With his team unable to win a World Series in over a century, the new owner and president of the Chicago Cubs came up with a radical way of transforming the most lovable losers into a powerhouse of a team.
His audacious plan was to tear down and rebuild the team. Many in the sports industry as well as avid fans were skeptical, but not Chicago sportscaster David Kaplan, a true believer from the very start.
“I have been doing pre- and post-games since 1996 and I saw the real problems with the infrastructure of the Cub,” says Kaplan, a three-time Emmy winner, current host of “Kap and Co.” on ESPN Radio 1000 and co-host of “Sports Talk Live” and the Chicago Cubs pre- and post-game shows on Comcast SportsNet.
The plan began when the Ricketts family bought the Cubs and then were willing to spend the megabucks it would take to build the team into what at the time seemed unachievable — winners of the World Series.
The first step was hiring Theo Epstein, credited with turning around the Red Sox when he was their general manager, as the new Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations. Along with Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, the two added new players such as Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, creating a powerhouse team.
But it wasn’t without pain — a whole lot of pain.
“They needed to do it,” Kaplan says. “It would have been like taking a really nasty house and just doing cosmetic changes instead of taking it down to the studs. It was a rare thing to have an owner like Tom Ricketts who bought into what the two wanted to do.”
Kaplan, who played football and baseball in college and then worked for years as a basketball coach and then scout f
or the NBA, says he grew up going to Cubs games with his father.
“I grew up a Cubs fan, I am a Cubs fan, and I’ll die a Cubs fan,” says Kaplan, who believes that unlike most teams, Cubs’ love is intergenerational.
When Kaplan got a call from his agent saying a publisher wanted him to write a book on the 2016 Cubs, he turned down the offer.
“My agent said, ‘You’ve got to do this; you have the access,’ ” recalls Kaplan, who didn’t want to write a typical fan book. “So I said, ‘Get the publisher on the phone.’ ”
But the publisher wasn’t sure about Kaplan writing a book about “The Plan.”
“He said no one will want to read about ‘The Plan,’ if the it doesn’t work,” Kaplan says.
But Kaplan saw similarities with other teams who had turned around and won a championship and so convinced the publisher they should go for it.
Did Kaplan, while writing the book and watching the 2016 series unfold, ever have doubts? Not for a moment, he says.
The day after the final game, Kaplan went out to the cemetery to tell his father the Cubs had finally won the World Series — a happening he says was an end to “108 years of insanity.” While standing at his father’s grave he noticed something amazing.
“There had to be 300 graves with “W” flags or Cubs pennants on them,” he says. Driving back to work he spotted other cemeteries as well filled with homages to the team’s victory.
“It was unbelievable,” he says.
But then, in ways, so was the Cubs finally winning the World Series.
If you go
What: Reading and book-signing with David Kaplan
When: 7 p.m. July 12
Where: The Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago