Wisch: Cubs Should Say ‘Yes’ to Epstein, ‘No’ To Francona

By Dave Wischnowsky –

(CBS) A Cardinals fan friend of mine shot me a tweet on Tuesday night. In it, he suggested that the Chicago Cubs “need to do the Francona-Theo daily double.”

I told him he was half right.

And now let me tell you the full reason why.

First off, let’s start with the fact that I absolutely agree that the Cubs should pursue Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to fill Jim Hendry’s vacant chair. He’d be a fantastic hire. But, at the same time, I don’t at all think that Tom Ricketts & Co. should make a similar run at the Red Sox’s recently fired manager Terry Francona, whose been rumored this week as part of a “package deal” with Theo.

Now, that’s not because Francona isn’t an excellent manager (he is). Nor is it because he wouldn’t be a significant upgrade over current Cubs skipper Mike Quade (he would be). Rather, it’s because too much Boston could end up tainting a potentially great Chicago thing.

Like a Cubs World Series championship.

Just think about it. If the Cubs hired Epstein (who put together the team that broke the Red Sox’s “Curse of the Bambino”) and then hired Francona (who managed the team that broke that curse) and the “Cursebusters” then paired up to finally get the Cubs’ goat and win a championship, North Side fans would of course be giddy.

Until we realized that we’d then never hear the end of it from Bostonians.


If you somehow didn’t notice it when the Patriots were winning Super Bowls … or when the Celtics won the NBA title … or when the Red Sox won their World Series rings … or when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, there are few – if any – fan bases on this planet that are more provincial, pompous and mouthy than Boston’s.

As a result, it’s pretty easy to imagine the whole bunch of them sitting over bowls of chowder and steins of Sam Adams in Bean Town as they shouted about how the only way Chicago could break its baseball hex was by importing their wicked smartest to do the dirty work for them.

Heck, Ben Affleck would never shut up.

So in order to avoid any such New England annoyances, I think the Cubs should split the Boston-Chicago difference. Ricketts should be smart and hire Epstein to run his team, and then be savvy and hire Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg to manage it.

Epstein would bring Boston’s championship background and World Series know-how to the table, while Sandberg would balance things out with his pinstriped pedigree, while also boasting a minor-league managing resume that should have earned him the Cubs major-league job a year ago.

Jim Hendry gave Mike Quade that gig instead, though. So Sandberg took his talents to Pennsylvania and took the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, one of the minor leagues’ worst teams over the past three years, and increased their win total by 22 games this season before leading them to the second round of the International League playoffs. This came after having spent three seasons succeeding at each of the Cubs’ minor league levels.

Sandberg has flat-out earned his shot with the Cubs, and – with talent assembled by a GM such as Epstein – there’s no reason to believe he can’t push those same managerial buttons he has in the minors and find major success at Wrigley Field.

On Wednesday, Francona was asked on Boston’s WEEI-AM if he could work with Epstein again. He said, “I don’t want to speak for Theo. That’s not fair. He has his things to take care of this week, I know. That’s his business. He knows the respect I have for him.”

He then went on to add: “I’d certainly love to stay in the game. I have no ambitions to ever leave the game. I love it so much and it has been so good to me.

“(But) I don’t want to try to manage in a wrong situation. That wouldn’t be good for me.”

Nor would an overdose of Boston be a good thing for Chicago. A healthy dash will do.

Now, maybe Epstein would disagree with that notion and demand to hire Francona as manager instead of Sandberg, failing to see the potential magic in Chicago for a Theo-Ryno combination. But, if that were to be the case, perhaps Epstein as GM wouldn’t be so magical, after all.

And maybe Andrew Friedman would understand things better instead.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

davewisch Wisch: Cubs Should Say ‘Yes’ to Epstein, ‘No’ To Francona

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I would prefer Friedman of the Rays.
    Some of Epstein’s signings (Lackey, Dice-K) are Hendryesque.

    I do agree that I”d love to see Ryno get his shot, and not just to hold the fort while a real team is built, but to be given the level of talent that Dusty/Lou were given so that he has a fair chance to succeed at some point.

