12 October 2011

Can Theo Epstein Be the Guy for the Cubs?

It has been confirmed today that Theo Epstein, General Manager of the Boston Red Sox, has taken over the baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs. Epstein is best known as the guy who helped piece together the Red Sox club that won their first World Series championship in 86 years in 2004, breaking the Curse of the Bambino. They then won another title in 2007. Even with the Red Sox's epic collapse in September of this year and the fact that they've missed the postseason the last two seasons, the 37-year old is considered one of the top minds in baseball. Or at least I think so.
But the Cubs are certainly a different animal, having not won the World Series since 1908 and not even playing in the World Series since 1945. Can Epstein help turn the tide on the North Side (terrible line right there, I apologize)?
Even with their futility and their notoriety for falling short, it's still easy to see why running the Cubs is such a desirable position. Who wouldn't want to be known as that guy that got the Cubs a World Series championship and become a Chicago godsend? Not to mention that Wrigley Field is such a legendary venue and one of the most easily recognizable in all of sports.
Now to expect Epstein to change the culture with the Cubbies is a little unrealistic. The Red Sox had at least made the World Series in the prior 20 years and were a top contender in the American League. It's been a few years since the Cubs where a contender and the bottom just ab out fell out this year, finishing fifth out of six in the National League Central with a 71-91 record, one game behind the Pirates. The previous organizational leaders saddled the club with many poor contracts and not much to build with as well as a subpar farm system. So Epstein clearly has some work to do.
However, Epstein seems to be a good fit in Chicago. He has worked in a big market before, has rebuilt and stocked a farm system, and he blended sabermetrics with a large budget very well, leading to Boston's strong run in the aughts. So in my opinion, I don't see why Epstein would not be able to win.
His first decision is on a manager. Mike Quade did a tremendous job at the end of 2009 and the players do like him a lot but he seemed over his head this year. Plus Epstein has no ties to him. The immediate favorite is thought to be Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg, who was passed over last year for Quade, resulting in Sandberg leaving the organization to coach in the Phillies' system. He has a strong record as a minor league manager, has said that it is his desire to manage the Cubs, and Epstein tried to hire him to be the manager in Pawtucket, Boston's AAA affiliate.
So all in all, I think this is a wise decision for Chicago as I do think Epstein can be that guy.

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