Cubs exec works magic


Theo Epstein’s legacy as a MLB executive likely remains a work in progress for at least another decade.

He is, after all, only 42.

Strange as it sounds, a World Series title by the Chicago Cubs in the foreseeable future might be the only thing capable of pushing Epstein toward his version of an early retirement.

Should a franchise tormented by goats, black cats and countless poor personnel decisions hoist The Commissioner’s Trophy awarded World Series champs, Epstein becomes a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee if he’s not already.

And maybe viewed as the best exec in the history of professional sports in this country.

Who else can say they conquered curses of both the Bambino and Bartman in the same career?

In Boston, long thought to be the American League’s version of the Cubs due to the franchise not having won a World Series since 1918, Epstein, in the role of general manager, celebrated titles in 2004 and 2007.

Riding the momentum Epstein helped establish, Boston even won one without him (2013).

Epstein, president of baseball operations for the Cubs since October 2011, has wheeled and dealed Chicago back to relevance.

After sputtering to a 61-101 mark in 2012, the Cubs have won, in order, 66, 73 and 97 games. Last season the franchise made only its fourth trip to the National League Championship Series in 32 years.

The current squad is on pace to again win 97 games and make it to the postseason.

From there, anything is possible, including the Cubs’ first World Series title since 1908.

Many of Epstein’s moves are contributing to Chicago’s success, the biggie the hiring of former Tampa Bay Rays skipper Joe Maddon to manage the team prior to the 2015 season.

Maddon’s easy-going manner with players, media members and fans combined with his desire to win and win big has been a formula for success in the Windy City.

Good thing. The bridge connecting Chicago’s previous NLCS appearance in 2003 to the one last season was made up of four different Cubs managers — Lou Piniella, Mike Quade, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria.

Three of these men, along with 23 other non-interim Cubs managers through the years, finished their time in Chicago with sub-.500 records.

Futility and heartbreak have been Cubs’ season-ticket holders for generations. The legendary ivy covering the outfield walls at 102-year-old Wrigley Field might as well be cobwebs based on the number of ballclubs rumored to be haunted by this spell or that jinx.

Boston proved three times in 10 years that bad luck is in our minds more than it is on the field.

One day the Chicago Cubs will, too.

If Theo Epstein is part of the victory parade, his hiring might just go down as the best move the franchise ever made.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal in Franklin, a sister paper of The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].

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