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Take a bow, Cubs meatballs. You helped bring Craig Kimbrel to Chicago.

In response to his most disappointing season as Cubs president, Theo Epstein did the most un-Theo Epstein thing ever last October: He let his heart shout down his head.

The levelheaded leader unleashed an offseason agenda empowering every meatball who believes each of the 162 games of a baseball season matters.

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Epstein reinforced that football mentality again on opening day when he famously said: “October starts in March.’’

How about in early June? Eight months later, take a bow, Cubs meatballs.

An electric Cubs culture played a small but significant role in the Cubs getting their version of Khalil Mack in closer Craig Kimbrel, a Hall of Fame-caliber addition whose arrival potentially changes the context of everything.

Kimbrel arriving rivaled the Cubs sweeping the Cardinals as the weekend’s biggest development. Adding Kimbrel gives the Cubs a shot to challenge the Dodgers for National League supremacy and makes the World Series a realistic goal.

That wasn’t true a week ago.

The urgent atmosphere Epstein encouraged created a local mandate for Kimbrel, from the 1914 Club to the bleachers to the airwaves. The refrain became louder after last week’s MLB draft, repeating that no matter how much power or pitching the Cubs had, everything hinged on a bullpen that had blown too many saves.

Leave it to Epstein, as shrewd a sports executive as there ever was, to find a way to use fans spoiled by winning 95 games a year since 2015 to his advantage.

“One thing that’s important to me is being able to play in front of a fan base that’s passionate about this game,’’ Kimbrel said. “I did get to experience that in Boston and it would be hard to leave that kind of passion every night, especially with the role I’m in. I’m a very adrenaline-based player and knowing that each and every night the seats were going to be full definitely played a role in the decision.’’

Sources said Kimbrel weighed similar financial packages but chose the Cubs over the Rays, a team with more victories in a division he knows well. But the Rays play at Tropicana Field, which draws an average of 13,801 — the second-lowest attendance in the majors. The Cubs rank fourth at 36,887 despite lousy weather this spring.

For a reliever like Kimbrel who relies so heavily on adrenaline, pitching at Wrigley Field is like getting a nightly boost of B12. Kimbrel craved the frenzy that accompanies every game at Clark and Addison in a season that suddenly feels like World Series or bust.

It would be oversimplifying it to say an energized baseball environment alone lured Kimbrel to Chicago. It aided the process, but only after Epstein applied the same urgency he demanded from everyone else who works for him. And only after the man Epstein works for — Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts — made it all possible by showing financial flexibility. Perhaps now the guy who signs the checks on baseball’s second-highest payroll — around $210 million — will stop hearing he’s cheap.

Nobody will ever know whether the Cubs would have pursued Kimbrel with as much vigor if Ben Zobrist hadn’t gone on the restricted list May 6 after filing for divorce. But the thought here is no, based on the definitive nature of Ricketts’ previous comments on Kimbrel. The nearly $10 million the Cubs will save not paying Zobrist conveniently matches the total Kimbrel will earn in 2019 on his prorated three-year, $43 million deal.

At Ricketts’ annual spring training address in February, he invited skepticism after being asked why the Cubs didn’t spend more money during free agency. “That’s a pretty easy question to answer,” Ricketts said. “We don’t have any more.’’

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Eyes rolled again before the home opener when I asked Ricketts specifically about Kimbrel on the “Mully & Haugh” show and he dismissed the idea.

“I don’t know about Craig Kimbrel,’’ Ricketts said. “That may just be a bigger ticket than what we can swing.’’

Situations change and championship sports organizations seize those rare opportunities to swing for the fences. To cite a comparable local example, the Blackhawks similarly made the best of a bad situation in 2015 after Patrick Kane broke his left collarbone with 21 games left in the regular season.

The Hawks placed Kane on the long-term injured reserve list — meaning he no longer counted against the salary cap — and used the space created on the payroll to acquire center Antoine Vermette, defenseman Kimmo Timonen and winger Andrew Desjardins. It was an added expense well worth the price. Vermette especially came up big in the Stanley Cup playoffs after Kane returned for the postseason.

Epstein left open the possibility of Zobrist returning, but that seems unlikely for a 38-year-old after a long layoff. The Cubs will continue to respect his privacy and give him space he has earned. Zobrist’s niche in Cubs lore was carved forever as the 2016 World Series MVP.

Now his legacy could include contributing to another championship in a way nobody expected.

David Haugh is a special contributor to the Chicago Tribune and co-host of the “Mully and Haugh Show” weekdays from 5-9 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670.

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