BOSTON – Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says he understands the ballclub’s culture better now than he did when he first arrived in Chicago.
“I think we all recognized we had a building process. We’ve been transparent about that,” he said Friday night before a charity event at Fenway Park. “At the same time, we realize that every season is precious. Everyone wants to win. It kind of reminds me of my first year in Boston. ... When we first got here, there was the burden of the ‘curse.’ ”
Epstein was the youngest general manager in baseball history when he took over the Red Sox in the winter after the 2002 season. Two years later, he was drenched in champagne as the architect of Boston’s first World Series champions in 86 years. (And, three years later, they won again.)
In his first year in Chicago, the Cubs lost 101 games. Epstein was asked if he had more of a honeymoon there because he now has a record of success. He said that the Cubs’ reputation as “lovable losers” allowed the team to draw almost 2.9 million fans despite losing 101 games, but it also makes it difficult to turn things around.
“I think that’s also an opportunity: I tell the players, ‘Right now, we’re called ‘loveable losers. What do you want to stand for?’ ” he said. “I guarantee you if you ask the guys, they don’t want to be known as loveable losers three or four years from now.”
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington also participated in the panel discussion but pushed past reporters without answering questions about the stalled negotiations for free-agent first baseman Mike Napoli. Also taking part in the event for Epstein’s charity, The Foundation to be Named Later, were Red Sox manager John Farrell, Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Boston assistant GM Mike Hazen.
Farrell said he went to Fort Myers, Fla., after the winter meetings to see the team’s new spring training facility. “Hopefully, we can keep our daily schedule as efficient as possible,” he said.