In a surprising move to come out of the MLB today, the Cubs announced that effective November 20th, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein will be stepping down from his role. Jed Hoyer, the current GM of the team, will be taking over for him.
Back in October, I wrote that if Epstein was truly the apple of Middelton’s eye, he would have to step up this offseason. Of course, that was based on the fact that Epstein’s contract with the Cubs ran through 2021, coinciding with our own predisent Andy MacPhail’s contract. It was almost written in the stars that Middleton would reach out to the future Hall of Famer, but the timing was less that ideal.
Waiting for Epstein’s contract to expire meant that next season would have been played in leadership limbo, as the team probably wouldn’t have hired anyone new to run the team. In all likelihood, if Epstein wanted to come here, he would want to also bring his own people into the organization, making the Phillies going out and hiring a GM at this time, while absolutely necessary, almost counterintuitive. That all changes now that Epstein is to no longer be employed by Chicago as of the 20th.
At the ripe age of 46, Epstein has already proven himself to be a Hall of Fame executive. In 2002, Epstein became the youngest person in MLB history to be named GM of a team when the Red Sox hired him. He was also given the title of executive vice president in the year 2006. In his time with Boston, Epstein built one of the most dominant baseball dynasties of this century, culminating in two World Series titles, including the one that broke “The Curse of the Bambino” in 2004.
In 2011, Epstein took the job in Chicago, looking to help the Cubs win their first pennant since 1945 and first World Series since 1908. In just five years, Epstein took a team that finished 71-91 in 2011 and transformed them into a team that went 103-59 and won their first World Series in 108 years in 2016. The drought he broke with the Red Sox was historic, but this was on another level.
Most executives look to make their bones building one franchise that would reach the pinnacle of baseball, but Epstein has built two championship teams. Not just any teams either, two of the biggest baseball markets in North America. Epstein has experience in the big time markets and building championship teams, the two most important things that should be on the Phillies’ wish list in their search for new executive leadership.
Hall of Fame executives do not become available every day. We have talked at great lengths about the disconnect that the Phillies have shown their fanbase to begin this offseason. While teams were making moves to fortify their front offices, the Phillies were using the pandemic as an excuse for their failure to act swiftly. MacPhail had mentioned that, if a big name were to come out of the woodwork, he wouldn’t inhibit the Phillies from making a splash hire. To me, the whole reason this process was held up was due to this fact. MacPhail knew that the big name he mentioned would be hard to come by this offseason.
Or so, he thought.
According to reports, Theo Epstein is planning on taking the next year off. If I am the Phillies, I can’t allow that to happen. I can understand that the man would like to take some time off to be with family and to work with some of his non-profits, but the Phillies should be backing up the truck to get him in here anyway possible. Frankly, if that means giving up some ownership stake to get it done, I’m still on board. I don’t care what it takes.
This whole situation reminds me a lot of the Daryl Morey hire for the 76ers. The early reports all said that Morey wanted to take the year off and spend it with family, but the Sixers were persistent and got the deal done. Morey’s hire surrounded the team with new buzz and immediately brought fans back who had become disinterested in the constant underachieving. Epstein could have that same effect on a franchise that may be suffering from even more fans checking out than the Sixers had. Epstein is one of the few names in baseball that could have that same effect on the city of Philadelphia.
In my opinion, he stepped down from the Cubs for two reasons. One is that he didn’t like the direction they were going in. the second being that he saw an opportunity around the league that he couldn’t pass up. It will be interesting to see which team will finally end up with the big fish, but if John Middleton and the rest of the Phillies owners have something to say, it should be them.
Do what needs to be done, Phillies. You might never have an opportunity like this ever again.