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Last Place a Happy Place for Theo Epstein

Theo

Maybe we should all be a little more like Theo Epstein.

Theo's Cubs are in last place, but he's in a very happy place.

He speaks of the rise of his team's farm system "It's the second-highest rated in baseball," the young, dynamic players on his team "Anthony Rizzo, Anthony Rizzo, Anthony Rizzo and did we mention Anthony Rizzo" and his eagerness to make history on Chicago's North Side. Even Manny Ramirez is winning over hearts and minds in the team's minor-league organization.

Turns out Jake Arrieta isn't so bad, either.

There's plenty of history surrounding Theo's Cubs, most of it is very bad.

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Theo is 10 years removed from the high point of his professional career - the success of the 2004 Red Sox and/or the Nomar Garciaparra trade.

An 86-year drought? That's nothing. The Cubs haven't won a championship since 1908.

The last time the Cubs won a World Series, there were only 46 states, no one had ever heard of World War I and the real-life Butch Cassidy was still alive. Robert Redford, on the other hand, would not be born for another 28 years.

Listening to Theo, who is technically president of baseball operations for the Cubs, on Monday's "Dennis and Callahan" show, he was full of optimism and feel-good talk about both his days in Boston and the Cubs' future plans.

When Roger Clemens walked out of Red Sox spring training camp in 1987, Lou Gorman delivered one of the all-time greatest quotes in Boston sports history when so many around him were in a panic. “The sun will rise, the sun will set, and we'll have lunch,” he said.

That was much the same attitude that Epstein exhibited Monday.

He carries none of the bile borne by his manager Terry Francona, who left the Red Sox in the same tumultuous period back in 2011.

"I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it," he said.

The process and prospects of Epstein building a champion has left the now 40-year-old Brookline native fully-engaged. He's been a major-league GM for most of the past 12 years and has two World Series rings. The Cubs are 81 games under .500 during Epstein's two and a half seasons in Chicago. In Theo's first two seasons, the Cubs were 127-197. To put this futility in Red Sox perspective, if you were to combine all eight Red Sox losing seasons since 1966, you'd be only 77 games under. 500.

Epstein stripped down the major-league roster and payroll after his arrival and has poured his team's time and resources into building from the Class A and Rookie League levels on upward.

Not everyone has been happy with his timetable. Theo still has two more years left on his five-year contract and, at least publicly, doesn't sound like he's going anywhere.

"We're set to explode," Epstein told WEEI's audience.

That would be something new for the Cubs, who have imploded, choked, collapsed, crumbled, atrophied, broken down, fallen apart, rusted, wilted, gagged, tripped, fallen, slipped, nose-dived or otherwise come up short in the past 106 years.

Epstein is not in Boston with this week, citing personal reasons of a "good" nature. That's often code for "we're about to have a baby." If that is in indeed the case, congrats to Theo and Marie. Maybe young Jack Epstein [he's six] will live long enough to see the Cubs win it all if his dad doesn't.

During Theo's interview on "D&C," he said he had no hard feelings toward anyone on the Red Sox for how things ended in 2011 and added he did not attend the Red Sox Annual 2004 Commemorative Ceremony this May at Fenway Park because "it was for the players." He did come to town for a couple of days and enjoyed a celebratory dinner with team ownership, players and other front-office types.

"It was the best high school reunion imaginable," he said.

The issues surrounding the compensation for his services with the Cubs after he officially jumped ship in October of 2011 made what should have been a clean break far too awkward and difficult. The compensation issue was, history tells us, another harbinger of what was in store the following season.

Theo spoke Monday about the positive fan experience at Wrigley Field. The Cubs are uniquely positioned to provide reason for people to return to their ballpark even when they're not winning.

Billy Buckner or a Billy Goat. The Bambino or Bartman. Theo could fancy himself the Father of All Curse Busters.

Day baseball and the aura of Wrigley Field remain the biggest curses for Epstein's current employer. Something Theo no doubts recognize. After a few Buds in the summer sun, the standings nor score matter as much to the masses as the location of the nearest beer vendor. It's similar to what Epstein had in Boston until the Red Sox had the nerve and nerves to win a World Series. The people of New England sold their sporting souls to bring their ancestors some peace. They paid for it with 2011, Bobby Valentine and, just for good measure, the local NFL team finishing 18-1.

When the Red Sox are not winning, the nearest World Cup match sways the attention of TV viewers and the Twitterverse. The Fenway Faithful have become fickle. Three titles in 10 years can do that. As long as the Red Sox are five or six games under .500, futbol [at least until 6 p.m. Tuesday] and football remain the top sports stories.

Gisele cheering on Brazil's victory on Instagram got more traction Saturday than Jon Lester's stirring win at Yankee Stadium.

What has happened to Red Sox Nation?

Theo's baseball legacy would be untouchable with World Series rings from both the Cubs and Red Sox. No matter what happens in Chicago, leaving Boston at the onset of Boston's baseball Nuclear Winter was the best move he could have ever made. He can still claim a piece of Boston's 2013 title, as Dan Duquette could have done in 2004. Ben Cherington was Theo's protege, even if he pre-dated Theo in the Red Sox organization.

Cubs continue to see the world from a ditch. That hasn't changed since the Kaiser ruled Germany. Even if that potential is never realized, Epstein knows he's got it pretty good in Chicago. Expectations are non-existent. He gets to forever tout the future. A two-hitter against the Red Sox at Fenway Park Monday night doesn't hurt his cause, either. In Chicago, fans continue to flock to the ballpark. Steve Bartman remains out of the public eye.

And lunch is served daily.

The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit him up on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
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