The Cubs keep raking in the accolades.
Theo Epstein is the latest to be honored, with Fortune naming the Cubs president of baseball operations No. 1 on the newly-released list of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders.
Epstein — the architect of the Cubs team that ended a 108-year championship drought — beat out such names as Pope Francis, John McCain, LeBron James and Joe Biden.
Fellow Chicagoan and White Sox ambassador Chance the Rapper also made the list at No. 46.
The rationale for Epstein includes:
In his book The Cubs Way, Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer Tom Verducci details the five-year rebuilding plan that led to the team’s victory. The Cubs owe their success to a concatenation of different leadership styles, from the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts to the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of club president Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox. In the following passages, Verducci describes how a deeper understanding of important human qualities among his players—the character, discipline, and chemistry that turn skilled athletes into leaders—enabled Epstein to engineer one of the most remarkable turnarounds in sports.
For more on why Epstein and the Cubs topped the list, head to Fortune.com.
Epstein had a classic reaction to the honor with his official statement:
"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house. That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball - a pastime involving a lot of chance. If Zobrist's ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."
Luke Stuckmeyer, David Kaplan and Tony Andracki break down the Kris Bryant trade rumors.
01:00 - How much truth is there to the "Will Kris Bryant be traded" story?
04:25 - Is there any package a team could offer that would give the Cubs what they value Kris Bryant at?
05:35 - Who is the most untouchable player on the Cubs roster?
08:55 - Will Kris Bryant be in Chicago long enough to wear a Cubs hat if he makes it to Cooperstown?
12:00 - Is Nolan Aranado a match in a possible trade for Bryant
16:00 - If MVP is Bryant's ceiling, what is his floor?
17:00 - Any players who had a shoulder issue like Bryant had who never bounced back?
19:00 - Would a Noah Syndergard for Kris Bryant trade make sense?
20:20 - Could Josh Donaldson be a target for the Cubs?
21:00 - Is all this Bryant talk much ado about nothing
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:
Joe Maddon's future beyond 2019 remains unclear, but his 2018 performance was good enough in someone's eyes to warrant a first-place vote in NL Manager of the Year voting.
Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker won the award, receiving 17 of the 30 first-place votes in the process. Meanwhile, Maddon also added a third-place vote to finish fifth overall, behind Milwaukee's Craig Counsell, Colorado's Bud Black and St. Louis' Mike Shildt.
Members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote for the award and two representatives from each market vote, adding up to the 30 voters (see the full list of 2018 NL voters here). Jayson Stark tweeted out that it was in fact 670 The Score's Bruce Levine who voted for Maddon with a hometown pick.
A large number of Cubs fans are disappointed that 2018 was the worst postseason run the team has had in the current run of four straight playoff appearances, but that doesn't factor into the voting. Maddon led the Cubs to 95 wins, second best in the league to the Brewers after Milwaukee won the NL Central playoff at Wrigley Field. He did so while Yu Darvish pitched only 40 innings, Kris Bryant was limited to 102 games and had his worst season in the majors and closer Brandon Morrow didn't pitch after July 15.
That is a decent argument to make for Maddon, but expectations have never been higher on the North Side and Theo Epstein saying the Cubs won't renew his contract this offseason isn't the highest vote of confidence.
Maddon's future with the Cubs will be a talking point until he either leaves or gets a new contract, but he has one believer in Chicago.