11/25/2002 5:20 pm ET
Red Sox promote Epstein to GM
At 28, he is youngest GM in Major League history
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- A near two-month search for a general manager culminated Monday at Fenway Park when the Red Sox promoted 28-year-old local product Theo Epstein. Aside from becoming the 11th GM in the rich history of the Red Sox, Epstein became the youngest general manager in Major League history, surpassing Randy Smith, who was 29 when the Padres hired him in 1993.
The Sox elevated Epstein from the assistant GM position he had held since March, when Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino brought him over from the Padres' organization.
Veteran baseball executive Mike Port held the role of GM on an interim basis since Feb. 28, the day Dan Duquette was fired less than 24 hours after Boston's new ownership group took over.
So why Epstein and not one of the more veteran candidates who applied for the position?
|Red Sox general managers
1. Eddie Collins (1933-47)
2. Joe Cronin (1948-58)
3. Bucky Haris (1959-60)
4. Dick O'Connell (1961-62)
5. Mike Higgins (1963-65)
6. Dick O'Connell (1965-77)
7. Haywood Sullivan (1978-83)
8. Lou Gorman (1984-93)
9. Dan Duquette (1994-2002)
10. Mike Port (interim) (2002)
11. Theo Epstein (2002- )
"There are a variety of reasons," said Lucchino. "We've selected him for his intellect; we've selected him for his character. We've selected him for his passion for baseball, his knowledge and history and passion for the Red Sox. For the breadth of his work experience. And for the ability to bring people together and work together in new and innovative ways. We think Theo Epstein has a chance to be an outstanding long-term general manager of the Red Sox."
Epstein grew up in Brookline, Mass., a proverbial stone's throw from Fenway Park. He built up his professional resume with the Padres, working his way up from media relations to assistant GM.
Epstein broke into the baseball business with the Baltimore Orioles as a summer intern in 1992. He was an undergraduate student at Yale at the time.
After this rapid rise through the ranks, he's come full circle, landing a job Monday that he dreamt about as a kid.
"I grew up in Boston. I was born in New York City, moved here in 1978, the Bucky Dent year," Epstein said, referring to the AL East playoff game won by the Yankees over the Red Sox. "I moved to a place my parents still live, a mile from [Fenway Park], right down Beacon Street in Brookline. I was a Red Sox fan from day one. The Red Sox are very much in my blood, which makes this, standing here today being the general manager of this club ... a dream come true."
Epstein emerged, in essence, as a ninth-inning candidate for a job for which he never officially applied or interviewed. When A's GM Billy Beane, Boston's top choice at the outset, withdrew his name from consideration on Nov. 10 after a deal was all but done, speculation became rampant that Epstein was gaining steam as a candidate.
And it was only fueled by the fact that his most glowing recommendation came from Beane, one of the premier GMs in the game.
"Theo had been a major advocate of Billy Beane for the position," said Lucchino. "After it was over, we realized a lot of the philosophy and talent and appeal of Billy Beane was also represented by Theo Epstein. Billy has come forward and strongly endorsed him both publicly and privately. It was really after that we began to think of Theo as a candidate."
Despite Epstein's youth, his hiring is hardly a shock. He has a close working relationship with Lucchino from their 11 years together with the Orioles, Padres and Red Sox. Lucchino was the president/CEO for San Diego from 1995-2001 before coming to Boston in the same position in February 2002.
Epstein is regarded within baseball circles as an innovative and rising executive, and is thought of highly not only by Beane, but other prominent GMs such as Toronto's J.P. Ricciardi and the Padres' Kevin Towers.
Most important, he had strong backing from the people who count most in the Red Sox organization.
"Theo was quite simply the right choice," said Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry. "He has been a constant source of ideas, energy and intelligence for us since he came home to Boston. He joins a select group of young and highly talented general managers in today's game who are revolutionizing baseball. We believe he will excel from day one."
Epstein believes deeply in building through scouting and development, and also values in-depth statistical analysis, including many of the beliefs of stats guru Bill James, whom the Sox recently hired as a senior advisor.
Though the Sox were comfortable with Port filling the role on an interim basis for the entire season, Lucchino, as expected, announced he would conduct an extensive search to fill the vacancy on a permanent basis two days after the season ended.
Port, who has been asked to stay with the organization, perhaps in his former role as vice president/baseball operations, was a candidate to land the job permanently. Lucchino also interviewed former White Sox GM Ron Schueler, Mets senior assistant GM Jim Duquette, Reds assistant GM Leland Maddox, Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle, Red Sox special assistant Lee Thomas, former Orioles Cy Young award winner Mike Flanagan, Beane, and most recently, former Expos GM Jim Beattie.
One of those names could surface again when the Sox fill the newly created head of scouting and player development position.
Mindful of Epstein's lack of GM experience, the Sox plan to surround him with veteran talent in the front office. Thomas, a former GM with the Phillies, has also been asked to remain with the Sox and have expanded responsibilities.
In a classy move, Port attended the unveiling of Epstein. Port said he hasn't decided yet if he will remain with the Sox, but said he expected to make his decision quickly.
"That's still ground to be covered," said Port, who was the Angels' GM from 1984-91. "I would think that what Larry and Theo had in mind would be similar duties to what I had before. I just want to make sure [before deciding] -- the design of the job is important to me."
As for Epstein, his most important mission will be the one he used to pray for as a kid. But now he has more direct control over Boston's chances to snap the world championship drought, which will enter its 85th year in 2003. He has several stars already in place in Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez. The Red Sox won 93 games in 2002, but missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
"But no one person is going to turn the Red Sox into a world championship organization," said Epstein. "It's going to happen, but it's going to be a group effort. It's going to be through collective hard work and through our collective wisdom.
"Our short-term goal is to win and win a World Series, and that starts with getting to the postseason. So if you need to write down what our goal is for 2003, it's to make the postseason."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at Ian.Browne@mlb.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its