In less than two hours from now, the face of the Chicago Cubs franchise changes.
If the Cubs’ front office were on a reality makeover show, the appointment of Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations would nail every single desired goal. The face of the franchise will appear younger, more successful and more appealing.
Why debate what to do with Wrigley Field when you can simply hire someone of Epstein’s class and achievement, giving the home team a much needed facelift that way instead? It makes so much sense it is almost scary the Cubs thought to do it.
After resurrecting Boston from the 86 year deep grave the Red Sox had dug themselves with a world championship in 2004 and then again popping the champagne bottles for good measure in 2007, Epstein leaves his hometown team a hero. In this day and age when it comes to the Cubs and the Red Sox, it is always about heroes and goats – sometimes of one type, sometimes another. Chicago has had its share of literal and metaphorical goats. It is time the Cubs have their share of the G.O.A.T. If Epstein can manage to bring a title in the Cubs after defeating baseball’s other most well-known curse, he would arguably be considered just that – the greatest of all-time on a long list of baseball executives with impressive career resumes.
Since 1975, the year of my birth, the Cubs have made the playoffs in 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007 and 2008. Of the past thirty six years, the team has played in the postseason six times. On average, we are looking at once every six years and at an even greater clip than that as of late. Many fans would kill to have that type of experience. Despite the heartbreak that comes with it – and Cubs heartbreak takes is to another level- the playoffs are the goal. Get in and anything can happen. Hope springs eternal once a division is claimed or a wild card berth is born. Hendry gave fans a taste in his time as the Cubs’ GM on three separate occasions. An impressive accomplishment considering the black cats and goats and interfering fans that linger around Wrigley to be sure. The bar that Hendry has set is hardly the bar Cubs fans will be looking at though when it comes to Epstein. With Epstein, it will be the bar he set for himself while in Boston that everyone will be keeping an eye on.
Hendry made the baseball moves that will effect the franchise for another few years to come. It is a role that comes with an incredible amount of responsibility and opportunity. Epstein’s position with the team is all that and more. Not only will he be making baseball moves, he will be making them from a perch above that of GM. He will be making deals as well as naming the GM, not just being one like he was in Boston. He will be under greater scrutiny than Hendry because of his own accomplishments, his own strategic choices and the people he chooses to surround himself with.
Epstein thinks these guys are the guys we should have around? Jed Hoyer? Jason McLeod? Ok, fine. The fans will go along with Theo’s judgment calls and he will have some time to let those calls play out. However, Hoyer and McLeod and possibly a new manager will be lumped into one collective group taking responsibility for wins and losses, success or failure. No one will have greater responsibility than Epstein of course, however his group in the front office will eventually be broken down and analyzed like any Soriano contract or Zambrano meltdown.
Before Epstein gets to do any re-signing he had to do his own resigning. Leaving the Red Sox was hard for him to do once as he tried before in the last decade, simply to return months later. This time, there is basically no going back. Epstein has committed himself to bringing the type of baseball euphoria he brought to Red Sox fans, to the long suffering, desperately hungry fans in Chicago. If successful, one day there may very well be a statue of Epstein outside of Wrigley. I wouldn’t be surprised. If he fails, he will likely be remembered as a guy with great baseball smarts, able to strike lightning in a bottle two times, however simply not a third.
Three strikes are generally bad in baseball, at least if you are the hitter. With Epstein being the voice of reason in trade and free-agent signing pitch meetings, a third strike would be a hit with Cubs fans everywhere. Today at 11am CT, Theo Epstein will be introduced as the Cubs’ new president of baseball operations. Strange enough, his first deal in the coming days will be for himself. Epstein will have to decide how much he is worth while balancing with the thoughts of what he would like to be left with.
If successful in Chicago, he’ll be left with an arguably unmatchable legacy as a baseball executive. That is what Cubs fans everywhere are hoping for as the Epstein Era begins. Considering the luck the team has had in the past century, there hasn’t been a whole lot for fans to be thankful for. As a result, they have infinite ‘no…thank YOU’s held in reserve. Just give them a reason to use them, Theo. There is no thank you note a Cubs fan could receive that would be more of a welcome sight than the type you wrote to Sox fans.
Come Opening Day 2012, it will be time to take ourselves out to ‘…The-ooo ball-game’. Let’s get some rings. Go Cubs Go!