By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) You may not believe in Cubs president Theo Epstein’s philosophy, but you have to believe he’s in charge.
It’s perfectly reasonable to doubt whether his ongoing, long-range plan – amassing heaps of top-level minor league talent with an eye on targeted signings when it all starts to blossom – is going to succeed. Prospects do fail after all, and the variables of the most human game have humbled the smartest minds. You are allowed to be unsure of whether one man’s envisioned path to sustained title contention will be realized.
What you are not allowed to do is pretend you don’t understand what Epstein is doing. This is a man unfazed by all the noisy impatience of shortsighted fans and the strange rabble-rousing from writers and commentators content to court the lowest common denominator of intellect.
Epstein told you exactly what he was going to do, and he’s in the process of doing it. He warned that people would grow anxious along the way, even going so far as to predict exactly what stories would be written about him, and he was right. Epstein has explained in detail on multiple occasions that there will be a time for splashes in free agency and that money would be invested in players entering their prime years instead of leaving them.
There is no downside to a last-place team cornering the market on the best position-playing prospects in baseball, creating a monster farm system that isn’t just among the game’s best, but is in the eyes of some now one of the best ever. Developing players are everywhere in the organization, and they’re coming fast.
This is Epstein executing the very plan he has described so transparently from the moment he joined the Cubs. It is a man running a team, in full command of the Cubs’ destiny for better or worse, in just the way that was expected when he assumed control.
Now contrast this with the backward world of the NBA at the moment, where the players tell the teams what to do. A look at the Bulls, specifically, sees a critical juncture in their quest for more championships clouded by the unfortunate cross-purposes of a team and its star.
It’s hard to tell who works for whom in this relationship anymore, with Derrick Rose collecting money from the Bulls to do what is best for Derrick Rose. Seriously, how would you like to be this guy’s boss?
He tells the team when he will or won’t play and what is or isn’t in his job description. For $95 million and while appearing in only a handful of actual games, he’s completely comfortable telling management and ownership how often he is going to work and what specific responsibilities he’ll deign to take on.
Four years ago, Rose had no interest in helping the team communicate with potential free agent targets, not wanting to help his team add talent. Not long after, his brother-keeper “representative” had the gall to take a public swipe at the organization, insisting that Derrick needn’t hurry back from his first knee injury because the Bulls hadn’t done enough to build around him.
“What have you pieced together?” Reggie Rose said in February 2013. “Have you made any moves?
“It’s up to the organization to make them better. It’s frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him.”
Derrick Rose never publicly distanced himself from these comments. The same Derrick Rose who would quit on his rehab at the most important time, come up with ever-changing excuses as to why and actively ignore the professional advice of the orthopedic surgeons, athletic trainers and therapists who repaired him on the team’s dime while he cashed checks.
Did he want to help them recoup some of the money lost by coming back and helping them to an extra home playoff game or two? No. He didn’t feel like it.
Rose would then miss most of this past 2013-’14 season, which would lead into another free agency period that gives the Bulls the chance to build around him, just as his oafish mouthpiece once asked. Again, he said it’s not his job. Most employees would consider it an honor to be asked to attend a dinner at which two of his teammates and top management were promoting the franchise to another star player, but not Rose. Not interested. Not this star. He’ll take one-third of your available salary cap space through 2017, thanks, and you’re on your own. Good luck.
Two Chicago teams are doing everything they can to contend in their respective sports. One has real leadership, moving methodically to manage risks and rewards pursuant to an intricate, broad-based plan. The other sees its executives burdened by the selfish whims of an overpaid, damaged player who has them all working for Derrick Rose, Inc.