Theo Epstein, Baseball’s Biggest Fraud

Apr 8, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein meets with the press prior to a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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  • aldo morillo

    Win championship don’t happen over night. It’s going to be a long haul, and we’re in it til we die

  • Jordan_Campbell

    You can’t judge Epstein and the Cubs’ current regime in only year two. There was never the belief by the Cubs’ front office that the team would be ready to compete in 2013. As far as player development, it is too soon to judge but the current regime has improved the farm system immensely. Jorge Soler and Albert Almora are two of those indicators, and the regime will likely add another top prospect in the draft. Anthony Rizzo was also acquired and developed by the Cubs’ regime. Now, if we are having this discussion in 2015, then this argument may be valid. But not in 2013.

  • Cristiona

    Don’t understand what “rebuilding” means, huh?

  • Tom Mack

    Developing a strong baseball organization takes time. It starts with a good farm system to develop players and get them ready for major league ball. It continues with good coaching at the major league level to make fair players good and good players excellent. We saw an example of that with Soriano’s improved play in left field last year. It turned out that nobody had ever taken the time to work with him and make him better. We also learned that he wanted to be better, but nobody wanted to put in the time it would take to make him better. The Cubs put a lot of money into him, they should have put in the coaching time to make sure he was a good investment. Last year, they did.

    There are several players that need coaching to reach the next level. I think that is happening. We already see an improvement in many of the young players now as compared to the beginning of the season. Now they just need to meld as a team now, and as the prospects improve, use them to enhance the lineup. These days, a manager has to use all 25 players on his bench. The days of Leo Durocher using the same guys every day (e.g. 1968) and having them wear out at the end of the season are past. There are just not enough “iron horse” players out there these days that can stand the rigors of a 162 game schedule. Besides, the backups need game experience too.

    Developing a major league baseball team takes time and patience. It also needs to be done within the system. Owners just do not have the money to burn like George Steinbrenner did, to go out and chase free agents. Even George’s children have toned that down. Players need to be developed within the team’s farm system. In the end, the team will be better for it.

  • TheLoweDown

    It’s laughable how uninformed this article is. John Lackey didn’t join the Red Sox until 2010. Eric Gagne was good with the Red Sox save for 3 appearances and really one of those 3 was completely atrocious. He was having a good season for Texas before he was traded to Boston. JD Drew had a .370 OBP in Boston. And as for player development in Boston, what about Jacoby Ellsbury? Will Middlebrooks? Anthony Rizzo (drafted by Boston)? Jonathan Papelbon?

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