It seems perfectly sensible now that Theo Epstein left the Red Sox to take on the task of rebuilding the Cubs, but at the time it was a complete shock. First, that Theo would want to come, and second, that the Ricketts didn’t screw it all up. Here’s the Oral History that first ran on October 11, 2011. The footnotes are new.
After what seemed like an ill-fated two month courtship, the Chicago Cubs have actually hired Theo Epstein away from the Boston Red Sox to become President and General Manager. Epstein is one of the highest regarded GMs in the game, which makes his desire to work for the Cubs all the more puzzling. How did it happen? Why did it happen? Desipio talked to all of the key players to find out.
TODD RICKETTS, Co-owner Chicago Cubs, Househusband, Bike shop owner
(Brother) Tom (Ricketts) is going to say this was all his idea, but it was my idea. I told Tom that the Red Sox are awesome and they always win and that we should hire the guy that is the boss over there. When I heard that story about Theo Eckstein (sic) sneaking out of their park in a gorilla suit, I knew that was our guy. I’m pretty proud of what I did to make it all happen.1
TOM RICKETTS, CEO, Chicago Cubs
Todd played a huge role in this. (Brother) Pete, (Sister) Laura and I told him that the only way this would work is if he had nothing to do with it. That he stayed out of it was huge. And unlikely. Laura really made it happen, she bought him a Kinect for his XBox 3602 and it’s taken him the better part of six weeks to figure out how to hook it up. It really kept him out of our hair.
I knew in late June that it was time for (former Cubs GM) Jim Hendry to go. Really it was for three reasons. First, we weren’t performing on the field. B. I didn’t like the direction of the organization. Three, we’re self-insured and if his next heart attack didn’t kill him, the number of bypasses he was going to need were going to break us.
I knew that I wanted Theo Epstein if there was any chance we could get him. I didn’t want to hire an interim GM to get us to the trade deadline, so I told Jim in early July and asked him to stay on until sometime in August. You know, to get us through the trade deadline and most of the waiver stuff. He generously offered to do so. Especially after I reminded him how generously he was going to still be getting paid to not do anything, and how generously he was being paid for six playoff game wins in ten years.3
JIM HENDRY, Former Cubs General Manager
The Ricketts family were pretty great to me. I didn’t have a problem staying on after I knew I was shitcanned. I also stole a roll of toilet paper a day from the executive shitter for six straight weeks. So I’ve got enough free toilet paper in my house to last me…about nine more days. Pretty sweet.
CRANE KENNEY, President, Chicago Cubs
Jim and I continue to have a great relationship. He’s one of my best friends.
Crane’s an asshole and I’ve always hated his prissy little guts. I hope he drowns.
I’m hungry. You want to go with me while I see if there are any hot dogs left in the dumpster?
My first contact with the Red Sox was the day after they broke the 1969 Cubs record for biggest lead ever lost in the month of September. I called John Henry to ask him if I could talk to Theo about a job with the Cubs. John was really great about it. It had to be a tough day for him. While I was on the phone with him he tried to kill himself on his boat.
JOHN HENRY, Principal Owner, Boston Red Sox
I didn’t try to kill myself, I slipped and fell “on my boat” I didn’t fall off of the thing.
It’s only human to have suicidal thoughts. I have them every time I sign a pay check for Carlos Silva.4
Tom called and asked permission to talk to Theo. Theo was still going to be under contract for us in 2012 so I didn’t have to grant the permission. But it was going to be a promotion for him and the Cubs are a great organization, and I love Theo like a son. And if my real son had a $160 million payroll and missed the playoffs in epic failure, I’d send his ass to the Cubs, too.
LARRY LUCCHINO, President/CEO Boston Red Sox
John told me that the Cubs wanted to talk to Theo, and I agreed that if it were a great opportunity for Theo he should do it. I’m not saying that I won’t miss him. He’s like a son to me. A son that I really enjoyed undermining whenever I got a chance. I’m going to miss that.
It wasn’t long after John and I spoke that I got a call from someone high up in the Cubs organization checking Theo’s references.
RONNIE WICKERS, Homeless self-employed window washer
Larry (Woo!) did Theo (Woo!) really go to (Woo!) Princeton (Woo!) and did he (Woo!) work for you (Woo!) with the Padres (Woo!)?
I told the guy that Theo went to Yale and to the University of San Diego for his J.D. And then I told him to stop yelling at me through my bedroom window.
TOM WERNER, Chairman, Boston Red Sox
Yeah, she’s a tiger in there. We’ve been kicked out of hotels, I mean really, really nice hotels, for being way too loud, several times. Wait, why are you asking about Katie?
AL YELLON, Cubs season ticket holder (bleachers), blogger
[You have been banned by Bleed Cubbie Blue.]
TERRY FRANCONA, Former manager, Boston Red Sox
I like the blue ones the best. The white ones make me sleepy.
I think the Red Sox collapse, in a way, made it tougher for Theo to leave the Red Sox. I mean, who wants the last memory of a place to be a public, humiliating, failure? It’s go to be tough to leave the Red Sox after something so traumatic.
GRADY LITTLE, Former Red Sox manager
Ummm, derp, derp, yeah, that would be embarrassings, derp, derp.
Did I mention what an asshole Crane is? I did? OK, good. Well, he is. Are you going to include that in this piece? You should. I mean, he is such an asshole. Seriously.
I think it was still looking unlikely until late Tuesday night (October 11), and then the tone of the conversations between our side and Theo’s really turned and it felt like it was something that was really going to happen. I hadn’t been that excited about anything since the time I saw how clean the urinal troughs were for the home opener in 2010. Other than the shine on that stainless steel, getting Theo is my proudest moment as a Cubs owner.
PETER GAMMONS, MLB.com writer, former Boston Globe baseball writer
[via twitter] P zzzzzzzzzz :, 5
DAVID HAUGH, Chicago Tribune “columnist”/halfwit
Crane really made this deal happen. If he wasn’t so selfless, there’s just no way he could have stepped aside and given up that title and let Theo come in. The guy is a saint. He deserves all of the credit for this.6
He’s an asshole.
In the end, the thing that made the difference for the Cubs, for the Sox and for the pride of Brookline, Theo Epstein, was something as simple as being wanted. The Cubs wanted Theo, Theo wanted to be wanted and the Sox wanted to rid themselves of the stench of the biggest regular season collapse in American League history. As Susan Tedechi sings on “Looking For Answers:”
How many times must I sit here and tell you goodbye
How many times must I sit all alone and cry
How many times must I ask mercy on me
How many times must I beg to be free
And anybody in baseball will tell you that nobody makes a strawberry rhubarb pie any better than Edgar Tovar’s mom.
If you wash down the one that’s half white and half blue with a beer you’ll go blind in your right eye for like five minutes. It’s pretty wild.
JERRY REMY, Former Red Sox second baseman, current NESN broadcaster
I’mah sad to see The-ah go. He’s a good kid. Same with Franconer, I really came to like that bahld bastard. Say, you wouldn’ta gotta heat-ah on you, wouldya? My doctah says I gotta quit, but today’s no day notta be smokin’. 7
GORDON WITTENMYER, Cubs beat writer, Chicago Sun Times
I have it on authority that the first thing Theo is going to do is hire Tony Francona (sic) to be the manager. At least that’s what Crane told me.8
We had an agreement in place today (Wednesday, October 12) by noon. I know it was a tough decision for Theo, but we couldn’t be happier or more thrilled that he’s joining our organization. He’s a visionary and that’s what we need. The old way of doing things has failed for 100 years, and we have to chart a new course. I think in the end, what made Theo choose us wasn’t just one thing, it was a lot of things. It’s a chance to run this organization his way, it’s a chance to win in a great city, with a player development budget that will allow him to develop young players, and with a payroll big enough to supplement the young talent with proven players. And, I think he felt like this was a tight knit, family organization. I think it was all of those things.
THEO EPSTEIN, President/General Manager, Chicago Cubs
It’s a lot of fucking money is what it is.9
Here are those annoying footnotes.
- You just know that Todd will end up in a gorilla suit someday, locked in a cage on an Amtrak with a real gorilla just like Clarence Beeks in Trading Places.
- The Kinect was a thing for like three months.
- Six in ten years? All of those in one postseason.
- Carlos Silva, aka the cost of getting rid of Milton Bradley.
- Just remember, Bruce Levine’s Twitter act is stolen directly from Gammons. But Peter never did it on purpose.
- What accent was I going for here? I made Jerry Remy sound like a cross between Silvio from The Sopranos, Roberto Benigni and Jimmy Fallon from Fever Pitch.
- Gordon’s been around this long?
- That’s exactly what it was. And, it couldn’t have turned out better.