  • Tom Mears

    This is absolutely ridiculous…I don’t think one damn Cubs fan would care about what Boston would say if the Cubs won with that duo…

  • Bad Chowda

    The saddest thing about yonder nation is the way the group behaves more imperially than ANY New Yorker – including Howard Cosell. Their feel-good story became a feel-hate story. So…I curse them anew. Let them be the Orioles for a generation. (Though eternal gratitude to The Town of Bean for Robert Parish, who personally led the Bulls to their 5th title. Or so says the legend.)

  • Oh, c'mon

    Did you get paid to write this? If so, it’s money badly spent.

  • Adam

    Because there is no such thing as obnoxious fans in Chicago. Give me a break. If Theo and Tito come to the Cubs, win the world series, and Bostonians, for whatever reason, flock to our town to talk trash (whatever the hell that means), they can sleep in my spare bedroom free of charge.

  • Scott T. Holland

    As long as the Cubs don’t cheat to win a World Series, I don’t care what it takes for them to win one. If they won a Series playing a season at the Cell while Wrigley was being rehabbed, I wouldn’t care. If they beat some 83-win team that seaked into the playoffs, I wouldn’t care. The main — only — goal is to win a World Series (without roids, corked bats, etc.). That trumps everything.

  • Dave Wischnowsky

    Hey, if people want both Theo and Francona, they’re certainly entitled to that opinion. Me? I’d rather see a Chicago legend in Sandberg get his chance to manage the team to a championship — with personnel guidance coming from a guy like Epstein (or Friedman). That would be more meaningful to me than having Francona as skipper. Now, maybe it wouldn’t matter either way to others, and that’s certainly everyone’s personal call. But that’s the way I feel.

    Doesn’t mean, of course, you have to agree with it ;)

    • paulh

      good reply – because, that’s all this story is – opinion. we all have them, some will agree and some will disagree. no need for anyone to get personal or stupid – and that’s MY opinion. Thanks.

  • Jake from da burbs

    Yeah sorry Dave… when you haven’t won a championship for over a century, you can’t have much say on how to do it or who does it, the important thing is making it happen. Beggars can’t be choosers.

    My other issue is the difference between managerial resume between Francona and Sandberg is considerable. Francona has won 2 championships. Sandberg has won some playoff games in AAA. Listen, if Sandberg had managed under the tutelage of a Mike Sciocia or Charlie Manuel and learned the managerial ropes at the big league level, it could be reasonable but managing AAA and big leagues is like NFL coaches going from college to pros. Different approaches, different agendas, usually unsuccessful.

    I’m not sure what to think of Epstein. He’s definitely a strong hire but he’s made some long-term, big-money mistakes similar to Hendry. A tad too many for my liking. But I do like that he is creative and bold and develops players from within. Again, I’ll take Epstein but I’d wonder what compensation Boston would require.

    Since Friedman is probably out of reach, I think I’d like a guy like John Coppolella of the Atlanta Braves too. Dont know too much about him but he’s learned and gained experience in a model organization like the Braves and the Yanks before that and is driven and known for scouting, player development, and a farm system dripping with talent. He also has new school metrics experience. He’ll probably need some sort of Scotty Bowman type consultant.

    • paulh

      That’s my biggest concern Jake. Compensation? if the Bosox want to rape our farm system – forget it. The last thing they want on their hands would be a disgruntled GM – if Epstein wanrted the Cubs job and they made it impossible to happen. ‘Tongue in cheek’; send them Zambrano and Soriana as compensation

  • J-Dubya

    I just read this today: “It’s important to be able to keep hope in things, to keep dreaming. It’s also important to wear a cup when someone keeps kicking you in the groin.”

    In other words, I am not sure that I agree with you Dave. A championship is a championship. Nobody will care.

    I do appreciate that you took a strong position on this topic. Too many similar columns ride the fence and play both sides. You didn’t do that. I don’t want to read something that always is exactly what I think. What’s the fun in that?

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Weather Reports Delivered To You!SIGN UP NOW: Get daily weather reports every morning from meteorologist Steve Baskerville!
CBS Sports Radio RoundupGet your latest sports talk from across the country.

Listen Live