Cubs introduce Theo Epstein

Updated: October 25, 2011, 9:11 PM ET
ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs introduced Theo Epstein as their president of baseball operations on Tuesday, hoping he can end a championship drought the way he did for the Boston Red Sox.

"To me, baseball is better with tradition, baseball is better with history, baseball is better with fans who care, baseball is better in ballparks like this, baseball is better during the day. And baseball is, best of all, when you win," Epstein said during a packed Wrigley Field news conference.

"I firmly believe that we can preserve the things that make the Cubs so special and over time build a consistent winner, a team that will be playing baseball in October consistently and a team that will ultimately win the World Series."

"I've waited a few weeks to say this, but it truly feels great to be a Cub today," Epstein said, who agreed to a five-year deal for a reported $18.5 million.

The Cubs haven't won a title in 103 years and haven't been to the World Series since 1945. The Red Sox endured an 86-year stretch without a title, but Epstein built a team that won it all in 2004 and again in 2007.

"I don't believe in curses, (and) I guess I played a small part in proving they don't exist, from a baseball standpoint," Epstein said. "I do think we can be honest and upfront that certain organizations haven't gotten the job done. That's the approach we took in Boston. We identified certain things that we hadn't been doing well, that might have gotten in the way of a World Series, and eradicated them. That's what we'll do here."

Why does he think he can do what no one else has been able to in Chicago?

"When I got to Boston they hadn't won in 86 years. We didn't run from that challenge. We embraced it," Epstein said. "We decided the way to attack it was to build the best baseball operation that we could, to try to establish a winning culture, to work as hard as possible and to bring in players who care more about each other and more about winning than the people around them thought or the external expectations, the external mindset. That's something that is going to be important to us here as well.

"We're going to build the best baseball operation we can. We're going to change the culture. Our players are going to change the culture along with us in the major league clubhouse. We're going to make building a foundation for sustained success a priority. That will lead to playing October baseball more often than not. Once you get in in October there's a legitimate chance to win the World Series."

Epstein vowed to build a better scouting and farm system for the Cubs.

"We won't rest until there is a steady stream of talent" going to Wrigley Field from the minors.

"We're going to have to grind our way to the top," he said.

Epstein was asked about changing the Cubs culture. From the curse of the billy goat to the moniker of lovable losers to the 1984 collapse to Steve Bartman in the 2003 NLCS, the Cubs have a rich history of failure.

"Every opportunity to win is sacred," Epstein said. "It's sacred to us inside the organization and it should be sacred to the fans as well. They deserve our best efforts to do what we can to improve the club, and put the club in position to succeed in any given season."

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts introduced Epstein at Wrigley Field and said he knew he had his man after 10 to 15 minutes of discussions.

"We began this search in August, and I said at that point we were looking for someone with a background in player development, someone who had a proven track record of success, someone who had a strong analytical background and someone who had experience in creating a culture of winning," Ricketts said. "It was also important to me that this person would not be someone who was content with their past successes, but someone who would build on those successes to improve themselves and improve the organization that they're with.

"Given these criteria that we laid out, I simply cannot imagine a better person for this job than Theo Epstein."

Few additions to the Cubs -- players or managers -- have generated as much buzz as Epstein. "Cubs Welcome Theo Epstein" lit up the famous Wrigley Field marquee at the corner of Clark and Addison on Tuesday morning, and the conference room for Epstein's introduction was packed.

The 37-year-old Epstein left the Red Sox with a year left on his contract as general manager. The Cubs finally made the announcement Friday night, but held off on the news conference until Tuesday, a travel day for the World Series.

The compensation package the Cubs will send to the Red Sox still has not been finalized. Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig gave the teams a Nov. 1 deadline before he steps in to resolve the matter.

Epstein arrived in Chicago on Monday and met with his front office staff at a restaurant near Wrigley, but it wasn't his first venture into the area. In the beginning of talks with the Cubs, there were unconfirmed reports that Epstein was seen at a Wrigleyville Starbucks. Epstein confirmed the report after the news conference.

San Diego Padres general manager Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod will join Epstein with the Cubs, sources told ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine, who reported that both man have been in Chicago for the past three days. A news conference to announce those moves is expected within a week.

Epstein replaces Jim Hendry, who was fired July 22 but stayed on to help the team with the draft and trade deadline.

Among the questions facing Epstein is what to do with manager Mike Quade, who has one year left on his contract. The Cubs finished a disappointing 71-91 in 2011, which was Quade's first season as a full-time manager in the majors. Quade succeeded Lou Piniella at the end of the 2010 season on an interim basis.

"I've already had a couple of nice phone conversations with Mike Quade," Epstein said. "We have plans to meet in person sometime over the next week. Mike seems like a great guy and he has developed a great reputation over many decades in this game. I'd like to hear his vision for the organization. We have to talk up some things that have happened the last year or so."

Would Epstein consider bringing in Terry Francona, who left the Red Sox before he did.

"I have a close personal relationship with him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him," Epstein said. "Is he going to be a great manager for somebody again someday? Absolutely. Is he able to contribute to organizations in other ways, and serve the same role he served with the Indians, where he was a special assistant, made some good evaluations in the draft and the minor leagues? Absolutely."

Citing a policy he had in Boston, Epstein would not say what the Cubs' payroll will look like next season, but said that the baseball side of the operation will have plenty of resources. He did not say if he would go after big-name free agents, such as Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, but he did say that he has learned some lessons on that front.

"The key is to pay for future performance, not past performance," he said.

The Cubs do have several question marks on the roster, including pitcher Carlos Zambrano, whose tumultuous career in Chicago seemed to reach a dramatic conclusion this season when he left Atlanta's Turner Field during a game in August and said he was retiring. He later changed his mind.

Hendry put Zambrano on the disqualified list, and though he was activated after a grievance was filed, many assumed Zambrano's days with the Cubs are over. He has one year and $18 million left on his contract and a full no-trade clause. The Cubs may have to eat the bulk of that to move him.

Alfonso Soriano has three years left at $54 million and also has a no-trade clause. Ricketts will have to decide how much of Soriano's deal he's willing to absorb to facilitate a trade, if that's Epstein's suggestion.

Under Epstein's guidance, Boston went 839-619 (.575) in the regular season and a 34-23 in the playoffs, winning more than 90 games in all but two seasons. He acquired such stars as David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, Jason Bay and Adrian Gonzalez, though he also will be remembered for bringing in highly priced players who fell short, including Edgar Renteria, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and John Lackey. This season it was Carl Crawford who didn't meet expectations after signing a big contract.

Epstein has a history of smart draft moves (Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz) and he has spent freely. His tenure in Boston ended poorly when the Red Sox collapsed in September and missed the playoffs for the second straight season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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