Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and Red Sox principal owner John Henry spoke with the media today about Epstein’s decision to step down.
During this news conference, Epstein often referred to “excrutiatingly honest” conversations that he has had with ownership and management of the club as they conducted a year-end review of operations and the future. However, he declined to discuss those talks, saying they were private.
As for contact from other clubs, he said a third-party intermediary from another team has made an overture, but he passed word that he will not discuss jobs with anybody until he makes sure that the Red Sox are prepared for the upcoming general managers meeting.
He said that even though he and ownership scrupulously tried to avoid any rancor during his contract negotiations, “there was a breakdown at the end.”
The following is complete transcript of Theo Epstein’s comments. Red Sox owner John Henry followed Theo at the podium. His comments follow Theo’s.
Epstein’s opening statements: “Thanks everybody for coming, I understand there’s been some interest in talking to me over the last couple of days as evidenced by the cameras outside my house and the fact that I left in a gorilla suit the other day. That thing’s getting itchy, so I thought I would just come here and try to answer your questions today and I hope that from that point forward, to the near future, you try to respect my boundaries and my privacy. I’m gonna start just by reading my statement from Monday because I stand by it. I stand by every word but I think it’s important that you guys hear it directly from me.
(Theo then read statement supplied to the media on Monday, then took questions)
Q: Theo when you came here three years ago, obviously with high expectations, …basically I think everybody would like to know from your standpoint what happened here and why are you no longer the general manager of the Boston Red Sox?
Well what happened, to answer your question broadly, is I think we had a lot of success as an organization together over the last three years and we did a lot of great things together that no one can ever take away from us that we’re proud of, that we’re proud that we feel that together we really came through for the fans and for each other and so that stands on its own and that doesn’t disappear at all with me leaving.
The Red Sox remain a very, very strong franchise, with very sound leadership, and we’ll be stronger going forward. As I said in the statement, in the end, this is a job you have to give your whole heart and soul to, you have to devote yourself to completely. You have to believe in every aspect of it. And in the end, after a long period of reflection about myself and the organization, and the time, I decided I could no longer put my whole heart and soul into it.
Q: There were a lot of reports around that Dan Shaughnessy’s column, in the Boston Globe on Sunday, had a lot to do with your decision because it looked like he’s too close to the management of the Boston Red Sox. Did that column have anything to do (with your decision)?
No. That column was pointed out to me on Sunday and I read it. But it is what it is. It was a column by a columnist. So it’s his opinion and I respect the Boston media but the opinion of any member of the Boston media will not affect my decision in such an important decision such as this.
Q: Do you feel the fact that the Boston Globe has a part ownership in the Red Sox has anything to do with the fact that (they may have been) too cozy with the front office?
No, you know in my time as GM I had to focus on the team on the field and building and maintaining a baseball operation, I really didn’t get in the PR with respect to any one paper and in the end I don’t really know about that situation or have a comment about it but that article I take as basically as the opinion of one person. A lot of things happened during the end of this negotiation that caused me to think more closely about the situation, think about myself, think about the organization and whether it was the right fit. Again, in the end I decided that the right thing to do was to move on.
Q: Did this decision come after an agreement in principle (with the team)?
No, if that’s been reported that way, that’s incorrect. There was no agreement in principle. It was a tough decision, a close decision. In the last week, I leaned one way, I leaned the other in my own mind, but in the end it became clear to me that the right thing to do was to move on and we never had an agreement, nor thought we had an agreement.
Q: Was there anything that could have been done at all to you to stay?
In the end, no. In the end, we had a lot of honest talks during that last week and reflecting on ourselves and the organization and the job and whether it was right. And again, the way I look at it you have to be all in. You have to believe in every aspect of the job and the organization and your ability to stay and do the job the right way, with your whole heart and your whole soul. And in the end, it just wasn’t the right fit. It wasn’t right.
Q: When you met with us after the season, it seemed like your heart and soul was in it. What happened (since then)?
There was a process, leading up to the decision, during which we really turned the microscope on ourselves and on the organization, on relationships and because to do this, we all felt that to do this, you had to be all in. You had to really believe. And that process was very difficult. I think a lot of good came from that process. There were a lot of difficult discussions that probably should have happened a long time ago, but in the end, you asked what changed, the process revealed that I could not put my whole heart and soul into the job at this time.
