – Memories, pressed between the pages of our minds. Bryant was 3-for-3 last night with a home run.
How About That!
Major League Baseball has announced the 14 finalists for this year’s Hank Aaron Award, which recognizes the most outstanding offensive player in the regular season from both the American and the National Leagues.
Cardinals television viewership ranks first in all of baseball.
I’d take KB back in an instant and if I never hear “Bryant the Giant” again, I’ll be a happy man. What say you?
Kris Bryant with a Giant blast! pic.twitter.com/CZtpKooTuN
— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) October 9, 2021
They Said It
- “From Tom [Ricketts] at the top and Jed [Hoyer] all the way down, these guys are pros. They know what they’re doing. They know how to construct a team. They’ve been around the game so long and they know how to evaluate talent. So I’m really excited to just have my trust in them and really excited for them to have this opportunity and see what they go out and do and how they construct this team.” – Kyle Hendricks
Saturday Walk-Up Song
Have You Ever Seen the Rain by Creedence Clearwater Revival – It’s easy to root for Bryant, but it’s also bittersweet to see him owning the Dodgers while wearing another uniform.