Op-Ed: Theo Epstein, American Hero

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Henry Olsen, Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said, “When I was growing up, everyone looked up to Reagan. It was 'us' versus the Communists, and we weren’t sure we’d win. We needed him.”  Where can young, conservative students turn today?  One man’s hard work has been showing dividends lately but, it is not just Theo Epstein’s work that is commendable, it is also his attitude. Epstein’s pedigree speaks for itself: Yale educated, started in baseball in Baltimore, then San Diego, then Assistant Manager of Baseball Operations in Boston.  For the Red Sox he worked 18-hour-days trading players and writing contracts for new ones. In his off time, he talked about baseball. He slept, dreamt baseball. Epstein's hard work paid off when Boston won the World Series in 2004, breaking an 86-year ring-less streak for Boston. Epstein is especially good at one thing: acquiring talent. Searching out undervalued men, he offers the lesser known a chance to prove their worth for startup teams. He let flourish players who are now household names: Kevin Millar and Curt Schilling for the Red Sox, two pitchers without whom the 2004 title would not have been possible.

Epstein brought his talents to Chicago in 2011 and began the process once again. His efforts came to fruition last week as the Cubs broke their 108-year drought, winning the World Series in the 10th inning of game 7 against the Indians on a rainy Cleveland night.  A recent NYPost article sums up Epstein’s role well.

“Consider that of the 18 men in Cubs uniforms for this most momentous event, 17 of them came into the organization on Epstein’s watch…”

These men define a moment in time and will continue to perform for the Cubs. They include names such as: pitcher Jon Lester, 2nd baseman Ben Zobrist, 1st baseman Anthony Rizzo, and, critically, Manager Joe Maddon.  Putting the right team together enabled the Cubs to post the only 100+ win season in 2016, all thanks to Theo Epstein.

While this series win is a boon for the Cubs it also serves as a call to action for Americans: every day, we have the opportunity to succeed or fail. We can wake up and look adversely upon our record, look down upon our past, or we can work. We can empower; look up to ourselves and our future. We can believe in our own ability to conquer, to achieve. Mr. Epstein is a not a great American because his product has been a success. Mr. Epstein is a great American because he knows the value of putting in great effort and trusting in the process.

Imagine what it was like in 2012, when, in his second year with the Cubs, the team took home a mere 61 wins, with 101 losses. Or the following year, with 66 wins and 96 losses.  How about 2014, when despite winning more games (73-89), the Cubs actually did worse overall in their division?  Imagine the frustration you would feel after winning two championships with the Boston Red Sox and starting all over, to help a struggling organization in Chicago.  For five years, Mr. Epstein trusted his process; eventually, his skill and determination got the best of the league.  Life is a long journey and Mr. Epstein’s unspoken advice is clear: wake up every day, walk to work, and find it in yourself to stick to what you know is right.  This is a lesson many Americans would do well to learn from Mr. Epstein.

OpinionCharles O'Brien