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Cubs president Theo Epstein on D&C: ‘We’re set to explode as an organization’

06.30.14 at 11:05 am ET
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Cubs president of baseball operations and former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to discuss the Red Sox‘ struggles this season and the state of the Cubs. To listen to the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Epstein will not be present at Fenway when the Cubs takes on the Red Sox the next three days. The former Sox GM returned to Boston earlier this season for a dinner in honor of the 2004 Red Sox team, although Epstein did not attend the pregame ceremony the next day.

“€œWe had a game the next day in Chicago and the ceremony is for the players, really,”€ Epstein said. “They were the ones who won the championship. It was really nice for the Red Sox and John [Henry], Tom [Werner] and Larry [Lucchino] to invite me back. … I thought it was perfect. We kind of just came in under the radar, had a great time at the dinner. It was unbelievable to see all the players; everyone was in a great mood. It was as if it was the best high school reunion imaginable.”

Epstein, who left Boston in October 2011 to take his position with the Cubs, admitted that the four-month battle over the compensation needed to free him from his contract with Boston caused some strain with members of the Red Sox front office, but he noted the relationship is better since then.

“I think it was just the way that the whole transaction went down,” Epstein said. “Not so much me leaving, because I think everyone was supportive of that. … Just the compensation issue was so unusual that, to be honest, it probably did complicate some feelings along the way. But I think with the benefit of time, that it’€™s better now and everyone would have been happy to see each other had I made it back.”

While the Cubs have posted the worst record in the National League Central this season at 34-46 and posted a combined record of 127-197 over Epstein’€™s first two seasons in Chicago, he said the long-term future of the organization looks bright.

“We’ve been very transparent from the beginning here that we were going to take a big-picture approach and do it the right way and build it from the bottom up,” Epstein said. “There really wasn’t much of a choice. There wasn’t really a prime-age major league talent here, nor much of a farm system when we got here. … We’ve played a lot better lately in the big leagues. We had the best record in the National League for a month stretch there up until a couple of days ago.

“€œBigger picture, the talent level and the health of the organization is really coming around. … We’€™re kind of in that mode where, in the next year or two, we’€™re set to explode as an organization.”

Even though the Red Sox are fourth in the AL East with a 38-44 record, Epstein said he doesn’t think Boston is ready to accept the role of seller€ this season.

“€œIt would be a tough thing to do it any point, because the reality of it would mean it would have been a disappointing season up until that point,”€ Epstein said. “I don’€™t think they’re there. If you look at the American League East, nobody is running away with the division … It’s wide open and there’€™s still a lot of talent in Boston.”

Epstein added: “€œIt would be an incredibly hard thing to do, but I think one of Ben [Cherington's] strengths is realism. … I doubt it ever gets to that point, I hope it doesn’t, but no matter the situation, I think Ben will take a very pragmatic approach and do the right thing for the club and for the fans and the big picture.’€

Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

On his thoughts on how he was portrayed in former Boston manager Terry Francona‘€™s 2013 book: “I ended up reading it. I don’€™t know, it’€™s been a while. I thought parts of it were fine. I don’€™t have any complaints about how I was portrayed. There were some behind-the-scenes stuff that, in the big picture, maybe should have stayed behind the scenes, but it was what it was, I don’€™t spend a lot of time thinking about it. … Tito and I are fine. In fact, we were texting yesterday about something funny. We get along great.”

On whether the Cubs are ready to admit to being sellers this season: “We’€™d really love to win 10 in a row or 10 out of 12 and force our way back into this thing, but at the same time, the last two seasons, we’ve made some progress in our minor league system by being realistic about where we were, and if we don’€™t sort of storm our way back into it, there is the potential that we would take some shorter-term assets … and convert them into some longer-term assets.”

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