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Cubs Front Office continues to place premium on mental makeup

Cubs Front Office continues to place premium on mental makeup

The Yankees got Aroldis Chapman for a song yesterday, with the Reds getting perhaps a couple of average MLB starters, a bullpen arm, and a utility infielder... at best.  They certainly didn't get the kind of impact prospect you would expect as a return for perhaps the most dominant pitcher in baseball.

Of course, that had a lot to do with the serious allegations against Chapman,  which bring  his mental makeup into question.  I couldn't help but think about how much things have changed as far as the type of person the Cubs try to bring into the organization, in part because the Yankees employ the Cubs old GM Jim Hendry in a key front office role.  It was hard not to be reminded about some of the high profile players the Cubs invested in under his watch: Ben Christensen, Mark Pawelek,  Carlos Zambrano, and of course, Milton Bradley.  And that is just scratching the surface, the issues ran all the way down the organization, names I will not mention here, but suffice to say that mental makeup did not carry as much weight then as it does now.

The Cubs scouts do thorough background checks on their prospective high round draft picks and free agents.  In the case of the draft picks, they talk to the players family, friends, even their teachers, to get an idea of what kind of person they are getting behind the ballplayer.  We all know about Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Ian Happ.  You've also heard me mention the work ethic, coachability, and maturity  of young prospects such as Andrew Monasterio, Kwang-Min Kwon, Jonathan Sierra, Aramis Ademan, Miguel Amaya, DJ Wilson, and more.  The instructors down here in Arizona raved about the quality of people the Cubs scouting staff continue to bring into the organization.

It extends from the lowest levels of the minors all the way to the highest level free agents.  It is no coincidence that in addition to being great players, recent big ticket signees such as Jon Lester, Jason Heyward, and Ben Zobrist are noted as much for their quality as people off the field as well as their obvious quality on the field.  When the Cubs make a big investment, they invest in the whole person, not just the player.

It is perhaps the most elusive evaluation in baseball.  You can measure velocity (both pitcher velocity and batted balls exit velocity), run times and pop times,  You can quantify strength.  You can chart pitches and even objectively measure their movement.  You can place a tangible value on catcher  framing.    Furthermore, you can set certain visual/kinesthetic standards for pitching and hitting mechanics. The list goes on and on.

But measuring a person's work ethic, maturity, leadership potential, and other desirable personality traits tends to be highly subjective and anything but absolute.  Is a player immature now and will outgrow that or is there an underlying issue that is likely to persist even as the player ages?  Can a player develop into a leader over time?  Will any given player fit into a clubhouse or is he potentially a disruptive personality -- or even just a player who prefers to withdraw from others?  Is a player willing to stay late and work on his deficiencies or is he satisfied with what got him here and is comfortable relying on his natural ability?

You have often heard me say that while mental makeup without talent means nothing, it's makeup that helps the player make the best use of the talent he already has.  It makes him more likely to reach his potential based on his physical skills, whatever they may be.

There are no set guidelines and there are always gray areas.  It is not black and white.  We can develop false perception from the outside, as many did with Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano.  Similarly, the so-called good players don't have halos over their head either -- as good as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, and Jorge Soler may seem, they are just human.  They will make mistakes as well.  You just hope they're small ones and that the good vastly outweighs the occasional indiscretion.   An even more ambiguous case is that of John Lackey, who has some traits that may make him very unlikable, yet others that make him someone the Cubs consider a leader.  Ballplayers tend to have alpha personalities and that can sometimes mean some characteristics that are less than endearing to some, but can actually work very well within the context of a major league clubhouse.  Javier Baez is an example of a younger ballplayer who may sometimes rub opponents the wrong way, but the teammates I talked to had nothing but good things to say about him as a person.

When it comes to the allegations against Chapman, however, that goes beyond a trait that is simply "less endearing" and it wouldn't surprise me if the Cubs were never seriously involved.  It would seem the Cubs could easily have topped the Yankees offer considering how much deeper their farm system is. As much as they undoubtedly loved Chapman the pitcher,  I can only assume they weren't too keen on bringing Chapman the person into their young clubhouse, just as I would have trouble envisioning this front office ever signing Milton Bradley or drafting Ben Christensen.

For all the impact talent this front office has brought in -- and it has been huge -- it's not just the scouting on the field.  Don't get me wrong, without question the biggest single reason for the organization's turnaround into one of the strongest and healthiest in baseball has been the talent they have brought in over the past few years. But the Cubs have shown themselves to be quite adept at finding good people who can work well together as well as make the most of their own individual abilities.  And perhaps that edge, as immeasurable as it may be, could end up being what tips the scales in the end.

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  • You're right. I feel better now. I was reading a Fangraphs article about this acquisition—in abject horror—when the notification for this piece popped up. Once again, John, you have brought me to my senses.

