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Speaking on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan show this morning, Red Sox owner John Henry and president Larry Lucchino addressed the status of their general manager, Theo Epstein. Or, more accurately, they didn’t address it at all, save for, perhaps, a small slip by Henry.

The Chicago Cubs reportedly sought permission to speak to Epstein earlier this week, but, when asked about that report, Henry and Lucchino blanched.

“How do you know that [the Cubs have sought permission]?” they asked, indignantly. Ultimately, the two refused to discuss the reported request. They said it was a team policy not to discuss these kinds of things publicly, and said that other teams probably wouldn’t want them to discuss it, either.

At most, Henry and Lucchino were willing to speak generically about past requests, saying they’ve sometimes granted permission, and sometimes denied it. They said that a team has even previously asked for permission to speak to Epstein (about three years ago), but didn’t go into the details.

When pressed, they conceded that they agree with the general protocol in baseball that, if someone asks for permission to interview one of their employees for a non-lateral position, they grant permission. To put that into the present context, they are saying that, if the Cubs wanted to interview Epstein for a true president-level position, they would grant permission. Whether they would grant permission to interview for a lateral position, however, they refused to answer.

When asked if Epstein was the guy going forward to “spend [their] money,”¬†Henry may have slipped.

He said, as with erstwhile manager Terry Francona, “these things have a shelf life …. Theo is not going to be the GM forever.”

Henry searched for his words.

“He’s the guy now …. he’s done a tremendous job over the past eight years.”

I may be reading too much into it, but Henry sounded like he was choosing his words very carefully. Lucchino remained silent. If there was no chance Epstein would be leaving, I can’t help but believe the response would have been different, or at least more emphatic. That doesn’t mean Epstein is coming to the Cubs, or leaving at all. But I found it interesting.

When discussing the team’s ongoing managerial search, the two mentioned assistant GM Ben Cherington by name as heavily involved in the search, but did not mention Epstein. Inadvertent? Telling? Hard to say.

A final thought: it struck me as very strange that Epstein wasn’t involved in the interview. Sure, he may have had other obligations unrelated to the Cubs’ request, but it was the kind of season post-mortem that you would expect the GM to be the main¬†person doing the talking. I know the Sawx are a little different, but, if Jim Hendry were still the GM, can you imagine Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney doing a radio interview about the season – the first time you’re talking about a range of issues – without Hendry? I can’t fathom it.

So, where do we stand? The wheels are in motion. That’s as much as we know for certain. Were it not so, the denials would have been definitive. Epstein would have been present. We wouldn’t still be hopeful.

The Cubs are probably still reaching out to other prospective candidates, but it now looks increasingly plausible that Epstein is their guy.

  • cdc

    it was either Sullivan or Rogers who said that if Theo came to Chicago it was “likely he would hire Francona as manager”…IF Theo came to Chi town i’d be fine with him hiring Francona, but i’m a big backer of Ryno to be honest. I also like what i’ve heard from Brenly lately and i do think Girardi would be a serious option.

    thoughts?

    • Toosh

      If available, Girardi, then Brenly or Francona.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It was Sullivan, and I think it’s a bit of a reach assumption. Epstein *might* want Francona, but there’s a whole host of possibilities out there.

  • king kong

    Yankees baby :)

  • king kong

    high power

  • king kong

    the chiefs this year sucks hahaha as alwalys.. but whats up with the detroit lions where did they come from cause they used to suck bad but somehow there actually winnning some game… ???????

    • Andrew

      for real. and what’s up with copying and pasting irrelevant info? the NBA lockout sucks. man, i wish those guys would figure it out quick.

      Wait, what’s this chain about. Oh yeah. Theo Epstein.

  • Matt

    It really is a shame we haven’t heard anything yet. We have generated all this excitement and buzz in Cubbie nation, and we are about to go into the weekend with no news. Also, for those counting down the minutes to the Jewish Holiday, the sun sets in Boston at 6:12 PM EST.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Jon Heyman just said on Twitter that he’s hearing Theo will stay with the Red Sox “unless something changes.”

    Take it for what it’s worth – Heyman was massively wrong on the Cubs’ deadline moves and the Jim Hendry firing. Doesn’t mean he’s wrong now, though.

    • King

      If that were true, wouldn’t they have said that this morning? It makes no sense on any level to keep it a secret.

      • Toosh

        That’s Red Sox policy. And perhaps other teams’ as well.

        • King

          Red Sox policy to not discuss other teams’ discussions with their guys, but to not discuss the fact that the guy they have under contract is going to work for them through the contract if that’s the case? If that’s the decision they seem to be dragging it out to the point of no-confidence.

          • funkster

            Agreed. How is it Red Sox policy to not give full backing to Theo as their GM for the future?

    • King

      Also, doesn’t that smack of hedging a bet? You tweet something like that, how can you be wrong?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Agreed on all counts.

  • Brian

    My top GM choices:

    Theo Epstein…I think this guy really understands what it takes to build a winner. Even if the Cubbies can’t make him the GM and he is given some team president title or whatever, I’d be more than happy with that and that would open the possibility of the Cubs making my next favorite the GM. My only thing about Epstein is the rumors about compensation…please do not overpay for the guy. Don’t give up any of our top prospects, we need them!!

    John Coppolella…For years I’ve admired the Atlanta Braves because of their farm system and for years I have hoped that the Cubs would take a similar approach. To build a winner, you need a strong pitching staff. Apparently almost every team around the league has understood that except the Cubs. The Braves always have “that guy” waiting in the minors who can come up and immediately make an impact, especially pitchers. If Theo Epstein was given some executive position and Coppollella made the GM, we’d get the best of both worlds in my opinion. Even if Epstein isn’t given or take a job with the Cubs, Coppolella would be a smart move as the next GM.

    Ben Cherington…IF Theo doesn’t become a member of the Cubs, then Cherington would be a good choice to hopefully help turn the Cubs around.

    Brian Cashman…I’d have to think that he could come right in and make a difference.

    Andrew Friedman…I have him last on the list, only because he’s the GM for a team that isn’t a cash cow like the Cubs. They play in a small market and even though he understands the building from the farm system thing, the Cubs also have the ability to make big splashes in free-agency, which I’m afraid he wouldn’t be good at, just like Hendry wasn’t good at. But he would be a good addition nonetheless.

  • Sean

    October 18th will be the day the cubs hire Epstein. Read between the lines. Cubs asked for permission and they gave it and talked to him already. it wouldnt shock me if they were close to a deal already.

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  • http://TheoWaiting Cheryl

    We may have heard enough to send Ricketts in a different direction. He holds the cards on whether he wants to continue to pursue Epstein. If no decision is made by Tuesday of next week i wouldn’t be surprised if he walked away from Epstein.

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