Take two: Epstein embraces Cubs' challenge

Take two: Epstein embraces Cubs' challenge
October 25, 2011, 4:04 pm
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Theo Epstein has two enduring memories from his days with the Red Sox.

"First thing was helping to build a scouting and player development machine from the ground floor . . . " he said. "And the other great thing, probably the best thing about being with the Red Sox, was playing a small part of winning that World Series in 2004 and breaking the Sox' 86-year championship drought and getting to see the looks on peoples' faces, the joy it brought them . . . It really impacted a whole region of the country and generations of families . . ."

And now he has chance to re-live them.

"The Cubs opportunity provides me a forum, provides us a forum, to do both those things," he said.

The long-rumored move is now complete, and Epstein greeted the media Tuesday for the first time as director of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. "It truly feels great to be a Cub today," he said.

The challenges facing him are more daunting than the ones he overcame when he was named general manager of the Red Sox nearly nine years ago. For one thing, the Cubs have gone even longer between World Series triumphs -- 103 years and counting -- than the Sox. For another, the talent cupboard is far thinner in Chicago than it was when he took over in Boston.

Daunting, yes . . . but invigorating, as well.

"We are ready," he said. "And we are hungry."

As he wrote in an op-ed piece that ran in Tuesday's Boston Globe, Epstein said he feels that organizations and individuals benefit from change every 10 years. After nine years as Red Sox GM, and 10 years in the Sox' organization, the opening of the Cubs' job occurred at just the right time.

"I had a great 10 years with the Red Sox," he said, adding: "I would never trade that experience . . . But . . . I was ready for the next big challenge, and this is certainly the ultimate challenge."

Later, he added: "I had some skepticism about taking the Cubs job going in, because I had such a great situation in Boston . . . but the more I learned about the situation in Chicago, the more interested I was."

His blueprint for success will mirror the methods that worked well in Boston. Among them:

The use of all analytical methods, traditional and progressive, to help build a winning organization.

An effort to build a winning culture at the major-league level. "We'll have a clubhouse full of players who are proud to wear the Cubs uniform," he said.

Development of "a Cubs Way" for every level of the organization.

"Again, it won't be me doing it, he stressed. "It'll be all of us doing it."

He admitted the compensation issue for his services is still unsettled -- and may need commissioner Bud Selig's intervention for final resolution -- but said "the Cubs and Red Sox have a great working relationship" and he didn't anticipate it being a long-term issue. In fact, he had many kind words for his former employers in Boston.

"I want to thank Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner and team president Larry Lucchino, not only for allowing this move to happen but for giving me my original opportunity as a GM nine years ago and for supporting me along the way, personally and professionally," he said. "Also, a quick thank you to Terry Francona, the players, all my co-workers and friends at the Red Sox, including the fans; thanks for all the great times there. I'm really proud of what we accomplished together, and I wish you nothing but the best going forward. Good luck today, Ben Cherington, his successor as GM."

"The Red Sox are in good hands."

He admitted, however, that the last few weeks were a bit strange.

"I felt like that guy in the movie 'Office Space' with the red stapler," he joked. "When I was at Fenway Park, I just kept showing up to work, and it was as if someone forget to tell me I didn't work there anymore. I did end up in the basement with just a cubicle and a stapler, and I knew it was time to go to Chicago."

And now it's time to move forward.

"I was so fortunate to spend a decade in the Red Sox organization, and I feel truly, truly honored to be a Cub today," he said, later adding:

"Baseball is better with tradition. Baseball is better with history. Baseball is better with fans who care. Baseball is better in the daytime. And baseball is better when you win. And that's why I'm here today."

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