CHICAGO -- There is no denying that Cubs fans are in the midst of an incredible period in the franchise's long history. The run of success has set a new standard of expectation, however, and last season's sudden conclusion, followed by a quiet winter filled with talk of budget limitations,
CHICAGO -- There is no denying that Cubs fans are in the midst of an incredible period in the franchise's long history. The run of success has set a new standard of expectation, however, and last season's sudden conclusion, followed by a quiet winter filled with talk of budget limitations, has bred plenty of frustration.
So, while Day 2 of Cubs Convention was filled with its usual tone of celebration and silliness -- such as Anthony Rizzo saying hello to fans via FaceTime or bullpen catcher Chad Noble doing a Cossack dance on stage -- there were questions that needed to be answered. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who usually is joined by general manager Jed Hoyer for a morning panel, opted to do this year's town hall-style session alone.
"I'll stay as long as you guys want," Epstein told the crowd. "The fact that you have questions and concerns just shows me that you care and are passionate. You care about the Cubs and winning as much as we do. You love that feeling of being on top just like we do. And we all want to stay there together."
After a brief introductory statement, Epstein handled 50 minutes of questions. Here are some of the highlights from that wide-ranging session.
On process of learning from last season's ending:
"I spent more time talking to players this offseason in person and over the phone than I ever have. There's been a ton of work behind the scenes -- some of which is not appropriate to go into. But, trust me, it's happening. And everyone in the organization was honest either with themselves or with me or with somebody else, and has taken accountability for what happened. And then, you have to act on it and make adjustments.
"Urgency is the opposite of complacency. And I don't think we've been overly complacent or anything, but if we're being honest with ourself and taking accountability for it, we do need to make a little bit of an adjustment and from Day One of the season play with more urgency, because this is a really competitive division. And what an awful feeling that was at the end of last year."
On whether manager Joe Maddon will receive a contract extension:
"I sure hope so. And Joe's been an instrumental, fundamental, essential part of the success that's happened here. ... Now, we're at a point where we're at a different phase as an organization. We're all making adjustments and the great thing about Joe is that, even though he's a little bit older than me, he's never standing still. He's never satisfied. He's a creative person and I think he's an adaptable person. He's someone who likes a challenge and is someone who's going to bring great energy to solving any problem.
"He's so fired up about next season and trying to make some of those adjustments and change the tone around the team and create a little sense of urgency. My bet is that it goes extraordinarily well with Joe and with the whole group and that he's here for a long time to come."
On dealing with financial restrictions this winter:
"When we do our jobs really artfully, you never notice the budget, right? Because we've created a lot of flexibility, we have a lot of moveable pieces, we can get everything done that we want to get done. But, when we haven't done our jobs and I haven't done my job as artfully, or I haven't gotten the outcome that we expect enough, we're going to be in a situation that's not as flexible. So, we can't always be as aggressive. We can't always get everything that we want. But, the way the budget is being treated this year is no different than how it's been treated in the past."
On team chairman Tom Ricketts not doing a Cubs Convention panel with fans:
"I understand the optics of that, but I will say in their defense that decision was made months and months ago based on the feedback from previous panels. But, I will say, Tom is a guy that is the most accessible owner in baseball. This guy literally walks through the stands every single game talking to fans. I know how that looks, but I want you to try to remember that. Any question that you have for Tom or for me in this area, I will talk to him about that."
On including women in baseball operations:
"There's no way we can be as good as we want to be unless we have women contributing. We have a number of vice presidents at the Cubs who are women. On the baseball side, we recently hired a young woman to be a scout. We also have a young woman, Ella Cahill, who's done a fantastic job in our scouting department, has been in our player development operations, and is on the rise. We had a young woman named Meghan Jones who started out as an executive assistant to me and to Jed who was recently promoted."
On his comment about the offense being broken at season's end:
"What I said was that in the second half, the offense broke. There's a difference between something that broke and something that is currently broken. As of today, I don't think our offense is broken or defective or something that's permanently damaged. I think we had an almost inexplicable change in performance in the second half of last year. ... I think this offense is going to be a lot better this year than it was last year."
Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.