Spiegel: Chicago Cubs make their plan ... and stick to it
It's not supposed to work this quickly. There's no way Theo Epstein expected it to.
But he knew what he wanted to do, and Theo hired lots of really good people. And he trusted them to do their work.
If you were at the ballpark for Game 3 of the divisional series with the St. Louis Cardinals, you saw 125 members of the scouting and development team walking around the outfield before the game. The club had them flown into town, with their wives and families, to take that walk and grab a seat in the bleachers to watch the fruits of their labor.
They saw 6 home runs, 5 of them by players under the age of 26. They saw players whom they had helped research and recommend drive 40,000 people into fanatical frenzy.
Sitting with the "Spiegel and Goff Show" at the ballpark Tuesday, the boss gave voice to the progression from the winter of 2011.
"The first thing we did when we got here, I think it was within the first two weeks of being a Cub, was we had organizational meetings where those 125 people that you saw last night … we brought them to a hotel down in Mesa (Arizona), and we spent four days figuring out what the Cubs Way would be.
"Putting together the collective wisdom of all the people in the room; scouts who've been doing it for 40 years, development guys who've been doing it for 30 years, me and all of the front-office guys."
"We spent a day on hitting, a day on pitching and a day on baserunning and defense. We had to figure out what we were going to stand for, how we were going to teach the game. We didn't all agree, but in the end we figured out what we were going to be as an organization.
"I'm not going to go into too much detail, but a lot of it revolves around controlling the strike zone, on both sides of the ball … we've gone from last in the league in pitches per plate appearance, to now we're first. We've walked a tremendous amount, our on-base percentage is now where it should be.
"On the pitching side, same thing, you know, strike one. Don't let the hitter control the at bat, but get ahead, be able to miss bats and throw strikes. It was a big manual, but it was really cool to see those folks walking around the warning track last night because we all contributed in some way, and it's a big part of why we're here."
The principles were set, and that drove transactions in every area of player acquisition.
Look at how this playoff roster was built.
There are draft-pick sluggers Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.
There is the international free agent in Jorge Soler.
There are the holdovers, now developed, such as Starlin Castro and Javier Baez.
There is a Rule-5 draft pick, Hector Rondon, who was injured and left unprotected by the Cleveland Indians.
The Cubs have more players obtained via trades than any team in the postseason.
Travis Wood was first, from Cincinnati. Anthony Rizzo came from San Diego. Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop from Baltimore in a potentially legendary deal.
Dexter Fowler arrived from Houston for Luis Valbuena. Miguel Montero came from Arizona for two prospects. Justin Grimm was in the Matt Garza deal. Kyle Hendricks also came from Texas in a separate trade for Ryan Dempster.
Addison Russell was stolen from Oakland. Tommy La Stella was an Atlanta Brave. Austin Jackson came for a player to be named from Seattle.
There are low-risk, low-money free agents such as Chris Coghlan, Chris Denorfia, Jonathan Herrera and Jason Hammel.
There is the one very big ticket item in Jon Lester, followed by his catcher, David Ross.
There are multiple midseason bullpen grabs. Clayton Richard was simply purchased from Pittsburgh. Trevor Cahill was signed off of a couch on Aug. 18. Fernando Rodney came in a waiver trade on Aug. 27.
Every one of these men was scouted with the initial strike zone principles in mind, as laid out in 2011. Then they were trained on all levels to adhere to them.
Make a plan, and stick to it. Use all your resources. Coordinate your values and methods.
Who knows what can happen?
• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The Spiegel & Goff Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670.