The last time the Cubs did a massive, complete team rebuild that resulted in a World Series winning dynasty started right at the beginning of the 20th century with a guy who, like Theo Epstein, came to Chicago after having major success in Boston.
The circumstances were far different, but the story is pretty similar.
While I oversimplify because I'm simple, I pretty much got all this history stuff from Glenn Stout’s The Cubs published in 2007. A really gorgeous book filled with awesome stories and incredible photos selected and edited by Richard A. Johnson. (As a card-carrying Cub Fan, you should own this book.)
Anyway, 1900 was the last year the National League was the only pro baseball league.
Here were the final standings that year (screengrabs from ESPN).
And in 1901:
Well, the National League owners didn't believe the American League could even start up, but then these American League guys offered much bigger salaries so...duh.
A bunch of the NL’s stars began jumping to American League teams.
Back then the Cubs were called the Orphans, and it happened to them, too.
Team names - I’m kind of unclear on how exactly this worked, but I guess it was up to the press to select “nicknames” for teams back then.
Now that there were so few Orphans left, the press started calling the team “The Remnants”.
Basically a team with little talent or future.
So the Remnants hired the recently fired Beaneater manager from Boston, Frank Selee.
He (from the book) “...had a record of performance that was beyond reproach. Chicago’s horrible record in 1901 gave him carte blanche to make changes in 1902.”
If you were a manager back then, you were also kind of the general manager because you put the team together.
So he did.
He “used more than 30 players" in 1902, including 20 rookies.
He made so many changes that the press decided to give the team a new nickname.
(Again, from the book) On March 27, an anonymous reporter from the Chicago Daily News anointed the club with a new name when he wrote: “Frank Selee will devote his strongest efforts on the teamwork of the new Cubs this year.”
“Cub” was what you called a young ballplayer back then - it was just a regular term.
But when it was capitalized (maybe by accident) in the paper, people thought it was the new nickname, and it stuck.
And 4 years later in 1906, the Cubs became a force and went to the World Series.
But..."Became a force."
It’s so weird to write that.
Even weirder: they won the World Series in 1907 and 1908.
So that all started with Frank Selee's rebuild.
Sorting through a ton of kids to create a new team.
Are we watching history repeat itself?
I don’t know, but next year it’ll be 4 years after Theo Epstein started.
Maybe 2015 will be like 1906.
Maybe we'll see the word "force" in the same sentence as "Cubs".
Maybe a World Series is closer than... GOOD GOD I'M GETTING SO AHEAD OF MYSELF!
No way in hell it happens next year, but...
Anyway, cue dramatic music, and I gotta go.