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The Bears And The Cubs' Business Model

The Cubs might be at the forefront of changes in the way sports teams are run.

David Banks/Getty Images

When the Cubs hired Theo Epstein to be President of Baseball Operations in October 2011, one of the reasons stated for creating that position was that it was necessary to give Theo a "promotion" in order to get the Red Sox to let him out of his contract as Boston's general manager. In other words, if the Cubs had simply wanted to hire him as "general manager," the deal might not have happened.

In doing so, however, the Cubs might have started a trend that could eventually wind up being the way all sports teams are run. Crane Kenney, formerly team president, was named President of Business Operations. Meanwhile, Theo brought in Jed Hoyer as general manager, giving Tom Ricketts what he once termed "a baseball guy to watch his baseball guy," though it seems most decision-making is in Theo's hands.

I've had my differences with the way Theo has gone about things, as you know, but without a doubt his method has strengthened the Cubs farm system to the point where it's described by many as the best in baseball and his aggressive pursuit of Joe Maddon and Jon Lester have given me and many of you great optimism for the future, starting in 2015.

The Cubs aren't the only baseball team doing this, either. The Dodgers recently hired Andrew Friedman away from the Rays and gave him the same title Theo has, although Stan Kasten retains the title "President and CEO."

This article suggests the Chicago Bears could wind up going the same way the Cubs have:

After firing general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman on Monday morning, the Bears are considering restructuring their management to model that of the Cubs’, The Score’s Dan Bernstein reported, in which there would be a team president to run the business side of the organization and another president to hold supreme power over football decisions.

Obviously, this isn't a Bears site but I know many here are Bears fans. I thought it would be interesting for us to discuss the ramifications of the Bears changing their executive structure -- if they do decide to go that way -- and also what that might mean for the future of the way pro sports teams are run. It likely isn't a coincidence that the Cubs and Dodgers are now both owned by people who made their fortunes in the financial sector and thus decided to separate the "team" function from the "business" function in the front office.

What could it mean to have sports teams run this way in the future? For one thing, it would mean less meddling in the "team" part of the operation by people whose background isn't in scouting or the analytics of that sport. Running these businesses used to be done more simply but that doesn't appear to be possible in this complex age where we're talking about multibillion-dollar TV contracts and complicated rules involving player transactions. The Cubs appear to be doing it the right way. The Bears and others could follow suit.

Thought this would be an interesting discussion topic on an otherwise slow day.