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updated: 10/25/2011 7:46 PM

Epstein impressive, very impressive

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  • Theo Epstein addressed the media after being introduced Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

       Theo Epstein addressed the media after being introduced Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
    George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Epstein joins the Cubs

  • Video: Epstein greets fans outside Wrigley

 
 

Theo Epstein is so impressive that you wonder what he's doing in baseball.

Tuesday he came across as intelligent, articulate and pragmatic while being introduced as the Cubs' president of baseball operations.

Epstein made references to the major leagues and minor leagues being "parallel fronts," to establishing "integrated verticality" up and down the organization, and to installing an "information management system."

When the Tribune Company hired Andy MacPhail as Cubs president in 1994 he said he wanted to hire a general manager with academic intellect.

MacPhail fell short with Ed Lynch, who had passed the bar exam but not the GM test. Judging a textbook by its cover, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts went long with Epstein.

So, Professor Theo, why baseball when you would make, say, an attractive political candidate…?

"You don't even know what my politics are," Epstein said.

The response was accompanied by a smile that would make voters swoon even if he expressed an intention to raise taxes across the board.

My goodness, Epstein has a politician's hair, a wife who would make a beautiful first lady, precise speech, great everything that someone needs to be elected president of the United States.

Yet Epstein doesn't seem to want to run for any office but his new one at Wrigley Field. Nor does he seem motivated to cure cancer or devise a program to end hunger.

The way Epstein came across inside the United Club inside the ballpark, he's sharp enough and polished enough to solve any problem.

Except maybe getting the Cubs into a World Series, that is. Winning a news conference is one thing. Winning the National League is another.

Ah, but that's the challenge Theo Epstein accepted, which might make you think again about how wise a man he is.

The good news is that in a sense bringing a championship to Cubs fans would be like feeding them, housing them, curing them and bringing inner peace to them.

So maybe this is the one instance when baseball isn't trivial, when it's providing all those social services for a large number of people in desperate need of help.

Epstein will settle for a World Series title and let the greater good fall where it may. The reason he's working in baseball is for, well, for the love of baseball.

For starters, Epstein was born in New York and his parents tell him about how he would watch baseball games on TV at age 2. At about age 4 he would go to Central Park and bat around a Wiffle ball.

When Epstein was 12 his mother asked him what he wanted to do in life.

His answer: "If I can't work in baseball I'm not sure I would be happy."

Epstein looked like a happy man munching on a happy meal of Cub mania Tuesday, even though he was leaving the Boston area. That's where he grew up and then generally managed his beloved Red Sox to two World Series championships.

Maybe Epstein has time to make the most of more than one career, considering that he believes a sports executive's shelf life is about 10 years in any one job.

Ten years from now Epstein's tour in Wrigley Field will be finished, and perhaps even complete if he can win that improbable World Series here.

Theo Epstein will be a mere 47 years old then, leaving him more than enough time to transition from being president of baseball operations to president of the United States.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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