  • In reply to BudMan:

    Ha! Thanks.

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  • Excellent subject. One never knows of course but I am heartened by the efforts to find out everything possible before adding to the "team".

  • I am one to always believe that people can change and become better people. Perhaps Hendry also believed the Cubs and now Yankees organizations could put the proverbial arm around these players and lead them down the better path. A respectable flaw but a flaw non the less and one that undid a few teams. The current Cubs FO doesn't do this because they realize windows for winning are short and bad personalities can cause more damage than their talent can overcome. A bad egg is a bad egg and they don't have time for it. A cut throat ideology yes, but it's the right course of action to create a winning culture.

  • One wonders if Brandon Phillips took a look at the Nationals' roster and decided he wasn't interested i going there (Zobrist made that point for himself).

  • I'm just happy he's out of the division

  • In reply to MendyMania7:

    And all of the hitters in our line up. :)

  • I think it also just goes to show how great of a FO we currently have compared to prior years. Granted Hendry probably had different parameters to work with as he was working under the Tribune management versus Ricketts which has a philosophy of long term success versus short term.

    Player makeup is a big deal. I can only imagine that they would not want to touch a player like Papelbon with a 10 foot pole. Better to have all the players going in the same direction with egos checked at the door. Heyward is a great example of this. He is very talented but also a team player. Also the Reds may not want to have traded Chapman to a division rival, but hard to say given they are completely rebuilding.

  • In reply to MoneyBall:

    If candelario pushes bryant to the outfield in 2017 (that's a big if) and schwarber catches is an outfield of soler in left hayward in center and bryant in right an above average defensive outfield?

    Sorry I am very intrigued by candelarios switch hitting and amazing walk and strikeout rates.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    I like Candelario, but even at his ceiling, he is not going to push Bryant off 3B.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I had always thought Bryant was an OF sooner rather than later but it is clear that the FO sees him at 3B in the long term. I just hope he holds up there.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don't disagree with that. but, Baez is a significant upgrade defensively at 3B and if he hits his ceiling has the bat to match/exceed Bryant. Yet Bryant will be the everyday 3B. So even if Bryant doesn't improve, and Candelario hits his ceiling, I don't see any way he moves Bryant off 3B.

    Now Joe may be constantly moving guys around and mixing and matching, etc... But I dont see any scenario (barring injury) where he isn't the everyday 3B for the next few years and he would have to decline defensively to move then...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Agree on Baez and my only issue with Bryant there is his size and risk of injury. Troy Glaus is really the only comp for him and he suffered a ton of injuries.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I would offer that Glaus was not even close to the athlete Bryant is. Glaus was stiff and slow footed. Bryant and Glaus have height as the only commonality.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    With Bryant, Schwarber, and Heyward around for at least the next three years it's hard to see a spot for Candelario. I will continue to worry to about Bryant's long-term health at third, though, so that might open an unfortunate spot for him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    He might become a strong trade chip though. Third basemen are in short supply in MLB these days. Not as coveted as catchers maybe but still a position of need for a lot of clubs.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think he could eventually take La Stella's spot. No reason Candelerio has to be a starter.

    Depth!

  • I'd like to believe this is true. However, I thought the Cubs were considering Papelbon at the trade deadline last year if the price was right. It's unfortunate, but if the value greatly exceeds the cost, I not so sure the front office wouldn't bite. In regards to Chapman, the Reds may have been hesitant to deal within the division.

  • In reply to jkcutback:

    When judging a young prospect, makeup can be a good indication of whether or not he will make maximum use of his talent. But when judging a veteran of 5 years, the most important part of makeup is whether or not the player is a clubhouse cancer.

    I have not followed the Reds or Chapman closely, but I have never heard any indication that he was a clubhouse problem, and he certainly was never accused of giving 100 percent on the field.

    Unless he WAS considered to be a terrible clubhouse team mate, I suspect that the Cubs would have loved to get Chapman for what the Yankees gave up to get him.

    By the way, I think that the current front office would have loved to have the 22 year old Zambrano on their team. His fits of anger were never a problem until his ability to perform declined substantially.

    Epstein has told the story of the argument between he and Hoyer almost came to blows when Hoyer insisted upon drafting Buchholz, in spite of the questions about his character. Epstein admitted that he called Hoyer a F------ idiot, and walked out of the draft room. (It is a great insight on Epstein's ability as a manager that he didn't try to over rule Hoyer, in spite of being his boss).

    After Buchholz led them to victory in the World Series, Epstein went to Hoyer, hugged him, and said (I'm glad you are a F------ idiot.

    The front office wants a team with good contact, but drafted and are playing Bryant and Schwarber, and traded for Russell, while trading their best contact hitter, Castro.

    The front office wants to improve their outfield defense, but are considering starting the season with Schwarber in left, Soler in right, and their best defensive outfielder playing out of position in center.

