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posted: 6/15/2012 7:24 PM

Cubs' Epstein can't escape the attention

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  • Cubs president Theo Epstein attracts media hordes whenever he speaks about the team's rebuilding process, although he admits it is hardly his favorite part of the job.

    Cubs president Theo Epstein attracts media hordes whenever he speaks about the team's rebuilding process, although he admits it is hardly his favorite part of the job.
    Associated Press


Theo Epstein sometimes speaks of the noise that surrounds the work he and his team of execs have to do while building an organization essentially from scratch.

There are the compliments, criticism and constant consternation that accompany such a high-profile hire, not to mention the long process of constructing a consistent winner in the future that has nothing to do with the misery of the present.

It is all merely "noise," Epstein says of the outside voices, and it doesn't get more deafening than a series with the Red Sox in town.

"All the more reason to stuff cotton in your ears this weekend," Epstein laughed, after he broke up a lengthy media session with a couple dozen reporters, hours before the Cubs defeated the Red Sox at Wrigley Field on Friday afternoon. "It seems pretty loud already."

Truth be told, Epstein could do without the media entirely. It's not so much that he dislikes the group -- at least not outwardly -- but he'd rather be doing his job than talking about doing his job.

"It's not my favorite part of the occupation, but the job carries with it certain responsibilities and that's part of it," Epstein said. "Especially when things are bad, you have to be around. If we were on an eight-game winning streak, you wouldn't see me."

Since that's not likely to happen this year or even next, Epstein will continue to show up and explain that it takes awhile to lay a foundation, and just as long to build it to where there's legitimate, lasting success.

But what is there to say? Who doesn't get it? What more is necessary after eight months of Epstein explanations?

It took months for some of the local baseball experts to figure it out and now the national media is finally catching up to the notion that the Cubs are rebuilding.

The Cubs aren't bad just because they're, well, bad. The Cubs are breaking it down before building it back up.

What we know is it doesn't work the way it's been done the last 100-plus years, but it's also not a guarantee Epstein will succeed doing it his way, something he's also gone to great lengths to point out.

That was the sharpest image Friday morning, Epstein pinned against the dugout fence by the cameras, recorders, pens and pads, all trying to get an answer on when this will get better, with the Boston media reminding the latest Cubs savior that he failed in the final year of his previous job.

"I take responsibility for that. We didn't get where we wanted to be," Epstein said. "I don't feel like it's my team (in Boston), but there's a lot of people there I still care about and root for every day."

There's really not much comparison to where the Cubs are now and where Boston was when Epstein took over a 93-win team, but that didn't stop an avalanche of superfluous queries in the endless and hopeless attempt to link the two situations.

"We made some deals (in Boston) and had some success at the big-league level right away, and that bought us some time," Epstein said. "(Taking over the Cubs), clearly there was a mandate for change. It didn't take much convincing for us to take this path."

So Epstein works the phones, manages the draft, scouts the farm system, plans for a renovated ballpark and weighs the option of trading Ryan Dempster -- who pitched well again Friday in a 3-0 victory -- vs. allowing him to walk and collecting a significant draft pick next year.

And then occasionally Epstein emerges from the bat cave to remind the fans and media that there are many miles to travel.

"It's important to have a vision, to articulate it internally, be transparent externally and commit to the process," Epstein said. "There are always potholes. We've run across some already.

"But hopefully a couple years from now we'll look back and say the things we did early on helped us to get where we want to be."

Until then, the painful questions -- and the tedious answers -- will remain the same.

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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