Theo Epstein's Past Meets His Present

Chicago, IL, USA; (Facing forward, from left) Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and vice president of scouting Jason McLeod greet with Boston Red Sox players including Dustin Pedroia before the game at Wrigley Field. Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

Theo Epstein came to Chicago to put a winner on the field. For one day, at least, he got his wish, against his old team, and their fans left Wrigley Field disappointed.

The Chicago Cubs are attempting to become the Boston Red Sox.

That statement could be viewed in any number of ways; the way new team president of baseball operations Theo Epstein would probably like Cubs fans to see it is that the Cubs will eventually have the success that they had in Boston under his leadership -- two World Series titles in nine seasons and a perennial playoff contender.

The contrast between that and where Epstein's new team, the Cubs, stands right now couldn't be starker as the Red Sox came to Chicago for a three-game visit to Wrigley Field, their first such visit since 2005, the year after their first World Series title. Boston, though struggling, sat just 6½ games out of first place in a tight AL East coming into Friday's game, while Epstein's Cubs had the worst record in baseball, on pace for 108 losses.

So what does Theo spend much of the pregame doing?

In a way, it was as if he were longing for the past to be the present. Meanwhile, Boston fans were filing into Wrigley Field, but slowly and somewhat tentatively, not anything like the Detroit Tigers fans who pretty much took over the place during their just-completed three-game series at Wrigley. The Tigers series set an attendance record for a mid-week series at Wrigley Field, but on Friday, the announced crowd of 40,073 was more than 1,000 short of a sellout, and hundreds of bleacher tickets went unsold.

Boston fans tried a few "Let's go Red Sox" chants at various times during the game, but were barely heard outside their own sections. True, their heroes weren't producing much action on the field, but it was almost as if they weren't even there. For this day, Boston fans sat on their hands. The Cubs' entertainment department didn't even play "Sweet Caroline" for the guests from New England on this sunny and pleasant Chicago afternoon, as they had done for them in Boston's only previous interleague visit to Wrigley Field in 2005. A "Wrigleyville Block Party" set up to emulate the party atmosphere around Fenway Park in Boston was mostly deserted before Friday's game. Perhaps the lesson is that Chicago isn't Boston and the Cubs shouldn't try to be the Red Sox -- instead, Theo Epstein should create a different kind of philosophy to win in Chicago.

But there is one lesson the Cubs taught the Red Sox Friday afternoon. The Red Sox are known for dreadfully long games -- they've had nine games this year of nine innings that went more than 3:25. Today's 2:41 game was the eighth-fastest Red Sox game of 2012. The Cubs outshone the Red Sox Friday, and despite his visits with his old friends from Boston, Theo Epstein probably wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

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