Remember this picture? This was one of the very first things Chicago Cub fans saw after Theo Epstein was hired as the new President of Cubs Baseball Operations.
Those of you who do not know of Christian beliefs, this image mimics Jesus Christ walking on water, giving one sign that he was more than a mere mortal man. This act, gave one disciple all he needed to believe that he was indeed the savior who was sent to save all of mankind. The use of this picture, gives the impression that Epstein is without a doubt the Cubs savior, who came to rescue the Cubs and their fans from their own living hell; which would be life without a World Series title.
Epstein was hired by Tom Ricketts, and came here with a plan to completely change the Cubs culture. He came preaching patience as he rebuilt the Cubs farm system into what would be a consistent winning organization, as opposed to one that was in the hunt once every few years.
Cub fans were split on this idea, but there are those who are sick of waiting and want a championship now. I find a hard time arguing with anyone who would rather win now instead of waiting four or five years under the Epstein plan. Part of me agrees, I would rather have a winner now than in five years, but if everything Epstein is trying to do works according to plan, in five years the Cubs will have a crop of youngsters who will be able to keep them in contention for many years to go. I will take constant chances in a few years as opposed to a one shot chance.
While you can rebuild the farm system and still compete year in and year out, that is a lot harder. If you try doing both at the same time, you wont be able to build through the draft, and you wont be trading talented veterans for younger talent. You almost have to pick and chose which you would rather do. That is exactly what Ricketts has decided to do, with Epstein’s suggestion leading the way.
This is already known, and is old news; so why am I bringing this up again?
Whether you decided to get on board with the plan from the beginning or whether you have been against the idea all along, some fans have seemingly dug their feet into the ground and refuse to budge on the matter of how Epstein is doing. He is either doing an absolutely horrible job, and has failed in everything that he has done; or everything he has touched so far has turned into gold. Both sides are completely wrong.
With just over a year in the Cubs organization, Epstein has done a lot of good already. He took a farm system that was ranked in the mid to low 20s before he was hired, all the way up to the top five in all of baseball. That is very impressive in just one year. Because of his hard work, the Cubs future has never looked better. They actually have a number of young players who fans are looking forward to see getting called up over the next few years. Sure, not all of them will work out, some will be busts, but a couple might pan out to be everything they hope they will be.
Epstein also traded Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres for Anthony Rizzo, a move that was an absolute steal. Even though pitching is very valuable, if you can trade a relief pitcher for an every day player, you make that move. Rizzo impressed with his first few months in a Cubs uniform, while Cashner spent more time on the disabled list than on the major league roster. I think that is fair to say the Cubs won this trade.
Yes, Epstein has also made a few moves which might not work out in the long run. Trading left handed stud relief pitcher Sean Marshall for young left handed starting pitcher Travis Wood. After one year, I have a hard time saying the Cubs and Epstein won that trade, but hindsight is always 20/20. That being said, I would trade a relief pitcher for a starting pitcher every time; unless that relief pitcher is a hall of fame closer like Marino Rivera. A starting pitcher is always more valuable than a relief pitcher. The jury is still out, because Wood can still develop into everything Epstein thought he would be.
He also traded Tyler Colvin for Ian Stewart. This one I will call a complete wash. Sure, Colvin put up good stats last year, but looking at his splits, he was not as good as he appears. At Coors’ he mashed the mall and looked like everything Cub fans thought he would be. However, on the road, he was everything that he was last year when he played for the Cubs. Overall, he put up a much better season than Stewart, but he was injured half the year; and to be honest for the better part of the last two years. I know that waiting is not something a Cub fan likes to do, but we need to wait to see what Stewart can do with a fully healthy season under his belt.
The point of all of this, is to point out that Epstein is not perfect. He is far from perfect. He is going to make mistakes. Like all General Managers (or in Epstein’s case Presidents) there will be moves that he wishes he could undo, because the decision simply blew up in his face. But don’t discount that his hiring is the best thing that could have happened for the Cubs. He is the smartest baseball mind they have ever had making decisions, and leading the Cubs in the future.
So stop bashing every little thing he does. He has a far better eye for talent than you or I do. He has an eye for talent, and is looking for the prospects that he feels will be great. And yes, he will cut a player who the fans love because he shows heart and tries hard, even though he lacks baseball talent. That does not mean he was wrong. Trust in the plan.
Also, stop kissing his ass. Not all of his moves will work out, and he is a fair target when his moves fail. You do not need to defend him and talk up every single move that is made. He has people that work for him that can do that if he really wants.
Love him or hate him, Epstein is going to be around for awhile, and his plan is not going to change.