We’ll really miss Theo Epstein.
The haters on the Internet are out there, of course, waving goodbye, screaming, “Glad you’re gone!” And “What have you done to us lately?”
The dude came, he saw, he did the scales.
And in 2016, he brought the Cubs their first World Championships in 108 years.
This, in and of itself, deserves a statue. (How about a Clark and Addison corner, which is brighter than statues of Ernie, Billy, Ronnie, or even the most famous human in Wrigley Field’s history of beer, Harry Carrey?)
Epstein is only 46 years old, but he’s done more in his field than most people can do in a dozen lives.
His stepping down as president of Cubs baseball after nine years, with one year remaining on his contract, is not really surprising.
We were told a while ago that 10 years is the time for fundamental change. He hinted that within a decade the tracks have yet changed the scenery, and the ride is different.
In the years after the 2016 coronation, the Cubs have been good but not great. Stumbling, not commotion. Routinely getting off postseason is a problem.
In 2017, the Cubs were smoked in the National League Series championship by the Dodgers. In 2018, they lost a wild solo blackjack to the Rockies. In 2019, they did not participate in the qualifiers. In 2020, Marlins swept them on the Wild Paper Tour.
Mojo Epstein was going. There was no question.
But losing control cannot change what came before it. Never forget that generations of Cubs fans have gone to their graves waiting in vain for the World Series title he finally presented.
But the interesting part about Epstein is that he’s a complex guy, someone who can bring his passion and his laser intelligence to influence one element, like team building, while still feeling that there is more to the world, in this life, this set of possibilities going so fast.
In short, he can be bored.
Maybe “boredom” isn’t the right word. Maybe “not interested” is.
His love for baseball is indisputable. His father, Leslie – a professor and novelist – was good at baseball but just not conceited about it, like his kid. If little Theo wants to watch Red Sox games on Boston TV, he has to read a great book for an equal amount of time. Thus, a three-hour game equates to three hours of heavy reading.
This will make your head enlightened.
And with enlightenment comes self-awareness.
Epstein’s most intriguing comments at his Tuesday press conference were about himself watching himself.
He admitted that in his first six years with the Cubs, he was part of “some pretty epic things”.
But then this: “The past few years have not been impressive. Maybe that tells me I’m great at it and really enjoy building, transformation and triumphing. Maybe I’m not good and I’m not driven by maintenance, so to speak.”
It is clear. Personality testing, such as the detailed tests that Wonderlic administers for corporate executives and sometimes professional athletes, will show this clearly.
Epstein needs intellectual and emotional stimulation.
He can go to another team and rebuild there. This can be fun. After all, he ended 194 years of desperate search for the Cubs and the Red Sox, with whom he won the World Championships in 2004 and 2007.
But let’s hope it doesn’t. I went there and did it.
Boston Magazine, which he called the “ Most Eligible Bachelor in Boston, ” had met his wife, Mary Whitney, when she was a Harvard student doing charity work with the homeless. This thinking, humility, and social attention appealed to him far more than the half-witted, albeit beautiful, young women throwing themselves on qualified feet.
He and Mary traveled together to South America after taking time off from the Red Sox in 2005, and they married in 2007. They have two children, one of whom Epstein brags to for driving the long golf strokes.
As a toddler in New York, Epstein himself would hit “bombs” in Central Park when his mother was throwing soft balls at him. Sometimes, he told me, with great pride, that crowds were gathering to watch the adorable little Theo.
It’s a good chuckle. Good trip.
He could do a lot if he focused on that. Let’s hope he chooses something really big next time.