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Contract Extension Newsbeat

Thursday, January 28, 2016

THE CASE FOR NOT EXTENDING THEO EPSTEIN

That was only a bit over four years ago, and Epstein has done a borderline miraculous job of running the Cubs over that span. So I understand why it caused waves, two weeks ago or so, when I suggested on Twitter that the Cubs might be wisest to shelve the much-discussed idea of extending Epstein’s contract beyond 2016, and to move on. As insane and radical as it sounds, though, I still think that. My goal today is to show you why.

—-

The Cubs are going to be very, very good over the next five years. Almost any credible executive can safely guide this team through the next phase of its growth, because the cornerstones (and for that matter, most of the capstones) are in place already. That doesn’t mean that Epstein has outlived his usefulness in Chicago, and the moves he makes between now and the end of the season (a big trade to supplement a World Series hopeful? The most challenging Draft of his tenure? One or two high-profile, or several medium-sized, Cuban amateur additions? Maybe all of the above) will be important. There might be no one better-suited to make them.

Epstein remains an excellent baseball executive, and if he’s here for five more years, the Cubs will profit from his presence. A section of the article on the DARPA model discussed “A special breed of leader,” and many of the attributes listed could be a specific description of Epstein. “They need to have deep technical or scientific knowledge,” the authors write, “be natural risk takers, and be thought leaders who can create a vision that inspires an entire community.” That’s Epstein in a nutshell. The Cubs are the league’s most aggressive, flexible, opportunistic and systematic organization right now, and they owe much of that to Epstein’s leadership.

—-

Epstein is a tremendous front-office talent, but he’d be a very expensive one to retain, and the groundwork he has laid ought to allow even slightly less talented replacements to thrive. It’s not that Epstein doesn’t deserve to enjoy his success, revel in it, or be praised for it long after he leaves. It’s just that the Cubs have a chance to be more than a great team. They have a chance to change baseball for the better, in many ways. Opening up the organization to an entirely new perspective, perhaps even from someone in another field of endeavor altogether, could foment that possibility. In my opinion, before they commit to the second five years with Epstein, the Cubs should seriously consider their alternatives, and be willing to take the risk of changing direction in search of the next mountaintop.


 

 

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