Red Sox

Take two: Epstein embraces Cubs' challenge


Take two: Epstein embraces Cubs' challenge

Theo Epstein has two enduring memories from his days with the Red Sox.

"First thing was helping to build a scouting and player development machine from the ground floor . . . " he said. "And the other great thing, probably the best thing about being with the Red Sox, was playing a small part of winning that World Series in 2004 and breaking the Sox' 86-year championship drought and getting to see the looks on peoples' faces, the joy it brought them . . . It really impacted a whole region of the country and generations of families . . ."

And now he has chance to re-live them.

"The Cubs opportunity provides me a forum, provides us a forum, to do both those things," he said.

The long-rumored move is now complete, and Epstein greeted the media Tuesday for the first time as director of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. "It truly feels great to be a Cub today," he said.

The challenges facing him are more daunting than the ones he overcame when he was named general manager of the Red Sox nearly nine years ago. For one thing, the Cubs have gone even longer between World Series triumphs -- 103 years and counting -- than the Sox. For another, the talent cupboard is far thinner in Chicago than it was when he took over in Boston.

Daunting, yes . . . but invigorating, as well.

"We are ready," he said. "And we are hungry."

As he wrote in an op-ed piece that ran in Tuesday's Boston Globe, Epstein said he feels that organizations and individuals benefit from change every 10 years. After nine years as Red Sox GM, and 10 years in the Sox' organization, the opening of the Cubs' job occurred at just the right time.

"I had a great 10 years with the Red Sox," he said, adding: "I would never trade that experience . . . But . . . I was ready for the next big challenge, and this is certainly the ultimate challenge."

Later, he added: "I had some skepticism about taking the Cubs job going in, because I had such a great situation in Boston . . . but the more I learned about the situation in Chicago, the more interested I was."

His blueprint for success will mirror the methods that worked well in Boston. Among them:

The use of all analytical methods, traditional and progressive, to help build a winning organization.

An effort to build a winning culture at the major-league level. "We'll have a clubhouse full of players who are proud to wear the Cubs uniform," he said.

Development of "a Cubs Way" for every level of the organization.

"Again, it won't be me doing it, he stressed. "It'll be all of us doing it."

He admitted the compensation issue for his services is still unsettled -- and may need commissioner Bud Selig's intervention for final resolution -- but said "the Cubs and Red Sox have a great working relationship" and he didn't anticipate it being a long-term issue. In fact, he had many kind words for his former employers in Boston.

"I want to thank Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner and team president Larry Lucchino, not only for allowing this move to happen but for giving me my original opportunity as a GM nine years ago and for supporting me along the way, personally and professionally," he said. "Also, a quick thank you to Terry Francona, the players, all my co-workers and friends at the Red Sox, including the fans; thanks for all the great times there. I'm really proud of what we accomplished together, and I wish you nothing but the best going forward. Good luck today, Ben Cherington, his successor as GM."

"The Red Sox are in good hands."

He admitted, however, that the last few weeks were a bit strange.

"I felt like that guy in the movie 'Office Space' with the red stapler," he joked. "When I was at Fenway Park, I just kept showing up to work, and it was as if someone forget to tell me I didn't work there anymore. I did end up in the basement with just a cubicle and a stapler, and I knew it was time to go to Chicago."

And now it's time to move forward.

"I was so fortunate to spend a decade in the Red Sox organization, and I feel truly, truly honored to be a Cub today," he said, later adding:

"Baseball is better with tradition. Baseball is better with history. Baseball is better with fans who care. Baseball is better in the daytime. And baseball is better when you win. And that's why I'm here today."

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

For the glass-is-half-full folks, there are those back-to-back Eastern Division titles. For the glass-is-half-empty folks, well, there are those two first-round playoff ousters (though both their conquerers made it to the World Series, and one of them won it). But, here on Thanksgiving night, there's plenty for Red Sox Nation to be thankful for, starting with . . . 


We know you don’t need the Red Sox to know you how important the most basic elements of life are. But sometimes, the typical fantasy land of baseball can grab our attention. The death of 17-year-old Sox prospect Daniel Flores (above) this month from complications because of cancer didn’t take away only a potentially great baseball career. It took away a beloved, hard-working young person from the people who loved him. He had just made millions of dollars in July for his talent on the field, but what does such a windfall matter compared to one’s health? His cancer was both rare and fast-moving, per the Boston Globe.


The kids deserve some love. They probably won’t be together on the Red Sox forever. Heck, the group could get broken up this winter. But while any of the Killer B’s (plus a D) remain on the Sox, there should be a sense of optimism. Two straight 93-win seasons may have resulted in a first-round exit, and 2017 didn’t meet expectations for some individual performances. But you know what? The youths are still damn good, and there’s time for them to show us they can be even better.


Neither hogs the spotlight once the game ends or says too much. Sale doesn’t even have Twitter. But the righty closer and lefty starter both do two things exceedingly well: make batters swing and miss, and prevent runs. When both pitch, your seat at the park may well be worth the price of admission. (But we won’t ask what you paid for those seats.) Sale didn’t take down Pedro Martinez’s Sox single-season strikeout record this year, finishing with five fewer than Martinez’s 313 in 1999. But he could have done it. And with a little more rest next year, one can envision him plowing his way through playoff opponents too.


A first-time manager’s not a sure thing, but as Sox owner John Henry noted, there was a feeling it was time for a change. It’s a little early to be thinking ahead to a New Year’s resolution, but a manager who better connects with his players and brings a different vibe to the day-to-day scene is reason to feel the Sox are following the right road map. Plus, if nothing else, Cora took that awesome picture walking toward Fenway.


We don’t want to be too materialistic. But Uncle Dave Dombrowski couldn’t let you buy everything you wanted last year. The credit card companies needed him to step back for a year. Now he’s ready to spend. He might not close down Bloomingdale’s for the day for you to do your private shopping, but if you need a couple great jackets to complete your look, it sounds like he’s ready to get you some designer threads. He probably feels there won’t be too many chances to have a moment like this with you, at this stage of your life, and he wants to make the most of it.



Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers


Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.


Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel.