By Brandon Reid
The Chicago Cubs have been waiting till next year for 103 years. With the Oct. 12 signing of former Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, Cubs ownership has made clear they do not plan to wait another 100 years to bring a championship to the North Side.
ESPN reported Oct. 12 that Epstein and the Cubs had agreed to a five-year, nearly $20 million deal to join the team. Epstein, 37, will forgo the final year of his contract with Boston to sign with Chicago.
During his nine seasons with Boston, the Red Sox won two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, compiled an 839-619 (.575) regular-season mark and a 34-23 (.596) postseason record.
The Red Sox won the American League East in 2007 and won more than 90 games in all but two seasons under Epstein’s tenure.
Notably, the Red Sox’s 2004 championship ended an 86-year World Series drought for the Red Sox. Facing the longest championship drought in all of major sports, Cubs fans are hoping Epstein can work the same magic on the Cubs’ Curse of the Billy Goat as he did on the Red Sox’s Curse of the Bambino.
Epstein was the youngest general manager in the history of Major League Baseball when he was signed by Boston at the age of 28 Nov. 25, 2002. He is credited with making several key acquisitions in earning the Red Sox two championships, including signing David Ortiz, Kevin Millar and Curt Schilling.
Going into the 2011 season, the Red Sox were favored by many to win the World Series. Epstein had signed former San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and former Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Carl Crawford during the offseason. However, things did not go as planned.
The Red Sox lost their first six games, and were 11-15 after one month of the season. By Sept. 4, the Red Sox had battled back to an 84-54 record and had a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild-card spot. But a 7-20 (.259) record in September would leave the Red Sox one game out of the wild-card spot, marking just the third time under Epstein and the second consecutive season that the Red Sox failed to make the postseason.
The colossal collapse, which is believed to be the worst in Major League Baseball history, led to the resignation of Manager Terry Francona, who Epstein hired in 2004. Some have speculated Francona may join Epstein on the North Side.
The Chicago Cubs, meantime, registered their second-consecutive losing season in 2011, finishing 71-91, fifth in the National League Central.
In their first full season under Manager Mike Quade, the Cubs had the third-worst team ERA (4.67), the most fielding errors (134), the second-fewest bases on balls (425) and the second-fewest stolen bases (69) in the National League.
Providing a glimmer of hope for the future, 21-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro batted .307 with 10 homeruns, 91 runs and 22 stolen bases. Yet, Castro did commit 29 fielding errors.
In addition to speculation that Francona may have a future on the North Side, some have also suggested former Hall of Fame Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg may make a return to the North Side.
After working his way through the Cubs’ minor league system as a manager, Sandberg was pushed aside for Quade by former Chicago Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry. Epstein attempted to sign Sandberg to manage Boston’s AAA affiliate last season, but Sandberg instead signed with the Philadelphia Phillies to manage their AAA affiliate, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.