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Theo Epstein talks decision to join Cubs, Carl Crawford, compensation and all things Red Sox collapse

01.12.12 at 11:15 am ET
By

Theo Epstein (AP)

Theo Epstein called the Red Sox situation “completely repairable.”

The Cubs president also said regarding Manny Ramirez, “I don’t think it’s a good fit for us.”

And in regard to the Boston Globe piece recapping the collapse, Epstein said, “I thought the piece was totally inappropriate.”

All of the comments were made during the former Red Sox’ general manager’s appearance on the Dennis & Callahan Show Thursday morning. He also talked about the negotiations regarding compensation the Sox might be receiving for his own move to Chicago, John Henry’s claim he wasn’t on board for the Carl Crawford signing, and his take on the Sox’ September collapse.

(To listen to the entire interview, click here.)

REGARDING COMPENSATION ISSUE FOR SWITCHING TEAMS

“I think you have to put it in context. In the history of baseball with all the executives that have changed teams, many of which were on lateral moves, let alone those who left for promotions like I did, throughout the history of baseball there’s really only been a handful of instances where there’s been any compensation whatsoever for executives,” Epstein said. “If you wanted to look at precedent, you’d say, ‘Well, whether I’m worth nothing, or something,’ — you would probably get some opinions on that if you ask your callers — the bottom line is when executives change teams there is no compensation. There have been a handful of instances where there is compensation, and that compensation has been pretty reasonable. If you look when Andy MacPhail, who had won two World Series, left on a lateral move from Minnesota to Chicago back in ’94, his compensation was like the 30th ranked prospect in the Cubs system and a little bit of cash.

“So I think when you say there should be compensation here, there should be because we agreed there should be compensation, so that’s part of the gig. But I think you have to look at history and you have to look at the precedent involved and realize there is not precedent for major, major compensation here. But the bottom line is we need to figure this out, and we will. Both sides are still working on it because it was agreed to and you have to live up to your word. If you agree that there is compensation there has to be compensation, and there should be. You look at precedent as a guide and try to do something that’s appropriate given the more than century-old history of baseball.

“Ben and I have been trying to work it out. I think normally Ben and I could work it out, but there’s just a little bit of a different perspective. The expectations were different at the time. We’re trying to figure something out that makes the Red Sox happy, but also fits with a century of baseball precedent. I can honestly say this one has been turned over and discussed in the media a lot more than it has between the clubs. Ben and I have had five conversations on in the last few months. We’ve gotten close but we haven’t gotten it done. Maybe we’ll need some help to get it done. I want both sides to be happy if possible.”

WHEN HE MADE DECISION TO MOVE ON

“That certainly bothered me, but I think it wasn’t a last-minute decision,” he said when asked about the possible perception he was leaving the organization at a bad time. “It was something I talked about with these guys all year long. Ben Cherington and I had talked about it for years. We had so many lunches where I would take him out and say, ‘Hey, you’re the guy I want to take over and there’s a very good chance the end is coming for me. It’s going to be 10 years with the Red Sox.’ We talked about his development and all the different things he had done in the game but the one or two areas he still need some development time. The last two or three years we specifically we got him a lot of experience in those areas so he would be well-rounded in those areas. It was a bigger picture issue. It really transcended what happened with one month with a baseball club.

“I just put faith in the fact that people who cared about the situation, maybe in the moment, right after September when people were upset, if you took a step back and looked at the totality of the circumstances and look at 10 years of the Red Sox and where we were before I got here and the decade that we had if we were better off now or 10 years ago and the things that I was able to play a small part in contributing to, I think people would take a look at say, ‘He gave us all he had for 10 years. I hope they’d say we were a lot better off than we were before he and the guys he worked with got here and we certainly wish the Red Sox well.’ I certainly wish the Red Sox well. I always the Red Sox well and will always consider myself part of the Red Sox family. I’m just somewhere else right with a new challenge I’m throwing myself into.”

