Bernstein: Celebrate Theo, Then Settle Down

By Dan Bernstein- Senior Columnist

(CBS) It looks like a franchise due for a little luck finally had its number come up.

Thanks to a once-thought-impossible confluence of circumstances — Boston’s historic collapse, an opening at Clark and Addison, and one man’s desire to leave the nurturing nest of his home city and spread his wings — Theo Epstein is reportedly ready to be the Cubs’ top baseball executive for five years and many millions.

This is a big deal. It’s a dream hire for a fandom too familiar with nightmares.

It’s also unlikely to yield instant gratification.

As dramatic a move as it is, and as high-profile as he will be (wanna bet he graces the pocket schedule – the first Chicago GM to do so, I think, since that grotesque caricature of Hawk Harrelson was sporting a ten-gallon hat and grinning at us in 1986?), his actual impact will probably not mirror the lightning-strike nature of his arrival.

There are some things that can be done, to start, with the on-field effect felt in due time.

First, actually let him go to work. His people, his baseball organization. Nobody’s safe, not even farm-chief Oneri Fleita or scouting head Tim Wilken, two well-paid pets of owner Tom Ricketts. If overpromoted meddler Crane Kenney remains as nominal President (or any other title), he needs to be moved well down the hall, if not to a different floor. Better yet, treat him like Milton in “Office Space” and relocate his desk to the basement. Rather than a red Swingline stapler, he’ll fetishize the “Kenney 1” uniform he wears around there.

Ricketts, himself, must also get out of the way. He once said he doesn’t need a baseball guy to watch his baseball guys, so he should avoid pretending to be a baseball guy, as tempting as it can be.

Besides, he has something more important to do, and he’s now better-prepared to do it with Epstein on board.

There’s that little concern of several hundred-million tax dollars needed to rebuild Wrigley Field, as inspired by the renovations to Fenway Park and the surrounding area. The haphazard last attempt at public money crashed and burned due to ham-fisted public-relations and sloppy, amateurish politics, but Ricketts is taking another shot.

He now has Rahm Emanuel to contend with locally, and sources tell us the new mayor is amenable to lending a hand, but only if he has political cover for something like this, while he’s busy fighting with teachers and closing police stations. Epstein’s hire gives Ricketts added juice in his efforts, looking serious about baseball and giving taxpayers a connection to another franchise that reconstructed both their ballpark and their fortunes. Look for them to move quickly behind well-connected new frontman Julian Green, trying to capitalize on a groundswell of optimism and good will.

Epstein will have to hire a manager, too. As much as Ryne Sandberg didn’t make sense for 2011 – helming an ostensible competitor doomed to fail under a lame-duck regime – he may fit now, leading a long-view rebuild. Epstein interviewed Sandberg for the Red Sox AAA job, remember, before Sandberg realized he wouldn’t have a big-league offer and took another AAA post with the Phillies.

Outside of putting together a front office and passively improving the atmosphere around the Cubs, there’s not much Epstein will do early on that excites. Unless some piecemeal trades of underproducing vets get your juices flowing.

2012 will probably be bumpy, at best, as the dig-out begins from the Tribune era of broken hopes, playoff flameouts and no-trade clauses.

This is a great move for the Cubs. It may just be a while before it feels like it.

So grab a cold one and a bucket of popcorn, sit down in front of the TV, and get ready to enjoy watching Theo Epstein general-manage.

bernstein 90x130 Bernstein: Celebrate Theo, Then Settle Down

Dan Bernstein

Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I haven’t had this much hope for the Cubs since they signed Andy MacFail in 1995.

    • AT3374

      * cues Murph’s clown horn *

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      Thanks. I just tasted my lunch again, LHA… and I ate it three hours ago.

  • Chris in Scottsdale

    Epstein hire: Good.

    It instantly points the team in a far more positive direction than they were six months ago.

    It gives Cub fans an entitlement of hope. That’s all I’m pulling from it, and that’s enough for me.

    • Satan

      “an entitlement of hope.”

      So true, it should be the slogan for 2012.

      But does Dan really think he’ll be on the pocket schedule? That’s goin a little too far, and creepily, I might add.

  • Spoon

    Also, please god let me stop hearing the phrase ‘curse breaker’. There’s no curse, Theo doesnt need to break any fake curses, he needs to be a good GM.

