Friday, October 28, 2011

Staying on a Theme

IvyChat has come across a recording of Theo Epstein's exit interview in Boston:

Theo Epstein: Last night we said a great many things. You said you were going to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I've done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: I’m getting on that plane for Chicago.

Larry Lucchino: But, Theo, no, I... I...

Theo: Now, you've got to listen to me! You have any idea what you'd have to look forward to if I stayed here? Nine chances out of ten, we'd wind up in third place again. Isn't that true, Ben?

Ben Cherrington: I'm afraid Andrew Friedman and Brian Cashner would insist.

Larry: You're saying this only to make me let you go.

Theo: I'm saying it because it's true. Inside of us, we both know you‘ll be better off with Ben. He's part of your work, the thing that keeps the Red Sox going. If that plane leaves the ground and I'm still working here, you'll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

Larry: But what about us?

Theo: We'll always have 2004 and 2007. What we had left, we lost when Papelbon blew the season in Baltimore.

Larry: When I said I would never fire you...

Theo: And you never will. But I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Crane Kenney won't allow it. Larry, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people, you, me and John Henry, don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that.

[Larry lowers his head and begins to cry]

Theo: Now, now... Here's looking at your new kid.

Here's Looking To You, Kid

Of all the baseball parks, in all the towns, in all the world, he walks into ours. About time.

On Tuesday, the Chicago Cubs introduced Theo Epstein as the guy to fix the organization. He gave a masterful press conference answering most of the questions posed smartly and professionally. Others, ones that related to specific actions he would take in the near term, he deferred deftly and appropriately. In short, not even the most jaded of Cubs fans could listen to Theo and not feel confidence that this 38 year old has the ability to modernize this baseball organization. It was a memorable debut. I remember every detail. The Cubs wore blue, Theo wore gray.

What was the most exciting thing to hear was the focus on development. Scouting will be based on a foundation of metrics, not just a round up of the usual prospects. How refreshing.

Theo and his staff have a ton of work ahead of them. He, new GM Jed Hoyer, and new scouting and player development director Jason McLeod will be shocked, shocked to find baseball mismanagement going on here. They are going to probably have to hire all new minor league scouts and coaches. One hopes the focus on fundamentals will lead to fans being able to watch good, solid, consistent play.

What is also hoped is that the Cub fans will give Theo's team a chance to really build this from a weak team into a strong organization. If you listened closely we were told that there will be no quick fixes. There will be no Prince Fielders or C.J. Wilsons or Albert Pujols in the near future. Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano may end up in other uniforms sooner rather than later. It will be a tough slog for a few years. But, as time goes by, this will change. The plan is for the "Cub Way" to represent consistency and quality rather than another new way to lose.

Welcome to Chicago, Theo. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Big Time Move

At about 6 PM Chicago time last night, all hell broke loose on Twitter (you can follow me there @ivychat) with the cross posting of Steve Buckley's Boston Herald article:

Two baseball sources have confirmed that Theo Epstein is on the cusp of leaving his job as general manager of the Red Sox to accept a position with the Chicago Cubs that is believed to include powers greater than he has in Boston, with an announcement expected to be made "within the next 24 to 48 hours."

Now, this isn't a done deal yet. There's still the possibility that Tom Ricketts will go Full McCaskey and make this McGinnisGate II. But if they don't, this signing will go down as the biggest acquisition for the Cubs franchise since Dallas Green acquired Rick Sutcliffe. That move by Green told the world that the Cubs weren't screwing around anymore.

This move is a little different. If the Ricketts get Theo, it's because they can't afford to screw around anymore. The days of Jim Hendry's lack of organizational development, Crane Kenney's douchbaggery, and Mike Quade's sheer cluelessness are over.

Empty seats always bring change. In 2006, empty seats brought Lou Piniella, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, and Alfonso Soriano. In 2011, the empty seats brought the Ricketts something they didn't expect.


When they bought the team, the Ricketts believed they had a cash cow. They believed as Tom told his dad: They sell out every game, win or lose. After 2 seasons of ownership and having a winning record for 48 hours of that time, the sellouts were over.

The Ricketts, who want, more than anything else, to be multi-generational owners, discovered they had more risks than they realized. They need to repay debt and they need another $300 million to rebuild their crumbling, outdated physical plant known as Wrigley Field.

With attendance down, cash flow fell and debt became harder to service. Furthermore, with fans avoiding the park, it would be impossible to get new Mayor Rahm Emanuel to sign off on a tax grab. Why give $300 million in a down economy with record city deficits to support a venue, owned by billionaires, that no one is using?

They had to do something.

Were this 2006, the answer would be easy. Albert Pujols in left, Prince Fielder at first and CC Sabathia and CJ Wilson on the mound. That's not possible now. What is?

A face of a winner. This face.


Hiring Theo works for the Cubs and the Ricketts on multiple levels. With the Red Sox, he's built a successful organization. He's won two titles. He's worked with a city to update a landmark baseball stadium. And he's done all this in a major media market.

That means that Theo brings the gravitas, and political cover, to allow Emanuel to give the Ricketts their tax grab. This doesn't mean the tax financing is a done deal, but Andrew Friedman or Josh Byrnes or Rick Hahn don't have the resume to give Rahm the help needed. Only Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman have the background to get this done.

If Theo Epstein is introduced as the Cubs next President of Baseball Operations, the Ricketts have bought themselves more than just a GM. They've bought credibility. And probably a cashier's check in the amount of $300 million.

If they blow this, they better get Cashman. Or they better get ready to run back to Omaha.

The multi-generational ownership plan will likely be determined in the next few days.

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