I’m not a Chicago Cubs fan, but I still remember the managerial hires by that ballclub that saw Gene Michael and Lou Piniella come on board.
Particularly in the case of Piniella, but also with Michael as well, there was the sense that the Cubs were reaching out to a real-live New York Yankee. Bringing in one of the Bronx Bombers (both men had been ballplayers, managers and executives for the team) to the North Side was assured to bring a winner to Chicago.
AS THOUGH A Yankee could overcome that very un-cute matter of losing so often that Chicago Cubbie-ness isn’t anywhere near as sweet as it sounds.
The lesson I learned is that Cubs losing is powerful enough to overcome Yankee winning (take the 1981 World Series, where Bobby Murcer returned to the Yankees to see them lose – because his interim with other teams included a two-year stint with the Cubs).
If there is something to be learned from this, it is that there are no saviors. No one is going to suddenly come in and make a respectable baseball franchise out of the Chicago Cubs.
Anybody who seriously believes that is just as absurd as those people on the South Side who seriously think that dumping Ozzie Guillen as manager was the lone move needed to make the White Sox winners again.
WHY AM I rambling through all of this?
It’s just that mental aggravation is what I felt when I first saw a Chicago Tribune report (which admittedly ripped off the information from Boston’s WEEI radio) that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is going to leave the team so he can take a job at the head of the Cubs.
Those gossip column tidbits about fans seeing someone who looked like Epstein this weekend hanging around the Lincoln Park neighborhood? Maybe they weren’t totally intoxicated!
According to the reports, Epstein would get more than $15 million to run the Cubs for the next five seasons. If he wins, he will become a Cubs demigod who will have employment for life.
IF HE DOESN’T, he’ll be dumped on as badly as the Cubs’ last demigod, Sammy Sosa – who in so many ways is what that franchise is all about (although that’s a subject for another day’s commentary).
Now none of this is official. Even the Tribune is reporting that actual compensation still needs to be finalized, and may not be done so until the end of the week.
So Wednesday afternoon’s radio rumor from The Hub could easily become Wrigleyville’s pathetic joke by Thursday morning. We’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.
It’s just that I don’t see this ballclub being turned around in a winter’s notice. It will take a long, drawn-out building process (and things could still go wrong). Just like there’s no crying in baseball, there also are no guarantees.
WHICH IS WHY I really don’t get why Epstein would want to come to the Cubs. I do understand why he’d want to leave Boston – a place with whiny fans who are (deservedly so) emotionally traumatized by the way their team played so badly in September that they wound up out of the playoffs altogether.
Leaving those people in the lurch is what they deserve.
But falling for the ivy at Wrigley Field? I can’t help but wonder how long until he kicks himself and starts having the same thoughts that outfielder Lou Novikoff once had – that the ivy was poisonous.
The speculation always is that whoever happens to be in charge of the Cubs when they do eventually win something (no National League championship since 1945, no World Series title since 1908) is going to be regarded as a baseball genius. It will permanently set their legacy.
AS THOUGH EPSTEIN really needs that. The 2004 World Series title for the Red Sox, followed up by another one in 2007, already did that for him.
All he’s doing if he comes to Chicago is risking getting entangled in the muck otherwise known as Chicago Cubbie-ness. Come to Chicago and get caught up in the losing ways of the Cubs, and we’ll quickly see that perhaps Epstein wasn’t all that bright – and maybe those two Red Sox championships in the past decade were some sort of fluke (the Yankees were really a better ballclub in ’04).
Which makes me want to scream at Theo that he should have a long, hard talk with Piniella – who despite his playing days on championship Yankees teams and his managerial stints with a champion Cincinnati Reds team and several near-misses with Seattle Mariners ballclubs, is going to forevermore carry around the stink of the Cubs.
A blotch on an otherwise intriguing career in baseball. One that maybe Piniella could talk Epstein out of enduring for himself.