11:21 AM CDT, October 12, 2011
This seems like the perfect hire.
The best thing ever.
The smartest move you could dream of.
But it’s the Cubs. So, it will turn into a disaster. That’s what the Cubs do.
Somehow, some way at some time, the hiring of Boston general manager Theo E\pstein will splatter all over the team, the fans and the North Side like the seagulls at 4:30 every summer afternoon at Wrigley.
It’s not a done deal, which means it could still blow up in the Cubs’ faces. Tom Ricketts is Baseball McCaskey, after all.
But it might not be Ricketts. It might be a nut owner in Boston wanting to look like a hero and save his boy wonder.
For now, though, the storyline has the Cubs thisclose to hiring Epstein, who is fresh off presiding over the greatest late-season collapse in baseball history.
Perfect Cub, indeed.
And that collapse wasn’t just a collapse, by the way. It was nuclear and laughable --- the kind of choke for which they build statues at Wrigley Field.
The Boston Globe details Epstein’s collection of players drinking, eating their way out of shape, and neither the manager nor veterans able or even wanting to stop the madness.
The Cubs’ best hire would’ve been Andrew Friedman, a similar boy wonder who did more with less in Tampa Bay than anybody anywhere, and whose team overtook Epstein’s Red Sox during that sparkling 7-20 September, a time when character shows, and what showed was that Epstein’s Red Sox didn’t have any.
The case will be made that Friedman hasn’t won a World Series. He put together a team that reached one Series and came in second. He didn’t win it, while Epstein did. Twice, in fact, in 2004 and ’07. A ring for each hand.
Just like his reported steroid user for each hand.
Epstein, see, has yet to win a Series without a juiced-up middle of the order.
You’ll recall that the Red Sox got clutch hit after clutch hit from Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. They got big hits from others --- even J.D. Drew, if you can believe that --- but it all stemmed from the power of Ramirez and Ortiz.
And that power reportedly was aided by ‘roids.
I guess Epstein gets credit for that. The Cubs tried the ‘roids thing, but never won a pennant with Sammy Sosa.
And I give Epstein credit for combining the kind of big payroll Jim Hendry had with the kind of farm system that Hendry couldn’t harvest. But Epstein had his Alfonso Sorianos and Milton Bradleys in the form of Carl Crawford and John Lackey. General managers who get the chance to spend a lot of money inevitably will spend some of it badly. The trick is to do it less than Hendry.
Oh, and about that general manager thing: In order to lure Epstein, the Cubs will have to promote him to president or CEO or something bigger, but all you want him to do is build a baseball organization as a GM. But the Cubs will use him as one of the point men to sucker the mayor and city into $200 million worth of improvements for Wrigley. That will take him away from what he has done best.
We’ve seen that movie before. Everybody dies in the end. The Cubs did this with Andy MacPhail in 1994. Say hello to Ed Lynch, everybody. Someone gets promoted above the reason you really want to hire that person. So Cub.
I want Epstein to succeed. I’d love for the Cubs to win a World Series just to see whether that indeed marks the apocalypse.
But it’s hard to get past the idea of the most embarrassing franchise in sports empowering the man in charge of the most embarrassing death spiral in baseball history without concluding that, yep, the Cubs are getting exactly what you’d expect.
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