Red Sox’ Lovullo praises Cubs’ plan before expected interview
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter October 29, 2013 7:58PM
Updated: October 29, 2013 8:15PM
ST. LOUIS — Torey Lovullo could be one game, maybe two, from the opportunity he’s worked his baseball life to reach.
He might even get a World Series ring along the way.
The Boston Red Sox bench coach, whose team is one victory away from a championship, looks around at a strange, bearded crew of players, considers how they got to this point — and imagines what Wrigley Field might look like in October in a few years.
Whether he’ll be there as the Cubs’ manager by then, the candidate-in-waiting is intrigued by the vision.
“I do know there’s a pretty good blueprint in place that’s here, that Theo [Epstein] started,” Lovullo said of the Cubs’ president and Red Sox expatriate.
“I know that he sees that it works, so he can take that same blueprint over to Chicago, and it’s going to work,” Lovullo said. “It’s a matter of time before it works.”
The blueprint in Chicago is missing the economic muscle Red Sox owner John Henry dedicates to the winning process in Boston. And until Cubs ownership relieves some of its debt burden, the Cubs will never become the Red Sox of the Midwest, as they seem determined to be.
The Cubs also have a larger competitive gap to make up than the Red Sox did under Epstein a decade ago.
But three years of high draft picks and two years of increased attention to the farm system is at least one reason to think the Cubs’ managerial job is appealing — something Lovullo believes based on his experience in the Red Sox organization. Epstein hired Lovullo in 2010 to be the manager of the Red Sox’ Class AAA affiliate.
He’s part of a field that includes San Diego Padres bench coach Rick Renteria and Padres assistant general managers Brad Ausmus and A.J. Hinch. Veteran manager Eric Wedge was scheduled to interview Tuesday.
“I think that whoever gets to sit in that seat is going to be in a really good situation and one that has stability and a long-term plan in place,” said Lovullo, who is expected to interview for the job after the World Series.
The blueprint that Lovullo referred to?
“There’s no barriers between departments,” he said. “Player development is the grease that runs the engine. I think that’s what we have here. It works. And I know in time [Epstein is] going to build up the same system there.
“It’s a long-term commitment. In time, it’s going to be a pretty special place.”
The Red Sox, who have undergone a massive transition since their beer-and-chicken collapse at the end of 2011, are getting major contributions this October from players acquired by the Epstein regime.
Even after high-priced free-agent disappointments Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez were shipped out a few months after Epstein’s defection to Chicago, it is another of Epstein’s supposedly bad free-agent pick-ups, John Lackey, who takes the mound Wednesday with a chance to clinch the series.
Holdovers Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are driving the lineup, and ace Jon Lester has won two games.
“There were enormous assets in 2011 when we took over,” said Epstein’s successor, Ben Cherington. “There were a lot of strengths, no doubt — players both at the major-league level and the minor-league level, and people in the front office, scouting infrastructure, player development.”
The Cubs still don’t have the pitching depth in their system to suggest championships are on the horizon. Even team officials recognize the Cubs are likely headed for a fifth consecutive losing season in 2014.
But a recent Baseball America analysis ranked the Cubs’ system fifth in baseball based on talent considered close to reaching the majors. Young hitters Javy Baez and Kris Bryant look especially promising.
“They certainly have young position-player talent coming,” Cherington said. “I don’t think anyone in baseball’s that far away at this point. The league is more competitive than ever. Good decisions over the course of a year or two can turn things around dramatically.
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they’re very competitive very quickly.”