One of the perks of running this website is the constant fame and notoriety that come with it.  I get daily emails and comments on each entry from places as far as Russia and Indiana, from companies whose businesses span from penis enlargement to penis reduction, that make very general statements such as, “This site is good.  You should rite more famous.  The post is better than the last.”  You can tell these people are obviously infatuated with my work and are taking it to their CEOs doing their best to convince them to sponsor me or something.  Sometimes they even try to sell me stuff in order to establish a business partnership in advance.  It’s very flattering.

On top of these business opportunities, I do get a number of emails and phone calls (the phone calls tend to be from people I already know) asking my opinion on things going on in the world.  Perhaps that’s the reward for putting a couple hundred words of my opinions out into the public realm two or three times a week.  With that in mind there are a couple things I’d like to touch on today…

1)      Yes, I do think “Storage Wars” is a completely undervalued show.  If you’re sitting in a hotel room in some random corner of the country with a belt around your neck, trying to knock out a day’s worth of notes/emails/quotes/etc., there isn’t a better program to have on in the background.  I’m pretty damn confident I could beat Dave Hester at his own game but I’d also adopt Barry’s philosophy and try to find the unique, one big score pieces.  About four people reading this have any concept of what I’m talking about right now…

2)      I’m sorry Danielle but it sounds like your boyfriend is cheating on you.  He can’t really get crabs from a Subway restaurant toilet seat.

3)      I’m looking forward to Theo Epstein steering the ship for my beloved Cubs for the foreseeable future.

If you live within 50 miles of Chicago or even happen past any of the eighteen ESPN channel when clicking through your TV menu guide, you’ve probably heard by now that Theo Epstein, Boston’s boy genius GM who ended the Curse of the Bambino for the Red Sox, has agreed to come to the Cubs and work his magic for America’s lovable losers.  Just last week I wrote that Theo was my second favorite choice to fill the GM void left when Jim Hendry was let go earlier this summer.  Andrew Friedman, the man currently running the show for the Tampa Bay Rays who is younger and has 1/3rd of the payroll that Theo got to play with in Boston, was my personal choice but it sounds as though he’s staying put where he’s at.  If that’s in fact the case then Theo is about as good as you can get. 

With Theo the Cubs are entering the 21st century of baseball operations.  Currently in Boston, Theo and his ivy league cronies developed a computer software system that uses sabermetric analysis to evaluate players that is named CARMINE.  It is said that Theo will not make any baseball decision without consulting the statistical output that CARMINE produces.  Under the Jim Hendry regime I’m pretty sure Excel spreadsheets were considered “fancy”. 

Tom Ricketts comes from a world of investment banking and stock brokering (his father founded Ameritrade) and thus statistical analysis has currency in his world.  He has been very clear since day one that he wanted to change the Cubs culture and model the franchise after the Red Sox Way.  The most efficient way to do that is to take the man who literally wrote the book, The Red Sox Way.  When Theo and his buddies came into power in Boston they literally put together a manual for how the Red Sox organization will be run, covering everything from how they want players in Rookie ball to learn how to take pitches, to strategies on how to bring a pitcher through the system, to how the organization will market itself as a whole.  This planning and thought out process for every detail obviously has direct appeal to Ricketts vision and it is everything that the Cubs have not been in the past.  A case can be made that the Cubs philosophy has been some summation of, we’re going to draw crowds due to Wrigley Field regardless so let’s try and put a good product on the field also.  This thinking leads to rushed decisions on spending for “big names” and headline appeal rather than players that fit a system.  Get ready for a new era Cubs fans.

** Yes it is noted that signing Theo falls directly under the signing a big name approach that I just mocked.  If you’re going to have that kind of attitude about this then you can stop ready right now.  Hillbilly…**

So what do we have to expect from Theo in the weeks and months to come?  I think we see some combination of the following moves from our ship’s new captain:

  1. They offer Aramis Ramirez the club option for his $16M contract and he declines.  This gets the Cubs a compensatory draft pick (a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds) as well as the first round pick of whatever team he ends up signing with.  That’s a very “Boston” move as Theo knows the value of getting two young prospects for the price of an aging veteran.
  2. Expect the team to improve via trade rather than free agency this off season.  One of the hidden gems of Theo is that a lot of guys he’s brought up through the Red Sox front office have gone on to run their own teams now.  Jed Hoyer in San Diego is a prime example of owing Epstein for his shot at the big time and returned the favor last winter by sending the Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez (the Padres best player) for three Red Sox prospects.  Look for these type of deals to start coming the Cubs way now.  Plus all of Theo’s former competitors in the American League will now have a place to move their players to the National League where they can’t come back and immediately haunt them.
  3. Despite the point above, expect at least one big free agent to come to the Cubs this off season.  There’s a lot of good buzz about the organization right now.  Coupled with the fact that the committed payroll for 2012 is going to drop already with and increase to dramatically if Ramirez walks and they’re able to move Zambrano, there will be money to spend.  Free agents like buzz and money.  Go figure.
  4. The change in the Cubs front office will extend beyond the GM position.  Look for fresh faces and new thinkers popping up around Wrigley.  The Red Sox have essentially been a fraternity for stat-heads-over-thirty this past decade.  I’d expect the Cubs to become the spot for these guys now as everyone is going to want to be a part of the brain trust that ends the longest championship drought in sports.
  5. The manager position is going to be interesting.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say Theo isn’t going to be a big Mike Quade fan.  GMs tend to like to have “their guy” running the team.  Quade is not Theo’s guy.  With that said, I think they have two options on how to proceed. 

Option 1: Quade still has one year left on his contract.  The organization may opt to keep him around for that year and let him play out the strings.  No matter what happens the Cubs are not going to win the World Series next year.  While the team comes together and the 2012 season is lost, they can use Quade as the sacrificial lamb and essentially buy themselves a free year away from the blame of the media.

Option 2: Bail on Quade now and bring in Ryne Sandburg or some big name manager that will have Cubs fans on cloud nine all off season.  This will buy them at least a year of goodwill and the public won’t start clamoring for results until 2013.

So that’s where we sit right now.  I am very excited to see how these next five months play out and what the team looks like as they show up in Arizona in March.  One thing is for sure, Mesa is going to be a media haven this spring, and when the Red Sox visit Wrigley Field next summer the second biggest story will be the game on the field.  I’m also eager to hear the Boston media start justifying this move and coming forward with all of their Theo-bashing commentary.  Much like how Terry Francona, the manager that won them two World Series, now basically is being portrayed as the anti-Christ per the Boston media with stories surfacing about his pill popping, pending divorce, and allowing the inmates to run the asylum, I think there are going to be a slew of stories coming out about Theo’s short comings as well.  That should be fun.  Otherwise I’m all in on the new look Cubs.  Theo, if you’re looking for someone to walk you through the finer details of the Cubs experience, such as which concession stands sell mai-thais and which don’t, I’m your man.  Happy to have you aboard.  Now please go ahead and end 103 years of misery for us first chance you get, ok?