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Monday, December 11

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Cubs Wed Oct 26 2011

Cubs Begin Theo Epstein Era

theo epstein introduction.JPG

Theo Epstein / Tribune photo: Phil Velasquez

So far, so good. The Theo Epstein Era kicked off Tuesday when the Cubs held a news conference to introduce their new president of baseball operations.

Of course, nothing too groundbreaking was said. Epstein thanked everyone who needed to be thanked (upper management with the Cubs, key figures with the Red Sox), promised "sustained success" in Chicago, vowed to build a strong farm system and to do things "the Cubs way." The organization will use both statistical and scouting evaluation methods.

Epstein stressed a complete team effort, that no one person will win games. He also said the Cubs would "grind it out" to be the best, and that the Cubs will need to be more prepared than their opponents.

The hour-long show didn't reveal much about what the Cubs will look like in the immediate future. Mike Quade's job is still in limbo -- Epstein said he would meet with the incumbent manager in the next week to discuss philosophies and determine his status. Also, Epstein wouldn't comment on the player payroll for next year, although he did say the franchise has "more than enough resources here to win."

But from listening to Epstein speak, Cubs fans can expect long-haul, structural roster changes, rather than quick fixes. Epstein repeatedly stressed that the Cubs are planning for "sustained success," meaning transactions that will make the team competitive for several years, rather than desperate grabs for immediate gratification.

What does that mean for this offseason? The Cubs have holes, well, everywhere.

Will they splurge? If Tuesday is any indication, maybe not. Sure, they might make a signing or two if the opportunity arises, but don't expect a Yankees-like (or in recent years, Red Sox-like) spree. If, or when, the Cubs win the World Series under Epstein, expect most of the core to be homegrown players acquired through the draft or international scouting.

Of course, building a team through a good farm system takes plenty of work. Epstein is not fazed by that; he embraces it. Epstein admitted he is a "hyper-competitive" guy who loves working with a team of people who share a common vision.

"When we win a World Series, it won't be because of any one person. It'll be because of all of us," Epstein said. "It'll happen because a scout drove the extra six miles to see a prospect. It'll happen because a minor-league pitching coach took the extra time to work on a young pitcher's change-up. ... It will happen because of all of us."

Epstein said that he took the job for a number of reasons, including the history, tradition, ownership, fans and Wrigley Field. Also: the championship drought. Epstein loves the challenge and wants to turn the Cubs into a successful team.

When asked what his favorite part of his tenure with the Red Sox was, Epstein mentioned ending a 86-year wait by winning the 2004 World Series "and seeing the looks on people's faces, the joy it brought them. ... It impacted a whole region of the country and generations. It was more than just a World Series."

Here's hoping he does the same in Chicago.

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