Theo Epstein joined the Cubs in October 2011. Exactly five years later, he has them in the World Series.
In that time, Epstein made a number of moves that proved valuable, but does one stand out above the rest?
“The bulk of this team is a credit to him,” ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I look at what they went and got even this offseason, which was kind of the final pieces. I feel like you can go back a year, two years, but really this last offseason (was key). They go to the championship series, they lose to the Mets, and they felt like they needed something . . . when you think about John Lackey and Ben Zobrist in particular.”
Lackey, 38, went 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 180 strikeouts this season.
“Lackey doesn’t get a lot of love because technically he’s the No. 4 guy on a pitching staff,” Mendoza said, “but there’s something about him and his mental grit that has brought so much to that staff and kind of pushed them in ways that I think we’ll never know.”
Zobrist, meanwhile, hit .272 with 18 homers, 76 RBIs and a .386 OBP.
“I love offense,” Mendoza said. “I have seen what the Cubs have transitioned to. Their biggest goal was to not be a strikeout team. You think about the biggest Achilles heel in the postseason last year, and it was the fact that they just struck out too much. The way the Royals were able to navigate and get on base (was impressive). So who did they get? They got the choreographer of that Royals offense in Ben Zobrist to come over and and really just influence this team with (getting) on base, with seeing more pitches. They’re still going to strike out because they have some big swings, but they also have an idea of what pitches they swing bigger on. Javier Baez, for example, I feel like is hugely influenced by Ben Zobrist. When you think about Theo Epstein, I think about maybe it’s those two big gets this offseason – not because of who they are as players, but how they’ve influenced the rest of the team.”