Chicago Cubs: Theo Epstein named World’s Greatest Leader
By Robert Davis
As if Theo Epstein needs anything else to brag about, the Chicago Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations was named the World’s Greatest Leader by Fortune Magazine.
The reason: Chicago united America in a time of its worst division.
Tom Verducci, senior baseball writer at Sports Illustrated, penned the Fortune article explaining why the Cubs’ year was a season worthy of an MVP award itself. The Cubs “were that all-too-rare phenomenon,” according to Verducci.
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In other words, America had forgotten what consistency looked like, even though it’s still screaming for change. Theo led not just a team, but a fan base, through a transformation like any other in sports.
Because of this, Epstein topped business leaders and religious figures such as Jack Ma, Pope Francis, Melinda Gates, and Jeff Bezos.
Thursday, November 3, 2016.
The day before, America and the world witnessed an event that to some was truly catatonic. Analysts suggested it was the culmination of long-standing racial and cultural divides in our country, while others saw us returning to some forgotten sense of glory.
No matter what side of the spectrum you sat on, you were parked in front of your television for Game 7 of the World Series. America wanted the Cubs to win at a time where we couldn’t seem to agree on much.
When it happened, it was like a breath of fresh air. I spent most of the game finding out how different corners of my couch pillow tasted. I’m positive there were many other Cub fans doing the same. As Anthony Rizzo gloved the last throw from Kris Bryant, I felt an eruption of emotion that I’m sure I’ll never feel again.
Without Epstein’s leadership, who knows where the franchise would be.
That being said, the real story of Epstein being named the World’s Greatest Leader is about how he changed the Cubs culture. This is something I’ll have to tell from personal experience.
Some of you reading this may have just recently become a member of Wrigleyville, and I respect that. But, just because you came to the family in our time of success doesn’t mean you can ignore the depths from which this franchise has risen. Suffering is a part of the Cubs fan tradition.
I’m on the younger side of the family, so my most insufferable moments came in 2003. That year, everyone blamed Bartman for the team’s run of bad luck in the NLCS against the Florida Marlins. By 2011, I could finally drink with other Cubbie faithful who, like me, tried to drown the voice in my head questioning my loyalty.
In 2012, the team lost 101 games and I lost my grandmother. She was the matriarch of our family’s love of sports. That was the hardest season to watch. I blamed their horrid play for her death. I’m sure it broke her heart watching it. That was the first full year of Theo. Already, I had my doubts.
After losing my grandmother, watching games hurt in a way that I can’t describe. Every pitch called a ball felt like a personal insult. I knew she was hanging out with Harry Carry drinking a smoky scotch and cursing twice as loud at the umpires as I was. But, that didn’t help. I needed a kick in the ass. And that’s exactly what Epstein brought to the table.
Epstein immediately infused talent with technology in the team’s scouting department. His advocacy of advanced analytics in scouting and managerial decision making was questioned by many of the old-timers in baseball at first. But, it’s hard to argue with two, now three, shiny Championship rings. In 2015, Epstein brought in Joe Maddon, the skipper eccentric enough to make sense of Theo’s numbers.
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The rest is history.
Darren Rovell of ESPN reports Epstein will be rewarded for his leadership. His first deal with Chicago was worth $3.7 million per year. His new deal, inked in September, will pay him $10 million. The new deal also ensures that Epstein will serve a full decade in Chicago’s front office.