To: Cubs fans
From: Theo Epstein pic.twitter.com/gt3VawZEs2
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 17, 2020
He has been the face behind dismantling two decades-long curses for two franchises.
When he was hired by the Boston Red Sox in 2001, he set out to end the 86 years of pain and suffering for their fans.
This culminated to a World Series victory for the team in 2004, as well as another in 2007.
In October of 2011, Epstein decided to leave the Red Sox in favor of the Cubs.
Here, he was joining one of the MLB’s most underwhelming franchises who had a depleted farm system.
This resulted in a notoriously bad rebuilding stretch from 2010-2014, where the team never won more than 75 games.
However, the team was able to land franchise boosting talent in the draft.
This included Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ, all of whom have contributed to the team in some way.
Finally, in 2016, the Cubs were able to break a 108-year championship drought when they defeated the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.
Looking at this resumè, it is hard to deny Epstein’s success.
However, is he actually an overrated general manager?
The best way to analyze this is to break it down between his two most notable jobs: the Red Sox and the Cubs.
Epstein With The Red Sox
With the Red Sox, Epstein was able to accomplish something none other had done in the previous 86 years: win a World Series.
On this day (October 27th) in 2004, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. pic.twitter.com/hDPmoC4RnI
— BostonTweet (@BostonTweet) October 27, 2020
It would be difficult to deny his involvement and contributions with this.
Many of his supporters would say that he is a successful general manager because of this alone.
He made moves involving David Ortiz and Nomar Garciaparra, both of which are looked at positively by Red Sox fans.
Obviously, we all know what Ortiz became.
However, the Garciaparra trade was much more surprising.
Epstein elected to move the franchise’s cornerstone shortstop for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, a move that may not have seemed smart at the time.
It eventually paid off though, as both the players had major Postseason performances for the Red Sox.
On top of this, Epstein was adept at finding talent in the MLB Draft.
Some notable players include Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathon Papelbon, Jon Lester and Kevin Youkilis.
This homegrown talent was a big reason the team won in 2007.
However, Epstein’s biggest flaw was his tendency to overpay for stars who failed to perform.
Before the 2010 season, he signed RHP John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million contract.
He had the worst ERA in baseball that next year.
Epstein also signed LF Carl Crawford to a massive seven-year, $142 million contract which he never lived up to.
The Red Sox were also fairly inconsistent over this time, missing the playoffs in 2006 and 2010.
While Epstein deserves some criticism, he has a good track record of identifying talent for the team.
He is a major reason for the Red Sox transformation into one of MLB’s most successful franchises in recent history.
Epstein With The Cubs
Epstein joined the Cubs the same goal in mind: end a record long curse.
Once again, he stood out with signing talent from the draft to make up the core of the 2016 championship team.
Along with them, Epstein made trades and signings that were critical to the team’s success.
— MLB Vault (@MLBVault) November 17, 2020
These include signing Lester, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward, while trading for Anthony Rizzo and Jake Arrieta.
There is no doubt that he was the architect of the championship team, and all of his moves indicate this.
For most Cubs fans, the World Series victory is enough to cement his legacy as general manager.
However, when you look at the competitive staying power for the franchise, you can begin to question Epstein’s effectiveness.
The team hasn’t been able to reach the same level since 2016 and have been on a slow decline since then.
Now, with the window of their homegrown talent slowly closing, Epstein’s moves are aging poorly.
The Cubs are competitive now, but they are far from a dominant dynasty.
Epstein may be to blame for this, as he failed to get the team back over the hump after 2016.
The Legacy: Is He Overrated?
Epstein will undoubtedly go down in baseball history as one of the most successful general managers.
He has shown the ability to construct competitive, championship caliber teams.
As he is now back on the market, teams will go after him with the hope that he can bring a championship to their organization.
However, people should be careful in labeling Epstein as an instant savior that creates masterful dynasties.
He can build a championship team, but not necessarily maintain them.
In this respect, he can be seen as overrated: he is not an untouchable general manager.
Either way though, you cannot take away the three championships he has won.