The Age of Theo is upon us and the world of Cubdom is dancing about as much as someone can dance until you stop and remember that we haven’t won anything yet. But this is what we wanted when the Ricketts took over from the stodgy, crusty Tribune. We wanted a real sign that the team ownership wanted to win as much as those of us who spend ungodly sums of money every year rooting for the team. So we are willing to forgive the Rickettseses for being late to the party and instead rejoice in the fact that they showed up at all.
The hiring of Theo Epstein is not just big news, it has been judged worthy of being announced during the World Series, mostly because most of the country is actually more interested in what is next for the Cubs and Red Sox than in the current championship series between St. Louis and Texas. So Bud Selig stepped in and called it a done deal and allowed the official press conferences to be held even though compensation still has yet to be resolved, just so we would all stop obsessing over it.
But through all the giddiness, I still have a pang of wondering when the other shoe will drop. I want to toss away my Cubbie Facepalm hat and just go with a regular one I don’t have to be embarassed about, but I can’t bring myself to toss it just yet. I keep listening for that shoe… and so far, so good.
Theo arrived at Wrigley today and proceeded to go eat lunch with other team officials at a Wrigleyville establishment. It isn’t quite dinner, but these are the Cubs and it will take baby steps to get away from the long-running No Dinner Policy. Also, his arrival means he successfully flew from Boston without his plane crashing into Jed Hoyer’s plane as he arrived from San Diego. So the baseball gods missed that opportunity. So we keep listening for that second shoe.
Andy MacPhail did his best Debbie Downer impression as he told Melissa Isaacson that Theo has an even bigger task than he himself faced when he was the fresh baseball face to save the Cubs.
“When I got there, it was watching baseball in a cathedral-like environment where there was no advertising and the expectation of winning was not as high as the experience of going to Wrigley Field. I think that changed when the customer started plunking down good money. In addition to seeing Toyota and Under Armour ads, they expected to see a winning team.”
Of course, Andy never realized his goal and he gives a passing nod to why that may have been partially his fault:
“Do what you have to do but there’s so much pressure to take shortcuts. And if I had to give him any advice, it would be ‘Don’t look for shortcuts. Do what you have to do to get better and time will take care of itself.’ The inclination is to look for the quick fix and it just gets stronger. But it’s something you just have to resist. You just have to build your best chance of winning.”
He refuses to say the Tribune meddled in his affairs, and he never addresses that his whole goal was to win in a major market while acting like a small-to-mid-market team (which is probably why the Trib hired him in the first place). MacPhail was essentially brought in to be a baseball genius that knew the game and the players better than anyone and would make the best decisions with the crappy information that the Cubs collected about players. That was almost doomed to fail from the start knowing what we know now.
The difference here is that Theo (from what I understand about him) does not necessarily think of himself as having all of the answers, but rather as a champion of gathering as much information as possible so that his decisions can be more informed and less gut-instinct.
While Hendry always seemd like the guy splitting kings and hitting on 17 because he had seen it work once, Theo is like the guy counting cards who doubles down on a 7 because he knows the dealer is probably going to bust.
MacPhail did little to nothing to improve the structure of the team and then wondered how his inexperienced GM failed so miserably while trying to win on such a managed budget, and things only improved a little more when his successor was given a crapload of money. The process remained flawed.
More importantly, Tom Ricketts is starting to show signs that while he understands that money may not be the answer to all your ills as a club, it certainly helps make the ills go away easier. They can spend more on player development, they can spend more on gathering info on draft prospects, they can allocate more to signing the guys they draft. It really isn’t rocket science, but spending money in the background is somehow something that the Cubs have rarely done in my lifetime, and now they are probably going to spend a ton of money improving their data collection. It won’t be “Carmine,” but there will almost assuredly be something very much like it operating for the Cubs as soon as possible.
So while Bernie Miklasz and his readers get in one more dig at the Cubs while they play for a World Championship by characterizing the hiring as “desperate,” we all just laugh and pat them on the head knowing that this time is different. This time, the Cubs will begin to act like the major market team they are and start the ascent to the one who others “desperately” try to keep up with.
Right? RIGHT??! I keep listening for that second shoe. I still haven’t heard it.
It all becomes a reality tomorrow at 11 am Central. I’ve never looked forward to a press conference so much in my entire life.
Did you hear something? Neither did I. It’s still quiet and eerily positive.
This is weird.