We don’t believe in jinxes by black cats or Billy Goat curses. We don’t believe that a fan trying to catch a foul ball can be blamed for a baseball team’s utter collapse.

We do believe in a blueprint followed by many successful businesses, one in which leaders go out and recruit proven winners while grooming young talent from within. The best companies, whether selling soap or automobiles, hire managers with contagious enthusiasm and optimism. They employ confident leaders willing to rebuild from the ground up.

That’s what we see in the Chicago Cubs.


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The Cubs will meet the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday in a wild-card playoff game, and the winner will move on to play the St. Louis Cardinals in a National League Central Division series. The buildup for this postseason appearance took root with the hiring of Cubs President Theo Epstein by team owner Tom Ricketts after the 2011 season.

“Identifying talent, they have done a phenomenal job of that,” says Michael Marasco, professor and director of the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Northwestern University and a lifelong Cubs fan. He, too, sees similarities between the Cubs and elite businesses.

Marasco uses corporate jargon to describe Epstein, noting that the 41-year-old looks at the game from quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Epstein was big on analytics — the use of statistics to guide decisions as basic as whether a batter should bunt — when he was hired in 2002 as general manager of the Boston Red Sox, which won two World Series while he was there.

In his time with the Cubs, Epstein has shifted his emphasis. “He looks at the game he loves and sees that a really big part of it has been taken over by the numerical lists he helped make so popular, yet an equally large part of it has seemingly been ignored — the emotional, human part,” Sun-Times sports columnist Rick Telander wrote in March.

If more corporate leaders came to that realization, we’d have a much more satisfied and productive workforce.

Epstein gets high marks for deft moves: He made one of the best trades of 2013 to acquire pitcher Jake Arrieta, a Cy Young candidate. After the 2014 season, Epstein signed pitching ace Jon Lester.

As the Cubs sat in the cellar the last three seasons, they made smart draft picks in Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. The team’s farm system is envied. When was the last time the Cubs had that?

The Cubs also got it right when they hired manager Joe Maddon late last year. He is “a leader who could leverage a young team,” Marasco says. It sounds simple, but how many managers can successfully keep the mood light, keep emerging egos in check and demand accountability through a 162-game season?

Optimistic fans believed a World Series could be within reach in 2016, but after the team brought on Maddon and Lester last year, fans and the oddsmakers revised their outlook. The playoffs in 2015 became a more realistic possibility.

And now, here they are.

Nothing beats Cubs baseball — in October.

Follow the Editorial Board on Twitter: @csteditorials

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com

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