Earlier today, our friend (even if it is a singular friendship that he is unaware of) Patrick Mooney posted a piece on The Athletic that gave us an inside look into the Cub’s recruiting pitch to Yu Darvish.
Spoiler alert, Theo is Saban, Saban is Theo. THEO’S A WINNER!
“The Cubs — they know how to recruit a player,” Joel Wolfe said. “It’s like the University of Alabama. They go the extra mile.”
He goes on:
“It was very much like a high school football player trying to choose and he’s going to have the signing day,” Wolfe said. “Here’s what we have to offer you and your family as a place to live. This is what our organization is like. Here’s what we’re going to do with you. We think you’re a great pitcher, but here’s how we’re going to make you better. Here’s what we’ve done with other guys. This is exactly how we’re going to do it. Incredible detail.
“It wasn’t just telling him what he wanted to hear. It was legitimate. He showed up, he asked a lot of questions. They asked him a lot of direct, blunt questions. He’s a very honest guy. When he starts speaking in English with you, you’ll see. He really felt it.”
That’s how you land a mother-loving top end free agent!
Of course, because I’m me, this got me thinking about the Bulls (and by proxy, GarPax) recent pitches to NBA superstars.
Are the Bulls doing all of this?
If this piece is preaching anything (at least to me), it’s that you can’t just put up some banners and throw up a photoshopped picture on the marquee and hope he signs on the dotted lines. You can’t just take him for a tour past the Jordan statue and into the newly renovated training facility and hope that’s enough. You have to do more than that. You have to figure out a way to stroke their ego while also selling them on how your organization and your coaching staff is going to make him even better than he is right now; even if that means being a little blunt about it.
Darvish also sat down with the Dodgers, Astros, Rangers and Minnesota Twins. The Milwaukee Brewers were involved in the negotiations but did not do a face-to-face meeting. The Cubs had their Nick Saban as the closer.
“We like to meet in person,” Epstein said, “just to understand where a player is coming from, what motivates him, where he is in his development, off the field as well as on the field, what they’re looking for out of a destination.
“He had put a lot of thought into things that had gone right in his career, things that he wanted to continue to improve and what his goals were for the rest of his career.
“We were able to engage and have a pretty in-depth baseball conversation about ways that he could maximize his deep arsenal of pitches and fit in with our approach to trying to get guys out. Without that meeting, we probably don’t end up here with Yu.”
Treat these kids like college recruits? Weird!
Just like college coaches, you have to go into these meetings with multiple plans to get the player to open up to you about what he wants. What he dreams about. What he hopes to accomplish during his next four years.
Being generic and superficial wont get the job done. In the NBA, where everyone is playing with the same deck of cards, it forces you to dig around and find that competitive chord within these guys and hit it. You have to show them not just how great your organization is; you have to prove to them that you’re the franchise that can raise every single aspect of their life.
Their play. Their brand. Their story. Their family life. Their lifestyle. How they will be looked at when people talk about their place in history.
You have to figure out what buttons to push and the only way that happens is by communicating openly. You have to be Theo. You have to be Pat Riley.
Perhaps GarPax have been doing this all along and there’s just a stench at the United Center. But I highly doubt it. There’s something missing. They aren’t communicating their plans. Their visions. Their ability to maximize a superstar better than anybody else. They’re striking out with the best players in the world despite having boatloads of cash and exciting, ready made rosters to fill in around them.
If they hope to maximize their patience and the equity they’ve pitched to Bulls fans, they’re going to have to fill in these gaps. Maybe that comes from John Paxson taking full control of these types of things. Maybe that comes from Doug Collins and his role with the team.
Or, maybe Theo can be the Bulls very own Ernie Accorsi.
“With all the offers getting very close together, we had to make a decision,” Wolfe said. “One thing that Theo said to him and to me right before was, ‘You’ve been traded. You understand what it’s like going to a new team. I want you to have the opportunity to come in here on Day 1. When you sign, there’s going to be all this talk about your contract, blah blah blah, but I want you to be able to — from Day 1 — just be a guy on the team.’
“That meant a lot to him because it could have easily just been negotiating posture. [But] it resonated with him because nobody had really said that to him. It was mostly about ‘Do our deal, because our deal’s the right deal.’ But Theo was very clear in why he wanted to do it now. He then extended himself to put his money where his mouth was.”