Q: Do you have a good relationship with Larry (Lucchino)?
Yeah. My relationship with Larry is one that spanned about 14 years. We’ve had a very successful working relationship. I think Larry and I like each other. As with any long relationship, there are complexities, there are ups and down, there are occasionally times where you have philosophical differences. But in the end, I want what’s best for Larry. I wish him well in the future. When I look back, he’s done a lot for me. I owe him quite a bit, and I take that to heart. In the end, 30 years from now when I look back on my relationship with Larry Lucchino, I’m gonna see it as a positive influence in my life.
Q: (Can you tell us) what in the process caused you to think deeper or what changed your mind?
No, a lot of that is very personal. And a lot of that will remain personal. It’s just the process of stripping everything down, looking at yourself and the organization, and relationships and whether it’s the right thing to do, to say again, it’s just a question of was this the right thing to do for me to resign, to remain with the Red Sox or to choose not to. I chose not to.
Q: Theo it almost sounds like you have a little burn out, does this mean you’ll step away from baseball…?
No, I am not burned out. As I said in the statement, I have tremendous passion for the game. I have a tremendous dedication to the game. I believe I will find myself in a position of leadership with an organization again in the future, but I have no immediate plans. My goal for the rest of this week is to help the organization with the transition and help the baseball operations staff that I care so much about, get ready for the general managers’ meetings. Once these guys ship out for the GM meetings, then I can consider the future a little bit more closely but I certainly have a passion for the game. I work hard, but I enjoy it and I’m not at all burned out.
Q: Do you see yourself returning in five to 10 years in (a similar) position?
With the Red Sox? (yes) Well again, the decision right now is that it’s the right thing to leave the organization and obviously it’s not a decision I take lightly but hopefully my life will be long and it will take many turns and I wouldn’t rule anything out, but for right now the difficult decision is to walk away.
Q: What is the dynamic that you would say is the perfect general manager’s environment? If you were to say this is how I’d like it to be for the next job…
Well, as far as how we… We were set up in a way that’s pretty conventional around baseball and I think very effective. I felt, if there are reports of a power struggle, or meddling on behalf of Larry, that really wasn’t the case. Essentially, I felt like I had pretty much a free hand to run the baseball operation the way I saw fit. Now what we did is I think common practice throughout baseball is that I would run deals and moves by the CEO and by ownership, usually via email, or via telephone call, and that’s common practice around baseball. And that’s the way it should be. You should justify your moves, I think the process… having to go through that process itself makes you better and makes you better prepared. So that’s fairly common practice and that’s the way we were set up. I didn’t really have, contrary to some reports, there was no… there weren’t chain of command issues. There wasn’t really a power struggle with respect to the baseball decisions.
Q: (What about) the personal privacy issues with the speculating that the perhaps the job got so suffocating. Was that in any way a factor in your decision?
You know there’s no doubt that being general manager of the Red Sox is an intense job and obviously with the passion of our fan-base, a public job. And so I had to make some sacrifices along the way with respect to my personal privacy. I could reconcile that a lot better towards the end than I was able to at the beginning of my tenure. Certainly that aspect of it was cause for some soul searching as we… as I went about this process of reaching the right decision. In the end, I was able to reconcile that and certainly that was not a major factor although it did cause me to ask some questions about what I wanted. In the end, I was able to reconcile that. And certainly, anyone who takes the job of GM of the Red Sox knows that going in as I did and I learned to adapt to it although it was difficult to make that adjustment.
Q: Theo, regarding your celebrity status, were you surprised at how big a celebrity you were here. Talk about how you felt about having reporters outside of your house, going everywhere with a gorilla suit…
This is the first time there have been reporters outside my house. And the first time I ever put on a gorilla costume and it won’t be the last… it was pretty fun. Was I surprised? Yes and no. I wasn’t surprised that I’d become a public figure, again you know that going in when you take the job as GM of the Red Sox. I think that the success of our organization from the top down and of the baseball operations staff. That success created extra attention, so after we won the World Series, there was a lot more attention and scrutiny. I guess in a way I became a popular local figure, and that goes along with a lot of responsibilities, and I made a difficult adjustment and handled those responsibilities. It’s not the way I would choose to go through life. I don’t want to be a celebrity my whole life, but when I’m general manager in a town, I have a responsibility to be up front as a public figure and I’m OK with that.
