The Cubs and Theo Epstein hit reboot on Opening Day

The Cubs and Theo Epstein hit reboot on Opening Day
April 6, 2012, 1:42 am
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Theo Epstein made up his mind months ago, knowing that it was time to leave the Boston Red Sox. So maybe some emotions hit him on Opening Day. But the Cubs hired him to take a sledgehammer to the organizations sentimentality.

I think the best time for reflection is the morning after sipping champagne when you win a World Series, Epstein said Thursday. Until then, you just keep plotting forward (and) try not to look back too much.

For better or worse, this franchise has been all about looking back, celebrity traditions like Bill Murray throwing out the first pitch and singing the seventh-inning stretch.

That Epstein can talk champagne with a straight face after taking over a team that hasnt won a championship in more than a century and has finished in fifth place the past two seasons shows how big everyones thinking.

The fans were in such a good mood that they didnt even boo Alfonso Soriano during player introductions. The president of baseball operations took the ivy turning green this early as a good omen.

That morning, the back page of the Sun-Times showed Epstein striding across Lake Michigan, with the Chicago skyline as the backdrop.

Well, there was the photo of him walking on water, chairman Tom Ricketts said. You could call that expectations, but I think hes up for it.

There are game-changers off in the distance that could transform the Cubs into the Evil Empire of the Midwest.

But the new televisions deals are a few years away, and Ricketts described the Wrigley Field renovation plans as just having conversations, not the final-stage negotiation floated the other day by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Epstein knows what the upgrades at Fenway Park did for the Red Sox, but hes not focused on fixing Wrigley Field, and will be glad when the spotlight hits those who actually win or lose the games every night.

(Fans) look at me symbolically as a new direction, but its not me, Epstein said. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of people the players first and foremost working extremely hard to try to push this organization forward. It starts with Tom and the whole Ricketts family, a very hard-working front office, a new manager and major-league coaching staff.

(Its) our scouts and player development people. So its hard to sit there and put all those people on the back page of the sports. But they really should, because Im one small person in a very big machine thats hopefully going to get this thing right over time.

Near the end of a media scrum that surrounded Epstein, someone asked what it would be like to raise a banner here on Opening Day. No one snickered or rolled their eyes. Whatever happens this year, the Cubs have bought some credibility.

Theres no better feeling than being able to raise a banner and seeing the effect it has on just millions of people, Epstein said, what it means to them and their families and how they share it generationally. (To) sit back and watch that happen and know that you played a really small part in it, its a very rewarding, special feeling.

It keeps you driving forward. (There) are hundreds of people in this organization working hard to get to that day.