He was the golden boy who could do no wrong in Cubs’ fans eyes when Tom Ricketts brought Theo Epstein in to run his baseball operations in the fall of 2011. But now 15 months later, I ask Cubs fans this: Is Theo still the boy genius you thought he was when Ricketts made the hire? I say no and I say it emphatically.
Fifteen months later and Theo has this franchise heading towards its second consecutive 100 loss season.
All the Cubs fans had to do was look a little closer at what Epstein inherited when he took over as GM of the Boston Red Sox back in the fall of 2002, and they might have had the same suspicions as I did then.
What Epstein took over was a Red Sox team that already had a core of great players in place to win a World Series.
The hardest thing for a GM to acquire is top of the rotation starters. Theo had two already on his roster — one who might be this generation’s most dominant starter in Pedro Martinez and the other was 21 game winner Derek Lowe.
His starting rotation wasn’t the only thing that the boy genius inherited from the previous regime. His outfield consisted of Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Trot Nixon. Then, an infield that had two stalwart’s in Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop and Jason Varitek behind the plate.
But where Theo had his biggest advantage over every GM in baseball outside of Brian Cashman of the Yankee’s was payroll. In 2004, when Boston won its first World Series title, it was second in payroll. There was no team within $20 million.
In 2007, when Boston won its second World Series title, it was second in payroll — no team again within $20 million.
With that type of payroll advantage, Theo was able to overcome major mistakes he made on the free agent market. He spent bad money on overrated talent like J.D. Drew, Jason Bay, Eric Gagne, Jason Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Now look at what he took over with the Cubs and it’s a complete mass rebuilding job.
In Chicago, Theo didn’t get anything close to what he inherited with the Red Sox. Not in payroll and certainly not in talent. All Theo inherited was a full out war with the roof top owners and a massive roster rebuild.
Theo and his boy toy GM Jed Hoyer have been preaching patience and player development since they took over this sinking ship. But really outside of Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, where was all this player development in Beantown that the boy genius talks about?
In some ways, I do get why Cubs fans bought into Epstein. He’s smart, good looking and talks a great game. Then add in it’s been 104 years since the last world series trophy was hoisted on the north side of Chicago. But please Cubs fans, it now has been 15 months and I think we all can agree that Theo is no baseball genius.