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Theo Epstein set to meet the press

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Updated: January 23, 2012 3:19AM



Depending on the moment and the one you ask these days, Theo Epstein is the man with the answers to 103 years of empty for the Cubs.

Or the messiah with the answers.

Or, more often, something far greater than that.

Whether he and his old Back Bay running crew can duplicate the magic that led to two championships with the Boston Red Sox, the big questions he faces as he meets the Chicago media Tuesday have hung in the air since at least Aug. 19, when chairman Tom Ricketts announced the firing of general manager Jim Hendry.

For now, the only answers are that Ricketts got his man — maybe even the right one. And Epstein, in turn, landed his top-choice trusted partners in curse-busting, former San Diego Padres GM Jed Hoyer and Padres assistant GM Jason McLeod, a respected scouting executive.

As for the answers, they’re 103 years in the making and have eluded countless others before Team Theo.

Epstein arrived in town over the weekend and spent Sunday and Monday at Wrigley Field, meeting with, and reaching out to, key team officials from farm director Oneri Fleita and scouting director Tim Wilken to manager Mike Quade.

After he was spotted Monday dining near Wrigley with members of the Ricketts family and other top team officials, the Theo paparazzi staked out the Cubs’ offices on Clark all afternoon until realizing he’d ducked out via Waveland Avenue around 5.

Now what? How about a few answers?

According to conversations with numerous sources, here’s how some figure to play out, at least in the near term:

What happens with manager Mike Quade?

Quade is expected to travel to Chicago to meet with the new upper management this week, and while sources suggest a decision hasn’t been made on his fate as manager, that may be primarily a matter of waiting until Hoyer is officially in place as GM. Even sources close to Quade don’t expect him to return as manager despite another year left on his contract.

Does that mean Ryne Sandberg will get the managing job he didn’t get a year ago?

Don’t rule it out. The Cubs want badly to mend their busted relationship with the Hall of Famer, who left for the Philadelphia Phillies’ Class AAA managing job after Quade got the Cubs’ job. It so happens that Epstein tried to hire Sandberg for Boston’s AAA job last year, but Sandberg was too far down the road with Philly to accept.

More likely, Sandberg could be invited back to fill a prominent role on the Cubs’ coaching staff this time around. As for managerial candidates, Epstein’s track record suggests little interest in name managers, and he might be more likely to look at Chicago native DeMarlo Hale if Boston’s bench coach is passed over for the Red Sox’ managerial vacancy.

By the way, forget about San Diego’s Bud Black coming to Chicago. The Cubs and Padres already agreed that nobody beyond Hoyer and McLeod are allowed to leave the Padres for the Cubs.

So when do Hoyer and McLeod get here?

Whenever the Padres are ready to hold their own news conference to introduce Josh Byrnes as Hoyer’s replacement in San Diego. Hoyer and McLeod are essentially signed, sealed and delivered, pending what figures to be a perfunctory talk about player compensation (a list of players the Padres may choose from already has been agreed upon).

With McLeod in, does that mean Wilken is out?

No. Wilken is signed for another year, is liked and respected by Ricketts and executives throughout baseball, and, perhaps most important, the long-undersized front office is undergoing a major upsizing. This has been on Ricketts’ agenda since the family bought the team two years ago. Sources suggest most key front-office personnel will remain under Epstein at least as they navigate the first year of regime change.

A hint at the structure can be found in the Red Sox’ front-office directory, which includes a chairman, a president, two vice chairmen, two guys with CEO as part of their titles, 11 senior vice presidents, two executive vice presidents and eight ‘‘regular’’ vice presidents.

So is this going to be the Cubs’ new College of GMs?

Maybe an Ivy League of GMs. And unlike the failed 1960s Cubs managerial model, the Epstein-Hoyer-McLeod-Etc. model isn’t about taking turns making decisions. It’s a proven consensus decision-making model that worked for several years in Boston and has been modeled by other franchises — including the Los Angeles Angels, who are trying to fill their GM vacancy with a similar structure, with Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman as the president.

Hey, anybody seen Z?

Forget it. Carlos Zambrano punched his ticket out of town in August, and not even the new guy is offering a return trip. Say hello to Ozzie’s little friend.



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