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SBD/October 26, 2011/FranchisesPrint All
Theo Epstein, who was introduced as Cubs President of Baseball Operations at a Wrigley Field news conference yesterday, is the team's "latest answer to their 103-year-old championship drought," according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Epstein signed a five-year, $18.5M deal to "make all baseball-related decisions in the organization, reporting directly" to Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts. Crane Kenney, "Ricketts' top adviser, has the title now of president of business operations." Sullivan notes the "early scouting reports on Epstein are promising, after one day in office." He has "no illusion about the 'ultimate challenge' of winning a World Series with the Cubs." Sullivan notes if yesterday's "opening remarks are to be believed," Kenney "will remain in the loop." Epstein said Kenney was "working tirelessly" to get the deal done to bring Epstein to Chicago and referred to him as "my partner on the business side of the organization" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/26). Epstein "talked of the Cubs' regularly reaching the playoffs and ultimately winning the World Series." But he added, "That does not happen overnight, and it certainly does not happen because of any one person. Over time and together, we will build a solid foundation that delivers sustained success for the Cubs." Epstein said, "Our goal will be to build the best scouting department in the game, one that makes an annual impact in the draft and internationally" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/26). When Ricketts began his search for a new GM, he said that he "studied other teams and how they went about their business, as well as talked to about 20 people to find the right person to head the Cubs' baseball operations department." Ultimately, he "settled on Epstein, and Ricketts said he knew after 10-15 minutes into their first conversation that he had targeted the right person" (MLB.com, 10/25).
WIND OF CHANGE: Epstein said that Red Sox Owners John Henry and Tom Werner "offered him any role he wanted in the team and the Fenway Sports Group, and that he appreciated the sentiment, but he had pretty much made up his mind" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26). In Boston, Michael Silverman reports before Epstein decided to leave for the Cubs, he considered "carving out a position with more power with the Red Sox." Epstein said, "I contemplated it, but the more thought I put into it, the more I looked at the way things were there, the way they were likely to be, (I) just felt like I would be either fighting upstream or trying to come up with a job description that claimed, kicking and screaming, that I wasn’t still running the baseball operation but I really would be" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/26). Also in Boston, Peter Abraham writes it will be "interesting to see which Red Sox employees -- if indeed any -- follow" Epstein to Chicago. Epstein yesterday said, "There’s not going to be any raid." New Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that Epstein "hasn't asked for permission to speak to any Sox staff members and any such requests would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis." If, for instance, somebody "blocked from advancing in Boston could better themselves in Chicago, the Sox might be willing to stand aside" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26). MLB.com's Peter Gammons wrote Epstein "never stopped trying to build the model he dreamed of when he took over the Red Sox, and more important than the two titles and Fenway Park sellouts, he left the organization to his close friend far, far better than he found it, with a value system that reflects the family structure in which he was raised, a half-mile from Fenway Park" (MLB.com, 10/25).
FRONT-OFFICE MOVES: The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Sullivan notes Epstein "did not mention who the group was that would get together to decide" whether to retain Mike Quade as manager or hire someone new. Padres GM Jed Hoyer presumably "would be hired as general manager by then." While Hoyer "remains with the Padres, Epstein must refrain from addressing his imminent move." Epstein said, "Eventually we will (hire a GM), but we're looking for the right people. Obviously there's some scuttlebutt going on right now about things that are happening" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/26). In Chicago, Gordon Wittenmyer notes the Cubs' "new president of baseball operations -- or 'savior,' for short -- takes a vision of organization- and culture-building into his new job that involves producing a 'Cubs Way' handbook." How much Epstein and Hoyer "will lean on the existing Cubs front-office and scouting personnel is uncertain at least," but it is clear Epstein "has become the Cubs' most powerful baseball employee since Frank Chance." While Epstein insisted that it "definitely isn't a one-man show," the "only others assured of co-starring roles at this point" are Hoyer and his assistant GM, Jason McLeod (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/26). ESPN CHICAGO.com's Jon Greenberg wrote of Epstein, "It's safe to say he's got the authority to do whatever he wants" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 10/25). ESPN.com's Jim Bowden wrote in Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod, the Cubs "have gathered three general manager-caliber individuals." While Hoyer will "surely have latitude, make no mistake, Epstein will have close oversight." The dynamic will "more closely resemble what GM Chris Antonetti and team president Mark Shapiro have in Cleveland." The Cubs' hiring of Epstein, Moyer and McLeod "represents a significant change in thinking amid baseball front offices" (ESPN.com, 10/25).
