(CBS) In a trip down philosophical lane Thursday, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein reflected on his team’s standing to date in this 2017.
As they attempt to defend their championship, the Cubs are 59-54, 1.5 games up in what’s turned into a four-team race in the NL Central and now face the possibility that they could be without star catcher Willson Contreras for weeks. It’s all left Epstein with an overriding thought.
“If we’ve proven anything, it’s that just showing up isn’t good enough,” Epstein said in an interview with Danny Parkins on 670 The Score on Thursday.
After the Cubs’ 14-3 run out of the All-Star break, players such as Jake Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo and Contreras publicly expressed their confidence in winning the NL Central. To some, it’s been viewed as inevitable that the Cubs would take command of the division, but Epstein has pushed back at theory that it’s simply about his team flipping a switch.
“(That belief) is around the team because it’s a narrative,” Epstein said. “It’s hasn’t permeated this office, and honestly we scoff at that stuff. We haven’t played well enough to deserve that treatment. You’ve watched us play all year. Does it look like a team where you can say, hands down, we’re winning the division, it’s a fait accompli, all we need to do is show up? Not at all.”
Then Epstein got philosophical.
“It’s important when you’re struggling with outcomes as we are, you know, we haven’t put this division away at all and we still have the opportunity to do so, and now we’re looking at a 50-game sample instead of a 162-game sample,” Epstein said. “I think it’s important to step back and understand it’s part of a big picture and you’re going to get outcomes like this. You’re not always going to get the outcomes you feel like your talent deserves, that you feel like the big picture deserves. And what’s real is how do you respond in those situations? We now have 50 games left, 49 to write the narrative of this regular season. This will not go down as a regular season in which we played up to our potential, clearly. But if we step up in the face of adversity, which is the fact that there’s a four-team (division) race and the fact that we just lost one of our best players, we still have the opportunity to step up in the face of adversity and play really well and put this division away and win the division. And then this will be remembered as a regular season where we responded when we had to and did our job and won the division and had the opportunity to play in a tournament for the World Series. If we don’t, then we’ll get what we deserve and this will be known as an underachieving team and an underachieving regular season. But the great thing about baseball and life is you keep having opportunities, and we have 50 games left. It’s on us. We will get what we deserve, and I still have faith in this group of guys now that it matters most and now that we’re facing real adversity to step up and write an ending that they want and that they deserve.”
Listen to Epstein’s full interview below.