On October 21 Theo Epstein joined the Chicago Cubs front office. He assumed the high-muck-a-muck title of "President of Baseball Operations". He did not come cheap. $18.5 million for 5 years. When he resigned as General Manager from the Boston Red Sox, he had one year and an estimated $1.5 million left on his contract. The Red Sox, according to the rules, are entitled to compensation. There's the rub. Just how much is Mr. Epstein worth?
When Epstein was confronted with this fundamental inquiry, this is how he replied: "That's a more existential question. I know my own faults better than Ben [Red Sox General Manager Cherington] does. I know my limitations. I'm just not worth that much." Epstein obviously has been doing some profound metaphysical introspection. But in the plumbing of his inner self, why does he curiously and conveniently abstract from a very ordinary and prosaic method that Americans use to measure worth: money?
Or maybe we should understand Epstein's allusion to existentialism from a very different perspective. Was it a Freudian slip? Was Epstein implying something about the Cubbie Universe itself?
Existentialism, like all philosophical movements, tries to find meaning in life. The trouble is--- if you listen to most existentialists--- it's hard to find any. Albert Camus even went as far as to say that, "Life will be lived all the better if it has no meaning." Nietzsche said God was dead. Sartre thought hell was other people.
Existentialism can be a real downer. Despair, angst, absurdity, alienation, boredom. Yes, that does sound like the environs of Cubbie Universe. Was that the hidden message in "That's a more existential question"? I hope not.
Existentialism also predicates that it's up to the individual to give meaning and passion to life. Maybe Epstein was hinting rather at this. Here is Camus again: "In the middle of winter, I have discovered in me an invincible summer."
Now if Theo Epstein could somehow create this perception next year in the organization, the Cubs just might wind up 'existential' World Champions.