MAN OF THE MOMENT: In N.Y., Dan McGrath writes, "Personable and well spoken, Epstein was alternately self-assured and self-deprecating" during the news conference in Chicago yesterday. After two years of "ineffectual leadership," Ricketts "has gained the favor of Cubs fans for landing a strong executive with a proven track record." Epstein jerseys "were already on sale in the Cubs' souvenir shop." Ricketts said, "As the chairman, I’m pleased with the results of our search. As a Cub fan, I’m excited by it. I can’t think of a better person for this job" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26). In Chicago, Joe Cowley writes the team is "finally moving in a forward direction and has the right man pulling the sleigh." Cowley: "Ricketts landed a rock star" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/26). Comcast SportsNet Chicago's Todd Hollandsworth noted that during the press conference, Epstein said “a lot of the right things.” Hollandsworth: “He’s got a vision and he’s got a plan and he’s going to execute it. That is going to happen. It’s just a matter of time.” Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s Chuck Garfien: “On paper, it certainly seems like he is the perfect person needed for the Cubs franchise at this point” (Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 10/25). The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Sullivan writes the hiring "has been so well received in Chicago that Epstein seemed a little embarrassed by all the attention" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/26). ESPN CHICAGO's Greenberg wrote Epstein's arrival "has been met with expected, over-the-moon optimism." Greenberg notes Epstein "sees the hilarity of stores selling his Cubs jersey." Epstein: "I should probably have another press conference right now to resign. Because my popularity is definitely going to be at an all-time high right now" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 10/25).
NEXT CHICAGO LEGEND? In Boston, Nick Cafardo writes, "Halas, Ditka, Jordan. And now, Epstein?" Cafardo: "There was euphoria among Cubs fans outside Wrigley Field cheering and hollering Theo Epstein's name" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26). In Chicago, Dave van Dyck writes Epstein "proved to be part baseball philosopher, part professional pamphleteer, part professional pitchman." When asked about being sighted at a Starbucks in Chicago, Epstein said, "Actually I'm a little bit more of a Dunkin' (Donuts) guy, and now that I've learned that Dunkin' supports the Cubs, that's a good thing" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/26). Van Dyck added, "I thought he was near-flawless today. … If you’re a speech major, you give him an A+ in ‘Speechology'" (Chicago SportsNet Chicago, 10/25). In Chicago, David Haugh writes, "Young, bright and debonair, Epstein inspired idealism from the masses with a polished rhetorical performance that lived up to the billing" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/26). The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Steve Rosenbloom writes Epstein "said all the right things colorfully, comfortably and confidently." Rosenbloom: "It will take time. It will be worth it" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/26). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey notes Epstein "clearly is aware of the oversized expectations of him, and it’s probably why he stressed the team dynamic so often Tuesday." Morrissey asks, "When was the last time there was this much anticipation in town for the arrival of a sports figure?" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/26). YAHOO SPORTS' David Brown: "Ricketts scored in the biggest way possible" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/25).
Red Sox yesterday introduced Ben Cherington as the team's 11th GM in a press conference at Fenway Park, according to Gary Dzen of the BOSTON GLOBE. Cherington "takes over during a trying time for the Red Sox organization, but he also takes over for one of the most successful executives in team history," Theo Epstein. Cherington yesterday said, “We’ve let our fans down in some important ways recently. The last few weeks have been painful and difficult. But what I’m left with is an incredible conviction that the Red Sox will be the best organization in baseball.” Cherington, who was joined yesterday by team President & CEO Larry Lucchino, added, “There will be changes” (BOSTON.com, 10/25). Cherington: "The Red Sox will be the best organization in baseball moving forward. I'm convinced of that because I know that John (Henry), Tom (Werner) and Larry care more than any other ownership group" (N.Y. POST, 10/26). MLB.com’s Ian Browne wrote Cherington “had been working tirelessly for the club for the last 13 years -- 10 under the current ownership -- and that was a far bigger proving ground than any other candidate could have had in a job interview.” Lucchino said, “He is the ultimate team player and his hunger for the future success of the Boston Red Sox is second to none. In his quiet way, eschewing the spotlight and the accolades, Ben and the Red Sox organization are inextricably intertwined. I could not at this point in Red Sox history imagine Ben with any other organization and I have trouble imagining the Red Sox without Ben Cherington" (MLB.com, 10/25). In Boston, Peter Abraham lists some things that “stood out” during the press conference, writing, “You can spent hours parsing the words of the Machiavellian Lucchino. But it was interesting to hear him praise Cherington as a team player and somebody who didn't seek the spotlight. Shots, perhaps, at a certain former GM?” (BOSTON.com, 10/25).
FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS: On Long Island, Anthony Rieber writes Epstein left Cherington “with a PR mess but a world of talent and an organization that before September had been lauded as one of the best in baseball” (NEWSDAY, 10/26). Cherington said that “the parties agreed ‘significant compensation’ was due the Red Sox for Epstein, and they’ve made some progress.” Cherington: “Theo and I will now try to work that out in the coming days, and if we can’t, then we’ll turn it over to the commissioner and let him decide” (USA TODAY, 10/26).
