Rough diamonds, but Cubs aiming for a dynasty

CHICAGO • The Chicago Cubs' dramatic ending of a 108-year World Series drought was not merely a case of Major League Baseball's "Loveable Losers" finally catching a break, but the result of a patient strategy five years in the making.

"The Plan", as it became known by Cubs fans forced to sit through a 100-loss season as recently as four years ago, was hatched when Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein was appointed president of baseball operations in 2011.

Epstein, the Yale graduate who at the age of 28 broke the Red Sox's decades-long World Series curse, sought to "define a Cubs way of playing the game".

On Wednesday, the "Cubs Way" delivered the moment generations had longed for, with a thrilling 8-7 series-deciding win over the Cleveland Indians.

"This is just a different place," John Baker, who played for the Cubs in 2014 and joined Epstein's staff as a baseball-operations assistant last year, told Reuters.

"My first impression was wow, these guys won the World Series in Boston, they've been incredibly successful financially but they are ego-less people trying to provide the best possible environment for a team of baseball players to be successful. That's the simple goal."

STRONGEST FOUNDATION

We're building an army to win as many championships as possible.

JOHN BAKER, the Chicago Cubs' former catcher who is now their operations assistant, on their dream of building a team while developing a strong management strategy for the future.

The masterplan was built on a foundation of scouting and player development, supplemented by a series of brilliant trades and when the time was right, opening the cheque book for go-for-it free agency signings.

Epstein said he would not rest until the Cubs had the best scouting department in the game. His first three top draft picks - Albert Almora Jr, National League Most Valuable Player favourite Kris Bryant and post-season hero Kyle Schwarber - all played vital roles on Wednesday.

Even All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo was disregarded by the San Diego Padres before reuniting with Epstein, who first drafted him in 2007, to become the Cubs' leader on the field.

With Epstein and his team signed on for another five years, manager Joe Maddon's young side are primed for sustained success, having secured a World Series berth with a starting line-up that had an average age of 23.

The talk in Chicago's North Side is now of a dynasty.

"We're building an army to win as many championships as possible," said Baker.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Rough diamonds, but Cubs aiming for a dynasty'. Print Edition | Subscribe