Q: Was it uncomfortable? How did you feel about having people chase you around?
The media wasn’t chasing me around. I would have news conferences with them after games. In the last 48 hours, the media has been chasing me around and that’s one of the reasons I’m here today because you want to talk to me, and rather than run, I think the right thing to do is sit here and I’ll try to answer some of your questions to the best of my ability, that’s what I’m trying to do right now and again I ask that after this conference, at least for the immediate future, you respect my privacy, and my boundaries and don’t chase me around town.
Q: If the team hadn’t won the World Series (in 2004) would you be (leaving)?
It’s impossible to speculate about that, that’s a hypothetical. The fact that we won the World Series and accomplished that goal, as an organization, allows me the freedom to really make a choice about what the right thing to do is in this situation. In other words, I took very seriously the responsibilities of turning the Red Sox into a championship organization or playing a role in that process and we did accomplish that. There’s a lot more work to be done here. It’s sad for me to leave… with more work to be done. I feel like we’re in a very good position for the future with the farm system. You know these guys have built and I’ll watch with admiration, respect, and good wishes from afar as they go forward.
Q: Do you have any second thoughts, since you made the announcement on Monday and would you recommend anybody (to take the general manager position)?
If I say I have no second thoughts then it might seem like it was an easy decision. It was a very difficult decision but I know it was the right decision so in that respect there weren’t second thoughts. It was difficult. It was unfortunate. But this is the right thing for me and in the end it will be the right thing for the Red Sox and if we handle it the right way, we’ll make us that much stronger as we go forward and as we move our separate directions.
I have conferred with ownership and with Larry about our whole baseball operations staff and made recommendations about how to preserve the excellent foundation that we have and have talked to them, at least in general terms, about the general manager position.
Q: Theo (you said) there were no chain of command issues… was there some component of your relationship with Larry Lucchino that caused you to decide that continuing was untenable…?
It’s not fair to attribute my decision to any one factor or any one person. There were many factors that went into this decision and it’s not something I took lightly. It was not a snap reaction, it was not… indeed it was not a reaction at all to anything. It was the result of a process of asking the difficult questions of myself and of Larry and of the organization, in deciding what the right course was.
Q: We’re you all concerned that having won the World Series here in your second year when you’re 30, that anything you do would tarnish that legacy (it isn’t in your best interest) of staying in baseball and you should do something else?
I don’t feel that way. We have goals about the type of organization we want to be. We want to be the type of organization that has a very productive minor league system, scouts well, and develops those players. We’re right at the doorstep of integrating a whole slew of very talented young players onto the big league roster. That’s something that we want to become, an annual practice, and it will really start in earnest next year. I’m excited for these guys, for the chance to accomplish great things with a lot of our own players and with a younger dynamic team. There’s gonna be a difficult process and I guess I ask the fans of Boston that on my way out that they should have patience with the team moving forward as young players take some time to… it’s gonna be a very competitive team but there are going to be young players and they take time to develop. In the end, it will be worth it to have a young exciting team year in and year out with products of our own farm system and there are a lot of pieces in place in player development operations to accomplish that and I’m sure John, Tom, and Larry, they have 40 years of baseball experience between them. They’re the owners and the CEO that have really stewarded this team to this historic run and in some ways we had some unprecedented success the last three years so the foundation is strong and I think the future is bright for the Red Sox.
I’m not concerned with my legacy at all. I’m concerned with doing the right thing and when I work for a baseball team, in the capacity of general manager, I’m in charge of building a baseball operation, maintaining that operation and winning as many games as possible every year, as many championships as possible.
Q: What has it been like to work in your hometown, with your hometown team these last three years, from a personal standpoint?
It’s been great. This was a tremendous opportunity that John, Tom, and Larry gave me to work in my hometown and to be the general manager of my hometown team. I really appreciate that. I never take it for granted. I tried to make the most of it. We had success, in the end, the best part always in life when you look back are the relationships you form with the people who work there and I’ll cherish those forever and I won’t lose those just because I leave. Everyone should have that opportunity, it was great, obviously it’s a time of my life I’ll always look back on with fond memories.