  • Val

    You’re right…”BIG DEAL”…Yeah he’s the answer

  • Satan

    For some reason, Bernstein is tweeting disappointment over the fact that Cubs fans aren’t making more of this… in the meantime, the title of this article includes the words “Settle Down”.

    Truly (and I tweeted this to Dan, in so many words), the whole day, to me, feels like I just got a letter in the mail from a very, very elderly relative informing me that when she dies, I’ll be inheriting a HUGE sum of wealth. It’s FANTASTIC news, but it’s not as if I’m gonna quit my job tomorrow and hop on a flight to Hawaii.

    She still has to die.

    • Harry's Phlegm

      Wow Satan. That was the best analogy ever. Perfect.


    Well, having read what Rahm Emanuel is doing in an above paragraph, I have to wonder if the city can handle a “powerhouse” general manager?
    Throwing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into Wrigley Field is not an economic multiplier. It’s bad news for everyone all around. If Rickett’s plans still hinge on taxpayer dollars to bail him out, someone from D.C. needs to throw him and Sam Zell and Bud Selig in front of a Senate committee (and throw back the little fish that is the Roger Clemmens “what evidence?” trial.)

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      That where the $ is, Spaulding…so you are right to follow the $.

      The ROI could be as good as the Olympics would have been!!!

      • SPAULDING!


        “Congratulations Chicago for hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics! Way to go, Mayor Daley!”


      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Return On Investment (and I was being sarcastic).

      • SPAULDING!

        Hi L.H.A. just got off the “banned post list.” So, I’m going to try not to disturb the bear sleeping in its cave.
        What is the ROI?

        The Cardinal: a mythical bird that destroys itself and rises from the ashes in a more glorious form. Yep. I’m sure I have the right bird. Looks like I won’t need to buy that Brewers tee shirt any time soon.

  • mike in davenport

    The great thing about Epstein is that any time some reporter asks him a stupid question about curses, or goats, or greek priests, or anything else, he can just hold out a fist with two Boston World Series rings on it.

  • clarkwgriswold

    I vote SPAULDING goes right bank into the Banned List Cave – effective immediately

    • WILSON!

      You’re right!

      Man, I don’t normally come up this time of year. The water is too cold.
      Spaulding! is being silly!
      So long, back to warmer waters. . . .

  • Denver Deadite

    I recognize what a great hire it is, but I got so burned out on the Cubs in the last few years (not to mention burned by them) that I’m just having a hard time caring at all.

  • Bronzo

    OK.. Epstein has won 2 world championships. How many more do you think he has in him? Good luck… he’s gonna need it.

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      Agreed. If he does it in Chicago, it’s far more impressive than in Boston. They needed tweaking. This is an overhaul.

      • Bronzo

        That’s franchises…

      • Bronzo

        If he does it here he goes down in history as the GM that brought back 2 historic franchies from the dark ages….1st ballot Hall of Fame material.

        and i’m a Sox fan who normally wishes ill will uopn the Cubs….still do for that matter…. But I find this a very interesting hire for the Cubs…very interesting.

  • Chris in Scottsdale

    I just don’t know if I want Sandberg still… I’d rather play out the string under the Alpaca and see if Francona is rejuvenated after a year away from the dugout.

    • AT3374

      Why not imitate the White Sox and get a P.R move coach to run the team in Sandberg . Kick Powder to the curb , I say

      • Bronzo

        Larry and Chris you both make good points..yes Ventura was strictluy a PR move.. a bad one at that. ( although I will reserve my final judgement on that) And yes KW should be slapped for even considering Konerko for player/manager. and to answer another question no I don’ think KW interviewed anybody for the job besides Ventura.

        Yes Larry Kenny was looking for a yes-man / sock puppet..

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Ventura was meant to be a PR move.
        I think it was about KW getting someone to manage that he could stick his hand up their arse and control like a hand-puppet.

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        I scratch my head at the way Williams has handled this situation from the beginning.
        First of all, I don’t even remember them conducting any external interviews… did they? Not even in a factfinding manner?
        Second, the fact that they hired Ventura. That in itself was an unexpected move.
        Third, why in the WORLD would Williams let it be known that he considered Konerko? Player-manager has become obsolete for a reason, and even in the more recent attempts in the 70’s and 80’s it was done with a player that was at the end of his ability to contribute regularly. Whether you think Pauly is in for a decline or not, 30-100-.300 first basemen shouldn’t have to be thinking about whether to utilize his LOOGY against the guy on deck or to save him. While I’ll wait on the Ventura hire, Williams should have been slapped for even considering Konerko as PM.