    This front office knows what they want, but also know that they do not live in a perfect world. Everything requires trade-offs, since there are no perfect players, and no perfect team. Unless there is not something beyond what has been reported with respect to Chapman, I suspect that they would have welcomed him with open arms.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Should have said "never been accused of giving LESS THAN 100 percent on the field".

  • In reply to DaveP:

    I've never heard " bad teammate", but local media have described him as aloof and a loner. There was the strange robbery incident, if I recall, a few years ago, in addition to his recent transgression. I don't know if the Cubs ever considered him or not, but they are not the only club that could have easily bested the Yanks offer. Some teams were clearly out on him, regardless of acquisition cost.

  • Ian Stewart.

    But, that said, I really like what this FO has been doing in looking for good character/makeup whatever.

  • In reply to markw:

    Nobody's perfect,.... and Stewart was a solid mistake on the 'mental makeup' continuum.

    Still think that trade wasn't as terrible idea at the time as it is made out to be now - as the Cubs had nobody to play 3B that first year of the new management once the decision was made to let Aramis Ramirez walk. At least if Stewart had provided the decent defense he was known for, and had managed to show some of the power he had while in CO - it wouldn't have been a total skunking.

    Stewart wasn't going to be a long-term solution at 3B anyway,... neither was Ramirez. But 3B was a mess in 2012 with Valbuena being the brightest spot,.....

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I don't really disagree--I just hadda say that.

  • In reply to markw:

    That 2012 team was a mess,..... and Stewart's issues only added to that mess.

    Pretty much the bright spots of that 2012 season were LaHair's good start, and Rizzo's arrival midseason, and the fact that Darwin Barney played one of the best defensive seasons at 2B ever,....

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    Thank God they weren't a couple games better. The Rockies were having fantasies of Kris Bryant.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Omg Bryant would bomb 40+ every year with a .400 OBP in Colorado! I almost wish he did get drafted there just to see theveryone show......almost

  • John this has been something you've called attention to before and I really think it matters in what these guys have built here. I have to admit, I didn't used to care about what a player did or didn't do off the field. I had an argument once where I told a friend that I wouldn't care if the Cubs assembled a team of murderers as long as they reached the world series. I think I was about 25 then. At almost 55 I think very differently. I think who players are as people influences greatly what they do as athletes.

    I'm a unabashed Rock & Roll fan and as I've grown older I've realized that the bands who are comprised of nice folks, people not that different from someone I would want to spend time with, are the ones I want to spend my time and money on. Many of these musicians that I started following as a fan are actually dear friends today. Once I figured that out I started to wonder why I felt differently of guys on the teams I follow and realized there was no difference. It's easier to root for people of good character no matter what they do. I also agree with you in that it often makes them better performers because what they do they do for the right reasons including the quest for excellence. It seems silly but it's important and I see it in these guys. You don't have to write about the fact that Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are hard workers. That's obvious and it's reflected in their play.

    Of course there is more to it than any of that. Talent is paramount but I am a firm believer that good things do happen to good people and that's not an accident. They make that so.

  • In reply to TC154:

    It is a slippery slope. I have always been a fan of the "character" guy, as well as a rooter for the underdog. Baseball can be a test of faith, so to speak. I, like millions before me, grew up idolizing my baseball heros. I remember like it was yesterday when I heard Mark Grace had drank a few beers, and watched an interview when he used the word "ass". I was floored, as that was the first time in my life I realized my heros were human. I've seen talent come and go, and players stick who maybe shouldn't, while studs fade away. I've been dazzled by talent, and heart-broken by the failure of those who never realize it fully. In my experience, those with intense drive and desire can overcome physical deficiencies. I am so impressed by this current collection of talent. It is special to not have to choose between talent and character, but to have both rolled into so many players. As you said, it is so easy to root for such a group of insanely talented, and insanely likable, young men.

  • I talked to a friend of mine the other day who knew John Lackey from his days in Abilene, Texas. He's a guy who is active in his church and comes back in the offseason and puts together camps for under privileged kids in the Abilene area. Had nothing but great things to say about him.

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    There are good things about Lackey, no question. Some not so good. Obviously the Cubs felt the good far outweighed the not so good.

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    The Hendry record on character signing is not pretty. The stories of the dysfunctional clubhouses back then are insane. Sammy Sosa leaving early and the destroyed boom box. Kyle Farnsworth sleeping in the team meeting. The 2004 Cubs seemed to have lots of issues, best displayed by the late season meltdown and Steve Stone controversy. Players like Zambrano and Michael Barrett I don't think would ever be considered by this FO. The Bradley thing seemed like a desperation move. Hendry needed a left handed bat, so signing someone who was mentally ill I guess made sense.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    Farnsworth, now there was another piece of work. Have to admit that tackle was great, though. I almost mentioned Barrett, but then I just decided to keep the list short.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    After living in Wrigleyville for many years, I cannot tell you how many times as I was getting up and going to work at 5AM, I would see Kyle still out walking around the neighborhood.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    I think Hendry's problem was getting pushed into personnel moves by strong managers. First it was Dusty screaming an lead-off hitter was all the Cubs needed to go to the next level. Hendry went out and got 1 of the better ones in Pierre, but by then the team had quit on Dusty, the SP were too hurt and the paper thin reliever staff couldn't hold up.

