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Theo Epstein: ‘Ton of change is in order’ if Cubs don’t turn it around

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The Washington Nationals began June in an awful place. Everyone was freaking out and everyone assumed that their manager would be fired. They were the top choice in everyone’s “biggest busts of 2019” list.

They have a better record than the Chicago Cubs do right now. Heck, the Cubs are tied with the White Sox in the loss column.

Which sort of explains Theo Epstein taking about making big changes soon if things don’t shape up on the north side. Here he was on Chicago’s on 670 The Score yesterday:

“If we don’t snap out of this, a lot of change is called for, that’s obvious . . . We’re all really frustrated, obviously. It’s a stretch of play that nobody is proud of, nor should anybody be. It’s hard. But you find out a lot about what people are made of during stretches like these. It obviously can’t continue. It’s not acceptable  . . . if this stretch of bad play continues, then certainly a ton of change is in order.”

Of course, as Patrick Mooney points out in his column about all of this, the Cubs remain only a game out of first place in the NL Central thanks to the Brewers and Cardinals putting up equally disappointing showings thus far. If the Cubs played in the NL East they’d be six back. If they played in the West they’d be 13.5 back. In the National League they’re in a virtual tie with Washington for the second Wild Card but in the AL they’d be looking up at five teams ahead of them for the Wild Card.

So, yeah, not ideal.

What kind of big changes might Epstein be thinking about if the Cubs can’t snap out of it? Mooney talks about dealing off bullpen parts such as Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler, hoping Cole Hamels can get healthy and shopping him and, perhaps, canning their lame duck manager, Joe Maddon, as they look to re-load for 2020.

That’d be quite the thing given this team’s expectations. It’d be even more of a thing if the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals all continue to struggle and Epstein sees and opportunity to improve with those kinds of deals even while there’s a realistic chance to make the playoffs. The question — which I doubt Epstein would answer right now but which he no doubt has to consider — is whether it’s better to limp into the playoffs, clearly inferior to the Dodgers, Braves and other NL contenders, or if it’s better to try to re-jigger things for next year.

Which is to say: would Theo do a white-flag trade?

 

Roger Clemens says he’s not running for Congress

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Apparently some people in Texas wanted Roger Clemens to run for Congress? At least enough people to where Clemens felt it necessary to tell Pete Olson, the congressman whose seat is going vacant due to his retirement, that, no, he had no interest in running for it.

From ESPN:

“The climate in politics at this time is much more than I would want to undertake, along with my family considerations,” Clemens said in a message to Olson that was obtained by ABC News.

“I am a Republican and I support our President and will continue to do so,” Clemens said. “No matter who our President may be, I will continue my support of them and root for them to be successful, just as I did when President Obama was in office.”

That’s a pretty diplomatic answer from Clemens. But even if he did not have family concerns and even if the “climate” disinterested him, I’m struggling to imagine Clemens as a viable political candidate in the first place.

For as good a pitcher as he was — and for as generally popular as he may be in Texas — the guy has some serious baggage, right? And I mean that beyond just the broad arc of the PEDs controversy that surrounded him for so long. The specifics of that controversy spun off his indictment for perjury before Congress, for example. He was acquitted — and I think it was a proper acquittal — but that was not exactly his finest hour.

It also led to a nasty battle of defamation lawsuits with a drug dealer that, remarkably, caused Clemens to come off way worse than the drug dealer, and that’s quite a trick. That whole process also revealed that he had an extraordinarily problematic extra-marital relationship with a now-dead country music singer. In all, it was a profound, 100% self-inflicted, reputation-trashing, public relations disaster that, even years later, he has taken no responsibility for. It was the sort of episode that, in addition to the ammo it might give any political opponent he may have, calls into serious questions Clemens’ judgment and sense of strategy, both of which are things that, to put it lightly, can be useful in politics.

Clemens, of course, is not going to cite any of those things as a reason for not wanting to run for office, nor does he have to. His simple “no” is all he needs to say and he can go back doing whatever it is he does for the Houston Astros.

But I am struggling mightily to understand why those people who are apparently encouraging him to run for office are doing so despite all of that being out there on the record. Is fame all that matters in politics now? Is a win bought by fame the be-all and end-all, even it means electing a candidate who is profoundly compromised both ethically and morally?

Haha, just kidding. You don’t need to answer that. I think we already know the answer.