CHICAGO – For those who either have the clip handy or have seen it on YouTube, there was one statement that might have stood out to Cubs’ fans about Theo Epstein’s introductory news conference on October 25, 2011.
While he talked about the ways he was going to start building the Cubs, he also discussed his own personal timeline for a job when reflecting on his finish with the Red Sox. Epstein, citing legendary football coach Bill Walsh, said that a change in leadership every ten years tends to be a good thing.
That was the timeline for Epstein in his tenure in Boston, where he helped them snap an 86-year championship drought with a pair of World Series titles.
Naturally that is being cited as Epstein now approaches that mark as the 2020 season ends for the Cubs and focus turns to 2021. That will be the tenth for Epstein with the Cubs and will mark the end of his second five-year contract he’s signed with the club.
No determination of his future was decided when he talked with the media through a zoom interview on Monday to wrap up the Cubs’ shortened 62-game season. “Status quo” was his line when asked if a change in leadership was ahead in the immediate future, but it was made clear that a transition would be ahead.
That would be consistent with his comments made nine years ago, when Epstein talked about making the Cubs a World Series winner five years before he would make that happen. Yet with this in mind, there is still a commitment to finish his tenure strong with the club.
“I’ve been transparent about my feeling that after a certain period of time there can be real benefit for both an individual leader and for the organization for change,” said Epstein on Monday. “I think I mentioned it the first day I was a Cub and again when I signed my second contract. I’m not gonna run away from those feelings but I also am as invested in the Chicago Cubs as our leader of baseball operations today as I was at any point in the last nine years.
“I woke up this morning thinking about how we can improve for next year and position ourselves for long term success. But given the things I’m on record with about the benefits of change at a certain point, it just means that you have to be smart in discussing the timing and nature of a transition because it’s inevitable at some point.”
That time doesn’t appear to be at the moment, though Epstein says he’ll meet with team chairman Tom Ricketts this week. In light of reports this weekend, Epstein said that the meeting with Ricketts is routine and had occurred at the end of every season.
What could be discussed, however, could be quite different since this will be the last year of Epstein’s contract. Based on his spoken timeline, this would be his last, and could welcome in the possibility of a transition that would mean a change of roles with Epstein.
Again, Epstein invoked the “status quo” thinking when it comes to his role for 2021, yet he’s not afraid to do what’s necessary to make this season the best it can be with a franchise at a crossroads.
With a number of key players up for contracts at the end of the year, including Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant, decisions made this winter or at the 2021 trade deadline could shape the franchise for years. That’s not lost on Epstein’s mind as his tenure at least appears to be headed to a close.
“We’re clearly entering an offseason where we’ll have some critical decisions that have long term impacts for the organization on the field and some off the field as well. Because of that we’re going to be open-minded and thoughtful about it and take our time,” said Epstein. “If adjustments in structure or role or timing necessary to put the Cubs in the best possible position going forward, then that’s what I want.
“I think we fell like the most likely outcome, again, is status quo but in a thoughtful manner as we move forward.”
With the statement that Epstein made when he started with the Cubs on October 25, 2011 holding true the entire time.