BOSTON — Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is going to be a Cubbie. Multiple reports say Epstein has agreed to a five-year, $15 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. He’ll leave behind a historic legacy.
When the Red Sox named their new GM back in 2002, it was a big shock to longtime Red Sox fan Dave Ryan.
“The first thing, I looked at him, he looked 10 years younger than my youngest brother. He looked like a little kid,” Ryan said.
At 28 years old, Epstein became the youngest general manager ever in Major League Baseball.
“We’re going to turn the Red Sox into a scouting and player machine. The sky’s the limit. I’ll say it again: we’re gonna become a scouting and player development machine,” Epstein said.
Theo was emblematic of a new wave in baseball that’s the subject of the new film “Moneyball.” Teams had learned to be more sophisticated, more analytical about how to win. Theo was the face of that for the Red Sox. With the new system, he promised to fulfill fans’ dreams.
“We have a chance to win in 2003, we have a chance to win it all,” he said.
He was one pitch away from being about right. The Sox just missed out on the pennant, losing in Game 7 of the American League Championship in 2003.
The following year, dreams came true. The Sox made sweet history by coming back against the New York Yankees in the playoffs, and then…
“Back to Foulke. Red Sox fans have longed to hear it. The Boston Red Sox are world champions!” said sportscaster Joe Buck.
It was the Sox’s first championship since 1918.
Reversing the curse put Epstein and the team he assembled on the eternal heroes list of countless Red Sox fans. But when Boston fizzled the following year, he and ownership weren’t getting along. Theo shocked many by choosing not to stay on with the Sox when his contract ended on Halloween. To avoid reporters, he snuck out of Fenway in a gorilla suit. He spoke publicly a few days later.
“The way I am, to do this job, you have to go all in, put your faith and your trust in the organization. And in the end, I determined it was the right thing for me not to return,” Epstein said.
Months later, with differences patched, Theo came back. And when the Sox won it all again in 2007, nobody could say it was fluke.
But the memory that’s freshest in fans’ minds at this point is an odious piece of history — the just completed season with a disastrous late-season collapse and a playoff miss. The day after the team became a sorry entry in the record books, Epstein answered criticism alongside team manager Terry Francona: Tito.
“I believe in a lot of people in this organization, including Tito, and including myself. And when we’re at our best, this is the best organization in baseball,” Epstein said. “This year we weren’t at our best,”
By leaving, Epstein has the opportunity to be even better. He’ll take over another storied franchise in another beloved ballpark, the lovable loser Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Imagine the legacy if Epstein can do in the Windy City what he did here in his hometown Hub. The Cubbies haven’t won the World Series since 1908.