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By Brian Hanley-
(CBS) Heard the old joke about what Jesus told the Cubs when it came to winning the World Series?
“Don’t do anything until I get back!”
While Theo Epstein seems like a Godsend to Cubs’ nation, fans need to understand the team’s new baseball boss shouldn’t be looked upon as a miracle worker.
Take the picture Trib super photographer Phil Velasquez snapped of Epstein walking Monday under Wrigley’s famed Clark and Addison marquee on his way to lunch. Encouraging as it was to see the wunderkind already at the Friendly Confines, Epstein was walking on pavement, not water.
He was still heading to a local establishment for a sandwich. Wasn’t like he sent out for a fish and a loaf of bread he could then turn into a bountiful feast fit for an opening day capacity crowd.
So know Epstein is now the Cubs’ president of baseball operations. Not the savior.
This is going to take time.
Still, fans should hope Epstein lays out his vision in what deservedly will be a feel-good 11 a.m. press conference at Wrigley Tuesday.
Hope he has already made the courtesy call to Mike Quade thanking him for his managerial service last season. No reason chairman Tom Ricketts should stumble while taking his well-deserved front office victory lap by announcing Quade will be back.
Gordon Wittenmyer, the Mully & Hanley Show’s Cubs Insider and Sun-Times beat writer, made a compelling case in print for Epstein to retain Randy Bush, the team’s interim general manager.
“I don’t know if there’s another assistant GM in baseball who has seen more players in his organization and knows more about those players than Randy Bush,” one longtime, high-ranking major-league official from outside the organization told Wittenmyer. “He’s one of the most respected guys in the game.”
Gordon wrote: “If the Cubs’ two-year ownership doesn’t want to risk repeating some of the mistakes of the franchise’s mostly miserable past, it might want to keep in mind some of the things that actually went right over the past decade or so and consider keeping some of those responsible.
“Even in most successful transitions, the old isn’t necessarily all bad, and the new isn’t necessarily all-knowing and all-powerful.
“Consider that the Cubs’ old regime had as many playoff appearances as Epstein’s and Jed Hoyer’s teams combined the last two years.
“That’s not to suggest a change of direction isn’t the right move. And it’s certainly not to suggest Epstein and Hoyer, the Cubs’ soon-to-be GM, aren’t the right tandem to lead the new direction.
“But to overlook important resources already in place is risky business.
“Chairman Tom Ricketts already recognized the value of farm director Oneri Fleita with a four-year extension when the Detroit Tigers pursued him this summer, and he gave scouting director Tim Wilken a vote of confidence.
“But few execs in the front office are as valuable as Bush, not only for his management skills, but also for his expertise in areas Ricketts talks about improving.”
The vote here is also for the team to keep Chuck Wasserstrom, the Cubs computer numbers-cruncher whose work was often given short shrift by former GM Jim (Go by my BIG gut) Hendry when it came to trades and free-agent signings.
After all, it wasn’t Wasserstrom perusing the wine list at the dinner in which Hendry wooed the much-troubled Milton Bradley, whom Hendry famously declared was “our kind of guy.”
As much as Wittenmyer makes a good case for retaining Bush–a 1979 draft pick of the Twins, lived the “Twins Way” from early in the minors through two World Series titles under Tom Kelly–and Wasserstrom would surely adapt to Theo’s style, ultimately Epstein and new GM Jed Hoyer will have to feel comfortable with any of the old guard.
Guessing the Cubs won’t be serving wine at the press conference Tuesday. But if Epstein does turn his water into vino before the assembled pen and mic club, all bets are off Cubs fans.
CBSChicago.com will be streaming the Cubs’ news conference live at 11 a.m.