    After realizing Dusty kind of sucked as a manager who ran the young starting rotation into the ground. Piniella came in. Cubs once again had success and Piniella screamed about getting a LH hitting OF to provide balance. The FA's that offseason were Adam Dunn and Milton Bradley. Even though Dunn continued to hit he's probably the worst LF I've seen. But I think this is another case of the best move being the 1 not made. I just don't think Dusty or Piniella would have accepted that.

    Hendry get's a lot of hate around here, but he did preside over the Cubs most successful stretch. 3 playoff appearances, should have been 4. The Cubs other problem was in promoting Hendry to GM, Stocksill was left to run the draft/player development and he had a god awful run until the Cubs hired Wilken, who did a decent job.

    I love having Theo running the show. I love that we have Maddon at the helm. I remember 4 years ago thinking. The ultimate braintrust for the Cubs was Theo at GM and Maddon managing. I didn't think it would be possible. And I thought Renteria did a really nice job in 2014. I didn't envy Theo's decision. Dumping a Sveum to get Maddon would have been a no brainer, but I think Renteria really made it a tough decision and Theo made the right call.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    I don't hate Hendry, I can say that much. He did know how to evaluate talent, but he was short-staffed and otherwise handcuffed by ownership in the amateur game. They tried to gamble and go long with talented guys that slipped in the draft-- but they slipped for a reason. And as for Bradley, I think people questioned that at the time. I think Hendry at his best was the early days with McPhail having some power with the Trib people, but once he left, ownership won that power struggle.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Mendoza, I just want to add I also don't hate or dislike Hendry. His work in 2003 was great. He was just more willing to take gambles with players with past issues. Sometimes it works. Hamilton to the Rangers an example. But other times it doesn't. If the Cubs had won back then, it would of been like the Bronx Zoo Yankees. People would of been fond of telling the stories. Even now they are interesting and fun to talk about. But that dysfunction can bring a team down so I'll be glad if this FO avoids it.

  • fb_avatar

    Great article. As you said, make up without talent means nothing (I have all the make-up in the world but it will never amount to a baseball contract due to lack of talent).

    The mental make-up seems to be almost a "skill multiplier". Not literally, but it makes it more likely that the player will reach his ceiling, or closer to it than someone with the same talent level but without the make-up. I sometimes wonder how many of these guys might grow beyond their "ceiling" with make-up. I have heard stories of Pujols and how he seemed to get "better" with every challenge/promotion. Many attributed that to "make-up". He was coachable. He tried to understand what pitchers were doing. He was able to diagnose problems relatively quickly and address them before they become prolonged slumps. Those kinds of things.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    John and Joel:

    First, John; regarding Chapman: He is such a serious risk that I was surprised how desperate the NYY's are. Sure on paper there might be some value, especially if/WHEN the inevitable suspension occurs and how Chapman will react but I suspect the closest comp is Michael Vick as to the potential disruptions and distraction from fascination over talent and possible spread in eventual performance. Anyway I think it was pretty self evident that the Cubs would ignore this illusion. Interesting to watch how far the Yanks fall now that Toronto, Baltimore and Boston, while TB seems to rebound better than expected.

    Joel, exceptional correlation and it goes even deeper than seeing a top top talent develop but also how and why some average prospects emerge as all stars, even HOF players while number one picks never succeed. Yet this kind of culture also spreads up and down an organization and becomes an identity at the highest level. Baseball is always a game of gamesmanship and adjustments so developing a mental approach along with the talent is like sports team nirvana.

  • fb_avatar

    That article nailed it John! Any plans to hang out with Cubs Denners at Cubs Con this year? I will be there again this year...

  • In reply to Bob from Salem:

    You will have to ask Cubs Den readers on that as I will be here in AZ.

    I know that in the past everyone has gone to Kitty O'Shea's afteward, which is next to the hotel. Some writers, broadcasters, and others have gone in the past as well.

  • Great Post John! I think they do it that way player wise, and coaching wise!! A great time to be a Cubs fan!

  • In reply to Cubs26:

    Great time to be a Cubs fan. Talent and guys who know what to do with it...what more can you ask?

