The Rundown: Giving Jed Hoyer a Little Love, Báez Carrying Big Chip This Season, This Week’s Baseball Book & Flick
Happy Saturday. How you doin’ today?
I was suffering from a minor case of writer’s bock this morning and when I looked for ideas for Cubs-related articles a web search reveals a lot of the same stuff. So I thought I’d give Jed Hoyer a little press if you don’t mind. The Cubs GM is usually an afterthought or bullet point in most of the stories that focus on Theo Epstein.
I don’t want to get into corporate hierarchy, but in the executive world of MLB, the president of baseball operations is just a glorified GM, while the GM seems to slot in nicely as an assistant GM. In the case of the Cubs, I’d bet all decisions are made jointly by both with Epstein having final authority. It works nicely for the Cubs, and since Epstein was acquired in a trade with Boston, other teams have emulated Chicago’s front office structure.
Yes, the Cubs sent relievers Chris Carpenter and Aaron Kurcz to Boston as compensation for Epstein. The Cubs also received the younger brother of Red Sox star Xander Bogaerts. Oops, there I go, giving all kinds of credit to one individual when I said I was going to talk about the other. It’s a natural progression of thought for all of us.
Did you know Hoyer’s middle name is Room? I find that fascinating. The move to acquire Jed Room Hoyer from the Padres seemed somewhat understated in the grand scheme of building Team Theo but it was certainly no small move. To view Hoyer as little more than a Theo aide is underestimating both the position and the individual. There is little doubt that the two share a mutual respect and admiration for one another.
Hoyer does not possess the analytics background that his boss does, according to his parents.
“Our family finds it sort of hilarious the way he’s portrayed as this computer nerd or stats guy because while he was good in math, he was never particularly interested in it,” mom Annie Hoyer told ESPN’s Melissa Isaacson back in 2011.
Hoyer just loves baseball, and marries traditional scouting in perfect harmony with Epstein’s focus on analytics. In fact, it was his love of the game that helped to successfully persuade the Red Sox to hire him as an intern back in 2002 while he was a management consultant in emerging technology. Prior to that, Hoyer was assistant dean of admissions at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, where he graduated in 1996. Hoyer also served as assistant baseball coach at his alma mater.
Hoyer played baseball at Wesleyan, both as a shortstop and pitcher, and once started both games of a doubleheader. He still holds the team’s single season saves record. With the Red Sox he quickly became Epstein’s confidante and, more importantly, a trusted advisor and sounding board.
The two have been inseparable ever since, with only Hoyer’s two-year stint as GM of the Padres breaking the pair up. When Epstein joined the Cubs, Hoyer was almost immediately acquired from San Diego for a player to be named later. I’m not kidding. The two men most responsible for building the team that led to the Cubs’ first championship in 108 years were acquired for a few not-so-magic beans and a lightly regarded promise.
Jed and Theo are so tight that it’s been rumored that Epstein is the ghost writer for Hoyer’s mysterious Twitter account, which, as of this date, has just two tweets. Fun aside, Hoyer brings significant currency to the Cubs executive team.
“[Theo] creates a really flat hierarchy.” Hoyer explained. “Maybe that comes from Kevin (Towers, the late baseball exec whose own philosophy heavily influenced members of the Cubs’ front office), I’ve never really asked him if that was where he started it.” That organizational structure is responsible for fielding a team that counts 387 wins over its past four seasons.
A quick aside: When Epstein served as the Red Sox GM and went on a brief hiatus following the 2005 season, Hoyer ran the team as part of what Boston newspapers called the “Gang of Four” and helped to acquire pitcher Josh Beckett from the Marlins. Beckett helped the Red Sox to their first World Series championship since 1918 two years later. Hoyer’s son, born in December 2011, is named Beckett.
Cubs News & Notes
- Should the Cubs make a late move for closer Craig Kimbrel?
- Javier Báez feels like he is being overlooked again. The Cubs shortstop doesn’t mind that at all and is aiming to prove he is not a prime target for regression this season.
- Another offensive explosion led the Cubs to a 9-3 win over the Mariners yesterday. Anthony Rizzo was 3-for-3 and had his first home run of the spring.
- Jon Lester thinks the transition from front office to pitching coach for Tommy Hottovy has gone well so far.
- The Cubs acquired Donnie Dewees from the Royals for pitching prospect Stephen Ridings.
- Joe Maddon is stressing fundamentals over fun as he prepares the team for the 2019 season.
- How did prospect Miguel Amaya decide on catching as his choice of profession? “[When I was four years old] the coach said I was fat and that the fat guy has to play catcher,” Amaya said Thursday on one of the back fields at the Cubs’ spring training complex. “Since that day, I loved catcher.”
- Kyle Schwarber adjusted well to inside pitches in 2018 and intends to continue that success this season.
- Yu Darvish looked the part of staff ace, striking out three White Sox batters in his two innings of work earlier this week. “It’s the best stuff in my life,” Darvish said.
- Maddon named Lester as the team’s opening day starter against the Rangers in Texas. The honor will be the eighth of his career and fourth with the Cubs.
- Kris Bryant is as healthy as he’s ever been and it shows in his swing so far this year. “Right when I picked up a bat, the first time I was swinging, I was like, ‘Oh, wow, this is night-and-day,’” Bryant said on 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show. “I don’t feel anything at all. Everything feels like it’s completely healed.”
- Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Baez, and Kyle Hendricks made Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 MLB Players list.
- Epstein is still pulling no punches. The Cubs younger players will have to start meeting expectations and potential or they could be moved.
This Week’s Baseball Read
The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter. In the mid-1960’s, Columbia University professor Lawrence Ritter put 75,000 miles on his car driving around the United States, interviewing aging ballplayers. The result was the finest baseball book and one of the best oral histories for any subject. Particularly relevant now that baseball is skewing heavily toward younger rosters. YouTube has an accompanying video series that is free to view. This is the best baseball book I’ve ever read.
Weekend Flick to Pick
Bull Durham – How do you not love this movie? Ron Shelton’s comedic look at minor league baseball contrasts the careers of aging career minor league catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) and bonus baby, hot-shot rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins). It’s nearly impossible to pick a best scene from this movie, and even a top 10 list would be highly debatable. It’s number one in the Holy Trinity of Costner baseball vehicles with Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game. Great soundtrack, too.
A deep dive into the Cubs Insider archives revealed this gem of an article by Evan Altman from February, 2014. You know what? Baseball dads are the best dads in the world and Evan’s wonderful post is living proof. If you have a story of taking your child to his or her first baseball game, please share it in the comments below.
Saturday Walk Up Song
Winning Streak by Glen Hansard. The Cubs offense is looking really good this spring.