As much as Chicago Cubs fans might hope Theo Epstein sees the challenge of winning it all with the Cubs as too enticing to pass up, most signs point to his refusal to consider the open GM gig.
First, Epstein is under contract for another year as the GM of his hometown team – a team he led to its first World Series title in 86 years. He is well-paid, well-liked, and, by most accounts, happy. So, as alluring as the chance to be “the guy” in both Boston and Chicago may be, Epstein may be too happy to rock his own boat.
Second, Dave Kaplan recently cited a Boston insider who says it’s unlikely that Epstein would leave Boston to be the Cubs’ GM, which is also the residual sentiment you pick up when leafing through the innumerable Epstein-to-the-Cubs pieces around the Internet.
Third, Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner flatly rejected the notion that Epstein would consider leaving his post with the Red Sox. “It’s a complete non-story,’’ Werner said recently. “Theo is under contract and he’s very happy in Boston. He’s looking forward to leading the Red Sox into the postseason and to another world championship.”
Finally, when asked about Epstein, Red Sox players are effusive in their praise. And manager Terry Francona thinks the two have a perfect working relationship. Neither the players nor Francona believe Epstein would leave the Red Sox.
But, that all said, a number of sources indicate that Epstein would be interested if the Cubs were offering something a little sweeter than the GM job – namely, control of the entire organization as president.
From Dave Kaplan:
I just spoke with CSN New England’s Red Sox insider Sean McAdam and he believes that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein would not leave Boston for the Cubs GM post but feels that there is a slight chance he might consider a president level post with full authority over baseball operations.
McAdam went on to say that he feels that Epstein may be unwilling to walk away from the final year of his Boston contract out of loyalty to the organization who hired him 10 years ago.
And from the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo:
The Cubs rumors are a great negotiating tool for Epstein. They also bring up the question of what Epstein’s goal is.
Does he want to be GM of the Red Sox for life? As long as Larry Lucchino is in power, Epstein may never supplant him as team president – unless Lucchino left to be commissioner of baseball when Bud Selig calls it a career (at least he says will) after the 2012 season. Lucchino also could be part of a group that buys the Dodgers.
But the prevailing thought is that Lucchino loves being in Boston and there’s no reason for him to go anywhere.
Epstein may want complete control of an operation; a major league source familiar with Epstein’s thinking indicated that this school of thought should not be discounted. While the rift between him and Lucchino seems to be a thing of the past, Lucchino’s presence still keeps Epstein from running the entire organization.
But even if Epstein desires a president-level job, would he really consider leaving the Red Sox in favor of the Cubs? The Boston Globe’s Eric Wilbur thinks maybe he would.
And yet, Theo Epstein is widely underappreciated.
Part of it is our culture. Aside from the majority of Patriot fans, who react to criticism of their team about as well as Kevin Smith reacts to a salad, Boston is very much a “What have you done for me lately?” town. You don’t hear Celtics fans satisfied with 2007, and if the Bruins falter, they’ll experience the same soon. The Red Sox know that well enough when they watched their ratings for the 2010 season plummet. But following an offseason that saw an unprecedented re-tool (Best Team Ever, some say), the Nielsens are up, the Sox are in first place, and…John Henry gets the credit for opening his wallet.
Theo gets criticism for his free agent blunders.
Remember when Epstein pontificated in the spring about there simply being something more pure about building a baseball team from within? I took that as a significant sign that he wasn’t psyched about signing Carl Crawford to a 45-year, $900 million contract, or whatever the numbers were. Believe what you want, but I’m on the side that Crawford was an ownership decision, and that the tradeoff was that the trio allowed Epstein to go out and grab his binky Adrian Gonzalez in exchange. Theo takes the rap for Crawford, Renteria, Lugo, Drew, Lackey. The minority give him credit for Pedroia, Ellsbury, Bard, Lester, Buchholz, when it is indeed the latter that the GM has to be most proud of, and the reason why he should be so highly regarded in baseball.
Theo preaches patience, which is more important in the game’s immediacy and long-haul than anything else. Ownership? What’s in your wallet?
Epstein remains sturdily at the top of most our Cubs GM wish list, and he would probably be up there on a would-be president list, too. But, ultimately, all-things-Epstein is probably an academic discussion. He’s almost certainly not going to be the GM, and I take Tom Ricketts at his word when he says he doesn’t want a “baseball president,” preferring instead that the GM report directly to him. Even if that means closing the door on someone like Epstein.