  • Excellent analysis John, the FO (and I suspect Theo especially) are behind this change in approach and policy although I was still surprised at the Lackey acquisition.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Thanks. Lackey is more of a gray area case. I have to admit I would probably not ever want to have a beer with Lackey, but I imagine there are some in baseball that like him very much. The Cubs certainly did and we know Lester, Maddon, and others were very familiar with him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    from what Ive heard of Lackey, seems to be similar to what many said several years ago about Richie Incognito right after his problems with Jonathan Martin. You hate him when hes on the other team, you love him as a teammate.

  • fb_avatar

    Great article John. You've mentioned mental makeup before and the more I think about this FO the more I believe that MM might be one of the most important factor in scouting for them. If a player has all the talent but no desire to work just pass on him. There's a great book about Magic and Larry and how each of them worked out so hard and every day because they knew the other was doing that; or how about Michael Phelps (I know, he drinks) but he worked out every day between Olympics and when he won that one race by .001 that could have made the difference. So character and desire makes such a difference. When I mentioned Michael Phelps I don't know his character but centered on his mental toughness to get up every day and work out, sometimes twice a day.
    thanks again.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I think it is big for them. We remember how Almora and Schwarber blew them away in terms of their makeup. And the Cubs took those guys ahead of some more highly rated guys. In the case of Schwarber, I am quite sure there were guys they passed up who they didn't like as much off the field.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Isn't there a difference between mental makeup/character and work ethic (at least sometimes)? Michael Jordan had a great work ethic, but wasn't always a great teammate and certainly had some off-court issues.

    Nobody is alleging that Chapman doesn't work hard...so is the comparison about how hard Phelps/Bird/Magic worked the appropriate comparison? If Chapman had the best work ethic in baseball, would you want to acquire him?

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    In reply to springs:

    You're right. I wouldn't want Chapman. I was pointing out that part of MM is being strong enough to be a hard worker. Maybe work ethic is a better way of describing it. I don't think we can just look at one characteristic and use that to choose someone, but I want someone who works hard in addition to having a good core character.
    One of my favorite players to watch was Pete Rose (I'm not talking about character here because I think gambling on baseball is terrible but that's another discussion). From the time he hit the ball he hustled! He gave it 100%. How many players today have that attitude? Now I don't know if this FO would have picked Pete in the draft, but I do admire someone who gives it all on the field. How many times do we complain about someone standing at the plate or jogging to first or second or third when they "assume" the ball will be caught? So we really have to distinguish between work ethic and character--I guess I brought up work ethic so maybe I'm arguing against myself.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I could not agree more...watching someone give everything, even in situations where such effort may only payoff 1 out of every 100 or so times, makes me want someone more.

    Clearly many of us have times where we slack a bit at work (as I reply to this Cubs blog during work hours :)) but we typically feel we give our best when we "come to bat", if you will, and expect that the players we root for will do the same. It is somewhat unreasonable -- the players are human, baseball is a job and nobody is perfect over a long season -- but we really want the players to care as much as we do and their full bore effort evidences this caring. Those players who do give everything will be ones the fans love and they will end up making a few opportunities each year that would never have arisen if not for their hustle.

  • Terrific article, John. I wonder how many other teams miss the boat when the don't take MM into consideration,

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    Thanks, Price...there are more and more teams that take into account, though I am not sure many do it to the extent that the Cubs do. Some barely consider it at all.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    On the other hand, I assume the Nationals are glad we took Almora and left Giolito for them (or the A's taking Addison Russell at #11). It isn't always the right decision.

  • In reply to springs:

    Ryan Leaf.....Sometimes mental makeup is everything

  • In reply to mcoley32:

    That is a perfect example of the importance of MM, for sure. He had all the tools.

    I am just saying that if I had to choose between a pretty decent player with great MM and Bryce Harper, I'd choose Bryce Harper.

  • In reply to springs:

    I was teasing but I agree with you completely.

  • Great article yet again. Truly an underrated aspect in baseball that people just can't get a grasp on. I wonder in the draft sometimes if even the late round guys have really good mental makeup or if sometimes they are trying to pry away some guys from school just to add some more talent. Just nitpicking, but love everything this FO has done with this organization. Would be so fun to be in the room with these geniuses talking with behind the scenes kinda stuff.

  • In reply to SpencerGoCubs:

    Thanks, Spencer. I thought about that with some of the ballyhooed offseasons of last year. I think they only considered individual talent -- and not much consideration to makeup or fit.

  • Interesting subject and it gets me to thinking about all the players down through my history of being a Cubs fan that I viewed with high mental makeup qualities. So, just for fun, I thought I'd list my Cubs All-Star MM team. Mind you, they are my perception and I could be dead wrong on some of these, since I may not be aware of issues they may have had. I'm combining MM with talent, of course.

