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