Theo Epstein steps down as Cubs' Head of Baseball Ops

allmanbro

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This is delightfully close to Joe Posnanski's suggestion that Theo be put in charge of saving baseball.

Instead, as Epstein has told me, people have in mind what they would consider to be ideal baseball. What is ideal baseball? Well, that’s for you to answer. If you go to one game, how many home runs would you want to see? How many strikeouts? Would you want to see a triple or two? Stolen bases? How long would the game last? How many great defensive plays would you like to see? How many pitching changes is too many? Are you bothered by defensive shifts? Would you stay for extra innings? If not, what exciting finish would get you to stay for extras?

There are a hundred questions like this, and by answering them we could get something of a consensus of what fans want baseball to look like. Then, Epstein says, we could try to move baseball toward that ideal, not with gawky and awkward rule changes that make baseball fans roll their eyes, but with thoughtful changes and barely perceptible adjustments that would make it rewarding to play the game a little bit differently than players and teams do now.
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Yo La Tengo

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Nov 21, 2005
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How about we draft a list of suggestions for improving the game and send it from SOSH to Theo for his consideration?

I'll start with allowing draft picks to be traded. It would make the draft 100x more exciting.
 

amRadio

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Feb 7, 2019
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Why do people always want draft pick trading? It would result in big market teams purchasing the draft and, eventually, way less parity in the game. Big market dynasties aren't going to make the sport more exciting or broadly appealing.
 

Yo La Tengo

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Nov 21, 2005
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Why do people always want draft pick trading? It would result in big market teams purchasing the draft and, eventually, way less parity in the game. Big market dynasties aren't going to make the sport more exciting or broadly appealing.
My impression from other sports leagues is that trading draft picks allows more options for all teams but also allows small market teams who cannot afford a particular player on their roster to trade that player for picks. Smart drafting leads to cheap young players, which is the only way small market teams can compete. So, I'd argue that creates more parity, not less.
 

judyb

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Heseems to be aclose to
theage when his kids grand parents are getting somuch older that becomes more important to movecloser to them'
 

Minneapolis Millers

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Jul 15, 2005
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How about we draft a list of suggestions for improving the game and send it from SOSH to Theo for his consideration?

I'll start with allowing draft picks to be traded. It would make the draft 100x more exciting.
This is a good idea. We could all throw out ideas, then vote for our top 10 and forward those.

I’ll offer one sure to get some support on this site: Require the MFYs to fix RF (no more cheap HRs).

Kidding. Kind of. Not really.

Limit breaks between half-innings to one minute. I know, commercials, money, etc., but shortening games is still desirable.
 

tims4wins

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This is a good idea. We could all throw out ideas, then vote for our top 10 and forward those.

I’ll offer one sure to get some support on this site: Require the MFYs to fix RF (no more cheap HRs).

Kidding. Kind of. Not really.

Limit breaks between half-innings to one minute. I know, commercials, money, etc., but shortening games is still desirable.
Commercial time I don’t care about. Implement a pitch clock. Speed up pace of play.
 

OurF'ingCity

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Commercial time I don’t care about. Implement a pitch clock. Speed up pace of play.
Yep. We've discussed this ad nauseam but simply instituting a pitch clock that is enforced, along with enforcing the rule that batters can't leave the batter's box, would likely solve all pace-of-play issues without the need for any extra-innings gimmicks, rules about how many batters a pitcher must face, etc.

Second: robot umps. Well, actually, I'm fine with umps manning the bases, I'm really just talking about calling balls/strikes. Or, if that's too extreme, how about this - no more than once per at bat, a batter can challenge a called strike or a pitcher can challenge a called ball. With today's technology the ump should be able to get immediate feedback - maybe just a light on his wrist where red is strike, green is ball. If the challenging player loses the challenge, it's an extra strike/ball (if the challenged call is strike 3 or ball 4, the extra strike/ball is added to the next at-bat). Or something like that.
 

Magimus

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Sep 28, 2011
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Just getting the ball in play more. Just my 2 cents on one of the subjects, but if they can juice the ball for more home runs, why can't it be moved to the other end of the spectrum? If it was harder to hit for distance (save for the big sluggers), and harder to create high spin rates on pitches (seam height, ball surface texture?), couldn't that potentially lead to more balls in play, more action on the bases, more defensive chances? Create more action again, and the pace of play issue can begin to solve itself?
 