Q: Theo, so far we’ve got: it wasn’t a power struggle, it wasn’t personal privacy, it wasn’t a feeling of satisfaction (after) winning the World Series, it wasn’t… what was it?
Again Bob (Ryan)… I would hope that my answers help you get there in some way and again, the way I am, to do this job you have to believe in every aspect of the job. You have to believe in yourself, you have to believe in the people you work with, you have to believe in the whole organization. You have to believe that this is the right place and really go all in. Put your faith and your trust in the organization and in the end, there’s personal reflection about a lot of issues and in the end, I determined it was the right thing for me not to return.
Q: What didn’t you believe in? Yourself? Some person? What was it?
No, I believe in myself and that’s one of the reasons why I’m willing to take this step going off into relative uncertainty. I have faith in myself to embrace this change in my life and in the end I believe it will make me stronger. Just so I think this organization is going to be fine and I think as this organization moves on without me, if we handle this the right way, and we really look at certain elements of the organization… things we talked about in honest discussions that are private, (discussions) that we had during this process. If we look at that, I think a lot of good can come from this for the organization.
Q: In the timeline (of the negotiations), do you have any recollection of when you started to get to where you are right now, if you have any regrets that perhaps you didn’t come to the organization sooner (instead of) letting it get so late?
Two issues, where we ended up and how we got there. I believe the decision was just the right thing and as far as the process and the timing, we sat down and had honest discussions that in the end, or throughout the process, both sides knew where the other one stood. That there really were no surprises. We were excruciatingly honest with one another and it became apparent over the last week or two that it was probably gonna head right down for Monday and in fact, we agreed that I would give them a decision by Monday at 1:00 and I did that.
Q: The past few days guys like Curt Schilling, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, David Ortiz have all spoken out on your behalf and were really disappointed to hear that you’re leaving. (How’s it feel to) walk away from those guys who have been so happy with the job that you’re doing?
Well, I guess it makes me feel good to hear that I was respected and liked by people I worked with, and I feel the same way about them so it’s bittersweet because it makes you feel like… it reminds you of how difficult it is to leave but at the same time, it makes me proud of how we conducted ourselves as an organization in the last three years, we have very high expectations of our players on and off the field and put a lot of trust in them and I feel like they lived up to it and made us proud.
Q: Theo, do you believe that in any way that the confidentiality of certain issues concerning whether it was baseball decisions or a player’s desire to keep something private was breached by upper management either in the papers or on the talk shows?
You know, whenever you have a negotiation, an internal negotiation, management negotiating with one of its employees, there’s the possibility for it to get contentious. There’s the possibility for it to become public. And we took steps throughout the process to protect against that, and it worked for a long time. There were some breakdowns in the end, and that was unfortunate.
Q: Theo, have you been contacted by the Dodgers?
In the last 24 hours I was… one team made contact with me through an intermediary, and I told the intermediary to please tell the team that right now I was focused on helping get the Red Sox to the general managers meetings and focusing on the transition that if we get to next week, that would be a more appropriate time for me to listen to what other teams have to say.
Q: If Larry Lucchino were not a part of this organization would you still retain this job?
That’s… look, focusing too much on any one person, or any one factor, is not appropriate here. This decision is not something I took lightly and it was based on a variety of factors and Larry and his ability to steer the franchise was a big factor in bringing me here in the first place and it was a big factor in our collective success. So it’s inappropriate to focus too much on any one person. Frankly, it’s been difficult for me to hear a lot of the things said about the organization and said about Larry over the last 48 hours because in the end, I want the best for him and I certainly want the best for the organization. And I believe that the Red Sox are going to be strong going forward and I would hate for the result of a very difficult decision that I had to make to in any way interrupt what I think is going to be continued success going forward.
Q: One year ago, would you have believed that you’d be leaving the Red Sox?
“It certainly wasn’t on my mind a year ago. A year ago, we were faced with a lot of difficult baseball decisions, (…right after you won). That wasn’t on my mind (then) either, grabbing a bottle of champagne was probably on my mind but I never really foresaw the day when I’d leave the Red Sox organization but sometimes choices in life aren’t easy, and sometimes you have to do something… you have to take the difficult path… because it’s the right path. And that’s what I believe I did. And I hope that in the end, it makes me stronger, it makes the Red Sox stronger. Thanks a lot guys.
