Epstein saying goodbye as Chicago Cubs president
When Theo Epstein took over the Cubs in 2011, the franchise still was renowned as the "Lovable Losers."
Now he's leaving at a time when fans are upset the team hasn't been able to win enough playoff games.
That's the story of Epstein's resignation in a nutshell. He will depart as the franchise's greatest executive, at least since 1908 anyway. And he's moving on so his replacement, Jed Hoyer, can take ownership of the difficult decisions the Cubs face in the next several months.
The Cubs announced Tuesday that Epstein will step down as president of baseball operations after nine years on the job, while executive vice president-general manager Hoyer will assume the lead role.
This move is slightly surprising, since Epstein had one year left on his contract and told reporters when the season ended that he expected the status quo heading into the 2021 season.
At the same time, Epstein often talked about an executive having a shelf life of roughly a decade and said he expected to move on after his contract expired in 2021. But with the Cubs in a transition phase with their roster, this was the best time to let Hoyer take over the decision-making.
"This summer, it became apparent to me for a number of reasons that we should strongly consider moving up the date of the transition by a year," Epstein said Tuesday. "First of all, it became really clear that we'd be facing some significant long-term decisions this winter, decisions with long-term impacts. Those type of decisions are best made by somebody who is going to be here for a long time, not just one more year."
The torch was always going to be passed to Hoyer, Epstein's longtime assistant with both the Red Sox and Cubs. Chairman Tom Ricketts talked how Hoyer could have left for other jobs during the last nine years, but he stuck with the Cubs.
"Jed is ready to take over, he really is," Epstein said. "He's been a huge part of all our success here. He's been a huge part of my success in my career. Jed has done the job of being a No. 1 on baseball operations before (with San Diego in 2010-11).
"In short, Jed is his own man. He's been loyal, an outstanding right-hand man. But he has his own opinions, his own perspective, his own leadership style.
"He truly does not need me over his shoulder this next year while we finish off a transition that in a lot of respects has been years in the making. He's going to do an outstanding job; he deserves this opportunity and the Cubs are lucky to have him."
The Cubs are facing a crossroads, with four key members of the World Series team -- Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber -- set to hit free agency after next season, followed by Willson Contreras a year later. Coupled with baseball's massive loss of revenue due to the pandemic, tough decisions need to be made in the upcoming months.
It's also a tough time for the organization, since roughly 100 employees were let go at the end of the season. Epstein's early departure will free his $10 million salary to be spent or saved elsewhere.
"I'm very excited about the transition and the continuity we have in front of us," Ricketts said of Hoyer. "He's going to be an incredible leader for this organization just as Theo was. While losing one of best leaders in all of baseball, I think we're also gaining one of best leaders in all of baseball. It's a bittersweet day, I just know this is the right thing for the organization."
Hoyer, 46, was one of Epstein's first hires when he joined the Cubs. The pair worked together in Boston from 2002-09, and the Cubs had to trump up his job title in order to pry him away from the Padres in 2011.
As for Epstein's future, there was quickly talk that the Mets and Phillies are interested. Epstein said he plans to spend time with his family, along with other pursuits. But he qualified that statement by saying he's someone who never rules anything out.
"I do hope and expect to have a third chapter in baseball, but in no shape or form do I expect to do it right away," Epstein said. "I do hope to stay engaged in the game. This game is my passion. I care deeply about it, so I'm going to seek out ways to serve the game in the near future, and I've already started to pursue a few possible avenues to do that."
Epstein, 46, was the youngest GM in baseball history to win a World Series with the Red Sox in 2004, and, according to the Cubs, he is one of five lead executives to win the World Series with multiple organizations. It seems logical that he has another rebuild or two left in him.
"I think the legacy that Theo leaves behind is an organization that expects to win, not an organization that is surprised to win," Ricketts said. "On a personal level, it's a sad day for me. Theo and I have become very good friends over the years."
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