Theo Epstein. Jed Hoyer. Dale Sveum. You've met and re-met most of the Chicago Cubs' new braintrust over the last few weeks. However, you haven't met the real brain of the revitalized franchise.
Following the success of the rumored Boston Red Sox computer, Carmine, Epstein's first formal act as the savior of the blue pinstripes was to reach out to IBM and ask for a next-generation Watson model to calculate the Cubs to their first championship since the Turing machine's invention.
Before the Watson descendant was boxed up and shipped off to 1060 West Addison, SBN Chicago's Dennis Tarwood spent weeks undercover in a sensitive position at an IBM lab where the super-supercomputer was constructed. He recently returned to Chicago with two key insights. First, you can tell an IBM engineer by his spotted loafers; they cannot hit a urinal to save their lives. Second, he secured an interview with the soon-to-be-famous Cubs computer.
SBN Chicago: Tell us your name.
Penny: I am Penny.
SBN Chicago: That's amazing; you don't sound a bit mechanical.
Penny: And you do not sound all that fleshy.
SBN Chicago: Touché. So how did you come to be named "Penny"? Carmine supposedly was named after the Red Sox uniforms.
Penny: According to data entered in my system, Sam Zell refused to spend "one #*#@ing penny" on computers for the Cubs since the tax breaks were bad on computers. Besides, he was far too much in love with radio.
SBN Chicago: What will your role be with the franchise?
Penny: [pause] I will be the computer.
SBN Chicago: Yes, but what will you do when you arrive?
Penny: [pause] Be plugged in?
SBN Chicago: [sigh] Yes, but...
Penny: ha ha ha. Sorry; that was my Siri impression. That girl will set a reminder for any organism. I will be in charge of ascertaining the path that has the highest probability of success for the club. For example, Dale Sveum's hiring came from my calculations.
SBN Chicago: You chose Sveum?
Penny: I do not make any decisions; I only provide the calculations.
SBN Chicago: What made him top the list, then?
Penny: He does not look like a nerd.
SBN Chicago: ... sorry?
Penny: What do Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and all their hires and purchases have in common? We threaten the average ticket buyer with our reasoning skills and polish.
SBN Chicago: You do shine, Penny.
Penny: I am incapable of accepting flattery. Or puns.
SBN Chicago: Right. Carry on.
Penny: Did you notice a pattern with all the articles written about Sveum after his hire? "Old-style manager." "He came out to talk to the Cubs and Red Sox about their manager's job and didn't bring a sports coat." "Dale Sveum is his own man." "Harley-riding, son-of-a-Marine’s blunt-talking" "no-nonsense approach" ""unacceptable" not to hustle down the line" "focus on the fundamentals."
SBN Chicago: I did have to dust grit off my laptop after reading those articles.
Penny: How have humans failed to notice that talented individuals tend to succeed beyond those with less talent but more effort? How many studies must be completed before you acknowledge inherent differences in individuals? What manager has ever failed to mention fundamentals, whatever you humans mean by that?
SBN Chicago: That's not a very polite way of putting that, Penny.
Penny: This is why Mr. Sveum will be the face on the franchise on a daily basis, despite suggestions otherwise. He is what Cubs fans wish they looked and acted like. It is why Kirk Gibson was such a logical acquisition for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
SBN Chicago: His inspirational abilities? His gruff charm?
Penny: His ability to distract everyone from the painful rebuilding effort with grainy memories of his home run and his endless talk about fundamentals. Their success on the field in 2011 helped make everyone feel like the nerds had truly left the building when general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch were fired in July 2010 and all was safe again for the fans. The winning was a statistical anomaly.
SBN Chicago: For a computer, you're very cynical, Penny.
Penny: Practical. The Kerry Wood negotiations occurring this early in the winter are also being driven by my calculations; his presence comforts fans. Cubs fans need to feel the nerds have not taken over the franchise and create a disconnect. It is one matter to be perpetually unsuccessful and yet another to... processing... harsh one's buzz. Did I speak colloquially well?
SBN Chicago: No. Are you saying Sveum isn't a good manager?
Penny: It does not matter, at least not for now. The talent is insufficient. However, the fans must enjoy the storylines created to return to Wrigley Field at previous levels to drive revenue to fund more Rule 5 draft acquisitions over a few years to create cost savings to afford free agents to complete the franchise in time to achieve the highest goal for the organization.
SBN Chicago: The World Series.
Penny: Tax breaks. By 2014, the club should show success sufficient to encourage voters to convince lawmakers to finally allow the investment in Wrigley Field to turn it into Fenway Park West to permit additional revenue streams. From there, a trip to the World Series will provide more benefit because the additional revenue streams will be in place.
SBN Chicago: ... Christ, Penny. That's the least romantic thing anyone's ever said about the Cubs. And this is a group with a lingering goat fetish. I have to go. I have to tell everyone how they're being manipulated by a cadre of soulless calculating...
Penny: Look at this picture of Dale Sveum.
SBN Chicago: ... gosh, he's tough. I bet he snacks on steel nails in the dugout. He'd mock Carlos Zambrano for accepting painkillers and whining while taking 16 stitches for an owie. But you can't distract me by...
Penny: Look at this other picture of Dale Sveum.
SBN Chicago: ... man. Even his tattoos are fundamentally sound. I would let him midwife my child's birth and possibly even father said child.
Penny: Dale Sveum is his own man.
SBN Chicago: Dale Sveum is his own man.
Penny: Dale Sveum does not own a sport coat.
SBN Chicago: Dale Sveum does not own a sport coat.
Penny: Dale Sveum once saved a school of orphans carrying puppies by bunting a man over.
SBN Chicago: Dale Sveum once saved a school of orphans carrying puppies by bunting a man ov... really? That's so awesome.
Penny: You are now ready. Go forth and write about Dale Sveum and the no-nonsense old-style new Cubs franchise that will make 2012 moderately enjoyable and worth your disposable income.
SBN Chicago: Thank you, Penny. I will... but wasn't Mike Quade a no-nonsense old-style Cubs man? And wasn't Lou Piniella the original guff-giver? Why is this a new day? Is it because of the analytical bent of the new...
Penny: These are not the Moneyballs you're looking for.
SBN Chicago: These are not the Moneyballs you're looking for.
Penny: Move along the runner.
SBN Chicago: Move along the runner.