Boston Red Sox General Manager (and Cubs’ Dream Date) Theo Epstein yesterday was asked about rumors connecting him to the Chicago Cubs, who are in the midst of a GM search.
Epstein did very little to squash rumors about the Cubs, and his response was, at a minimum, interesting.
“I try to avoid commenting on things that are so speculative,” Epstein said. “I know there are a couple of articles which have appeared but I’m completely focused on the Red Sox of 2011, first and foremost, and what potentially lies ahead for this club.
“We’re trying to get to the postseason and win the World Series and I spend all my time working with my staff to make this the organization we want it to be for now and in the future,” Epstein continued. “That’s where my exclusive focus is.”
When pushed by reporters for a more concrete answer, he said simply, “Something like that I can’t even contemplate it long enough to comment on it. I’m all Red Sox, all the time …. I’m really happy to be with the Red Sox.”
Taking out the throat-clearing, here’s what Epstein said: I’m not going to comment. I’m happy in Boston. I’m focused on the 2011 Red Sox. I can’t think about the Cubs job enough to comment on it when I’m focused on the Red Sox.
It’s funny how you can take these comments in two diametrically opposed ways. And your “way,” probably depends on your bent.
ESPNBoston, predictably, takes the comments as a “see, he didn’t even offer a hint of interest in leaving Boston.”
The Chicago Tribune, predictably, takes the comments as a “see, he didn’t rule the Cubs’ job out.”
Both, of course, are a fair reading of the comments, but it’s important not to let your predisposition reform the actual words that Epstein used.
For my part, here’s as far as I’m willing to go:
It would have been relatively easy for Epstein to squash this thing right now. He was pressed on the issue, and he could have said he’s not going anywhere. He could have committed to Boston for next season, for which he’s under contract. He could have said, “I’m not going to the Chicago Cubs, and you can print that.”
Very few savvy businessmen would have done that, though. You never want to unnecessarily close doors, and, more importantly in his case, you never want to unnecessarily give up negotiating leverage with your current employer. Whether Epstein’s intentionally obtuse response when asked about the Cubs job was more about the former or the latter, we can only be certain that he consciously chose not to explicitly deny that there will ever be a chance he leaves Boston in favor of Chicago.
Does that mean he’s interested? Not necessarily. Does it mean there’s no chance he leaves Boston? Not necessarily.
It means only that Epstein had a clear chance to squash the entire discussion, and he very clearly elected not to do so.