Epstein puts his trust in Cubs players, not trade rumors
It was a somewhat testy Cubs president Theo Epstein who sounded some of the same themes Friday about his team as he did in the middle of May last year.
Epstein said Cubs players have earned the trust that they'll start playing consistently well, just as he trusted them last May.
But he became a bit prickly when asked about the rumors involving the Cubs possibly trading for Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado, who just happened to be in town this week playing against the White Sox and drawing a media crowd.
"I'm not addressing any specific rumor or any player with another team," he said on the field before Friday's series opener against the San Francisco Giants. "I would never talk about that in a million years. A simple way to put it is there's been a lot of trade rumors involving the Cubs and there's essentially zero trade talks right now involving the Cubs.
"There's a real disparity in between the noise and the reality. Unfortunately, sometimes that puts a player or two that we have in a real tough circumstance. So it's my job to clarify there's nothing going on right now. We have more than enough ability to win the division, to win the World Series. We really need to focus on our roster and get the most out of our ability to find some consistency. A constant focus outside the organization doesn't do us any good, especially when it's not based in reality right now.
"There's zero trade talks going on."
It was on May 16, 2017 that Epstein took the field and urged trust in the then-defending world champions, who entered that day with a record of 18-19.
While the Cubs began Friday with a 25-21 mark, their play has been inconsistent in all facets.
"We should have high expectations," he said. "I think this group has earned a tremendous amount of trust. It's perfectly OK to be really frustrated with our inability to really get locked in and get hot and play up to our talent and our expectations while at the same time being really optimistic that this group ultimately figures it out as they have in the past."
Does Epstein attribute the ups and down to anything specific?
"It's complicated, and we're always trying to figure it out," he said. "If we all knew how to get the absolute most out of our ability every single day, we'd all be doing something else. That's a hard thing to do. It's a grind. There's a reason the season is 162 games.
"We're working to find some consistency and working to find a formula that allows us to come out and really focus for three-and-a-half hours and play some aggressive, intentional winning baseball in all phases. That's easier said than done."
Monday is Memorial Day, a traditional milepost in the baseball season, one that signals that the year in full swing.
"Everyone is talking about making trades in May," Epstein said. "The first part of the season is trying to figure out who you are. What are the strengths of the club? What are the weaknesses of the club? What's the character of the club? What position is the club going to be in as we get deeper in the season? What's our short-term outlook. What's our long-term outlook? What's the chemistry in the clubhouse?
"All those things, it's a process to get there and figure it out. If you rush to those kind of judgments, you can oftentimes make things worse. I think it's important to figure out who you are and give guys a chance to play and find their levels and see how all the pieces fit together before you make your adjustments."