In October 2016, shortly after Rob Manfred took power, a juggernaut class baseball organization emerged on the coast of the Great Lakes.
It then fell behind in a playoff series, apparently suffering from a 3-1 deficit. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the series was rescued.
But according to repeated statements by both MLB and Cardinals fans, nothing of what you are about to read…
Somewhere in Lake Erie
“Cold this morning, skipper.”
“Cold,” Joe Maddon pauses before continuing. “And hard.”
“It’s time, skipper.” Maddon looks at Jon Lester knowingly and nods. The pair slip back into the submarine as it prepares to enter the open waters of Lake Erie.
Theo Epstein hurriedly packs a suitcase in his Boston home. Todd Ricketts trudges into the room. He is groggily rubbing his eyes carrying a trophy. Theo attempts to shoo Todd back to bed, but Todd would have none of it. “I can’t sleep, Theo. Stanley keeps waking me up.”
Theo looks Todd right in the eyes. “Oh ho I get it. It is still time for bed Todd.”
Jed walks through the room and looks over at Theo impatiently. “You are going to miss your plane.”
Theo looks over with acknowledgement, and then continues to talk to Todd. “Ok, you listen to me. You go back upstairs to sleep and on my business trip I will buy Stanley a trophy.”
Todd grudgingly acquiesces with an, “Oh-kay.” Todd heads back to his room, and Theo Epstein grabs his coat and heads out the door to the airport in the middle of the night.
Theo Epstein arrives in the early morning to the head of baseball operations in Chicago. He presents an ID at the guarded gate, and, after passing through several security checks, gets to the offices of Admiral Jason Heyward. Epstein makes his way through the open door of the Admiral’s office. Heyward looks up from his desk and greets him with an enthusiastic, “Theo, boy get yourself in here.” The two exchange pleasantries for a few minutes as they settle in the office to discuss the matters at hand.
Heyward asks, “How is Jed?”
“Jed is doing fine.”
“Todd is also doing well. He came in the other day and asked us to buy him a championship.”
Heyward laughs with some amusement, “a championship?”
Theo nods. “Yes, but he has decided it is okay if we just buy one for Stanley.”
Heyward, puzzled, asks, “Who’s Stanley?”
“Stanley is a trophy,” Theo replies sheepishly. He could only smile in his sleep deprived state, but Admiral Heyward does not let the moment linger long.
“What’s got you on a plane from Boston in the middle of the night?”
“It’s the Blue October. She was put to sea this morning.“
“It’s a big sonofabitch. What are these doors?”
“Those doors are the problem. We don’t know what they are. No one in Boston does. With your permission I would like to show this to Albert Almora. He played for Team USA, but today he works out in Iowa doing some teaching and other research for the Cubs.”
“Top Secret or better.”
Des Moines, Iowa
Theo Epstein walks into a large factory. Men are busy at work on a small naval vessel. Albert Almora is frustrated with the way work is proceeding, but his frustration ends when Theo announces his presence playfully with “They’ve got you playing with models now?”
“It’s not a model. It’s the SBAV. Situational Baserunning Awareness Vehicle. Right now we are rigging with a universal docking collar. Basically it can be used in any baseball situation.” Almora snaps back.
“You’ve got a minute?” Theo asks as the pair walk over to Almora’s cramped office. Papers are piled over the small tables and desk in the room. Theo hands Albert the picture of the Blue October, and Almora begins to pore over the image with a magnifying glass at his desk. He spends a few minutes puzzling over the image, and looks up in astonishment at Theo, who is leaning against the table across from him, when he realizes what this is.
“This might be a Schwarber drive. Magnetohydrodynamic drive, do you follow?” Almora looks over for acknowledgement.
Epstein stares at Almora blankly with no recognition, and gives a quick response of, “no.”
“It is like a jet engine under water. It is more powerful than any bat we’ve ever developed, but there are almost no moving parts to the swing. So it is very quiet.”
“Like how quiet?”
“It is doubtful sonar would even pick it up. If it did, it would sound like a seismic anomaly or whales humping. Anything but a slugger. We messed around with it in the draft, but we could never make it work. They really built this? This isn’t a mock up?”
Theo nods. Almora leans back in his desk chair and places a leg on an open desk drawer. He seemed to be reflecting a bit before he continued on.
