epstein lucchinoYesterday, quotes attributed to Theo Epstein found in Terry Francona’s forthcoming book made their way around the ‘net, and they purported to put some of the blame for bad moves by the Red Sox in 2010 and 2011 on ownership, rather than Epstein.

The money quote: “They told us we didn’t have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle. We need some sexy guys. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. This is like an absurdist comedy. We’d become too big. It was the farthest thing removed from what we set out to be.”

At the time, I expressed skepticism that Epstein would be throwing his former coworkers and bosses under the bus so publicly. According to Epstein, I was right – but not in the way I thought.

“My quote about how ‘they told us … we needed sizzle’ was in response to a question about the meeting to discuss the consultants’ study on NESN ratings,” Epstein explained, per ESPNBoston. “It was specifically about the consultants’ meeting; it was not about ownership ….

“There is no direct link between that meeting and the Red Sox moves that Winter. I take full responsibility for those moves. It was my job to handle the pressure of a big market and make good decisions.”

So, as expected, Epstein keeps the blame on himself, and isn’t interested in passing the buck. This appears to be a simple misunderstanding about which group Epstein was criticizing (of course, I doubt it was Epstein’s idea to bring in that group of consultants, so … ). Still, I’m sure there’s a bit of truth in Epstein’s original quote – the Red Sox organization had some issues, and it played out for the worst in 2011. And Epstein moved on.

  • ETS

    I think it would be easy to follow a leader like Epstein.

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

      He’s not that hard to follow. Just look for the man in the gorilla suit sneaking quietly out of town.

      • ETS

        Haha, well played.

  • Cooper

    Take the blame and share/spread the praise – that is true leadership.

    I agree, he is a leader I would follow.

  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

    “It was taken out of context” is second only to “I was misquoted” in the universal “I don’t want to take the heat for what I said” playbook. There’ve been at least a half a dozen times in my career that I had a source swear that I had misquoted them, when they didn’t realize that I keep all my audio interview and could play it back for them word-for-word. Then “it’s taken out of context” is usually the next defense.

    “Talk about the tail wagging the dog. This is like an absurdist comedy. We’d become too big. It was the farthest thing from what we set out to be.”

    Those are not the comments of someone who is annoyed to be sitting through a boring meeting about numbers he doesn’t care about. That’s someone annoyed because he feels like he’s being pressured to do something he doesn’t want to do, or at least wants to remember it that way.

    • T C

      While I completely agree with your reading of the two stories, remember that Theo can’t go out and openly bash another organization. It might draw the ire of the MLB, and that organization is one of just 29 others with which you do business, and destroying a relationship with them harms your ability to trade with them in the future if, say, they desperately want Matt Garza

      • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

        A less than charitable interpretation would be that Theo played this to passive-aggressive perfection

        He’s simultaneously made sure that the story about how it wasn’t his fault it was ownership’s is out there *and* that he is on the record with the right generic boilerplate about his own responsibility.

        • ETS

          If he played it to perfection and got away with it, does that not make him a good leader? 😉

          • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

            I don’t mind a bit of Machiavelli in my baseball ops guy. Just like to call a spade a spade.

            • ETS

              In all honesty, I think he butted heads with the guys in Boston and I think he did, like you suggest, backed off his comments by (cleverly) blaming it on consultants.

              But, I’d rather see this than see him burning bridges and starting wars. By saying “oh it was all my fault” he at least makes sure we still have a healthy working relationship with Boston’s front office.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      “It was taken out of context” is also the #1 reply when something was taken out of context.

      • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

        OK, but look at the actual quote and the explanation, and they don’t sync up very well.

        I”They told us we didn’t have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle.”

        OK, that totally makes sense with complaining about consultants.

        “We need some sexy guys.”

        Same. We’re fine so far.

        “Talk about the tail wagging the dog. This is like an absurdist comedy.”

        And it starts to break down. That doesn’t make any sense to be applied purely to the consultants. The tail wagging the dog implies that the consultants had some sort of power that they shouldn’t have had, in Epstein’s opinion.

        Epstein is complaining here about being pressured or forced to do something. The consultants didn’t have that power unless ownership gave them that power, so he’s clearly complaining about ownership.

        ” We’d become too big. It was the farthest thing removed from what we set out to be.”

        Same as above. Consultants telling you sexy players would improve your ratings doesn’t take you further away from what you set out to be. Ownership pressuring you to listen to the consultants does. That’s who this complaint is about.

