SBD/June 14, 2012/Franchises

Cubs' Theo Epstein Sits For Wide-Ranging Interview On His Time With The Red Sox

Epstein holds himself accountable for moves that "helped hamstring" Red Sox' payroll
The Red Sox visit Wrigley Field this weekend for a three-game series, and Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein yesterday in a wide-ranging 90-minute interview "reflected on his decade with the Red Sox," according to John Tomase of the BOSTON HERALD. On Epstein's watch, the Red Sox became "a baseball beast with an insatiable appetite for wins, fans, money, ratings, fame." Tomase notes the "Monster" Epstein helped create "eventually got the best of him." He holds himself "accountable for the moves that helped hamstring the team this winter, when a payroll" pushing $200M left new GM Ben Cherington "little flexibility to do anything major." And that is "where The Monster comes in." As the Red Sox’ popularity grew with World Series titles in '04 and '07, "so did the pressure to generate more revenue and advance the brand." It "wasn’t just ownership, or just marketing, or just the limited partners, but a culture permeating the business as a whole." Epstein said, “There are always going to be pressures and tensions, and it was a real palpable thing that we talked about, where there was a natural tendency to look at the successes and the spikes that came with the World Series championships and assume that’s the new baseline." He added, "How do we maintain this and be true to ourselves? How do we fight the natural tendency and desire, especially in some of the revenue-generating parts of any business, to be bigger and do more? How do we fight the natural tendency that comes after winning to not be arrogant as an organization." Epstein: "There was a danger of the tone of the organization becoming too self-important, like, ‘Red Sox Nation is this.’ You can’t even say that sentence without risking sounding overly self-important." Now, Epstein "likes where the organization is positioned." He said, "The organization's actually in really good long-term shape" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/14).

BACK TO BASICS: In an in-depth interview with Dan Shaughnessy of the BOSTON GLOBE, Epstein said, "We joked about it all the time in the front office. We’d say, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could just say, screw free agency altogether. We’re going with a purely home-grown lineup. We’re going with old-school, Branch Rickey-style, pre-free agency, pre-draft whatever?’" He added, "We kind of clung to that in the back of our minds, knowing it was impossible, recognizing that there was an inherent tension between that approach and bigger business. I kind of kick myself for letting my guard down and giving into it, because that might be a better team in some ways and resonate more with the fans than what we ended up with" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/14). In Boston, Eric Wilbur writes Epstein "gets it." Epstein "gets it more than anyone at the top of the Red Sox food chain will ever understand." Wilbur writes, "To the 'Fenway Sports Group' or whatever they call themselves now, they're part of a package that includes, of all things, LeBron James." Wilbur adds, "Today the Red Sox are terribly frightened about TV ratings and that stupid, idiotic, farcical, two-bit lie of a sellout streak, so they panicked and tossed money around" (BOSTON.com, 6/14).
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