TWO THUMBS UP FOR THE NEW GUY: In Boston, Chad Finn writes the “new guy sure sounds an awful lot like the old guy.” Cherington “owned his press conference, presenting himself as prepared, focused, confident and informed, but with appealing asides of self-effacing humor.” The press conference was “impressive,” and the Red Sox “get a seamless transition to a well-rounded, dedicated executive” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26). Also in Boston, Peter Abraham notes Cherington was “honest in his assessment of various problems and didn’t duck for cover on any questions.” Abraham: “Fans will appreciate that style” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26). The BOSTON GLOBE’s Bob Ryan writes, “The truth is he’s not Epstein, and, for him, that will be a good thing.” Epstein was the “rock-star GM of an iconic franchise,” but Cherington is “a quiet, low-key guy known to this point only by insiders and by a pop culture subset of fans who know that his ex-wife” is ESPN’s Wendi Nix. Lucchino said, “I have seen the effect Ben has on the people he works with. He definitely has the respect and admiration of his co-workers” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26).
WHERE WERE HENRY & WERNER? Lucchino, the only member of the Red Sox ownership group to attend yesterday's press conference, said that Henry and Werner were “out of town.” He “cautioned reporters not to read anything into the absences” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26). ESPN BOSTON’s Gordon Edes wrote, “Finally, some good news on Yawkey Way: One of their own was being promoted to general manager.” But Henry and Werner yesterday “were nowhere to be found,” and that “wasn't the case in 2002 at Theo's coming-out party.” Lucchino said, "I believe they're here in spirit. I suspect they're watching every golden minute of this press conference. One's in California; one's in Florida.” Edes noted Henry and Werner “had four days to clear their schedules for this event,” and it “would have been advisable to show up instead of leaving Cherington and Lucchino to pick up all the pieces.” Cherington acknowledged that as a new GM he “will be relying on collaboration with others, which probably means Lucchino's voice regains some of the prominence it lost when Epstein bolted six years ago and Henry had to lure him back with promises of greater autonomy” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 10/25). The BOSTON GLOBE’s Abraham writes it “seems odd” that Henry and Werner were not in attendance. Given the “public perception of the team these days, Henry should have been there” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26).
Blue Jays President & CEO Paul Beeston issued a "formal announcement" yesterday that read, "Due to the distraction caused by media speculation regarding our employee permission policy, the Toronto Blue Jays have amended their policy and will not grant permission for lateral moves." The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair reports two days after a report indicated that the Red Sox viewed Blue Jays Manager John Farrell as their "preferred choice to replace departed manager Terry Francona, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos was clear: Blue Jays employees will not be able to make lateral moves, even if compensation is offered." The Jays have been "like the vast majority of pro sports teams in that they didn’t stand in the way of employees being courted for promotions." But Blair notes they will "now be in lock-step with everyone else when it comes to lateral moves" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/26).
HALLOWEEN TREAT: ESPN N.Y.'s Marchand & Matthews reported the Yankees and GM Brian Cashman "fully expect to have a new contract signed by Halloween." A team official said yesterday, "It will be done by Oct. 31." Since the regular season ended, Cashman and Yankees officials "have repeatedly stated they expect Cashman to return." It is "just a matter of when it will be officially announced." Reports yesterday indicated that Cashman and Yankees Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner "met at Yankee Stadium." Cashman later this week "will head to Tampa for the team's organizational meetings" (ESPNNY.com, 10/25).
FISHING IN FLORIDA: In L.A., Mike DiGiovanna cited sources as saying that the Angels "remain highly interested" in Rays Exec VP/Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, but their chances of "luring the 34-year-old executive away from the Rays are slim." Friedman's "loyalty to Tampa Bay Owner Stuart Sternberg, who has referred to Friedman as 'a partner,' appears to be the biggest obstacle to the Angels luring him to Anaheim" (L.A. TIMES, 10/25).
PRICE ADJUSTMENT: The Mariners and Qcue yesterday announced a partnership that will allow for dynamic pricing on single-game tickets for the '12 season. The Mariners will use Qcue software to set and adjust ticket prices in real-time based on demand for a game, taking into account factors such as day of the week, weather, opponent, pitching matchups and team performance. It is estimated that the majority of Mariners tickets for next season will be priced at or below '11 prices (Mariners).
MAKE THE SWTICH: In Houston, Richard Justice noted he is in favor of the Astros switching to the AL in '13. Justice: "I think a Rangers-Astros rivalry overshadows the extra late games. I also like the idea of having the Yankees or Red Sox at Minute Maid Park every season" (CHRON.com, 10/24).