David Kaplan, my friend and sometimes sparring partner, is joining ESPN 1000, where he will introduce the phrases “ridiculous,’’ “no question’’ and “the best’’ to a new audience.
Whether you like Kaplan or not, there’s no denying that he is the city’s biggest star in sports broadcasting, thanks to his work on WGN Radio and Comcast SportsNet Chicago. I know his impact firsthand. For the past three years, we have debated on Comcast’s “SportsTalk Live’’ about the Cubs’ approach to building a winner. We have debated until we’ve been blue in the face (and he blue in that shiny dome of his).
He says I don’t understand “The Plan,’’ which is what he calls Theo Epstein’s approach to rebuilding the franchise. I have told Kaplan over and over that I do understand The Plan but that I believe there are other ways to build a ball club besides tanking three seasons to amass high draft picks. Of course Epstein’s plan could work, but so could others, I argued, especially with billionaire owners like the Ricketts family.
It has been like talking to a very well-dressed wall.
As the young Cubs have matured this season, turning the team into a monster-in-progress, my email and Twitter have been filled with the same message from Cubs fans:
“Still don’t get The Plan, Rick?’’
They’re all repeating the Kapman’s line, and I can’t even see his lips moving. That’s influence, friends.
It’s true: I have played devil’s advocate about the Cubs so often I carry a pitchfork now. I asked out loud and in print how anyone could be sure that the Epstein’s prospects, so successful in the minor leagues, would succeed at the major-league level. To me, it was a matter of logic, not belief. But then Kris Bryant did his thing, Kyle Schwarber became a squatty, latter-day Bambino and Addison Russell improved.
The Plan has taken on a life of its own, and Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations, has turned into a god, especially to the subset of people that finds the machinations of a personnel department as interesting as the game on the field.
The bottom line is that the Cubs are good. We can all agree on that. And for someone who lived and died (mostly died) with this franchise as a kid, it has beenfun to watch.
Good luck, Kap. And I do get The Plan. No question.