    1B - Rizzo
    2b - Sandberg
    3b - Santo
    SS - Banks
    C - Hundley
    LF - Williams
    CF - Monday
    RF - Dawson
    SP - Jenkins
    SP - Reuschel
    SP - Sutcliffe
    SP - Arrieta
    SP - Maddux
    BP - Wood (couldn't fit him in the rotation)
    BP - L. Smith
    BP - Sutter
    BP - Eckersley
    BP - Ellsworth
    BP - Cardwell
    BP - Pappas

    Manager (of course) - Maddon

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    As long as you mean Randy Hundley and not Todd :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I've always wondered how many gold gloves Randy would have won if not for that catcher in Cincinnati.

  • In reply to kansascub:

    I don't know. Imagine quite a few. Unfortunately he was just slightly before my time. I think he had a few ABs at the end of his career when I just started watching, but was too young to remember much other than the stories my dad would tell.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Oh, absolutely. Thought that would go unsaid.

  • I view mental makeup as a more encompassing term that translates more to the on the field type of stuff. Handling pressure situations, dealing with adversity, talking with the media etc.

    I view Character as how you are as a person and how you live your life. Chapman has revealed his character over the first few years of his career and the results don't look good. There are many others we could all come up with in all sports with poor character.

    I for one have long given up idolize get athletes as it appears that a majority of them seem to sight of what is right with the more fame and fortune they achieve.

    I am really hopeful that the likes of Bryant, Rizzo and Schwarber can stay grounded throughout their careers here in Chicago. It really makes it a lot easier to cheer them on.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I think it's both. I don't think people turn things off and on when they get on the baseball field. What they do and how they act outside of baseball is always going to be a reflection of how they at on it.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Character is how you act when you don't think anybody is looking,....

    Best description of the term I have ever heard.

    We all have flaws. Know I have mine.

  • Great article, John. No one else talks about this aspect of scouting as well as you do and have, now, for a while.

    The proof is in the pudding with the way this team has come together. This philosophy of putting importance on make-up can even be extended to the manager. It would be hard to find a manager who is smarter, better at relating to people, more likable and better off the field than Joe. Plus, his strength is getting the most out of the talent on the roster via stimulating the person as well as the mechanics of the player.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Thanks Q. And great point on Maddon. I think the Cubs had a good one too in Renteria, but Maddon is the master.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Where did Renteria end up anyway? Lost track of him this last year. One of those guys you certainly would love to see become a huge success - and also a strong character guy.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    He's back in Chicago. Bench coach for the White Sox.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Thanks TC - He's going to make some lucky club an excellent manager, and it is not going be to long before he gets a second shot.

    Hope his tenure with the dysfunctional Sox is a good one - if a short one before he relaunches.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I'm not convinced that he's not an insurance policy against Ventura resigning. Talk about a guy that doesn't seem to like his job very much.

  • I'm pretty sure that Bill James recently said that makeup is the most important characteristic in his evaluation of a player (given that he is considering players of world-class talent).

    Remember that baseball is unique with a 162-game(plus), 6-month(plus) season, and seemingly small makeup deficits that might be tolerated in other sports can often be magnified under the stress and pressure of such a long grind, especially when the inevitable losing streaks appear. This is where veteran presence and Maddon's light touch are most valuable.

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    Can't remember where I saw (or read) this, but I seem to remember that at least one NFL team used to go back and interview cabbies and waitresses (and others) who'd interacted with players who'd been brought in for pre-draft interviews and workouts...the theory being that you'd learn a lot about these guys' character (or lack thereof) from how they dealt with everyday people when they thought that nobody was watching.

  • In reply to Grandpaboy1967:

    When Scott Pioli was GM of the Chiefs, he was famous for doing that. They'd go talk to high school janitors and equipment managers etc. see how players treated those "beneath" them and dig up other info

  • Ok here is my problem with the immediate condemnation and criticism of Chapman. Police officers require zero real evidence to arrest a man for domestic violence. All that is required is a woman telling the officer that he hit her. No marks or physical injury of any kind. I have 3 family members on police forces in the Chicago area, they all tell me that they see it all the time where a woman doesn't get her way or has a meltdown and uses the police as a weapon. Many instances, the woman had actually been attacking the man and he pushed her away. The man can tell the truth about pushing her in self defense, but of she doesn't admit to hitting him first, he has condemned himself to being convicted unless she changes her mind before court. Women have realized what anot effective weapon they now possess and more and more women have been using it to punish the man for something unrelated.

    It is this reason that unless there is some actually physical damage or injury documented (and I don't mean a black eye or a scratch because the smart ones can do that to themselves), it is really hard for me to see how we as outsiders can judge the man. Now when you start to see multiple offenses, I can understand. If a woman used the police as a weapon once, you don't stick around to give her another shot.

    In no way do I condone domestic violence and I'm not trying to make light of its dangerous nature, but the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction as it usually does in American society.

