I wrote a column in May about my Chicago Cubs and my desire for them to follow the Red Sox blueprint. I’d just been at a game in the Cubs-Red Sox series at Fenway and I was taken by everything that was different between Chi-town and Beantown, from the park itself to the team’s image and, of course, the product on the field.
I could not have predicted what’s happened five months later.
The Red Sox collapsed, and in the aftermath, the model franchise started showing some serious cracks. And now the architect – the guy who had a big hand in drawing up that Red Sox blueprint – is a Cub.
I guess that second part is exactly what I was hoping for – I just didn’t even know to hope for it. It wasn’t an option to suggest because it didn’t seem like an option. Theo Epstein would be the Red Sox GM for a long time, and the Cubs would find somebody with similar qualities.
It’s still hard to believe they got the real thing.
Reaction in these parts has been focused on where the Red Sox go without Theo. As a Cubs fan who’s an optimist to the core, I’ve been daydreaming about where the Cubs go with him.
In my dream, they build a strong farm system, from top to bottom. They get their bad deals off the books. They remodel Wrigley Field, increasing revenue and enhancing a special place. When they’re ready to make a move, they sign some key free agents.
And they win. The whole thing. For the first time in a really, really long time.
Is that too much to ask? Even on a chilly fall day, I can already feel the excitement of a baseball spring.
I know it’s not as easy as I’m making it sound, but seeing it happen in Boston makes me believe Theo can pull off the magic again. He built the strong farm system. He watched Fenway turn into an incredible mix of old and new. He made the right moves.
And they won. The whole thing. For the first time in a really, really long time. Then they won again.
For now, I’ll hold off on wishing for the second one.
But I’ll certainly be wishing for the first.
I know Epstein isn’t perfect. He made his share of wrong moves, and it’s reasonable to wonder about his role in this season’s troubles. If he trots out a clubhouse menu featuring fried chicken and beer, I might waver.
But for the moment, I’m a believer. He’s absolutely the right guy for the job, maybe the perfect guy. He always struck me as someone who really gets it, and that’s exactly what the Cubs need. Their old GM, Jim Hendry, seemed like a nice guy and he certainly did some good things. But he was too quick to apply band-aids when the Cubs needed a heck of a lot more. Marlon Byrd and Carlos Pena don’t turn bad teams into contenders. Hendry, in that department, didn’t seem to get it.
I think Epstein does. He said all the right things in his introductory press conference, cautioning against going after big free agent fish at the wrong time and touting the importance of a consistently productive farm system. He talked about creating a “Cubs way,” a philosophy that’s been missing in Chicago for way, way too long.
I hope it works.
And I hope, someday, I can write a column looking back on this one. Maybe then, in the category that matters most, the Cubs and Red Sox won’t be so different.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.