Dear Theo: Thank you

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Elise Amendola | Associated Press

FILE – In this April 28, 2017, file photo, Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs, poses with a young fan prior to a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Cubs at Fenway Park in Boston. Theo Epstein, who transformed the long-suffering Chicago Cubs and helped bring home a drought-busting championship in 2016, is stepping down after nine seasons as the club’s president of baseball operations. The team announced Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, Epstein is leaving the organization, and general manager Jed Hoyer is being promoted to take his place.

Wes Sanderson, Columnist

Tuesday was a tough day in the North-side of Chicago or for anyone who calls themselves a Chicago Cubs fan for that matter. 

Tuesday afternoon around 11 a.m. I received a news bulletin that read “Theo Epstein Resigns from Cubs,” from Bleacher Report. 

I was in shock, not because Epstein had resigned, but because the journey felt over.

For the past nine years, Epstein has been formally known as the President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. Informally, he has become a person who will forever go down in Chicago Cubs history as the man who brought a 108-year World Series drought to an end.

It’s almost surreal to think about the roller coaster fans have gone on with Epstein. In October, 2011 Chicago Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts announced the organization was parting ways with Interim General Manager Randy Bush, who replaced General Manager Jim Hendry a month prior.

Ricketts opened up the family checkbook for the first time to sign the mastermind behind busting the Boston Red Sox’s World Series drought in the early 2000s. 

I remember watching Theo’s introductory news conference with my uncle and hearing him speak of bringing a World Series back to Wrigley Field. As a 12-year-old Cubs fan, I felt excited and ready for the day.

FILE – In this Nov. 3, 2016, file photo, Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein celebrates after Game 7 of the Major League Baseball World Series in Cleveland. Theo Epstein, who transformed the long-suffering Chicago Cubs and helped bring home a drought-busting championship in 2016, is stepping down after nine seasons as the club’s president of baseball operations. The team announced Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, Epstein is leaving the organization, and general manager Jed Hoyer is being promoted to take his place. (David J. Phillip | Associated Press)

In his first three seasons with the Cubs, the organization finished as the worst team in the National League, but while the major league product looked like a dumpster fire floating down the Chicago River, Epstein was cultivating some of the best young talent in the game preparing for a future postseason run.

In 2011, Epstein selected short-stop Javier Báez as the ninth-overall pick in that year’s MLB Draft. Baez has become a Gold Glove middle infielder who played a crucial role in the Cubs’ multiple postseason runs.

In 2012, Epstein selected outfielder Albert Almora Jr. in the first round of the draft. Almora Jr. famously scored the winning run during Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.

From 2013 to 2015, Epstein selected third baseman Kris Bryant, catcher Kyle Schwarber and outfielder Ian Happ. They were all vital in the success of the Cubs World Series triumph in 2016. 

Theo cultivated talent through the farm system and proved again to make the most out of veteran talent with signings such as pitcher John Lester, catcher David Ross and right fielder Jason Hayward. 

Trading prospects away for young stars like first baseman Anthony Rizzo and starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, proved that this baseball mastermind was in it to win it. 

What Epstein did in Chicago is something straight out of a fairytale. Before Theo came to town, Cubs fans had little to cheer for except the hope of next year. 

I can say from my own experience over these last nine years, Theo gave Cubs fans hope. He gave us a taste of the mountain top in 2016 when the Chicago Cubs did the impossible and broke the 108 year long “curse.”

Epstein made being a Chicago Cubs fan cool again. He made grown men cry and young fans fall in love with the game. Most importantly Epstein solidified the Chicago Cubs as a force to be reckoned with in the National League. 

Though the goodbye is bittersweet, it’s no secret this day was coming. In his previous position with the Red Sox’s, Epstein stayed only 10 years before moving to Chicago to rebuild another historic franchise.

FILE – In this Dec. 7, 2016, file photo, Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer smiles during a press conference in Oxon Hill, Md. Theo Epstein, who transformed the long-suffering Chicago Cubs and helped bring home a drought-busting championship in 2016, is stepping down after nine seasons as the club’s president of baseball operations.
The team announced Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, Epstein is leaving the organization, and general manager Jed Hoyer is being promoted to take his place. (Cliff Owen | Associated Press)

The future hall-of-fame member will be missed at the crossing of Addison and Sheffield, but the organization is left in good hands. General Manager Jed Hoyer is set to succeed Epstein as the next President of Baseball Operations, according to a news release from the Cubs organization. Hoyer has been on this ride since 2011 as well when he left his job with the San Diego Padres to join the curse-busting cause. 

No one is sure where Epstein will end up next. Will he go find another team in need of a massive rebuild? If so I’m sure the Miami Marlins will take his call, or will Epstein look to take on the next frontier and join an ownership group of a baseball team? 

Only time will tell, but one thing is really left to say: Thank you Theo Epstein for nine great seasons of baseball. Thank you for giving Cubs fans a World Series we will never forget, a young talented team with ability to grow and hundreds of memories that fans will cherish into their older years. You did the impossible for a franchise who deserved to taste victory.