  • In reply to mcoley32:

    Based on the action or, more accurately, non-action of MLB teams on the Chapman trade front, my guess is there is solid information on this.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Therein lies the problem sir. The man is getting lambasted by all media outlets and all we can do is guess as to what took place.

  • In reply to mcoley32:

    My guess is teams have more info than we do on this and their (non) actions speak loudly.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Haha now after reading into it deeper, 8 gunshots were fired by him. Ok I will gladly step down from my soapbox

  • In reply to mcoley32:

    Lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place. And if he's got a firearm out, and he had to be subdued by party-goer's just to keep him immobilized until the Police arrived, I'd say that's more than enough for me to not want him on my team in these times. If I believe a third of what I've read on him, being called 'aloof' is endearing.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    I didn't even find anew article detailing the event until literally just after I posted. Trust me, I'm securely out of his corner. Sure looks like something serious.

  • In reply to mcoley32:

    The lack of physical evidence and conflicting stories from witnesses and the fact that none of the witnesses were cooperative is why there was no arrest on the Domestic Violence. Okay fine, I get that. But he admits to firing 8 gunshots into his garage. How is he not arrested for that? Any average Joe without thousands for a defense attorney would be sent to Prison for this act.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Similar to the Kane investigation. Kane was absolutely ROASTED by the media. Turns out that a very crafty woman manipulated the system and really put him a tough spot that he was very fortunate to be able to wiggle out of.

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    In reply to mcoley32:

    And now there is another Kane (Evanser) also a hockey player in Buffalo who is accused of the same crime.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    That's pretty interesting lol.

  • In reply to mcoley32:

    I don't know I want to be respectful but I think you are overestimating the instances where women use the police as a weapon against their man. Do you have any statistics to back this up other then anecdotal stories? Also how do those police officers know if the women is lying?

    You then go on to point out that some women harm themselves? So then in what circumstance do we actually believe a women who is being abused? The danger in always giving the man preference is that women are killed or violently beaten every day by their partners. Many times these same women have called the police before on their abusers yet nothing was done. Will some men be arrested under false pretenses? Perhaps but that is for the courts to sort out, and there are penalties for falsely reporting crimes as well.

    I'm sorry I know we don't do politics here but your response sort of seems like it is biased against one gender. You make women out to be these crafty, cunning, evil-doers, when a vast majority of them are being physically abused by much larger men. And you say nothing bad about the many many men who have actually been proven (unlike your examples) to have beaten women. If I was a domestic violence victim that would really hurt me.

    I also never like to see "I don't condone domestic violence but..." It seems like that is exactly what you are doing. But again that is just me.

    Amazing post John. Your writing is so much more thought out and entertaining than most of the national writers I can think of. And I mean that sincerely.

  • In reply to Torcosign:

    I can tell you, a little of what he says is true. The cops are in a 'no win situation' if you will. Always err on the side of safety/caution. I can tell you with 100% certainty that order's of protection are given to victims and there is no due process.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    Thanks for your input and as someone that feels the way I do I am very glad that orders of protection are given 100% of the time. One guy with a shoe bomb went on a plane and I still have to take my boots off to board a plane, and I'm ok with it. I think that everyday there are women who are beaten so we should take precautions everytime a women alleges abuse.

    And I believe that the courts are a great example of due process for those accused of crimes.. (Not that they are perfect. See Making a Murderer for an example of how justice is unfairly reserved for those with money, but that seems like a separate issue.)

  • In reply to copinblue:

    And I forgot to acknowledge that I totally agree with you in this case that the police are in a no win situation. Domestic violence situations have to be some of the most difficult situations on earth to deal with for anyone, much less someone whos job it is to enforce the law and keep the peace.

  • Great read John. Funny thing is I had the same thought when seeing the Reds return. That said it's hard to think of a team that couldn't have offered more. Makes one wonder if there isn't more swept under the rug with Chapman. Given his age and the impact he makes on the diamond I found it odd the Reds were in such a hurry to deal him. Not to mention he could well be facing a lengthy suspension. They could have held off until his value went up again. I just see a lot of pieces that don't seem to fit.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    It seems they should have held on to him until some of those concerns faded...of course, maybe they just wanted to get rid of him.

  • This article is well taken. I coached for 42 years, though last year due to health I took some time off. During that time I had 4 teams that were totally destroyed by the character issue.

    I had 2 girls at a D1 school kicked off due to drugs. I had 2 others lost to alcohol poisoning requiring hospitalization. One of them was in our 3 game series at the U. Hawaii before we ever played a game. All four of these were involving fraternization with our football team's players who lived by what often seemed to be No standards.

    I lost 2 girls from an 18 and Under travel team at the National Championships. In uniform they decided to shoplift at 7 stores and got caught. They got sent home at team expense. They were my 1 - 2 in the batting order. Let alone the embarassment to our team that was levied by the news. I will also say that initially all but two sets of parents were against me for kicking them off the team. We tied for 17th nationally in a 94 team tournament. What if? Afterward almost all said it was the right thing to do. It shows that for some compromises of character come easy. But the price goes beyond the "crimes".

