What if Theo Epstein had stayed in Boston?

Playing the what-if game is always fun. The entire course of a history — whether it be a country's or a baseball team's — changes if this happens and that doesn't.

Some are playing that game in Boston right now in the wake of the recent resignation of Red Sox president Larry Lucchino.

On the local Comcast Sports affiliate in Boston, a discussion centered around whether the Red Sox would have been better off if Theo Epstein had stayed and Lucchino had gone after the 2011 season.

Of course, that would have changed not just the course of history for the Red Sox but also for the Cubs, who wound up hiring Epstein that fall.

Right now, the Cubs are in the beginning and exciting stages of seeing Epstein's rebuilding program through. The Red Sox, on the other and, are last in the American League East and looking possibly to revamp their front office.

If Epstein had stayed in Boston, who knows what would have happened with and to the Cubs? When team owner Tom Ricketts fired general manager Jim Hendry during the 2011 season, it was assumed by many that Ricketts and his advisers would hire a new GM and get on with it.

Instead, Ricketts went bigger, hiring Epstein as president of baseball operations. Epstein, in turned, hired Jed Hoyer as GM and Jason McLeod to head scouting and player development.

So far, so good.

If Ricketts had turned in another direction — and clearly he was going for a president/GM in the more modern mold of being friendly to statistical analysis — things might have turned out just fine. Or maybe not. We'll never know.

But it is fun to speculate on what would have happened if Ricketts would have sought out Hoyer as his GM (to fly solo without Epstein) or if he would have looked to see if, say, Andrew Friedman were available.

If things had turned out differently, would the Cubs have Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Scwharber, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester today?

As far as the Boston situation goes, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy made a curious comment on the Comcast show about the whole what-if scenario. Shaughnessy assumed Epstein would do the same thing in Boston that he's doing here.

“It's hard to do here,” Shaughnessy said. “The Cubs have been dreadful for three years, losing 90-100 games three years in a row. Theo on a six-year (actually five) plan with a $19 million contract, that's pretty easy to do that. I'm going to say Boston wouldn't tolerate what Chicago went through to get here.”

I disagree with Shaughnessy that the parameters in Boston would have been the same in Boston as they are in Chicago for Epstein.

But I do agree with what he said about Lucchino and working in Boston: “It's a hard place to work and (Lucchino) has been there a long time. I've always said he was the adult in the room, kept it together. I think they're so much better for having him there the whole time.

“I (shudder) to think of what it will be like without him there, unless they bring in a smart baseball guy or someone to hold things together, because it's been a tall order.”

Sam Kennedy is the new president of the Red Sox, and if he hires a baseball president, some of the names thrown out by Boston Globe baseball columnist Nick Cafardo include Dave Dombrowski, who left the Detroit Tigers just Tuesday.

Others on Cafardo's list of possibilities include J.P. Ricciardi, Kevin Towers and White Sox president Kenny Williams.

Back to the Cubs: Epstein's deal runs out at the end of next season. It might be high time for Ricketts to start thinking about contract extension and taking action.

Rotation roulette:

The Cubs will alter their pitching rotation for this weekend's huge series against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field. The two teams are battling each other for the second and final wild-card spot in the National League.

Jon Lester threw only 31 pitches in 1⅔ innings of Monday's rained-out game in Pittsburgh, so manager Joe Maddon will bring him back Friday. He will follow Jason Hammel against the Giants and precede Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta.

New Cubs book:

Pingree Grove resident and author Gary Koca has a new book out on the Cubs. “Great Chicago Cubs Players sine 1876” is available on as a paperback or Kindle book.

“The book covers the lives and careers of 25 great Chicago Cub players since 1876, the year the National League first came into existence,” Koca said. “From Al Spaulding and Cap Anson through Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace, and 21 others in between, this book includes a number of players most Cub fans have never heard of, like Bill Lange, the best center fielder in baseball in the 1890s.”

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