News out of the North Side shook much of the baseball world on Tuesday, as now former Chicago Cubs GM Theo Epstein decided to resign from his post in one of baseball’s most storied-franchises. Though he will most assuredly be remembered for leading the Cubs to a World Series title in 2016, the resumé Epstein put together during his time with the Cubbies is certainly one fans won’t soon forget.
Theo Epstein was hired by the Cubs on October 25th, 2011, just shy of a month after the lousy Cubs finished that previous season 20 games below the .500 mark. Though players like Marlon Byrd, Jeff Samardzija, and Carlos Zambrano were household names at the time, Epstein had a vision to build the Cubs into not only a contender, but a World Series Champion. To start, his newly put together front office went to the Draft, where they had quite a bit of success… Albert Almora Jr. was Theo’s first draft pick with the Cubs, while players like Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant come to mind when thinking about the top selections that stuck.
After another lousy sub-.500 season in 2014, the plan finally started to come together. The big picks were making their way to the big leagues, Theo spent money to get Jon Lester in free agency, and the Cubs made their first postseason appearance since 2008 in that 2015 season. Though the season finished with a drubbing in the NLCS from the Mets, the stars were here, baseball was fun again in Chicago… Yet, the best was yet to come.
The World Series
It goes without saying, but November 3rd, 2016 is a day Cubs fans everywhere will never forget. The locker room speech from Jason Heyward and the double down the line from Ben Zobrist. Those are moments that still make me smile as I sit here and type. The smile is as infectious as Dexter Fowler’s after the solo shot to leadoff the game or Carl Edwards Jr. waiving the W flag. Sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, grandparents alike, we laughed, we smiled, we cried. 106 years is a long time to wait, a drought that requires the right man to lead the way.
Now, the 2016 Cubs team was not the perfect team; however, it was the right team. Theo Epstein built the right team. Veterans and stars that could play alongside each other, defensive replacements, pinch-runners (looking at you Albert), and pinch-hitters. Again, it wasn’t perfect, but it was right.
When we talk about the right moves, it is things like bringing in current manager David Ross to catch the lefty. It is things like trading away a potential foundational piece in Gleyber Torres to make sure the bullpen is what it needs to be. Winning a World Series is hard, some teams have never done it. Theo knew that it had to be the right team, and it had to be right now. I still have my commemorative jersey, the hat, and the memories. That was Theo.
2017 and Beyond
Since that amazing fall evening in 2016, the Cubs have by all metrics underperformed for the talent that was in the room. Let’s not look at it that way. The Cubs made 5 postseason appearances in the last six years Theo was in town, Nico Hoerner looks to be the next great middle-infielder in the Cubs franchise. All in all, the four years following that World Series have brought fun baseball to the Friendly Confines. With that, a thank you feels necessary.
Thank you for the memories and the life you brought to Wrigley Field.
Thank you for believing in a franchise that didn’t believe in themselves.
Thank you for spending the money to make this team good.
Thank you for bringing a fanbase their first title in 106 years.
Thank you for caring about the success of the franchise on and off the field.