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It is becoming an increasingly badly kept secret that the Chicago Cubs’ top choice for the open general manager position is Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. That Tampa Bay Rays’ GM Andrew Friedman is number two on the list is similarly becoming a given.

So, while we wait on the Red Sox’s decision about whether to allow the Cubs to interview Epstein (which, of course, may have already happened, and we simply don’t yet know), the Cubs are probably working double time pursuing Friedman, whose Rays were bounced from the ALDS this week.

And, if Rays’ owner Stuart Sternberg were working for the Cubs on the pitch to Friedman, he couldn’t have done much better than he did yesterday. In public. To everyone.

“When I came here, I was confident we could put a winning team on the field, and that would do it,” Sternberg said to reporters after the Rays’ playoff loss. “We won, and we won, and we won and we won … and it didn’t do it. Whatever it is, there are 29 other teams passing us like we’re going in reverse now. Except on the field, and at some point, that changes.

“As the owner, I could have affected things today. Today, and a couple of games where a thumper would thump. I could decide to mortgage the future and trade all the young guys, but the truth is that we would only get $9.82 extra at the gate. So what’s the sense?”

Sternberg is, of course, talking about the Rays’ embarrassing attendance problems, even in the face of back-to-back-to-back very good teams (the Rays’ attendance for Tuesday’s playoff game, 28,229, is less than the Cubs average for a random, meaningless August game against the Pirates). Without an improved revenue stream, Sternberg doesn’t think the Rays can add the players they need via free agency or trade. Indeed, he doesn’t think the franchise can even survive long term.

“It won’t be my decision, or solely my decision,” Sternberg said, with the reported look of a man who had been punched in the gut. “But eventually, major-league baseball is going to vaporize this team. It could go on nine, 10, 12 more years. But between now and then, it’s going to vaporize this team. Maybe a check gets written locally, maybe someone writes me a check [to buy the team]. But it’s going to get vaporized.”

It’s a sad state of things in Tampa Bay, and it’s actually a complex knotting of reasons why the team cannot get the local support it needs to put the on-field product over the top. And Sternberg is probably right: how much longer can an organization, even one run by the brightest minds in baseball, stay competitive with such a disadvantage? I’m not looking to dance on the Rays’ grave here.

But dance we must.

Sternberg’s incisive words have to speak loudest to his GM, Andrew Friedman, who scrambles year in and year out to put a competitive team on the field on a shoe-string budget. When his boss and friend tells the world that the franchise is dying a slow death in spite of those efforts, surely Friedman will have to consider his options.

And, with the Cubs undoubtedly at least reaching out, how could Friedman not listen? Unlike Epstein, Friedman works without a contract, so he’s free to speak to the Cubs any time he chooses.

Given the state of affairs in Tampa Bay, my guess is he chooses, at least, to have that conversation.

 

  • LouCub

    @Matt, these pricks keep sidestepping everything!! Answer the question…I’m feeling better about Theo after hearing these idiots not coming out and saying he’s our GM, he’s staying…I hope Ricketts pulls this off, these guys are useless

  • Toosh

    From Boston this morning, Henry and Lucchino will not say whether or not they have allowed Epstein to talk with the Cubs or if the Cubs have asked. It’s their team policy. They did say they would allow teams to talk with Red Sox employees if they were interested in hiring them. Also, they said Cherington is very active in the search for their new manager. They didn’t mention Epstein in regard to their managerial search.

  • LouCub

    These guys keep sidestepping the issues…”Theo should be here to answer that question”….then why isn’t he???

  • Toosh

    Listening “between the lines” it sounds like the Red Sox would let the Cubs talk with Epstein if they’re interested.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks for the play-by-play, guys. I was listening live and writing up my post so it could go up ASAP. I’m sure others appreciated you guys doing that.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Cubbie_Blue

    Im starting to feel better about theo coming to the north side, does not seem as if the red sawx believe he will stick around if Tom Ricketts talks to him. So lets get this done already and lets get this world series over with and to the offseason we go. I kinda like our chances of getting either CC or CJ Wilson. Either way we need a true number one and a left handed starter at that

  • Timmy

    He seems to be talking about the lack of equity distribution that every single other sport besides baseball enjoys. If a team as smart as Tampa can’t be profitable–and there’s no question that they’re great for baseball–what’s the future of fair competition for the sport? He wants to profit, of course, but the thrust of his comments seem to speak more to the lack of fan support and inability to maintain a competitive team in light of baseball’s lopsided money issues.

  • kingdomusa

    Friedman is the better choice. He did it on a limited budget. Epstien had a plate full of millions to hand out. ricketts is chasing the wrong mam Worry about building a team instead of fixing up EWrigley. Cubs nation wants a championship. Why not Ng too. look at her resume. Shock the world & its time to take the 1st steps & go for it. they both are available so like Larry the Cable guy sez “Get er Done”.

    Hostages:
    1. Bo_Sox holding Ricketts hostage. tell them Friedman is the #1 man now
    2. Cubs holding Quade & riggins hostage….release him to apply elsewhere

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I keep reading the “Friedman did it with a limited budget, therefore he is better than Epstein” argument. Setting aside the fact that Epstein actually accomplished more (two WS), I’m just not sure the argument doesn’t cut both ways. Friedman did it on a limited budget, you’re right. ….but in Chicago, he will not have a limited budget. He’ll have a big budget. Epstein has demonstrated that he knows how, generally, to best use a large budget. Friedman has not yet had that chance. Maybe he’d be great at it. Maybe not. But he’s not going to have five years to build up like he did in Tampa Bay, so the “small market” route is not necessarily the best sales pitch for him.

      To be clear, I’d be just fine landing Friedman. I suspect he’d be great. But, to me, the Epstein/Friedman comparison strongly favors Epstein, the guy who has already done it in a place very much like Chicago, not a place with no media or fan interest/pressure.

      • Ron Swanson

        I agree Brett with the media and fan interest/pressure being the largest wild card with Friedman. It’s why I rank Friedman slightly behind Epstein.

        I still think Friedman could do it but I think he is more likely to need a strong president above him. The Pat Gillick type. I suspect Epstein could do better in the void of Kenney and Ricketts.

      • Jeff

        Just in case everyone forgot or just chooses not to remember correctly:  Andy MacFail was Andrew Friedman long before the Rays were a baseball team.  MacFail actually won two world series with his teams in a market smaller than Tampa.  We all saw how that turned out for the Cubs, and then it turned into the Jim Hendry era.  How’s that saying go?  Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, or something like that.  I think Friedman can be good, but he stocked his system with top 5 and supplemental draft picks that aren’t going to be available in Chicago.  If he’s the guy, there has to be more of a reason to hire him than “he succeeded with a small budget.”

        • Toosh

          Good post.

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