I’d like to start by talking about Theo. Theo is a remarkable young man. I don’t have to tell any of you in this room. I don’t have to tell any of our fans. He’s a remarkable young man. For the last three and a half years, even before he became general manager of this club, he worked incessantly, he worked selflessly, tirelessly. I’ve never seen anyone work harder than Theo worked to try to make this organization successful.
There was a time when he was pressing me to bring in JP Ricciardi and Billy Beane, “let’s see if we can get both of these guys” and I said Theo, these are two young guys you want to put in front of you? They’re both general managers and… that was an early indication of how completely selfless this man was with regard to this franchise with what was in the best interest of the Boston Red Sox.
While I may not 100 percent agree with his decision, I believe that a very large part of his decision is driven by the same motives, the same love for this franchise. That being said, I’ve been reading for the last few days, and you probably noticed Larry Lucchino’s not here today. He’s been maligned and blamed for this situation over the last couple of days. And I think that’s wrong. I think that’s inaccurate. Things that have been said…
What people don’t realize, or I don’t think take into account, since I’ve been here, and it’s now been four years, I’ve seen Larry Lucchino blamed for everything under the sun. I don’t know how anyone can legitimately think that the principal owner is not ultimately responsible for what happens with the general manager. How you can just give the principal owner of any baseball club a free pass and say “you know this guy Larry Lucchino is a bad guy.” Cause that’s sort of the way I look at what’s happened here the last couple of days.
This was not Larry Lucchino pushing Theo out.
Rather than going on, this isn’t my particular forte, I should probably answer your questions because you have a lot of questions…
Q: John, to what extent do you hold yourself responsible and what would you have done differently with the benefit of hindsight?
I hold myself wholly responsible. Because you can’t have the title of principal owner and not be responsible for what happens in this franchise.
This is a great, great, loss. To lose Theo is a great loss. And so I feel responsible. What could I have done? There’s plenty I could have done.
You know I have to ask myself maybe I’m not fit to be the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox… umm… there’s no crying in baseball.
I take full responsibility and it angers me to see Larry branded and I know if there’s a national audience watching, they may not understand why I’m making such a big deal out of Larry Lucchino who has turned this franchise around in every way, shape, and form. Not just by bringing Theo Epstein in. But by everything that has happened here over four years. We are all too willing to blame him for this. I didn’t hear Theo blaming Larry Lucchino and it’s unfair. If you want to place blame for what happened here, I’m responsible, yes.
Q: Why did it come to this point. Why didn’t you take care of something say right after the World Series a year ago when you knew this was going to be an issue sometime. Why did you wait until Halloween?
Because never in my wildest dreams did I think this would ever happen. I had this romantic notion Theo’s gonna be our general manager for the rest of my life and we had the best relationship imaginable. We still have the best relationship. I can’t imagine having a better relationship with a human being than I have with Theo. That’s my answer.
Q: John did you try to talk him out of it?
Q: Do you wish you had been involved (in the negotiations)?
I was never not involved. This myth that Larry Lucchino… you know, it’s a myth.
Q: Why if you thought “never in your wildest dreams would this day happen,” why in your eyes, then from your perspective did it happen?
Well ultimately you have to ask Theo. It wouldn’t be fair for me to give my inter… my reasons why Theo is leaving.
Q: Were you blindsided by this coming and do you wish perhaps communication would have been a little bit better?
No, I wasn’t blindsided.
Q: John you sound very sad, are you saying to us that you blew it?
Umm, I’m much more responsible than Larry Lucchino is.
Q: Do you feel like you blew it?
Did I blow it? Yeah, I feel that way.
Q: If by your account Larry Lucchino was unfairly maligned, why isn’t he here?
Because I felt it was important for somebody to speak the truth, to stand up for Larry and… I didn’t feel it was appropriate for him to come here and defend himself over this issue. There have been things written over the last couple of weeks that are off base and I felt I should, I should come.
Q: How quickly do you feel you need to have a new general manager in place with the GM meetings next week?
It’s certainly not something that we rushed the last time. It’s certainly not going to be something that we rush this time. I have great faith that the same… that Larry and the same people that worked to make the right decision last time, will make the right decision this time.
Q: Is somebody running baseball ops in the interim?
I don’t think we’re prepared to announce that at this time.
