With Theo Epstein officially a member of the Chicago Cubs, fans of two of baseball's most recognized franchises can move on with life. Boston Red Sox fans wave goodbye to arguably the best GM that they've ever had while Cubs fans are itching to see if Epstein can do for them what he did for the Sox - bring home a championship or two.
The excitement in Chicago is certainly justified. Prior to 2003, the Red Sox were mostly a pretender - a handful of superstars, but not a team that could legitimately compete with the New York Yankees. Upon his arrival, Epstein was able to start pressing the right buttons and get the Red Sox over the hump. The feeling in Chicago is that he will have the same magic touch for their "lovable losers".
ESPN's Jim Bowden knows the expectations are sky high and warns that Epstein and Co. face significant challenges that may take some time to overcome. Here are Bowden's main points:
- Advertising inventory is maxed out - The Cubs don't have the luxury of reaping in revenue by plastering ads all over their ballpark the way most other teams do. Many parts of Wrigley Field have been designated as historical landmarks which prevents them from serving as a canvas for company advertisements.
Low seating capacity - Luckily the Cubs pack out their ballpark day in, day out, but they still sit in the bottom third of the league in terms of seating capacity.
- Player personnel challenges - Chicago's farm system has been thinned out by graduations and while there are some pieces close to contributing to the big league club, most of the talent resides in the lower minors. Additionally, Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano still remain with the team. The latter is the bigger issue as he still has three years and $54 million left on his deal.
Bowden brings up some interesting challenges that Theo Epstein will face as he tries to end baseball's most historic championship drought and eliminate the sports last "curse". However, I'm confident that the new ownership and Epstein will employ the people that are smart and or creative enough to solve these issues or work around them.