Boston Red Sox

Apr 29, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein on the field before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

In fact, a wide-held view in other front offices is that the highly respected and well-liked Red Sox president Sam Kennedy stands as a thin buffer between the team devolving to the level of the Mets, the team generally regarded by rival executives as baseball’s model for dysfunction. “If Sam ever walked away,” said one official, “the whole thing would be a complete mess.”

 – From Buster Olney column on ESPN, Sept. 22, 2019

So maybe Theo Epstein doesn’t event want the Boston job. Unless, of course, the Chicago Cubs fire him in the coming days.

After all, only someone who has experienced the dysfunction of the Red Sox could utter an anonymous (wink, wink) comment like the one above, which certainly seems to have some unnecessary teeth. Does Red Sox owner John Henry have an issue with regard to the perception of the organization? Sure. No question. But comparing the Red Sox to the New York Mets is downright foolish, which suggests someone with an axe to grind.

Remember: Theo wanted out of Fenway Park not once, but twice. He resigned in 2005 and dressed up in a gorilla costume to boot. He was still under contract when he engineered his escape to the Chicago Cubs in 2011, albeit that time without costume. Maybe Larry Lucchino was the problem. Maybe it was John Henry.

Or maybe it was Theo.

Now, let’s make something clear here: I still want Theo running the Red Sox – today if not sooner.  The Red Sox are one of the true signature franchises in baseball and they deserve a skilled, high-profile GM. We all know Epstein is capable, which hardly means that his resume is perfect. It isn’t. Theo has made good trades and bad ones, and he’s signed shrewd contracts and stupid ones. The Cubs farm system isn’t in good shape, either. Even Bill Belichick has had bad runs in the draft.

But if Epstein can’t get by whatever issue he had (or has) with Henry, well … forget it. Ditto for Jed Hoyer, the Cubs general manager who has been by Epstein’s side for much of his career. Sniping at Henry is easy for all us, to be sure, but Epstein has had enough failures now that we can question the size of his ego, too. Things broke down with Terry Francona at the end. They clearly broke down with Lucchino and Henry. They’re about to break down with Joe Maddon. They might break down with Cubs ownership.

If Theo is always part of the solution, it’s only fair to regard him as part of the problem, too.

Here’s the point: relationships don’t usually break down because of one person – in sports or anywhere else. Up to this point, many of us have wondered whether Epstein would truly consider a return to the Red Sox, a prospect that seems doubtful given the thinly-veiled comment in the Olney excerpt above. But if Theo can be eight years removed from his Red Sox experience and still speak with that kind of disdain with regard to the organization, maybe the question isn’t whether he wants them.

Maybe it’s whether they want him.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.