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|After ending the Red Sox's World Series drought, Theo Epstein hopes to do the same for the Cubs.|
“No, it doesn't. And the market inefficiencies he seized upon nearly 10 years ago aren't secret anymore. He said his new staff will work hard to find the new ones, but who knows if they're even out there. What never goes out of style is good defense, on-base percentage and a surplus of pitching. Most importantly, Epstein said he and his team will create a "Cubs Way" system that will be "integrated vertically" from the Dominican Summer League to Wrigley Field. No more of the get "rich quick, get terrible quicker" spending that summarized the end of the Tribune reign. Epstein's words aren't just pie-in-the-sky optimism or the kind of mindless PR-speak that Tom Ricketts sometimes lapses into. (An aside: Ricketts waited a whole minute before dropping "World Series," and Epstein mentioned it as well. I'm against mentioning those words together until the Cubs can win a first-round series again. For that matter, let's try and win a Crosstown Classic BP Cup first. You with me?) Epstein has a lot on his plate. He's got to decide on the future of option-eligible players such as Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Dempster, figure out what he's going to do with exiled Carlos Zambrano and make a decision on the future of Alfonso Soriano. The first thing he probably does is decide on the future of manager Mike Quade. Epstein said they've already talked and plan to meet in person in the next week. There is no question he needs to replace Quade immediately. Bringing him back for another year will be nothing but a distraction, and there's no reason to believe he is a long-term solution. I can't say Ryne Sandberg is the answer just because he kicked butt in managing Triple-A. I'm betting Cubs Dollars to Hendry's donuts that Epstein knows already who he's going to hire. The Cubs have big money problems and Epstein is getting paid a lot himself to figure out the best solution. Then he has to find some values on the free-agent market to fill in the holes and make this team competitive. As popular as he is, Epstein can't fill the bleachers on those $90 dates with his charm. As he repeated Tuesday, he's going to need help, like a new front office with a bent for advanced analysis. He couldn't speak about San Diego Padres GM Jed Hoyer being his second-in-command general manager, but he did say he'll be bringing in the "best and the brightest." I'm probably alone but that line made me think of David Halberstam's similarly titled book on the mistakes made in the Vietnam War. Halberstam used the term ironically for White House advisers with "brilliant policies that defied common sense." I don't think I'll have to mention that comparison again, but you never know. For now, even anti-Moneyball folks can't argue against Epstein's success blending traditional scouting methods and the now commonly accepted advanced scouting metrics. We can argue anything in this sports-obsessed city -- heck, people wanted the Chicago Bulls to draft Michael Beasley over Derrick Rose a few years ago -- but no one can argue that Epstein was the best choice for the job. He has everything going for him, but again, so did Andy MacPhail. Times and situations are different, but still, there's a reason the Cubs were so desperate for Epstein. His arrival in Chicago, as frustrating as the delay might have been, has been met with expected, over-the-moon optimism. I argued on the radio Tuesday that Epstein is the most famous sports executive (not owner) since Branch Rickey or, I guess, movie star Billy Beane. If he could call offensive plays for the Bears, I think we'd elect him King. This is nothing new. Epstein's popularity ballooned in Boston to almost comical proportions. He was the young, good-looking, guitar-playing local genius who did the impossible. If he's looking to stay low-key and stay private, he's come to the wrong city. Heck, an impromptu Starbucks visit during the interview process elicited a major newspaper story. "I've come to grow more comfortable with the realities of the fact that, unlike 20 years ago, general managers now are sort of part of the public face of the franchise. Because of the information age and the way not only the game has changed but the fan experience has changed, people relate more to GMs. Everybody thinks they can be a GM or president of baseball operations. It comes with the territory." Epstein, by the way, confirmed the fan's story that he was the guy at Starbucks, though he said he's really more of a "Dunkin' guy," especially since they're a Cubs sponsor. I'm sure Epstein's ego is prodigious, as it should be given his accomplishments, but he sees the hilarity of stores selling his Cubs jersey. "I should probably have another press conference right now to resign," he said. "Because my popularity is definitely going to be at an all-time high right now." That's great news actually. Because the Cubs don't need Celebrity Theo, they need GM Theo, the guy who got Boston those World Series titles and spent so much time talking about building a foundation Tuesday, I assumed he was the architect for the new Wrigley Field. Then again, I guess that's exactly who he is: The Builder. Now let him go to work. My sources tell me he needs to get started. Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
I should probably have another press conference right now to resign. Because my popularity is definitely going to be at an all-time high right now.” --Theo Epstein, acknowledging the fanfare celebrating his arrival in Chicago