By Matt Spiegel-
(WSCR) Remember when I told Cubs fans that they should be rooting hard for a Red Sox collapse? They got their wish. That organization is suddenly a bleeding carcass, and the Cubs may be there to feast on some of the carnage.
Theo Epstein dreams were fed mildly by Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino at the Terry Francona farewell press conference, when he was asked about Theo’s future with the team. Lucchino said “we’re not prepared to answer that question here. This is a press conference about the contributions that Tito [Francona] has made to this franchise. Besides, Theo is under contract with us, so it is an issue that has not been addressed or discussed.”
That is not no. “No” hasn’t come from Boston on this issue, from anyone including Theo.
Then Saturday, this tweet from New York Post national baseball writer Joel Sherman, who is very respected, with excellent contacts around the game:
“I am shocked, but in last 36 hrs every exec talk to says believe #Redsox will give permission and Theo will go to #Cubs to be GM”
Here’s what I know.
The Cubs have absolutely been waiting for the end of the Red Sox season to talk to him. There are forces within the existing Cubs front office that go way back with Theo, to his days as a lowly PR assistant with the San Diego Padres in his 20’s.
Theo has several reasons to be unhappy in Boston. Ownership did not support Francona, while Theo clearly did. He and Francona had a great relationship, that went only mildly sour, and the manager bailed for reasons above and below the GM.
Theo felt a bit forced by ownership to make some of the recent big money moves that have blown up in his face. He knew Carl Crawford was a bad idea. It’s still his responsibility…you don’t absolve him of that, just as we don’t absolve Jim Hendry of Alfonso Soriano’s contract. Even if Crane Kenney and John McDonough were strong forces in that signing, the GM can and should stand tall and say no. But still, Theo may not want to be part of what I’ve called “Evil Empire B” in Boston anymore. He liked the building more than the maintenance.
That team is suddenly looking a bit old, lazy, and slow, with no great young starting pitchers in the pipeline. And down the stretch, they played with what Francona called “a sense of entitlement.” Some serious culture change needs to go on there; too many guys are fat and happy.
I’ve also been told there are some non-baseball issues in Boston that make Theo a little restless.
Tie to all of this the following: Crane Kenney is not being involved in baseball decisions at this moment in the organization. Maybe he was in the past, but he’s not now. The well-connected blogger (http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-insider) who told us Crane Kenney will be out by season’s start next year…well, he stands by his source even more firmly today. Crane Kenney could absolutely be moved aside, or down in the organization if that’s what it took to get Theo.
It remains to be seen whether the Cubs will be used as leverage, and if Theo simply gets a promotion from Red Sox owner John Henry. Peter Gammons suggested over the weekend that the Red Sox could react by making Theo a “co-CEO,” with Lucchino, with Ben Cherington the GM. Cherington was present in all the major post-season organizational meetings.
Cubs fans should absolutely want Theo Epstein. Those that have called him an East Coast Hendry are being naively simplistic. Yes the last few years have seen some bad moves of gluttony, but look at all the homegrown talent. There’s Pedroia, Ellsbury, Buchholz, Lester, Bard, Papelbon and more, not to mention the prospects it took to get Josh Beckett out of Florida: Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez. Plus, Theo’s relationship with Francona is exactly what you want from a GM/manager. They shared the long-view, even as the short view was being satisfied.
For now, it’s more of a possibility than anyone could have dreamed, and the best imaginable outcome.