Report: Cubs ask to talk to Theo Epstein
BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox majority owner John W. Henry took to the social media Twitter on Tuesday night to break his public silence, but he did not address a published report that the Chicago Cubs had asked permission from the Red Sox to interview general manager Theo Epstein.
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, reached by phone Tuesday night, also issued a "no comment" when asked about the report.
Henry spent much of the 31 minutes he was on Twitter describing how he was briefed on the Red Sox managerial search by Epstein and his assistant Ben Cherington.
"Another productive day this week at Fenway,'' Henry tweeted. "(Chairman) Tom (Werner), Larry and I were briefed by Theo and Ben on the managerial search. Due diligence this week.''
He added: "Calls and maybe interviews next week. Excited to once again bring in smart, creative, hands-on leadership. We have the right people looking."
But as to a report by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy that the Cubs had asked for permission to interview Epstein, Henry ignored several tweeted requests for a response, at least some from reporters.
Cubs spokesman Peter Chase said Tuesday night that the Cubs declined comment on the report.
Henry had not surfaced publicly since the Red Sox were eliminated in shocking fashion from the playoff contention on the final day of the regular season. The following day, he tweeted his congratulations to the Tampa Bay Rays, who beat out the Red Sox for the wild card, and also issued an impressionistic observation of the city in the wake of defeat.
"A very quiet day in Boston after a terrible, terrible month for the fans,'' he tweeted. "Night after night they came, they tuned in. Rain, quiet streets.''
Last Friday night, when the Red Sox announced they were not picking up the two-year option on Francona's contract, Henry was to have attended a press conference at Fenway Park to address that decision. But he reportedly fell on his yacht and went to the hospital instead with what Werner described as a "very minor" injury.
Henry joked about his fall on Twitter: "Rushing downstairs is dangerous for an old guy.''
But Henry did not respond to a number of questions asking whether new Cubs owner Tom Ricketts had followed through on what has been widely speculated for weeks and asked for permission to interview Epstein. The Cubs are searching for a new general manager to replace the fired Jim Hendry, and the Cubs would be in a position to offer Epstein a dual role of GM and president, much like that held by David Dombrowski of the Detroit Tigers.
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Ricketts was interviewed on Monday by Fox Business Network and asked if he had interest in bringing Epstein to Chicago.
"I don't know, there are a lot of good candidates out there," Ricketts said. "We're going to talk to a handful of them and I'm sure we'll come up with the right fit for the team. Ultimately it will be the decision of myself and my family. Obviously we didn't get it done on the field this year. It was a disappointing season for everyone, but we're going to get some new leadership."
Ricketts has not identified any of the candidates he intends to pursue for the job, but in addition to Epstein, there are a number of high-profile general managers who could crack his list, including Brian Cashman of the Yankees, Andrew Friedman of the Rays and Billy Beane of the Athletics.
Ricketts has said that the Cubs, who finished in fifth place for a second straight season with a 71-91 record, can reverse their fortunes quickly. Under Hendry, the team went to the postseason in back-to-back years in 2007-08 for the first time in 100 years, but were swept in three games in the first round each time.
"Going to both this season and last season, we thought we had a team that would perform better than it turned out to perform," Ricketts said, according to FBN. "You can't go back in time, you look forward, we have a lot of good things to build on and we'll get there."
Epstein has been Boston's GM since 2003. He ended the team's 86-year drought without a World Series title in 2004 and assembled another World Series winner three years later. The Red Sox have failed to make the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, with the 2011 team becoming the first to blow a nine-game advantage as late as Sept. 2.
The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908, a span of 103 years. To be the man to end the so-called "Curse of the Billy Goat" as well as the so-called "Curse of the Bambino" could prove irresistible.
One major league source close to Epstein said it was "50-50" that Epstein would leave for the Cubs if granted the opportunity.
"I wouldn't be shocked either way,'' the source said. "I know he's not dying in the Red Sox job, and if he went to the Cubs and they won, he'd be a Hall of Fame general manager.''
Epstein has a year remaining on his contract with the Red Sox, which creates the scenario of the Sox asking for compensation should the Cubs decide to hire him. Epstein has told confidants that he feels great loyalty toward the Red Sox and Henry, believes in honoring his contract and feels an obligation to make sure the house is in order before he contemplates making a move.
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The team's September collapse has complicated his decision even further, Epstein has told confidants. But the Sox may have a successor in place in Cherington, who has been with the organization since 1999. When Epstein resigned from the team after the 2005 season, a resignation that became instead a brief hiatus, Cherington and another Epstein lieutenant, Jed Hoyer, were made co-general managers by the Henry ownership team.
Hoyer has since left to become general manager of the San Diego Padres, but Cherington is known to have a good working relationship with the owners. One Sox official said he would be "very surprised" if the Sox did not promote Cherington if Epstein left.
Epstein did not respond to a request for comment. One club official insisted Tuesday that it was business as usual for the Sox GM.
Asked about the likelihood Epstein would leave, he said: "All I can tell you is (Epstein) is working with the same vigor and passion to make the Red Sox better. I realize that sounds like a company line, but it is the truth.''
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.