From the sublime to the ridiculous, convention doesn't disappoint
The annual revival meeting known as the Cubs convention is in the books. As always, the convention provided its unique blend of oddities and entities.
Some moments were ridiculous. Some were bizarre. And some were even sublime, such as the intelligent and thought-provoking session on scouting and development. Let's get to it.
While fans vented and executives pontificated during the big sessions, the fastest hour of the convention was the Saturday session on scouting and player development.
Jason McLeod, who heads up this area, was informative as always. But the real star of the show this year was Joe Bohringer, the personable director of pro scouting.
The questions from fans were good, and the answers from McLeod, Bohringer and the rest of the crew were even better.
Much has been made about the statistical and analytical bent of the Cubs under baseball president Theo Epstein, but Bohringer talked of the importance of good scouting -- including the need to size up the character of players as well as his stats.
Bohringer quoted Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick, who was fond of saying, "You draft the player, but you acquire the person."
In other words, makeup and character count, and the Cubs' staff said it uses those attributes as tiebreakers when deciding between two players of seemingly equal talent.
Bohringer said the situation with the Cubs is not the new-age debate of "scouts vs. stats," but it's a combination of "scouts and stats."
Other tidbits of interest were that the Cubs have a cultural assimilation coordinator to help non-English-speaking players with things such as learning a new language and conducting everyday business.
The Cubs also are placing an emphasis on a scout being assigned an entire organization rather than, say, an area. It's more expensive that way because a scout will have to fly from affiliate to affiliate of another organization rather than driving from ballpark to ballpark in one league.
McLeod said scouts have been issued company cars and video systems.
"They've given us a lot of money to spend," McLeod said.
During the business-management session, one fan asked if he could buy some "starter vines" perhaps to make his garage wall look like left field at Wrigley.
Fans line up Saturday morning each year to ask question of the baseball management team. On Saturday, one "fan" was our old radio pal Chet Coppock.
Coppock cited critical stories of owner Tom Ricketts and the Cubs in one newspaper.
Cubs president Theo Epstein handled the situation with aplomb.
"I'm more proud of them for the willingness to take the heat," Epstein said of the Ricketts family.
Epstein stuck with his story that the Cubs are building for long-term success and that losing seasons early on in the process are part of it. Of course, not everybody's buying that, but give Epstein credit for consistency.
"You know you're going to 'wear it' for a few years," he said.
The wheels on the bus:
Former Cubs manager Dale Sveum may have to check for bus-tire tracks on his chest after Epstein's comments about the struggles of prospects Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson during their call-ups in 2012.
Epstein said that Sveum wanted Jackson up to help him work on his swing. Business president Crane Kenney also hearkened back to the spending spree of former general manager Jim Hendry, saying that things were a lot of fun from 2003-08, when the Cubs were winning three division titles under Hendry.
Kenney went on to say that when the big contracts Hendry issued matured, it put the Cubs into trouble. Hendry did what he was told after the 2006 season, and the guy telling him to spend like crazy was Kenney. (Kenney dumped on former manager Dusty Baker at a past convention.)
Whether it's Epstein or Kenney, I wish the Cubs wouldn't say these things.
Time to move forward, fellas.