The promotion Friday of amateur scouting director Tim Wilken into a more prominent, wide-ranging role underscored one of the management traits new team president Theo Epstein was said to bring to the Cubs: blending old-guard strengths into a new front office culture.
Long considered one of the top talent evaluators in the game, Wilken seemed to suffer at times from a guilt-by-association public perception in the nearly 10 months of Theo worship that by extension seemed to dismiss all that came before him.
But he was quickly identified as a key resource for the new regime’s big plans and his duties as special assistant to Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer under the multiyear extension will include evaluating key international prospects as well as pro players the Cubs have their eye on.
“We’re pretty excited to have the opportunity to do this” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ top player development and scouting executive. “It allows us to utilize his strengths, and I’ve already started using him in the process of some of our minor-league evaluations. I know he’s really excited. He’s been in amateur scouting for so long, I think he felt a little energized. He felt he was ready to contribute in other area.”
Wilken, who was aware of some of the outside perceptions, already had a relationship with McLeod but not the rest of the new front office.
“I think we’ve grown together pretty well in a short time period,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that were in common that people thought we were on different ends of the scale.”
That included things as fundamental a looking for similar traits in pitching mechanics to things such as Wilken’s failed attempts to get hand-held video devices for scouts when he took over in 2006 – which the Cubs’ instituted this year.
“I think our ideas mesh pretty good,” Wilken said. “To much of the people from the outside, I think it kind of fooled people. I think they thought it was a little bit of old school and a little bit of an [advanced system] here coming in, and it wasn’t going to mesh. But basically the ideas are the same.
“It’s been positive.”