Mere hours after I reported on my inability to find any trace of Theo Epstein in or around Wrigley Field, an official joint announcement from the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs comes down regarding the future of Epstein’s employment.
Of course it did.
Theo Epstein has officially been named President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs effective immediately. I learned of this news while enjoying dinner across the street from Wrigley Field because that’s the way these things work. But enough about my awful luck when it comes to reporting this story, Here are the details.
Per the official release from the Cubs and Red Sox:
“The Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs jointly announce this evening that, effective immediately, Theo Epstein has resigned from the Red Sox in order to become the new President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs. The Clubs also have reached an agreement regarding a process by which appropriate compensation will be determined for the Red Sox and that issue will be resolved in the near term.
Both the Red Sox and the Cubs intend to hold press events on Tuesday, October 25 during which the Cubs intend to announce Mr. Epstein, and the Red Sox intend to announce his successor as General Manager.
Out of respect for the World Series, both clubs have agreed to forego further comment until Tuesday, the next scheduled non-game day.”
This is the first in a series of dominoes that is expected to fall that will essentially shape the future of not one but three organizations moving forward. Epstein’s assistant, Ben Cherington, is expected to be named the new General Manager of the Red Sox, according to MLB.com’s Ian Browne. Browne also reports that Padres GM Jed Hoyer is expected to assume the same role with the Cubs, although according to MLB.com’s Corey Brock, that transaction is far from being finalized.
Brock reports that the Padres have granted the Cubs permission to speak with both Hoyer and Assistant GM Jason McLeod. Numerous reports indicate that Hoyer and McLeod are expected to be brought on board in similar roles with the Cubs within the next few days. Once those dominoes fall, the Padres are expected to officially name Josh Byrnes as their new GM.
So what all does this mean for the Cubs? For once, the hope that fills their heart has some semblance of legitimacy to it. Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod helped shape a Red Sox organization that not only won the World Series but also experienced sustained success. Epstein’s legacy in Boston is one of a homegrown organization that rebuilt from within, relying on savvy drafting and smart spending to land guys like Dustin Pedroia as building blocks of teams that would keep winning ballgames.
It’s something that has been sorely lacking on Chicago’s North side. Much has been made of the Cubs’ century plus long draught when it comes to World Series title. Equally as remarkable is their inability to successfully develop homegrown talent that has any lasting success. Over the past decade, the Cubs farm system has produced Kerry Wood and Starlin Castro as the two long-term success stories nearly lost amid a string of failures, none of which have lead the franchise to the cusp of the Promised Land (read: a World Series berth) let alone the Promised Land itself.
Epstein and his team of numbers wizards are facing a daunting task. Not only do they have to rebuild a farm system that is currently wanting for potential future stars, they have to completely change the culture that exists at the corner of Clark and Addison. For years, the Cubs have been able to sell out Wrigley Field despite putting a medicore product on the field. Given the September callups this season – and with all due respect to guys like Bryan LaHair and Lou Montanez – there’s not a whole lot of hope for much improvement on the team’s 71-91 2011.
However, Epstein’s arrival does signal a major culture shift for the organization. Gone are the days when losing was alright so long as the seats were filled on a sunny summer afternoon. Epstein’s arrival sets a high bar when it comes to the talent he’s hoping to find and the levels he’s expecting to bring this organization to. He’s already broken one seemingly unbreakable curse by winning two World Series with the Red Sox. I’m guessing he’s not moving his family out of his hometown halfway across the country to settle for second best with an organization that is notorious for doing so.