Theo-cracy reigns:The Epstein era begins in Chicago
We are right in the middle of an exciting World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers with their 2 aces matching up against each other tonight. But that’s not all that’s happening in the baseball world.
In a time that is supposed to be reserved for the two teams that are still actually playing, many other names are popping up in the headlines. Today. the Philadelphia Phillies declined their options on pitchers Brad Lidge and Roy Oswald, adding marquee names to a thin pitching market. Prince Fielder all but said goodbye to the Brewers in a press conference following their NLCS series loss. People can’t help but speculate about C.C. Sabathia and the uncertainty surrounding the Yankees pitching staff.
But the teams grabbing the most headlines are the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. In a move that has long been speculated, former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein left the Bosox for the Chicago Cubs. If you are questioning why the youngest GM in baseball history would leave his hometown team for the lowly Cubs, there are plenty of reasons.
The first two reasons are obvious: money and power. While he was taking home a hefty paycheck in Boston, the Cubs aren’t exactly frugal spenders either. Epstein will be well compensated on the northside, but this is nothing but a small part of the story. More important to the rationale is power. In Boston, Epstein did a lot of good things, but he wasn’t alone or even in charge of the decision-making. Epstein was kept on a relatively short leash by Owner John Henry, Chairman Thomas Werner, and President/CEO Larry Lucchino. In Chicago he wont have nearly as much oversight. Instead of coming in as the GM, he is going up a step as the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations. He will oversee the all aspects of the Cubs and report only to a ownership group not quite as hands-on as Henry.
This leads to another big reason to his departure from Boston: his legacy. He broke an 86-year-old curse in his last position (the Curse of the Great Bambino). But that was only the second biggest fish in the baseball sea (or goat in the field if you’dd rather). The curse in Chicago has spanned over a century (103 years). Many great-grandparents of fans the Cubs’ never saw a championship and the ever-passionate fan-base is chomping at the bit for a title.
The final reason that I will discuss is the dismal state of the Red Sox. From the September collapse, to the firing of Terry Francona, to the Beer in the clubhouse/dugout, to the uncertainty of David Ortiz, etc. etc…Boston is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. No one can blame Epstein for wanting to abandon ship. The Sox have been built with the wrong personnel. Now they have big contracts without the performance to go along with them. The do have the egos however, and the club house is in shambles. Epstein can hardly want to pick up the pieces from last season, nor do I believe he is the right person for the job. Epstein was responsible for putting together the team that collapsed. By switching jobs, he leaves Boston with his dignity and legacy in tact…for now.
The Cubs’ job wont be an easy one. For a team that hasn’t won in over a hundred years, the expectations will be monumental. The team hasn’t been good but still has a large payroll. He will be tasked with getting rid of overpriced under-performers and fielding a competitive team almost immediately. The playoffs should almost be considered a requirement, but a lot of work needs to be done. They need to totally reconstruct their pitching staff, debatably a new coaching staff and need more power in their lineup (amongst many other things). They need to find a suitor for their overpaid liability at first and find a replacement. My suggestion would be Pujols.
Epstein needs to make a big splash to build excitement and there is no bigger fish than Pujols in the market. It would cost a pretty penny, but there is no team that could use his services more. He would provide power, leadership, a defensive upgrade, publicity, and clutch hitting. Not to be overlooked, it would also provide a devastating blow to the rival Cardinals. If he is willing to come to Chicago, I think the Cubs should be willing to make him the highest paid player in the game.
Today, Theo Epstein took his first steps onto Wrigley Field. The next step remains to be seen. But bringing in Epstein definitely represents a step in the right direction.
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