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Friday, June 15, 2012
Theo prepping Cubs fans for lean years

By ESPNBoston.com

Former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has talked extensively about battling “the monster” of the pressure to win now in Boston, pressure he succumbed to in making some bad free-agency decisions.

Will history repeat itself in Chicago? From the sounds of things, it seems Epstein is preparing the fan base for seasons of rebuilding, of stocking the farm system in the hopes of someday realizing his dream of fielding a team made up primarily of home-grown talent.

Just recently, Theo’s Cubs signed highly touted Cuban outfield prospect Jorge Soler and took well-regarded outfielder Albert Almora in the first round of the draft. But neither will help the Cubs with the current predicament: stuck in the NL Central basement at 21-42.

Epstein has made it known the team will be sellers at the trade deadline. You can expect the Cubs to unload guys like Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Bryan LaHair and Alfonso Soriano in the coming weeks.

"I knew there would be really tough times," Epstein said on ESPN Chicago Radio earlier this week. "When the opportunity presents itself to join a new organization, you look at what's there and the good and the bad, and I think in this case I understood. There's a reason they were looking for change, and I knew there would be a lot of hard work ahead.

"There were plenty of good things here, but plenty of challenges. I think by taking the approach we're taking, which is trying to be disciplined about focusing on the big picture, doing it the right way, understanding there are no shortcuts, getting out of that mindset of just spending a little bit more money on this veteran here and maybe piecing it together so if everything goes right you can contend, we're trying to get out of that mindset and trying to build it the right way around a young nucleus. Of course I knew it would be difficult."

So how will he sell another long-term rebuilding project to a fan base that hasn’t seen a title in more than 100 years?

"In the end, the adversity we're facing, the painful losses, the tough season we're having, for fans and for the Cubs alike, I do think it's going to be that much sweeter when we get there," Epstein said. "For fans, there's nothing like following young players in the minor leagues, maybe from the day they're drafted, following them through the minor leagues, seeing them come to Wrigley, seeing them maybe struggle initially and then seeing them gain confidence, have success.

"Maybe it's a core or whole group of young players, and then watching them win and getting in the postseason on an annual basis and ultimately winning a World Series, it will make it that much sweeter following it from the beginning, and knowing all the difficult times it took to get there."

Information from ESPNChicago.com was used in this report.