A few weeks ago, one of the radio sports talk shows advanced some version of the following question for discussion: Would you trade Theo Epstein for any player?
It was a brilliant topic because it reflected not only the huge role the Cubs president has played in the team’s success but also some fans’ restraining-order fascination with the man working the levers.
So let’s go all in on ridiculous: Would you trade Epstein for Angels centerfielder Mike Trout, the best player in the game?
The question both fascinates and frightens me. Trout just turned 25 and has finished no lower than second in American League Most Valuable Player voting every season he has been in the big leagues. That includes winning the award in 2014. We’re watching a five-tool player who, when he’s done, could be in the same category as Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. He’s that good.
It seems like a slam dunk, which Trout can also do, by the way.
But one of the major shifts in how we approach and appreciate sports is the increase in the number of people who would rather be a general manager than an athlete. It used to be that you grew up emulating the slugging first baseman. Today, people seem more interested in figuring out numerically what makes the first baseman so good and learning about the front-office person who crunched the numbers in a way that revealed the player’s potential. It’s partially the influence of fantasy sports. Everybody’s a GM now.
Epstein is as famous as any of the Cub players. He’s the architect of a rebuilding project that has turned into one of the best teams in baseball. A large segment of fans has completely bought into his concept of sustained success, to the point where many would not be satisfied with just one World Series title — even though the franchise hasn’t won a title since 1908. Epstein plays guitar, but he’s a rock star for his baseball acumen.
With that in mind, I’m flinchingly curious: Trout, who would help the Cubs win games on the field, or Epstein, who helps them win games from his front-office perch?
Come on, it’s obvious, right? Trout in a rout. I’m braced for all the people who know that theos in Greek means “God.’’