Would Theo gamble his own money on his plan?
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Cubs president Theo Epstein has confidence in the progress being made by the front office, but how much would he be willing to wager that it pays off in a World Series championship by the end of this decade?
We all should be as confident in ourselves and what we do as Theo Epstein is in himself and his plan to build the Cubs into World Series champions.
"We know what we're doing," the club's president of baseball operations said Monday during the formal announcement that the Cubs fired Dale Sveum as manager. Then he added that despite the Cubs' 127-197 record over the past two seasons, "We couldn't be more excited about the future."
Epstein's assessment inspires this proposition: He donates his salary to charity if the Cubs don't win a World Series during this decade; if they do win one he keeps the cash and enjoys all the riches that come with being King of the Cubs.
One of the problems with sports is that athletes and executives achieve financial security before they accomplish in their jobs what they're being paid to accomplish.
Some proceed to lose their motivation. Others succumb to the pressure of expectations. Still others view their circumstances as an opportunity to put on lab coats and experiment with someone else's money.
Epstein isn't lying down on the job, and he's too self-assured to shrivel in the face of a challenge. So it looks like he's operating behind Door No. 3 and Wrigley Field is his laboratory.
If Epstein doesn't gamble with the cash that the Cubs guaranteed him, what does he have to lose by hiring Sveum and then firing him after a mere two seasons, essentially admitting he turned out to be the wrong guy for the right job?
OK, so maybe Epstein could lose his reputation as a whiz kid. But for most people, as priceless as reputation is, it ranks behind providing comfortable lives for their families.
So again, monetarily speaking at least, what did Theo Epstein have to lose by signing inferior free-agent pitcher Edwin Jackson to a superior contract?
Epstein reportedly still receives somewhere around $4 million annually, Jackson gets his $52 million over four years, and Cubs fans have to pay major-league prices to watch minor-league baseball.
Meanwhile, what does Epstein have to lose by signing Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo to long-term deals and then watching their careers go backward?
Nothing, really, as long as Sveum can be scapegoated for Rizzo and Castro not justifying the considerable investment in them.
"Trust me," Epstein appears to be saying like Lovie Smith once did, "all my mistakes, uh, moves will pay off in the future."
The implication is that by the time the Cubs win a World Series, fans won't remember Sveum and Jackson but Rizzo and Castro will be perennial all-stars.
Of course, the ill will being cultivated now will be forgotten only if the Cubs win a World Series in the 2010s. The plan apparently is to suffer some more next year, then graduate to respectability the year after, then contend for a championship in 2016 at the earliest.
So much depends on Epstein hiring a championship manager after having messed up by hiring Sveum. The next guy will have to be a long-term asset instead of a disposable piece of the process.
The Cubs' managerial job is desirable, Epstein insists, because around baseball the perception is "the Cubs are coming fast and the Cubs are coming strong."
Epstein certainly believes he can hire the right manager this time because he believes so much in everything he's doing to construct a Cubs champion.
If only Theo Epstein could be persuaded to bet his salary that the Cubs will win a World Series this decade?
You know, just so he has more to lose than Cubs fans do if his confidence in the plan proves misplaced.
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