Francona describes Theo Epstein’s shock over Bosox marketing plan of a “sexy” team
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org January 15, 2013 9:53PM
Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, left, and manager Terry Francona watch team practice at Fenway Park in Boston Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007, in preparation for Friday's Game 1 of the American League Championship Series baseball game against the Cleveland Indians. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Updated: January 16, 2013 12:05AM
The seeds of Theo Epstein’s discontent with Boston Red Sox upper management — and his subsequent jump to the Cubs — might have been sown a full year before he formally took over as Cubs president last offseason.
In former Red Sox manager Terry Francona’s new book, he quotes Epstein, then the Red Sox’ general manager, criticizing the results of the team’s $100,000 marketing research project in 2010 that might have played a role in the failed big-ticket acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.
‘‘They told us we didn’t have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle,’’ the book quotes Epstein saying. ‘‘We need some sexy guys. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. This is like an absurdist comedy. We’d become too big. It was the farthest thing from what we set out to be.’’
According to Francona: The Red Sox Years, Epstein considered that exchange in the fall of 2010 ‘‘evidence to me of the inherent tension between building a baseball operation the way I thought was best and the realities of being a big market . . . which had gotten bigger than any of us could handle.’’
The subsequent season ended in beer-and-chicken ruins for the Red Sox, who became the first team in history to blow a nine-game September lead to miss the playoffs amid allegations that Francona had lost control of clubhouse veterans.
Epstein, surreptitiously wooed by the Cubs even before that, chose to leave his hometown Red Sox with a year left on his contract and officially took over the Cubs less than a month later — with assurances that he controls baseball decisions.
Over the last 16 months, Red Sox ownership has denied that its 2010-11 offseason spending spree was driven by marketing considerations, with principal owner John Henry at least once specifically saying he opposed at the time signing Crawford to his seven-year, $142 million deal.
Crawford and Gonzalez were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers last summer.
The Cubs, meanwhile, were plunged into a deep rebuilding process by Epstein and his new front office, losing 101 games in 2012 and facing bigger baseball and marketing issues going forward than he ever did in Boston.
Francona’s book is due to be released Tuesday.
NOTE: The Cubs’ three eligible players filed for arbitration Tuesday: pitchers Matt Garza ($9.5 million in 2012), Jeff Samardzija ($2.64 million) and James Russell ($512,000). Arbitration figures are to be exchanged Friday, with hearings starting Feb. 4 for players who fail to reach agreements.