One of the more interesting September story lines is the surprising resurgence of the Tampa Bay Rays and the flagging of the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox were locked into the AL’s final playoff spot as recently as two weeks ago, but, following a three-game sweep by the Rays, the Sox stand just three games ahead of the Rays.
Why do I say this is interesting? Is it because I care deeply about the AL East and the tantalizing and infinitely repeating story that is the Red Sox and Yankee dominance thereof? Is it because I like seeing the little guy come back?
Don’t be ridiculous. I care only about the Cubs.
The Cubs, as you may or may not recall, have a job opening that they might well like to fill with one of the two gentleman currently running the Boston and Tampa Bay organizations – general managers Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman, respectively. Though Chicago Cubs Chairman and Owner Tom Ricketts might be willing to wait out baseball’s playoffs for a chance to speak to the candidates of his choice, it couldn’t hurt to start that/those dialog(s) as soon as possible.
That’s why the AL East race intrigues me. Only one of the Red Sox and Rays will make the playoffs (the Yankees are up four on the Red Sox and seven on the Rays), and it’s possible that whichever GM candidate’s team stays home could find its leader in early talks with the Cubs. At least, that’s what we hope.
But Tampa Bay owner Stuart Sternberg, a close friend of Friedman’s, doesn’t sound particularly concerned about his leading man heading off for greener pastures after his team’s season is over.
“I’m concerned about anything happening good or bad for any of my employees,” Sternberg said, “but Andrew is a partner here. He’s a partner of mine. And he treats this organization even better than I possibly can. There’s nothing to report on [Friedman looking at other positions after the season] …. We’ve been at it now, it’ll be six years, and it doesn’t feel like six years, and I would think we would keep the band together another six years.”
If you’re desperate to read in a pang of fear, you could probably find it somewhere in the “I would like to think we would keep the band together” part. But, to me, there isn’t much meat there.
Still, an owner’s confidence that his GM will not leave is to be expected. That one friend and partner would not want to believe another friend and partner would leave their enterprise is unsurprising. What would be surprising is if Friedman absolutely refuses to consider the possibility of escaping the AL East for greener pastures (green = money with which to play). I won’t predict he’d actually leave, but to not explore the option at all?
For what it’s worth, Sternberg says no one has asked for permission to speak to Friedman, but that doesn’t mean much for at least two three reasons: (1) the Cubs might well be waiting to interview candidates like Friedman until after their team’s season is effectively over (which is probably the right thing to do); (2) Sternberg has no reason to candidly say, “yes, the Cubs asked to interview Andrew, and I said ‘sure'”; and (3) Ricketts has said he’ll be keeping the search quiet, and as I’ve already noted, the Cubs have circulated a request to all teams to please keep contacts between the Cubs and prospective interviewees strictly confidential (something I’m certain other teams will honor as a professional courtesy). Remember: the Cubs kept Jim Hendry’s firing a secret for a month. If they don’t want interview information to leak, it won’t.
That all said, it remains likely that the Cubs will at least attempt to make a pitch to Friedman. Whether he’ll listen – be available to listen – is up to him. In the meantime, Friedman will have to hope his $40 million Rays can continue a late season hot streak to catch the two $160 million+ behemoths that (always) tower over them.