Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Epstein is everything Ricketts wants in GM
By Bruce Levine
Theo Epstein is intrigued by the challenge of turning around the Cubs, according to sources.
Hiring Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein would be a popular move by the Chicago Cubs if they can pry him away from his East Coast roots.
It's believed Epstein is at the top of the Cubs' want list and has been since chairman Tom Ricketts fired Jim Hendry on July 22.
Epstein is everything Ricketts and his family want for the Cubs, who have implemented a lot of the baseball business plan that has been so successful for Boston. The Cubs were using Boston as a plan because of its similarity in age to Fenway Park, which the Red Sox have marketed to the max.
Ricketts was originally led in this direction of using Boston as a business example by Cubs president Crane Kenney. He, along with Ricketts, has made numerous trips to baseball's oldest park in order to use the Fenway blueprint as a guide for a more functional Wrigley Field and better financial streams.
The Cubs would like nothing more than to hire the accomplished and youthful Epstein, who is given credit for conquering the 86-year-old Curse of the Bambino and has been the top baseball man during Boston's championship runs in 2004 and 2007.
A baseball source close to Epstein told ESPNChicago that he would love the challenge of bringing a championship to a franchise that hasn't won in 103 seasons. The same source however cautions that Epstein, a Brookline, Mass., native, loves his job with the Red Sox and his family, including his wife and 3-year-old child, are entrenched in the Boston area.
Baseball people gained a tremendous respect for Epstein almost 10 years ago when he began his journey as a GM, meshing the world of traditional scouting with sabremetrics by hiring the well-respected and accomplished Bill Lajoie as his top major league scout. Lajoie, who built the 1984 World series champion Detroit Tigers as GM, was 68 when he was hired by Epstein in the young GM's first official move.
Epstein would also bring a new day of hope to the Cubs fan base which is growing restless paying the third-highest ticket prices in baseball. The Cubs have been a huge disappointment the past two seasons, finishing fifth in the NL Central.
Industry sources are convinced if the Red Sox allow Epstein to interview he is as good as the next Cubs GM.
There are three possible scenarios:
The Red Sox extend Epstein, who has one year left on his contract at $2.5 million.
The Red Sox tell Epstein he can't interview because of the one year left on his deal.
The Red Sox turn him loose if the Cubs make a long-term offer.
Epstein has the choice in all of these matters other than the extension by the Red Sox. His allegiance and mutual admiration extends to owner John Henry. His relationship with president Larry Lucchino has been business-like functional and frosty over Epstein's nine years as GM.
The independent Epstein will not let money be an issue in his pursuit of job autonomy. He has made somewhere between $12-$14 million as Red Sox GM, according to industry sources. He also played hardball with the Red Sox following the 2005 season when he didn't believe he was being treated fairly and held out from signing with Boston before eventually getting a long-term contract.
Something else to keep in mind is that Epstein has had a close working relationship with Hendry, who will be assured to enlighten him of the pitfalls and perks of the Cubs job.