ON JOHN HENRY NOT WANTING TO SIGN CARL CRAWFORD

“When you own the team you can do that, and I think John is an organization-first kind of guy. Those were kind of unique circumstances,” Epstein said. “The bottom line was that’s right. I think John didn’t want to do that one, but everyone else did in the organization. Everyone knew it wasn’t perfect. You don’t set out one day looking to spend that kind of money, but I think where we were, with the core the Red Sox had in place, after acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and having the top three starters, Lester, Beckett and Buchholz, under control, there was a real opportunity to kind of separate the Red Sox talent-wise from the rest of the division for the next four to five years where you would have your core in place and you would be complimenting that core with smaller free agent signings and home-grown players from the farm system.

“John’s right, he didn’t want to do that one, but everyone else did. It’s a sign of a good owner to empower your baseball people and that led to a lot of success over the last decade. It didn’t really bother me.”

ON JOHN LACKEY

“I just think we haven’t seen a healthy John Lackey. I look back, one thing we could do over … obviously the Red Sox added that clause in the contract at the time of the signing to get the extra year for Tommy John, so it was clear there was something less than perfect in the elbow. To do that one over again, we made too much of an assumption he would still pitch up to his capabilities and maybe at some point he would have Tommy John,” Epstein said. “But the reality was that the elbow wasn’t right and it limited his effectiveness. He just wasn’t the same guy. He didn’t have the same feel for his breaking ball, he didn’t have the same finish on his pitches, he didn’t have the same command on his fastball, which is everything for him. He struggled I think because of that, so I’m hopeful when he does return from the Tommy John … getting away this year will be good for him, not only physically but mentally. I think he’ll come back and the Red Sox will see a much more solid rotation pitcher for him.”

ON IF SEPTEMBER COLLAPSE ALTERED HIS DECISION TO LEAVE

“As far as it would have effected people’s futures, I can only speak for myself and I would have still followed through expressing my desire to pursue the opportunity in Chicago because that was a product of 10 years here and wanting to challenge myself in a new environment going forward. That was not a reaction to what happened in September one bit,” he said, referencing the Red Sox’ 7-20 final month of the 2011 regular season.

ON IF TEAM WAS AWARE OF DYSFUNCTION

“We knew something wasn’t right,” he said. “There were all these small flare-ups that were happening that led to some meetings, some team meetings. We encouraged Tito to have a meeting and he did and he wanted to and he did it on his own in Toronto and it didn’t have the effect it usually has. That bothered him, it concerned us. We encouraged the players to have team meetings and they did have multiple (meetings), including one pretty significant one toward the end … maybe the third week of September. We felt that was going to work, it didn’t. Guys, let’s be realistic about this. The losing is what really compounded all of this and brought it all out. When you have a team meeting, a players-only meeting and it seems to go really well and the guys seem to have each other’s back. But then you go out there and you have a three-run lead in the eighth inning and all of a sudden you lose the game it’s hard for that meeting to matter. It’s hard for that unity you’re trying to develop to stick. We just played awful baseball in September.

“I will say this, if we win one or two more games than no one is looking at September, 2011 as this month when an otherwise solid clubhouse became completely dysfunctional and all these accusations. I’ll tell you this, there were other periods that were similar during the last 10 years with the Red Sox. There were periods in 2004 that were just as unproductive and contentious in the clubhouse. But guess what? We were 2 1/2 games out of the wild card in mid-August of 2004 and we got hot and we went 45-11 down the stretch instead of 11-45 or whatever it was this year, and we ended up toasting those idosyncrasies and the personalities and the extra-cirricular activities and became a great bunch of guys. I know the salacious details are good fodder to talk about, and, don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of things that happen and never should happen in the clubhouse, but don’t look past the losing the prime driver of all of this. If we had won a couple more games and gotten hot in the playoffs and won the World Series it would have been such a fun-loving group, all these personalties that came together in the end. It would have read a lot more like 2004. The difference was that we lost our last game and in 2004 we won it.”

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