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Great story Quas...and even better decision to cut them loose. I've been in a situation where I've had to arrest a 'good kid'. I've worked with them afterwards so that they didn't have it too bad. But at the time of the incident, I've had to. You can't let those kids have a pass and then stop one who might not deserve one, and they say, 'how come I can't get what that kid got'? It comes down to makeup in these athletes. I played 5 yrs D-1 and saw this so much with the 'what if'?

  • In reply to copinblue:

    Thanks! I only told 3 of the 4. The last one would take a page. But you are right. The standards were already set. They blew it. They paid. At the D1 school, you only answer to the AD, or in our case the Asst Women's AD and the AD. But in travel ball you have parents involved who all think their kid is Roberto Clemente, when in fact they are Barry Bonds.

  • Is Andrew Miller a decent person? What would it take to bring him to Chicago? I think that's the missing link. Make that back end of the bullpen stronger and we look really good!!! Let me know what you think thanks

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    In reply to Jjdgolf:

    First of all, I already think this team looks "really good." Is it possible to improve the team? Of course it is. The question is whether it is worth it. While Miller may well be the exception, for the most part the bullpen is often not a particularly good investment beyond getting it "decent." The reason that the Royals are able to maintain their bullpen is that most of them are still not paid at "market value" but are still in their "arbitration years."

    Would Miller make the team better? Probably. But putting $9M + whatever we have to give up into a bullpen arm I don't think that is really a good value.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    The Cubs have built a strong bullpen with depth. If Rondon falters there are guys that can sub and you can look at the deadline. Frankly that's when Miller might be made available anyway. This is a solid team and now it's time to let it play out. They can tinker later. Is it April yet?

  • I agree I think the bullpen has got better but I'm just still worried about Rondon! But this team will be fun to watch! Love it! I know come on March! I think I'm going to spring training this year!

  • Great stuff. Positive Mental Makeup of individuals makes for much better Employee Engagement. It is easier to have better Employee Engagement when you team has a good Mental Makeup. Maddon and his staff are the kings of employee engagement -keeping the levels of stress down to a reasonable level so that team can focus on just playing the game. Study of environmental and social stress effects on the body is only beginning. Early reports suggest that if you can maintain a low stress environment in the workplace then your team will see better overall mental and physical wellness. Perception is important. If the team perceives it is winning, then it will maintain a positive outlook, thus less added stress. The team is seemingly full of self starters and people with leadership qualities. More importantly, there is not a Carlos Quentin type who cares struggles on multiple days in get into their own heads thus generating stress. Maddon and his staff seem to do a great job watching for this. Mark Grace had his "slump busters." Ryno had his kids. Dawson had his workouts just to keep his body strong. Sosa had his nightlife. These players have to find ways to find their own equilibrium to maintain a level of comfort. It is easier to have a good mental makeup when you are comfortable / not stressed.

    MM+EE= Winning

  • Another great article John.
    We don't know for sure what the Cubs interest/involvement in a deal for Chapman was, but obviously they could have easily beat that offer. I for one am glad they didn't. Of course we would love to have his arm for a season (who wouldn't), but there is a ton of possible distraction coming along with him. Suspensions, media attention, etc. I think all of that could really hurt a team with Championship dreams.

  • In reply to CubsMOJO:

    Thanks!

  • OT: Zips really like Hendricks, not so much Clayton Richards.

    Cubs projections are out today.

  • John, the work ethic of Bryant and Schwarber alone, the fact they are self-motivated enough to work to improve from within says much about the quality of there character. I know many scouts doubt Schwarbers ability to catch, I for one would not be surprised in the least if he becomes at least an average big league catcher, just based on what Ive seen of him so far.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Schwarber's drive is what I like most about him and he is by far my favorite Cubs player in 25 years or so but I have a hard time seeing him as a catcher. With another 1 to 1 1/2 years in the minors I think he might have been able to do it but with his bat so far ahead of his catching abilities I don't see how he gets the time in to learn the position now. I kind of hope I'm wrong because it's clear that he wants to catch.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I doubt he is static this off season. I hope so! I still want to see it happen. It could only help the team if he could. I don't know if you saw it, but I answered your question about Heyward's mechanics when you asked. I sure wish I had some sources where he is evaluated. I have been in Asia for over a month now and I can't access every site on the net.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    if he doesn't become a catcher, it won't be for lack of trying,

  • "Million dollar talent but 10 cent brain" - Bad news Barnes
    (NBA 70s) What could be

  • One incident and the Cubs player involved, probably put Chapman on a far away back burner

    Rizzo vs Chapman

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