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Hiring Theo Epstein won’t guarantee Cubs will end Series drought

Texas Rangers right fielder NelsCruz can't come up with hit by St. Louis Cardinals' Allen Craig during sixth inning Game

Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz can't come up with a hit by St. Louis Cardinals' Allen Craig during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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Updated: November 21, 2011 10:39AM

ST. LOUIS — Shortly before he officially took control of the Cubs in 2009, chairman Tom Ricketts issued a warning to giddy fans who believed one of their own would splurge to end the longest title drought in baseball by repeating the same phrase: ‘‘There is no silver bullet to winning a World Series.’’

Ricketts was referring to top-shelf players, but the same holds true for superstar executives.

Keep those words in mind as the Theo Epstein sweepstakes enter the final stretch. The Cubs soon will have a new management team in place — one that figures to include Epstein and San Diego Padres general manager Jed Hoyer and to squeeze the meddling Crane Kenney out of baseball operations. And that means hopes for a World Series appearance will go unnaturally high for a team with a sketchy roster coming off a 91-loss season.

Silver bullets? Sometimes you never know what will decide that winning formula.

That point was driven home as the 107th World Series got under way Wednesday at Busch Stadium with the St. Louis Cardinals edging the Texas Rangers 3-2.

The two hottest players entering the Series were the Rangers’ Nelson Cruz and the Cardinals’ David Freese.

Look at Cruz and Freese .  .  .

Cruz once resided on the trash heap of baseball, virtually ignored by every team in the majors. The Rangers got him in July 2006 as a throw-in from the Milwaukee Brewers in the trade for Carlos Lee. Cruz’s arrival in Texas couldn’t be termed a piece of genius general-managing.

Then he dominated the American League Championship Series with six home runs and 13 RBI against the Detroit Tigers. Bottom line: The Rangers wouldn’t have reached this point without Cruz.

Silver bullet? Maybe now, but not when the Rangers were building their World Series dream team.

How about Freese? His injury-plagued career had become so frustrating that he nearly walked away from the game.

How did the Cardinals acquire Freese? They got him from the Padres for a nearly finished Jim Edmonds in December 2007 — hardly a headline-grabbing move.

But Freese had upstaged superstar teammate Albert Pujols in the first two rounds of the postseason, hitting .425 with four homers and 14 RBI. Pujols remains the key to the Cardinals’ success, but they wouldn’t have gotten her without Freese.

It was Freese who sparked the Cardinals’ sixth-inning rally that chased Rangers starter C.J. Wilson. That means the Rangers have gone 11 consecutive postseason games without a starter surviving beyond the sixth inning, setting a postseason record.

Later in the inning, Allen Craig — who was pinch-hitting for starter Chris Carpenter — snapped a tie with a single to right field against Alexi Ogando to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

Freese, who’s having a blast in his hometown, seems to be at the center of everything big happening to the Cardinals this October.

.  .  . then look at Dunn

All of this is worth remembering as the Cubs begin a new era under Epstein. No GM has the magic touch — not even Epstein, whose splashy moves for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and John Lackey are being criticized in Boston in the wake of the Red Sox’ historic collapse.

Sometimes a GM shoots big and misses. Look at the Adam Dunn signing that has dogged White Sox general manager Ken Williams. Dunn had a dud of a season, but no one — not even Williams’ harshest critics — ridiculed the signing last offseason. Instead, Dunn’s arrival was thought to have made the Sox immediate legit contenders.

On the flip side, Williams built a World Series winner in 2005. Think about the ingredients that went into that team and imagine building a championship winner with names such as Pablo Ozuna, Carl Everett, Willie Harris, Geoff Blum, Neal Cotts and Cliff Politte. The Sox wouldn’t have gome wire-to-wire in 2005 without those
guys, no matter how good a rotation they boasted.

Sometimes things just work out, making a GM look smart. Sometimes you end up with
Adam Dunn.

There are no silver bullets — not even with superstar execs.

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