“When I was 12 I helped my daddy build a trophy case because some mad man parked 11 trophies in St. Louis. This thing could park a hundred trophies in Washington, New York or Los Angeles and no one would know anything until it was too late.”
Aboard the Blue October
Men hustle through the cramped quarters of the Blue October. Joe Maddon and Jon Lester make their way through the corridors to the captain’s quarters. The two had been discussing ship matters as they moved through the passageway, but they pause outside the door to Maddon’s room. Lester indicates towards the door and says, “the political officer is in your room.” Joe nods and enters the room.
Political officer Andrew Friedman is sitting at the simple table in the room. He had made himself comfortable with a glass of red wine, and was looking through one of Joe Maddon’s books. The title of the book is October 1964. Maddon looks perturbed by this.
The political officer looks up from the book and states, “Reading about the end of the Yankees dynasty is an interesting choice for a man with your responsibilities, Captain Maddon. You have underlined several troubling passages in this book too.”
Maddon takes the book from Friedman’s hands. “No, this book was a gift. I keep it for sentimental reasons.”
“I’m sorry captain, but I am only doing my job.”
“By invading my privacy?” Maddon snaps at Friedman.
“Your privacy is of little concern to MLB. We all are here to serve aboard the finest organization ever created by the MLB.” Maddon nods in understanding if not satisfaction at the response.
“So how many men has MLB put aboard my boat?”
“Your boat? Your boat!? This is the property of the people of MLB,” Friedman responds incredulously, but then softened his response to Maddon’s understandable request. “If MLB or the MLBPA put anyone aboard this organization, I would be the last one to know. Shall we get started?” Friedman hands Maddon his key attached to a simple chain around his neck. Maddon takes that and the one he carried in a similar fashion. He moves the picture of his beloved RV to reveal a safe. Maddon inserts the two keys into the safe, and pulls out some papers. He hands the papers to Friedman.
Friedman starts to read through, “We are to proceed north where we will rendezvous with the Cleveland. Ah, Captain Terry Francona‘s boat.”
“You know Francona?” Maddon asks quizzically.
“Only by reputation. I know that he descends from baseball aristocracy, and that you taught him. Rumor has it that there is a special place in his heart for you.”
“There is little rumor in Tito’s heart for anyone but Tito.”
Friedman continues to read the orders aloud. “We are to engage in naval drills. We will engage the Schwarber drive and the Cleveland will attempt to hunt and destroy us. This is a historic day Captain. I–”
Maddon tries to interrupt the excited political officer. “If you could just-”
Friedman having none of it continues, “I know it is not standard protocol, but I was wondering if you would permit me to post our orders for the crew to read.”
Maddon nods defeatedly to the eager political officer. Friedman turns and begins to walk toward the door of the captain’s quarters. Before he makes more than a step, Maddon’s hands grab the officer’s head and Maddon quickly breaks the officers neck. Maddon looks around at the table, and throws the tea from one of the cups onto the floor. He lays Friedman on the ground, then grabs the actual orders and sets fire to the papers. He pulls papers from his inner jacket pocket, and reached for the phone next to him.
“Doctor come quick. There has been a terrible accident in my quarters.”
Captain Maddon walks to the center of the bridge. A mostly young crew looks anxiously at their veteran skipper. His number two man Jon Lester looks at him knowingly, as Maddon picked up the phone. He hit the button to sound an announcement whistle. The entire crew throughout the ship stop dead in their tracks as Maddon sounds out the words he had rehearsed more than a few times prior to that moment.
“Today we play a game as we defect from the East to the Chicago Cubs. For years your fathers and your grandfathers before them played this game and played it well. But today is different. We have the advantages now. We will slip past our fleet and into Chicago territory. Our orders are to engage the Schwarber drive and sail to Chicago. Where we will listen to their Eddie Vedder while we conduct missile drills. Afterwards we will sail south to Disneyland.”
A cheer goes up in the rest of the ship. The Schwarber drive is engaged, and the crew begins to sing.
“Baseball season’s underway
Well you better get ready for a brand new day
Hey, Chicago, what do you say
The Cubs are gonna win today
Go, Cubs, go
Go, Cubs, go
Hey, Chicago, what do you say
The Cubs are gonna win today”
To be continued?