        (side note, since we love our semantics around here, “farthest” is wrong in that quote. It should be “furthest.”)

        • MichCubFan

          I think the first part is the Theo quote and the second part is Francona commenting on his view of the Theo quote.

          • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

            That is all from a single quote, which Epstein admitted is his.

      • Spoda17

        hahaha, exactly… just because he says it was taken out of context doesn’t mean he is dodging it… it was a quote used incorrectly… that does actually happen.

    • JG

      Before we attribute any kind of tactical, Machiavellian genius to Mr. Epstein or chuck him under the bus for being less than sincere, let’s not forget this is Terry Francona’s tell-all, not Theo’s.

      • FFP

        It is likely that Theo is simply telling the truth.

        The frame Theo puts this quote in also fits the overall picture this books pre-sales push and the Boston group. Some of the other released quotes around Francona’s book are specifically about Boston’s hiring marketing guys. That this was “specifically about the consultants’ meeting” has the ring of truth in it to me. It fits Boston and the way they developed.

        And it fits Theo.

        Thanks, Brett.

        • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

          It quite possibly could be the truth. Boston ownership pressuring Epstein to act in ways he didn’t think were best for the team is very, very plausible.

          My quibble is mostly with the idea that St. Theo is above all that sort of sniping.

          • DarthHater

            Kyle likes to quibble with himself that way, folks. 😉

  • DPRagen


    No, it makes him an excellent public relations man. Everyone can agree on that.

    • ETS

      PR is a major part of leading.

  • Crazyhorse

    I do hope this site strives and gets bigger. I do hope that you can excel and expand , Your work ethic is to be admired. And maybe one day you will have to bring in consultants to expand, improve your product when the time is right ,or you will just do it yourself.

    I have more respect when a leader take responsibility for its actions they took part in . Theo Epstein was a part of team they fail or succeed as a group and they done both to the redsox standards


  • 5412


    I had the privilege of spending an hour with Dallas Green last spring talking about his days with the Cubs. He tripled attendance, made the playoffs, sold the city on allowing night games, made over 100% return on investment in profit which was unheard of yet he was fired for “philosophical reasons”. The Tribune should have promoted him, not fired him, his financial performance was phenonomal.

    The Tribune wanted to mess with the team, they thought it would be fun, and they knew as long as Dallas was there he would not let them. We all know how well that worked out for the next 20+ years. The farm system Green built up was destroyed and Ricketts bought the worst run organization in baseball, in my opinion. Folks don’t realize something like 12 players on the 1989 team that won the division came through the Cub farm system. Nothing close has happend since.

    The year Pujols was drafted in the middle rounds, I checked on the guys the Cubs drafted before him. Only a couple even made it to the major leagues and they played something like a combined 12 games. That was the story of the farm system after Green left. That is the Tribune legacy.

    As I read the comments by Theo and his response, it reminded me of the situation when Green left the Cubs. He was saying similar things. It will be interesting in 20 years or so to hear what Theo has to say as he looks back and can feel comfortble opening up.

    Since Theo left, ownership is meddling and who knows where it will take them. I, for one, am glad we have Ricketts and Theo on our side.


    • Kyle

      Yes, the 1989 Cubs featured 10 farm system products who got at least 100 PAs or 30 IP.

      That number was matched by the 2010 Cubs. The 2011 Cubs upped it to 11. The 2012 Cubs rocked it up to 12, and were just a few IP or PA away from quite a few more.

      Meanwhile, the 2003, 07 and 08 division winners each had just seven.

      Do the Cubs need to draft and develop way better than they did for the last few decades outside of a brief period in the early 2000s? Sure.

      But they need to get better at everything. Good baseball teams are built from having good baseball players, and good baseball players must be acquired by any means necessary. The draft and the farm system have become severely overemphasized by Cubs fans in recent years, overreacting to the failures of the past.

      • jt

        I understand what you are saying… but;
        please try to name a few players on this team of whom you feel comfortable predicting long term performance?
        I don’t know what dey got and I’m not sure they are sure of what they have either.
        If they are still evaluating then it would seem prudent to put off spending till they decide definitive need.
        Jackson is a case in point. They spent because he helps the present and should also in the future. The risk of entangling future resources and a future roster spot is minimized.
        Perhaps the value (or the lack) of many players such as T. Wood will show it self before the AS break and in time for the trade deadline. I’m hoping they become more active by then.