Since Theo Epstein has officially been hired to run the Chicago Cubs, the air is rife with speculation on how he intends to bring the franchise a World Series victory. Will the Cubs finally break through the barriers that have held them back all these years? Or will they fall back into the same losing pattern they’ve had for the last 100+ years? Using my secret sources, I can now reveal Epstein’s master plan.
(We join a meeting of the new Cubs brain trust that includes Epstein, Jed Hoyer, the new Cubs GM, assistant GMs, scouts and assorted lackeys. Thick bundles of statistics and charts are being passed around the room. An overhead projector shows the key points.)
Theo : OK, where do we stand in our overall picture?
Hoyer : Theo, we’ve completed the analysis, as you’ve requested. We’ve compiled every key statistic on every player and prospect in the organization. We’ve correlated it with salary, the player’s age, and projected upside. Every sabermetric statistic has been accounted for — we’ve even created some new ones that we think will give us a leg up on the rest of the Central Division.
Theo : And what does it show?
Hoyer : Well, it will take a few years, but I think we can get on the right track.
Theo : That’s not good enough. Every new regime starting out with the Cubs has said the same thing. We need more — we need a guarantee.
Hoyer : Theo, you know there are no guarantees.
Theo : Yes, there are. This is where I bring in my ace in the hole.
(Epstein leans over and calls the receptionist.) Tell Olga to come in.
(An old, toothless woman of indeterminate Eastern European descent shuffles into the room.)
Theo : Gentlemen, this is Olga. She has a special talent — she can communicate with the dead. In order for the Cubs to win the World Series, we need to convince the dead spirits to smile favorably upon us.
Scout 1 : Damn, Theo, what are you talking about? Who the hell are we communicating with? Rogers Hornsby? Gabby Hartnett? Santo?
Theo : No, not powerful enough. They couldn’t win a World Series when they were alive. How can they do so when they’re dead? No. We need … THE GOAT.
Scout 2 : The goat?
Theo : Billy Sianis’ goat. As all Cub fans know, the Legend of the Goat states that in 1945, Sianis, the owner of the Billy Goat café, got turned away from Wrigley Field with his goat. Since then, the Cubs have been unable to win a pennant. We’re going to have a séance with that very same goat to get him to lift the curse. Olga is an expert in all dialects of goat language, so no matter what breed this goat was, we will be able to talk to it.
Hoyer (uneasily) : OK, Theo, you’re the boss.
(Everyone in the room joins hands, closes their eyes, and chants “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.” Olga seems to drift away, then suddenly opens her eyes, seemingly staring into nothingness.)
Goat (through Olga) : Baaaaa. Whaaaat do you waaaannnt?
Theo : Hi, um, Mr. Goat. Can I call you Billy? We represent the Cubs organization, and we are prepared to make you a generous offer in exchange for lifting the curse that has prevented the Cubs from winning the World Series.
Goat : Goaaaa aaaaaahhhhhn.
Theo : We’re going to collect every beer can that’s emptied at Wrigley Field for the next five years and offer them to you. You’ll be able to chew on cans from now until the end of time, and absorb all the beer left over in them at the same time. You’ll be one satiated (and somewhat buzzed) dead goat.
Goat : That’s a pretty good start. One condition, though — none of that Budweiser crap. That might have been good enough for Harry Caray, but I want to go more upscale — only imported beer.
Theo : OK, we can do that. So do we have a deal?
Goat : Not so fast. I’ve been nursing this grudge for 66 years. That would have been enough in 1969, maybe even 2004. But I’ll need more now.
Theo : What more?
Goat : I’ll need a sacrifice — a human sacrifice. I’ll need a victim that I can chew on, eat, and grind his bones into dust.
Theo (appalled) : What?! That’s absurd! I won’t do it! Nothing is that important!
Lackey 1 (aside to Theo) : Sir, I’d think about it a bit before I reject that demand. We’re talking about a Cubs World Series here. Many people would gladly kill or be killed for that. Besides, this may be a way for us to get rid of our higher-priced players.
Theo (to Goat) : OK, we’ll do it, but I don’t like it. How about Zambrano?
Goat : Too volatile. He’d just keep coming back up on me.
Theo : Soriano, then.
Goat : Too rich — bad for the digestion. What about Starlin Castro?
Theo : No way, he’s our future.
Lackey 1 : Sir, I have an idea. What about Ernie Banks?
Theo : Mr. Cub? The man who gave his heart and soul to the Cubs? Who exuded sunny optimism even during the darkest days? How can I do that?
Goat : Ernie Banks would be an acceptable sacrifice.
Lackey 2 : Sir, think about it. Cub fans would clearly sacrifice anyone, even someone as beloved as Ernie, for a World Series ring. And if there’s anyone in the world who would give his life for that ring, it would be Ernie.
Theo : OK, we’ll see, but let’s be clear. I won’t do it without his OK. If he agrees, we’ll do it. If that happens, Mr. Goat, will you lift the curse?
Goat : For Ernie, sure. Oh wait, there’s just one more thing.
Theo : What’s that?
Goat : Do you mind if I’m the manager?