Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Cubs Opportunity

In the aftermath of Jim Hendry's dismissal, it's clear the Cubs are looking for a big name that is respected, from a winning background, and able to instill what he has learned into Cubs culture. Quite a few candidates qualify for the first two requirements on that list, while the third is the most vital and difficult to ascertain. The names of rumored candidates begin as a who's who among GM's of the past decade: Gillick, Cashman, Epstein, Friedman, and so on.

I write this post on the Staten Island Ferry, en route to a Single-A Staten Island Yankees game on the evening of August 23rd.

The Soriano contract may have
been the last straw for Cashman.
Living in New York regularly exposes me to the voices of Yankee fans and pundits, and the gist of what I've been hearing is: "There's NO WAY Cashman would leave the Bronx to try and fix the Cubs' history of dysfunction over multiple generations."

We hear the same about Theo Epstein in New England. "Why would Theo leave a spot where he is beloved by millions?" And "He already won the power struggle over Boston when he left in the gorilla suit. He ain't goin' ANY-insert-Boston-accent-WHERE!"

We've been hearing about Brian Cashman leaving the Steinbrenners since Big George was talking with his Tampa advisers behind his back. It's been over a decade since speculators predicted he would "burnout" in New York. All told, Cashman has silenced his critics. He's done an outstanding job for many, many years in one of the toughest environments to display longevity. I'm not saying that Cashman is headed out of town, but he certainly could be for the Cubs job.

Buster Olney expressed the value of the Cubs' jobin a tweet yesterday:
"Cubs will be able to get a big name for GM job, if that's their choice. Casual fans see flaws in job; execs view it as a really attractive."
Any leader of the next Cubs' World Series Champion would reach a God-like status akin to Ditka.

The has a home in Boston.
Is it enough to keep him there?
With Theo, my feelings tend to be even more ambitious. His standing across Red Sox Nation as Saint Theo, or whatever they call him, shouldn't prevent him from exploring possibilities in Wrigleyville. Yes, it's true that Boston is his home town. They are a great organization that provides stability and assets to win year after year. (Some would argue that, in fact, it is Epstein that provides such stability and perennial competitiveness.)

In another tweet, Olney prognosticates:
"It will be very interesting to see if the Cubs ask for permission to talk to Red Sox GM Theo Epstein;they could offer him a team presidency."
Forgetting titles, amount of control, and all that stuff, I see this opportunity as better than "once in a lifetime". We're talking once ever. Legendary Cubs announcer, Jack Brickhouse said, "Anyone can have a bad century," but that was in jest. If it were to happen again, it would probably be caused by a handful of superpowers routinely winning the title while a gaggle of noncontenders suffer through decades of losing together. I'm not an astronomer, but it seems like no other team will ever carry on a 100-year old drought in solitude.

If the Cubs ask the Red Sox for permission to speak with Theo Epstein, and Theo listens, why would he not be intrigued? This is a chance to be adored by two ravenous fan bases that reside all over the world. No matter what happens from here on out, save employment from the Yankees, Theo Epstein will never have to buy lunch or a drink in Boston for the rest of his life.

If he also ended the World Series with the Cubs, he could open up Epstein's Steakhouse on Rush Street, attracting the usual divorcees and womanizers who drink martinis and smoke cigars. That's great and all, but it's small potatoes. Epstein already lives in the Ditka spotlight throughout New England. He's their patron son. The local boy who did good. He doesn't need to change his life for the better, to be adored in Chicago. A man only needs so much adoration before the redundancies outweigh the gratification. Where Theo Epstein's opportunity exists, is in how he could ascend to the list of great baseball front office men of all time.

Who wouldn't want to be
the next Branch Rickey?
If one man can be pointed to as the man who ended an 86-year old title drought in Boston and a drought over 105-years long in Chicago, he would be in rare, almost exclusive standing.

The only front office man who could potentially have a bigger standing in the history of Baseball would be Branch Rickey.

Perhaps, I'm way off base, but taking that into account, please tell me again, why is it so crazy to think Epstein may want to take over the Cubs? Or, Cashman, or Beane, or anyone for that matter?

In all likelihood, the Red Sox will prohibit teams from speaking with Theo Epstein. Instead, they will likely endorse Ben Cherington as their best in-house candidate to become a General Manager elsewhere. Would that be intriguing enough for the Cubs? I think it would be worth an interview, at least. In fact, I think Cherington, right now, is a front-runner for the opening. In other words, who's most likely to be the new Cubs General Manager? My list of candidates, not ranked by preference, but rather by likelihood of being hired is as follows:

Andrew, there is a Tom Ricketts on
the phone. He says it's important.
1. Andrew Friedman
2. Ben Cherington
3. Brian Cashman
4. Billy Beane
5. Pat Gillick
6. Alex Anthopolous
7. Jerry DiPoto
8. Rick Hahn
9. Kim Ng
10. David Forst

Anyway, it's something like that. It would really be great if the Cubs went off the beaten path to hire Kim Ng, who would be the first woman ever tabbed to run a front office. If we were to get anyone on the list above, especially #3-6, North Siders could finally have some reason for optimism.

Alas, we didn't publish this piece last night and see that Buster Olney introduced his daily column this morning with a similar theme to the tweets we included above. In fact, he closes out his essay today with the following line that, as usual, more concisely sums up what I've been trying to share with all this blabber:
"Whoever gets the Cubs' job, though, is almost certainly going to be a heavyweight. 'It seems like it's more a matter of who they want, as opposed to who would agree to go there,' said one high-ranked executive."
Have a great day, we'll be back later on with a view at the National League MVP race. As always, please add to the conversation in our comments, below, or on our social media channels.

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