Spud

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Nov 15, 2006
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I come at this from a bit of a different direction. The underlying premise of tinkering with the pace of play is, I think, to make the game more enjoyable to a wider base of fans. I get that, but I don't think it is the most obvious solution or the most pressing problem. If you want a good example of horrible pace of play, just look at the NFL, where they allot about 4 hours of TV time to cover a game that will have, at most, only 60 minutes of action and, in actuality, a lot less than that. They seem to be doing just fine drawing fans.

On pace of play, I like very much the ideas of a pitch clock and "stay in the box" for batters. I have no interest in robo umps or challenges on ball/strike calls. The umps have the technology to police themselves, assuming they are encouraged or pressured to do so. Challenges do little more than waste time. Maybe have an extra ump in the booth and if someone really screws the pooch on a call in the field, stop play, correct it, and move on. No wasted time on ball/strike calls, please!

In terms of making the game more interesting to a wider fan base, a couple ideas that I would enjoy hearing some views on:

1. Fire MLB's entire marketing department. It appears they don't have any idea how to effectively market the game, the teams, or the players.

2. Encourage players to have fun. I think this is improving, but there is still a fair amount of old-school retaliation for those who violate the "rules". Part of the answer could be to discourage the retaliation. Maybe a hit by pitch that results in a warning to the pitcher gets the batter two bases instead of just one.

3. Pick a weekend during the season and bring to the U.S. the top 30 international teams for a 3 game series with an MLB team. Rotate teams every year. Count the games as inter-league games and have them count in the standings.

4. Instead of rewarding the worst teams with the top draft picks, relegate one team from each league to the International or PCL leagues. Top two teams from those leagues join the majors the next year. This would probably require an end to "team control" over players and certainly an end to affiliation with MLB teams at the AAA level -- it wouldn't be fair to a top AAA team to have their stars called up to the mother ship during the course of a season, especially if they have a shot at moving up. Relegation would also require some tinkering with the draft and rules of player control and arbitration, as the AAA teams would need adequate access to the player pool. Maybe the answer is a free market in talent at the MLB and AAA levels, with no team control beyond the terms of each player contract.

That's it for now. If I think of any more crazy stuff I will chime back in.
 

Bergs

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My impression from other sports leagues is that trading draft picks allows more options for all teams but also allows small market teams who cannot afford a particular player on their roster to trade that player for picks. Smart drafting leads to cheap young players, which is the only way small market teams can compete. So, I'd argue that creates more parity, not less.
I agree. Not only that, a few really bad moves by a big-market team along these lines can really screw their farm system.
 

Bergs

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This. Or nerf it if it really hasn't been juiced and the players are just musclebound monsters going all or nothing on uppercut swings. And lower the mound again. Three true outcomes baseball is the worst. This has to be the worst on-field era of baseball, right?
As a fan of infield play and baserunning, it is certainly the worst in my memory.
 

tims4wins

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The NFL proves that commercials aren’t an issue. The reason the NFL works is that for the 30-40 seconds between plays they can show a replay. So it moves quickly. It is also very predictable - you know there will be another play in 30 seconds. In baseball the next pitch may be in 15 seconds. Or it may be in 45 seconds. Or longer. The pitcher steps off. The batter steps out. Etc.

I’ve been re-watching the 2004 ALCS the last few weeks - pitch by pitch. It is brutal to watch despite the tension.
 

OurF'ingCity

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The NFL proves that commercials aren’t an issue. The reason the NFL works is that for the 30-40 seconds between plays they can show a replay. So it moves quickly. It is also very predictable - you know there will be another play in 30 seconds. In baseball the next pitch may be in 15 seconds. Or it may be in 45 seconds. Or longer. The pitcher steps off. The batter steps out. Etc.
Yeah, you really can't compare pacing issues in the NFL with MLB. In the NFL, each play - even a basic running play - is complex enough where you can spend the entire time before the next play digesting what just happened, as well as looking at the formation and anticipating what is coming next. So the sequence is play-->digest the play that just occurred-->prepare for the play about to come-->play. (Obviously that doesn't mean the NFL is perfect with things like commercials before and after kickoffs, overly long replay reviews, etc.)