Q: John, why do you feel responsible. Could you have done anything differently?
Sure, I could have done things differently. There’s… I could have done things differently.
Q: John, was there a point where you thought that the only thing that was keeping this from getting done was money?
Was money? No. It wasn’t until you (Gordon Edes) wrote an article that I had any inkling that there might be a money issue. So but…
Q: Was there a money issue in your viewpoint?
Yeah, at one point there was. At one point we both… there was a money issue… but that’s not what led to this.
Q: Then what became the issue at the end?
Again, I would say it’s for Theo to tell you. He told you what his… there was not one single issue and that’s the absolute truth. There’s not one single issue. There were a multitude of issues.
Q: Do you believe there was a chain of command issue?
No. I think that’s fiction. I asked Theo, he told me that was not true. I even went to people in baseball operations and I asked the question… you know I read that, but I have no evidence to support that. I believe what Theo told me.
Q: Do you believe there’s a trust issue?
A trust issue? Between Theo and us? Between Theo and Larry? Again, I… you know… if there are reasons that Theo had… if there was a trust issue from Theo’s perspective, he should be the one to tell you that. I don’t believe, as I said before, that there was one issue. Was that an issue? I don’t believe that was an issue.
Q: John are you going to change things in the organization going forward to show that you’ve changed things, the culture if you will, to show that you’ve changed what goes on day-to-day? Do you need to change things in the day-to-day operations?
No, I don’t think so. I think that the… oh, yes, there are always things in any organization that need to be improved upon. There are things. There are things that came as Theo said, that came out in this process that need to be changed.
Q: What are they?
I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to say that publicly. Because we’ll all be reading about it, or at least we’ll be reading… I’m sure we’ll be reading things about… but I can tell you that one of the problems in this process was the media did not have access to what was going on, so they had to rely upon unnamed sources. I’m not blaming… I’m not blaming at all the media because there’s this tremendous frenzy that has existed. I think it really began with the Curt Schilling signing. There’s been this tremendous frenzy associated with this franchise over the last two years now and people want to know. They wanted to know in the A-Rod situation. People want to know so the media is asking anyone they can ask who might have a source and again, I don’t blame the media but there were things that were said that were inaccurate.
Q: John from the club’s perspective, what are the multitude of issues that led to this thing?
It wasn’t from the club’s perspective. It was from Theo’s perspective. He went through that earlier.
Q: John when you look back on it, what did Theo Epstein mean to the Boston Red Sox when he was here?
This is a great loss. This is a great personal loss. He was as I said earlier, he worked every minute of the day. At the end of the day you could go home after the ballgame and take it easy but there was… he was driven. And when I say he, I mean this entire baseball operations. These are men and women were driven. I know they became tired of me saying to them “you need to take time off, you need time with your family,” principally I said this to Theo. There was a point at which in the middle of this frenzy, after we won a World Series, and this wasn’t just true in baseball operations, I remember calling Theo at one point, maybe a week or two after we won the World Series, and he said, you know we’re looking around and it’s like “Well we won a World Series didn’t we?” But it doesn’t feel like we did because they ended up, as far as they were concerned, the day after the World Series, they were a month behind. Other clubs were doing what they needed to do to get ready for the season. They weren’t ready so… sorry I’m tending to go on here, but these people worked as hard as humanly possible in the best interest of this franchise to build a world championship team. They did. We’re gonna be forever grateful to them. And we’re going to move forward and we’re going to do it again.
Q: John, a lot of people are still kind of confused about exactly why Theo made the decision. Do you have a complete understanding and do you accept it?
I don’t think there’s any way I can have a complete understanding of it.
Q: You indicated already that you started the process of looking for a new GM…?
No, we haven’t started the process because we were so immersed in trying to convince Theo he should stay that it would have been. You know I’m sure we would have talked with Josh, but we were so immersed in trying to convince Theo to stay that it would have been… I can’t imagine until Monday when he made his decision. I can’t imagine and since then… there’s been… we’ve been just as upset as any of the fans about this loss but we’re going to put this together and we’re going to move forward and this franchise is going to be fine. Larry Lucchino is not the root of the problem here. He’s going to do what he did before and build a baseball organization which… actually he doesn’t have to do, we have a great baseball organization. I’m hopeful that they’re going to see through another world championship, but we’re going to be fine.