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updated: 4/6/2012 2:01 AM

Cubs' plan to build a winner may be all wet

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So, I was driving down Irving Park Road toward Wrigley Field for the Cubs' season opener Thursday.

A store sign on the north side of the street, just west of Pulaski, read "Chicago Roots: Hydroponics and Organics."


For some reason the store made me think of Cubs' president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.

The Theocrats are attempting to establish a "Cubs Way," which has a nice ring to it even if the Indianapolis Colts' "Building a Monster" is more inspiring.

Hydroponics? Google informed me that it's "a subset of hydroculture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil."

Maybe because I was in the press box, looking down on Wrigley's sparkling green grass and emerging ivy on the wall, I immediately connected hydroponics to Epstein's attempt to grow the Cubs into champions.

If that's his strategy, I'm all for it. Nothing else has worked for 104 years, especially wallowing around in the dirt.

I surveyed about a dozen so-called sports journalists at the Cubs' game to see whether they knew of hydroponics. The split was 8-4 on the side of ignorance, not an uncommon percentage for this group.

If you asked the same dozen whether they know what Epstein is doing, nearly all would insist they know he's building the Cubs from the ground up.

Wrong again. Hydroponics is at play here. Epstein is building the Cubs from the water up.

You don't think so? A Chicago newspaper Thursday morning portrayed Epstein as walking on water.

Coincidence … I don't think so.

If anybody knows about the vagaries of hydroponics it would be Theo Epstein. In my opinion, the man knows everything about everything, especially how to grow baseball winners.

Epstein modestly but intensely believes in what he's doing, that he has a plan, that the plan will work, and that Cubs' fans will dance a victory dance in Buckingham Fountain sometime in our lifetime.

It'll take awhile to get there. In the 2012 opener, Kerry Wood blew a 1-0 lead in the eighth and Carlos Marmol blew the game in the ninth.

This 2-1 loss looked familiar enough that it was suggested to Wood that people are going to groan that these are the same old Cubs.

"People or you?" Wood said with a playful smile.

OK, maybe me, considering I don't think the Cubs will win anything significant in my lifetime. Too many old "Cubs Ways" are scattered around Wrigley to believe that this new "Cubs Way" will blossom.

Hydroponics could douse my skepticism.

While this growing method is new to me, it has been around for centuries, or since about the time baseball executives discovered that a good on-base percentage is preferable.

In 1627, Francis Bacon wrote "Sylva Sylvarum," which is to hydroponics what Epstein's beloved "Moneyball" is supposed to be to baseball.

The Cubs are trying to win now while building for the future, which is almost impossible. Hydroponics doesn't happen overnight, you know.

How the Cubs get to the ultimate harvest season doesn't matter. If planting in water instead of the dirt around home plate is the way, no one will complain.

So don't be surprised to see club chairman Tom Ricketts buy Chicago Roots and move it to Clark and Addison.

You heard it here first: Hydroponics is the only way left for the "Cubs Way" to flourish.

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