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By Adam Harris-
(CBS) It looks like Theo Epstein will be the new Cubs General Manager and President of Baseball Operations. This is a good thing for the organization and Cubs’ fans because it gives the team direction.
Epstein’s specialty is correctly judging young talent, and putting key pieces together to get a team from contenders to champions. He did that in 2003 to help get the Red Sox eventually win the 2004 World Series when he acquired David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, and Kevin Millar.
I caution Cubs fans, however, that the current situation on the north side is not the same as when Epstein became the Red Sox general manager in November 2002. The 2002 Red Sox team won 93 games, and had players like Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez, and Derek Lowe in place.
The current Cubs team Epstein is taking over won 71 games this past season and has very limited talent on the roster. An ageing Aramis Ramirez, who most likely will be gone next year, an overpaid Alfonso Soriano, no first baseman, as Carlos Pena is a free agent, and very little room to go out and spend for premier free agents such as Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols proposes a project that might take years for Epstein to complete.
Going from where the Cubs are now to winning the World Series is a project that takes an amazing amount of knowledge, scouting, and foresight. I just want to caution Cubs fans to not expect as quick of a turnaround as the 2003 to the 2004 Red Sox.
Epstein is taking on a bigger role than he had in Boston. He will most likely be the President and the General Manager of the Cubs, adding more to his plate. I do not think he knows what he is getting himself into, but I believe he is the man for the job, as long as he follows his early Epstein instincts (I will explain what “early Epstein” is).
Throughout his tenure as Red Sox GM Epstein showed two sides to his decision making and building process. The early years he found pieces to a puzzle that fit, not only on the field, but off.
Kevin Millar was a key player in the 2004 Red Sox clubhouse because he helped bring them together as a team. Epstein got rid of clubhouse distractions, like Nomar Garciapara (to the Cubs) because his attitude brought negative vibes.
Early Epstein made moves considering role players, and clubhouse interaction. The newer Epstein took more of a “Jim Hendry” approach to general managing, throwing money at the sought after free agents, like Carl Crawford and John Lackey.
After reading the article in the Boston Globe detailing the Red Sox collapse in September, I found out how important the Red Sox clubhouse unity was. Epstein lost control of his team that he put together, even his manager Terry Francona. Drinking in the clubhouse, the general selfishness and lack of concern for the big picture, and the complete lack of team unity lead to the demise of the 2011 Red Sox.
If Epstein walks into Chicago with the same mentality he had the past few years in Boston, signing big name players at will, and throwing money at a possible championship I caution Cubs fans we have another Jim Hendry on our hands.
However, If Epstein takes his time, and gets back to the role playing, positive big name superstars that he found in 2003 for the Red Sox, I say the Cubs are set up very nicely for a contender in the next few years and for years to come.
I enjoyed the work Jim Hendry did with this Cubs team, making the playoffs 3 times throughout his tenure, however he never won the World Series. That’s Theo’s immediate goal but it will take more than immediate time.
Let’s hope the correct Epstein comes to Chicago.