In MLB by contrast you might get the same or more time between each pitch, but each pitch is way less interesting than any given NFL play. So the sequence in MLB is more like pitch-->digest what kind of pitch it was, etc. in like two seconds-->extended wait with nothing to do-->next pitch.

By the way I completely agree with those advocating for steps to create more on-field action and agree that three-true-outcomes baseball is horribly boring if you aren't invested in the game (whereas a random NFL game, to me, still generally seems to flow even if I don't care about the outcome).
 

tims4wins

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Yeah, you really can't compare pacing issues in the NFL with MLB. In the NFL, each play - even a basic running play - is complex enough where you can spend the entire time before the next play digesting what just happened, as well as looking at the formation and anticipating what is coming next. So the sequence is play-->digest the play that just occurred-->prepare for the play about to come-->play. (Obviously that doesn't mean the NFL is perfect with things like commercials before and after kickoffs, overly long replay reviews, etc.)

In MLB by contrast you might get the same or more time between each pitch, but each pitch is way less interesting than any given NFL play. So the sequence in MLB is more like pitch-->digest what kind of pitch it was, etc. in like two seconds-->extended wait with nothing to do-->next pitch.

By the way I completely agree with those advocating for steps to create more on-field action and agree that three-true-outcomes baseball is horribly boring if you aren't invested in the game (whereas a random NFL game, to me, still generally seems to flow even if I don't care about the outcome).
Reducing Three True Outcomes seems difficult. It will require a change in approach by hitters. I think the only way to do that is to de-juice the ball and lose home runs. If your chances of a fly ball becoming a home run reduce from (making up numbers) 20% to 10% then trying for a home run becomes a lot less desirable. Are there any other ways to get the ball in play more? I don't particularly care about guys trying to work walks, that it just good hitting. But if they're not up there just waiting on a pitch to jack out of the park, then they would have more incentive to swing early, and put more balls in play.
 

Yo La Tengo

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I think every ball in play should automatically be reviewed. If it is not obvious that there was a mistake within 15 seconds or the next pitch, the call stands. For example, that will get rid of all of the awful did-he-come-off-the-base challenges and delays.
 

Rough Carrigan

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This. Or nerf it if it really hasn't been juiced and the players are just musclebound monsters going all or nothing on uppercut swings. And lower the mound again. Three true outcomes baseball is the worst. This has to be the worst on-field era of baseball, right?
I'm fine with three true outcomes being one of the ways a team can decide to play. What sucks is when it's the only sensible way to play. I like baseball much more than football but one thing that football has going for it is the possibility of contrasting philosophies of how to build a team colliding.

Re the ball, I thought there were stories a few years back of the ball now being wound tighter than ever and of the seams not sticking up as much.
 

Max Power

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The claim in 2019 was that the ball had substantially less drag, so it carried farther, apparently mostly because of lower seams: http://www.mlb.com/documents/0/5/6/312149056/Report_of_the_Committee_Studying_Home_Run_Rates_in_MLB_121119.pdf
I noticed the same thing with a couple of balls I got at games. One was from 2015 or so and the other 2019. The seams were way higher on the older model. If you ban sticky substances for pitchers and raise the seams, they should still be able to get similar movement with less rotation. And since drag works the same for pitchers as for hitters, it will shave a couple MPH off everyone's fastball.

Rough is right in that the analytics departments have led to everyone building a team and playing the game the same way. I think the ballparks have something to do with that as well. Everyone plays on grass, or a surface that responds like grass, and all the dimensions of the new parks are basically the same. There's nobody playing in a place with an enormous outfield that would make defense out there more valuable, or on a race surface like the 80s running Cardinals. Maybe things will change a bit if the ball doesn't go as far and every ballpark plays larger, but it would likely change for every team in the same way and everyone would make the same adjustments.
 

Ale Xander

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Watching this weird-ass Pedey Zoom call on NESN, i am reminder what a kick-ass 2004 Theo had. Nice pick at 65, Theo.