      • Bronzo

        That is if you consider Ventura a “good” P.R. move…I don’t.

        Getting Sandberg would be good P.R. I think

      • Chris in Scottsdale

        I say we should give Stan Sitwell another shot. Do it Lovie Smith style… maybe enter the season as a lame duck sitting on a pile of hooey, and maybe he gets us to the NFC Championship Game, then in ’13 we can call for his head all over again.

  • Cubbybeave

    Cub fans are looking at this one of two ways…It is either the greatest thing that has ever happened in Cubdom…my point of view…or they are looking at it as if the Cubs (Ricketts) are going to spend this money on Theo Epstein they want to win now, win at all costs…my father’s point of view. I feel that those Cub fans that feel the way my father does are looking at his all wrong. Cub GMs have spent my entire life making moves to win now. Signing players past their prime, ie Ron Cey, Davey Lopes among others…Or signing huge free agent contracts to try to put a 500 team over the top. Or signing the Alfonso Soriano’s of the world to huge contracts for unreasonable terms…I am more than willing to wait!!! Let me repeat that…I WILL WAIT…Cub fans have to be willing to wait. We want an organization that has changed the culture of losing. I don’t want a team that will win a world series and then fall into oblivion for another 100 years. Build an organization like Atlanta, Yankees, St. Louis or other long term winning teams. ENOUGH settling…Build an organization with a culture of winning, not settling! That is what Cub fans have to hope for.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Now THAT was a great post!

      Totally on target: build an organ-eye-zation.

      • Cubbybeave

        Thanks LHA…if Cub fans can’t get on board with Epstein and an organization building project that may take three to four years…than they aren’t real Cub Fans…I have been waiting for more than 40 years…what is a couple more going to mean to me…Change the Culture of losing…


    The Theo Epstein hiring by the Cubs appears to be quite a coup, but I mentioned this last night on Twitter. The last time the Cubs made such a high-profile hire for their front office, it was another 2-time World Series Champion in Andy MacPhail. He may have been one of the architects of the Minnesota Twins’ WS title teams in 1987 & 1991, but was a “MacFailure” when he was calling the shots at Clark & Addison and also in Baltimore with the Orioles. That being said, Cub fans aren’t stupid. While Epstein’s hiring appears to be really good for the Cubs, it remains to be seen if Theo can break the Northsiders’ curse and 103 year-old drought without that elusive World Series title. You would think if he could put together 2 WS title teams for another cursed franchise in the Boston Red Sox in 2004 & 2007, Theo would be just the man for the job with the Chicago National League Ballclub. Don’t get too excited, especially right away.

  • meesohawnee

    The Cubs. The ultimate seller of Hopium

    • Chris in Scottsdale

      How long did it take “The Heckler” to start hocking those red/blue shaded “Hope” shirts with Theo on them? They were seriously up within hours.

  • meesohawnee

    i for one wont get excited with theo since he isnt like some wonder boy who only had a 40 mil budget and built a winner. Big deal. the guy has had a huge budget and like Hedry had high priced space junk.. In fact one can make the case that a huge budget is a negative .All you get is high priced fat and happy dopes instead of unpaid hungry kids Tampa bay. Anyone capable of critical thinking is gonna have a wait and see on this one unlike the msm who has the pink unicorns and party hats out. Wake me up in 13 on this one. not buying it.

  • Tim

    Nailed it Dan.
    My glee comes from the fact that in 3, 4 years, the Cubs could very well be one of the best top to bottom organizations in Baseball.

  • James

    I remember Bernstein telling us to enjoy the trade for Jay Cutler as if suddenly the Bears were going to contend. I see he’s tempered his words for the arrival of Theo Epstein.

    Whether Theo’s arrival becomes synonymous with the arrival of Jim Finks or Andy McPhail’s remains to be seen. My money is on the latter, but that’s not the point.

    The point is no one should “enjoy,” “celebrate” or plan any future World Series parties based on Theo’s past performance. Theo’s resume isn’t any more a testament to his performance than it is to the impact of steroids on the game of baseball. Indeed, Theo’s next World Series championship will be his first since the implementation of drug testing for steroids. That’s not his fault, but it is a fact.

    Bottom line: Let’s all just wait and see. Celebrate? Enjoy? Maybe if you’re getting married or having a Coke, but not because the Cubs have sign Theo Epstein.

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