Theo Epstein hasn’t achieved the ultimate goal with the Cubs yet, but he is just four wins away.
And after planting the seeds in Chicago for years – the first fruits of which started to show with a 97-win, NLCS-bound team in 2015 – Theo Epstein is finally headed back to the World Series in 2016, and he’s bringing the Chicago Cubs along with him.
Regardless of what happens from here on out, he has arguably already become the most accomplished Cubs’ leader to date, and fortunately, the Cubs (and we) will have him for at least another five years.
So, as you can imagine, he’s a very popular dude right now, and he’s been featured in a variety of articles. Let’s take a (bulleted-style) look at the various things he’s said around town, and things said about him, alongside some thoughts of my own.
Theo Epstein, Cubs President of Baseball Operations, go.
- If you ask Epstein, he’s just as excited to be in Chicago, with this organization, at this very moment as anybody could be. At the Chicago Tribune, he mentioned that he’s even been blown away by the players – especially the veterans that took less to be apart of this team, and the rookies that set their egos aside, worked hard, and accomplished something that has seemed nearly impossible for years and years.
- Of course at times, even Epstein felt like Saturday may never come. “We never doubted, but there were times it seemed a long awful long way away,” Epstein said. “We’d stare at the board and wonder where the impact players were going to come from, how we were going to hire enough impact talent to make this happen.” But they drafted Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, traded for Addison Russell and Jake Arrieta, signed Jon Lester and Ben Zobrist, did about one thousand other things, and here they are.
- At the Chicago Sun Times, Rick Morrissey writes about Epstein’s career path, including his humble beginnings as a sports writer in college, an intern with the Orioles in the early 90s, up to and through his time with Boston and the Cubs. One of the most interesting bits gets into his interview with Joe Maddon for the Red Sox managerial gig back in 2003. Maddon recalls that the interview included a personal preference component, where Maddon was asked to rank 10 different items (like creating your lineup, handling your bullpen, talking to the press, empowering your coaching staff, etc.), in order of importance. Maddon was impressed with Epstein’s comprehensiveness.
- You’ll want to read that article for, at a minimum, the visual of Epstein’s office in San Diego being physically located between the offices of the Padres’ scouting director and the Padres’ head of analytics. The blend of those two skills, it seems, are what created the Epstein we know today.
- The biggest remaining question for the Cubs 2016 season – other than, you know, will they win the World Series – is will Kyle Schwarber be back in blue pinstripes on Tuesday? Epstein addresses that question in detail with Sahadev Sharma at the Athletic. Apparently, the Schwarber news was a bit more than just a surprise report or two on Saturday. Indeed, he had his six-month check-up the Monday prior, and the news was better than expected. According to his doctor, Schwarber was seen to have full strength and range of motion, which cleared him to hit and run the bases.
- But even more interestingly, Epstein recalls, Schwarber himself called Epstein and excitedly asked for a chance to prove he could play. And so far, prove himself is all he’s done. Schwarber hit at Dodger Stadium on Monday and Tuesday, took a recovery day Wednesday, tracked 500 balls off the hitting machine on Thursday, took 8 at-bats against live pitching on Friday (while tracking another 500 balls off the hitting machine) and debuted in the Arizona Fall League on Saturday. He’s still going to need to be evaluated from a medical and baseball readiness standpoint, but I wouldn’t be surprised, based on Epstein’s comments, to see him lining up for a crack at the Indians.
- At the Boston Herald, Epstein recounts the similarities between the 2003-2004 Boston Red Sox (the latter of which won the World Series, while breaking a curse of their own), and the 2015-2016 Chicago Cubs. Both teams had heartbreaking ends in the season prior to their World Series appearance and some tough odds in the series that preceded it (the Red Sox went through a tougher time in their series against the Yankees, but the Cubs may have them on overall pain).
- At ESPN (Insider), Buster Olney compares Epstein’s career with that of the four other baseball executives enshrined into the Hall of Fame primarily as team architects (33 executives were inducted overall). I won’t give away too much because it’s premium content, but suffice it to say that Epstein’s resume already looks as bright as anyones, and it can only get brighter.
- Finally, at Fox Sports, Alex Rodriguez tries his hand at some writing, and it isn’t half bad! After recalling his final time spent in Wrigley Field in 2011 and how bleak the future looked for the Cubs, Rodriguez discusses how Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein turned the team around quicker than anyone thought possible. He recalls a meeting he had with Epstein and Hoyer, back when a secret 72-hour window had opened up with a chance to strike a historic deal between Rodriguez and the Red Sox. And although nothing came of their holed-up suite at the Four Seasons, Rodriguez got to see Epstein at work. Rodriguez especially enjoyed “watching Theo furiously scribbling out the Red Sox lineup for the upcoming season on a room-service napkin.” Adding, “That’s when I saw Theo’s baseball mind at work. I saw he had a passion for the game, a depth of knowledge, and a thirst to be great. Theo’s passion was contagious.”