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Big League Stew

Ricketts gets his man: Cubs introduce Theo Epstein as president

Big League Stew

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CHICAGO — The press conference looked and sounded much like other ones the Chicago Cubs have held inside of Wrigley Field. The hiring of Lou Piniella before the 2007 season comes to mind. But this one felt different. It had an air of competence.

After making a few missteps that left many fans wondering where his family's ownership of the Cubs was heading, Tom Ricketts scored in the biggest way possible by introducing Theo Epstein as the team's president of baseball operations.

"We wanted someone with a background in player development, a proven track record of success, someone who had a strong analytical background and someone who had experience in creating a culture of winning," Ricketts said.

Watch Theo talk

Epstein brings all of those things, which is why the city has been so excited at the prospect of him coming from Boston, where the Red Sox won two World Series with him in charge. But this also was a day to laud an owner for doing the right — even if it was obvious — thing. Ricketts not only got the man he wanted, but importantly he got the best person for the job (with the possible exceptions of Tampa Bay's Andrew Friedman or Brian Cashman of the Yankees) to turn the Cubs into, at long last, a winner.

Of course, we've heard that before in Chicago, like in the early 1980s, when Dallas Green and new owners at the Tribune Co. promised a "New Tradition," which brought some success in 1984 and 1989, but no World Series. And when Andy MacPhail came in the mid '90s from Minnesota, where the Twins had won two World Series, it seemed the Cubs had the right guy, then, too. The Cubs sneaked into the playoffs in 1998 but were told to leave almost immediately. MacPhail was a flop, though his successor, Jim Hendry, got the Cubs agonizingly close in 2003.

Following Green and MacPhail, Theo is the Third Great Cubs Hope in my lifetime. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me ... three strikes and you're out, or something like that. But I don't think Theo is going to fail. Why? Because of five words:

"I don't believe in curses," he said. You had me at hello, Theo. {YSP:MORE}

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"And, I guess, I've played a small part in proving they don't exist," he continued. Epstein speaks from experience with "The Curse of the Bambino," which — while amusing — ended up being nothing more than an excuse to explain away the Yankees being better.

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In Chicago, it's fun to talk about goat curses, and to banter about fans boozing it up in the bleachers, and singing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" or "Go Cubs Go," and all of the other side distractions that make being a Cubs fan tolerable, but the team's consistent losing isn't lovable in the least. Epstein's holistic approach can finally heal a patient who's been sick for more than 100 years.

So, he doesn't believe in curses. What does Epstein believe in?

"I do believe that you can be honest and up front about the fact that a certain organization hasn't gotten the job done, hasn't won the World Series in a long time," Epstein said. "That's the approach we took in Boston. It wasn't a curse; just the fact that we hadn't gotten the job done. We identified several things that the franchise had done historically that probably had gotten in the way of winning a World Series and we went about trying to eradicate those. That'll be part of the process here."

Those are words we've heard before from others, except for one thing: He's done it. The MacPhail analogy is reason for caution, but look: Epstein's teams won two World Series and competed for more every other season. It shouldn't be any harder to do so away from the AL East, away from the Yankees. Unless you believe in curses, and he says he doesn't.

It really felt like the first day of the rest of the Cubs' lives Tuesday. Remember, remember, the 25th of October. The day Tom Ricketts got his man, and the Cubs started to get healthy.

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