Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

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.

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