(CBS) It was during spring training in Arizona that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein sat down for dinner and discussed a contract extension for Epstein, who’s deal was set to expire at the end of this season. As Epstein tells it, they were both poor negotiators.
“He led by ruining all his leverage in telling me he thought I was the best executive in baseball,” Epstein said Wednesday on the Boers and Bernstein Show. “And then I followed by ruining all my leverage in telling him that even if we couldn’t work out a contract, I’d continue to show up and work at Wrigley Field because I love it here so much.”
Suffice to say, Epstein won’t be working for free. On Wednesday, he agreed to a five-year extension with the Cubs that makes him the highest-paid executive in baseball, with reports indicating the deal is worth in excess of $50 million. Extensions for Jed Hoyer and senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod along the same timeline as Epstein’s will be announced in the coming days, Epstein said.
It wasn’t a difficult decision for Epstein, who said there’s “no place I’d rather be.”
“I never considered leaving,” said Epstein, who added he has no ownership stake in his new deal with the Cubs.
Epstein took over the Cubs baseball operations department in October 2011, tasked with rebuilding from the ground up. He’s done just that. What was a 101-loss team in 2012 now sits at an MLB-best 101-56 entering play Wednesday and is the favorite to win the World Series.
Epstein credited the people around him for the Cubs’ success and the reason for why he enjoys the job so much.
“If you’re not doing it with people you respect and admire, it doesn’t really mean anything,” Epstein said. “The older I get and the longer I’ve been around, the more I realize who you work with and who you work for, it really transcends any other element of your work environment. It’s really the most important thing. I’m extremely lucky to work for the Ricketts family. They’ve followed through on every little thing they’ve promised me when I took the leap of faith and came here. They’ve been patient, they’ve been supportive. They’ve given us resources.”
Epstein doesn’t forsee his passion waning even if the Cubs were to win a championship as soon as this year.
“If we’re lucky enough to win it all, that will just make us hungrier for more,” Epstein said. “Winning begets winning.”
Having ended a long championship drought in Boston in 2004 as the Red Sox general manager, Epstein knows what it takes to win a title. He believes the Cubs have put themselves in the best possible position for one, but he hasn’t allowed himself much time to dream of winning a championship in Chicago. His focus is on the present.
“I don’t think that way,” Epstein said. “We have such a great challenge ahead of us. It’s a team challenge. No individual concerns or individual consequences even enter the equation, and that’s how it should be when you’re working as a team.
“The reason I got into baseball in the first place is because I’m really competitive … but moreover because I really love working in a group setting, a team setting with other people. That’s what I’m motivated by.
“There’s nothing really lamer than people who focus on their own legacies and try to tailor their own legacies and whatnot. That stuff is for when you’re dead or close to it. We got a lot to accomplish.”
Listen to Epstein’s full interview below.