Theo Epstein was one of the biggest figures in Boston – on par with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and maybe even Senator Ted Kennedy.
want proof When Epstein suddenly resigned from the Red Sox on Halloween night in 2005, he left Fenway Park in a gorilla suit, so that the press does not abuse him. Remember, that’s the guy who made the shops. He spent his playing days in the owner’s box, far away from the field. But it didn’t matter. Epstein was synonymous with the curse-breaking Red Sox of 2004, as was the holy trinity of Ortiz, Pedro and Manny.
Epstein rejoined the organization shortly thereafter and built another championship team. He joined the Chicago Cubs in 2011 to become president of baseball operations, building them into a consistent powerhouse and a World Series winner for the first time in 108 years. In Boston and Chicago, Epstein broke championship droughts of 194 years.
Epstein is a rock star and has even been called one candidate for political office. His retirement from the Cubs temporarily deprives the game of its most visible decision maker and last larger-than-life leader.
Epstein resigned as president of baseball operations for the Cubs on Tuesday, sending a letter of resignation to his colleagues. In it, Epstein declares his desire to spend his first summer away from the stadium in 30 years and exudes complete confidence in his successor, longtime lieutenant Jed Hoyer.
“I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do next, although I have a few things in mind,” Epstein writes. “Next summer will be my first in 30 years that I don’t go to work every day at a major league ballpark. Believe me, it’s been a great time, but I’m looking forward to spending time with family, exploring and doing some other things.”
Epstein began his baseball career working for manager Larry Lucchino at the San Diego Padres. When Lucchino became president and CEO of the Red Sox in late 2001, he brought Epstein with him. A year later, Epstein was named baseball’s youngest general manager, taking control of the Red Sox at just 28 years old.
Epstein’s roster refit is legendary. Armed with a star-studded core, he found a number of high-on-base hitters for cheap, including David Ortiz and Kevin Millar. Ortiz’s first contract with the Red Sox was for a year and $1.25 million. (Big Daddy He ended up earning around $154 million in the following 13 seasons.)
After a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the New York Yankees in the ALCS — manager Grady Little stayed in Martinez for an inning too long — Epstein brought in Terry Francona for management and Curt Schilling to join Martinez at the head of the rotation. The Red Sox dangled around the .500 mark for most of the summer, but then Epstein traded underperforming franchise icon Nomar Garciaparra to the Dodgers and the team went on fire for the last two months. It cemented Epstein’s reputation as one of the game’s boldest operators.
The Red Sox were the only team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the series and defeat the Yankees in the ALCS. They swept the Cardinals in the World Series and broke their 86-year drought. As an added bonus, Epstein assembled an even better team in 2007, crammed with homegrown stars: Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Jonathan Papelbon.
To be fair, Epstein was also responsible for the dumpster fire “Chicken and Beer” Red Sox of 2011 and then left town. But the franchise was able to bounce back, winning a World Series title two years later with many of Epstein’s cronies.
Along the way, Epstein became a superstar. A Brookline native who grew up in the shadow of Fenway, he captured the zeitgeist of the fearful city. Epstein founded a community organization aptly titled Foundation to be named later — and worked with Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons Hot oven, cool music. The concert celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and brought in a host of legendary guitarists from Buddy Guy to Eddie Vedder.
Epstein, an avid Pearl Jam fan, recruited the band to play at Wrigley Field.
It might seem odd to know so much about an Ivy League baseball executive, but Epstein developed a cult of personality. It was only expanded during his time leading the Cubs. Through outstanding player development and clever management, Epstein built the Cubs into champions. Under him they reached the playoffs five times.
During this time, Epstein topped Fortune’s list of The world’s greatest leaders. After the 2016 election, the political activist is David Axelrod touted Epstein as future leader of the Democratic Party. President Barack Obama joked Epstein is set to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Epstein comes from a family of artists and academics. His grandfather wrote the screenplay for Casablanca, his father received a Rhodes scholarship and is an English professor at Boston University. Leslie Epstein has pondered his son could head the United Nations.
While Epstein has yet to change the world, he certainly transformed baseball. The Yale grad’s success as general manager of the Red Sox ignited the run of Ivy League baseball executives. Currently 43% of the top decision makers of baseball operations graduated from Ivies. In 2001 this figure was 3%.
Last summer, Epstein spoke candidly about baseball’s diversity issue and his role in it. “Most of the people I’ve hired, if I’m honest, come from a similar background to mine and look a lot like me,” he says said Joon Lee of ESPN.
With such introspection, MLB better hope Epstein doesn’t stay away long. Luckily he already is downplayed the idea of going into politicsand referred in his resignation to lead another team.
Though with Epstein’s stature, taking on another baseball operations job might fall short. After flipping the Red Sox and Cubs, he may get a chance to try and turn another beleaguered organization: Major League Baseball itself.
As World Series ratings have plummeted and national interest has plummeted, baseball has been starless. Epstein is one of the most recognizable characters in the game. He could do anything, but baseball needs him.