It was happening quietly behind the scenes – for years, according to those in charge – and today it came to fruition: the Chicago Cubs are transitioning from Theo Epstein to Jed Hoyer as President of Baseball Operations. The official announcement included statements from Epstein, Hoyer, and Tom Ricketts, and now the Cubs will hold a press conference to discuss the decision.
I’ll do my best to update on the fly below for those who can’t watch.
You can watch Theo Epstein's press conference live starting at 1 p.m.
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) November 17, 2020
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Epstein opens up sharing background on his decision, and offering up some thanks. He acknowledges the plan was always to be around for 10 years or so, which meant he’d been communicating with Tom Ricketts for the past several years on a transition plan. That plan was to transition next fall (presumably to Jed Hoyer, just like today), but this summer it became clearer to Epstein that it should be moved up a year: (1) big, long-term decisions have to be made, and they should be made by the next leader; (2) the pandemic strained the budget such that having Epstein back for a walk year on his salary was going to make things even tougher.
Epstein says Hoyer is aware and realistic about where things need to change, even if he does offer some continuity. He credits Hoyer with much of the changes that took place last year on the scouting and player development front. Hoyer is his own man.
To Cubs fans, from Epstein: “It really is different here, and that’s thanks to you guys.”
Tom Ricketts takes the mic, praising Epstein’s tenure atop the Cubs. Paraphrasing: After nine years of great work, Epstein is leaving, but he’s not leaving an organization in the lurch. The organization is in great shape. And the sustained success will continue. This is now an organization that expects to win, not one that is surprised to win.
Ricketts says that Hoyer has had so many opportunities to take the top job elsewhere, but stayed loyal to the Cubs, and now the Cubs get to gain one of the best leaders in baseball.
Back to Epstein for questions, he says he never rules anything out, but he does not expect run another baseball org right away. Wants to take some time away first.
Epstein confirms that because he’s leaving now, his remaining salary (reportedly $10 million) stays with the organization. As they considered the impact of the pandemic, they were thinking about the short-term challenges – and, yes, Epstein thought things would be a little easier, financially, for the Cubs if he departed. That wasn’t the primary consideration, however.
Ricketts: From my standpoint, the money had nothing to do with it. [Is asked if money will be reallocated.] Ultimately, the resources stay in the organization, so yes, but the money was not a driver. Epstein jumps in to say Ricketts has never brought up the money.
Epstein says he’s self-aware enough to know he’s good at/passionate about building and growing, but maybe not as much about maintenance and sustaining. When you realize that, it might be time to move on.
Being part of an ownership group, if the opportunity comes along, sounds appealing to Epstein, knowing how impactful you can be in that role (not just to an org but to the community). If not that, either way, short-term and long-term, he wants to stay involved in the game.
It’s been a productive couple years in the org “rebuilding” the front office a bit, according to Epstein (references “starting over” in scouting and player development). This move will afford Hoyer the opportunity to consider the right addition from the outside (as GM, possibly), but also consider who the org already has in place. It’s rare you have an opportunity for this kind of seamless transition from one regime to the next, and that’s a credit to Ricketts and Hoyer and the org. Continuity is still important. But also getting some fresh perspective.
Ricketts leaves it to Jed Hoyer to discuss GM role. Acknowledges it’s possible Hoyer could run it on his own, but it sounded mostly like he was just saying it’s up to Hoyer.
Ricketts says Hoyer knows this will be uniquely challenging years, and there’s a lot of uncertainty about fans in the stands and when the season will start.
Epstein says there are some threats to the game in the way things are evolving on the field (references analytics and optimization may have unwittingly had an impact on the entertainment value of the game). Need more balls in play, more defense, less strikeouts, less three-true-outcomes, etc. Want the players to be able to show off more of what they can do. THEO FOR COMMISSIONER.
Contrasting styles, Epstein says Hoyer is more measured. More contemplative, methodical. The systems in place and the relationships in place will evolve in a way that reflects his approach and personality.
A deal that stands out to Epstein where Hoyer was the driver: during the negotiations with the Orioles about Scott Feldman (remember that), Hoyer kept pounding the table that we could get a throw-in and it should be this guy named Pedro Strop, even though he’d been terrible recently.