Theo thinking bigger than Wrigley’s 100th: 'Losing sucks'

Theo thinking bigger than Wrigley’s 100th: 'Losing sucks'
April 23, 2014, 12:00 am
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It seems like the Cubs spend all their time either talking up the future or trying to sell memories of Wrigley Field. That’s why Theo Epstein should put his quote up on a big banner above the marquee as a reminder: “LOSING SUCKS.”

“IT’S THE PARTY OF THE CENTURY,” they keep telling everyone, at a time when the United Center is rocking for the Bulls and Blackhawks and the Cubs are a last-place team working on a title drought that’s at 105 years and counting. 

A rebuilding project that has no timeline will enjoy Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary celebration. A media advisory signaled team representatives would be available on Wednesday for live shots beginning at 5 a.m.

The president of baseball operations must have enjoyed Tuesday night’s 9-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jason Hammel (3-1, 2.60 ERA) again looked like he will become an attractive trade chip. Mike Olt hit a three-run bomb into the right-field bleachers and is grabbing hold of the third-base job.

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Javier Baez is at Triple-A Iowa, Kris Bryant is at Double-A Tennessee and the Cubs will add another impact player to their deep farm system with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft. But in Year 3, the big-league product has a payroll around $75 million and is still nowhere close to those Boston Red Sox teams Epstein helped build into a perennial contender. 

“Nothing related to losing ever gets easier,” Epstein said. “Losing sucks. When losing stops sucking, you should probably find another career.” 

MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” will broadcast live from Wrigley Field on Wednesday morning, hopefully getting into all the financial issues and political fights that have delayed the renovation. 

Bud Selig is supposed to be there, and maybe the commissioner can shed some light on why Major League Baseball approved the terms Sam Zell’s Tribune Co. demanded from any buyer before the Ricketts family entered into a highly leveraged partnership in 2009.

“We’re trying to build a really healthy organization,” Epstein said. “There’s myriad challenges that present themselves daily until you throw yourselves into those challenges and try to get better.”

A couple hours before first pitch, Epstein described his day to that point, which is simply part of the gig when you’ve been given the keys to the kingdom: Visit Class-A Kane County. Watch draft video. Watch minor-league video. Read scouting reports and player plans. Talk to scouts and minor-league instructors. 

“There’s 50 things a day that can come up that provide an opportunity to get a little bit better as an organization,” Epstein said. “That’s just one person. We have a hundred people working on this thing. So (it’s not like): ‘Oh…the losing. It doesn’t get any easier.’ It’s not like we spend a ton of time sitting around stewing about that. 

“You just try to throw yourself into all the opportunities that present themselves to make us better, so that we can win as quickly as possible and for as long as possible.”

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Until then, the Cubs will have Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Andre Dawson in the house on Wednesday, along with Bears legends Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, who once played football at The Friendly Confines.

The Cubs (7-12) will wear Chicago Federals throwback uniforms to commemorate the first game played at Weeghman Park on April 23, 1914. The Diamondbacks (5-18) will dress up as the Kansas City Packers.

“I love being a Cubbie right now,” said Hammel, who submitted seven innings of one-run, four-hit ball. “Still waiting for the ivy to turn green…(but) it’s a big tradition here. To wear the blue pinstripes is an honor.

“We’ve got a good group of guys here. They’re still learning. There are a lot of expectations from the fans and the front office. But inside the clubhouse, we have high expectations, too. We’re trying to make it an even better year than just the 100th anniversary.”   

The Red Sox snubbed Epstein when they celebrated Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary in 2012, only extending a last-minute, face-saving invite to the hometown boy who grew up to be the architect behind two World Series winners.  

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Still invited to the Wrigley bash?

“Last time I checked,” Epstein said.

For one day at least, the buzz should be back at Clark and Addison. It’s Epstein’s job to plan much bigger parties, ending with the parade down Michigan Avenue.

“We all look forward to the day when the crowd and the energy in the ballpark is focused on that ninth-inning comeback the Cubs are going to have instead of the seventh-inning stretch,” Epstein said. “That’s kind of the way it was in Fenway once we started winning on a consistent basis. It’s going to be that way here, too. It’s going to be a lot better.”