Is Theo Epstein Overrated?

Simple question: Is Theo Epstein overrated? The short answer: No. The former Cubs’ President of Baseball Ops left last month, choosing not to exercise the final year of his five-year deal; he was succeeded by former GM, Jed Hoyer.

Many seem to feel that Epstein was all hype and no action. Just a man collecting millions over his long tenure in MLB for doing not much in return. Bull. (feel free to add your own expletives here…)

Why isn’t Theo Epstein Overrated?

Recently, a social media conversation surfaced, posing the question “Is Theo Epstein overrated?” I immediately jumped into the frenzy, rushing to Epstein’s defense. Growing up a die-hard Cubs fan, I’ll be forever grateful to Epstein for building the 2016 World Series champs, thus ending the 108-year drought on Chicago’s north side.

No, Epstein hadn’t done much over the last couple of years, but that wasn’t entirely his fault. Players come and players go, but when the team owner (Tom Ricketts) won’t open his checkbook, there really isn’t a lot for Epstein to be able to do.

In 2019, they (well, Tom Ricketts) let Brandon Kintzler walk away as a free agent, after insulting him with a $1M, one-year offer. In ’19, Kintzler posted an ERA of just 2.68 over the course of 62 appearances. His WHIP? A sparkling 1.018. There isn’t a soul in the world who can argue that anyone was better than Kintzler out of the Cubs’ pen that year, yet he went to the Marlins for $3M on a one-year contract.

Kintzler is just one example – though a damn good one – of how Ricketts hogtied Epstein for the final years of his deal in Chicago. Ricketts looked as though he wanted to win it all via his young core and a bullpen full of rookies and Tommy John survivors, and not via quality signings or retentions.

As it stands now, that core is disintegrating before your very eyes. Why? They’re coming of age and want to be paid. No, they haven’t performed well as a group lately, yet another reason that guys like Willson Contreras are on the trading block this winter.

Still, others want to fault Epstein for bailing out on his last year. While he may have elected to do so, he also stood by the team and staff, as countless front office employees were furloughed during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was a job that he could have left to Jed Hoyer, but he weathered the storm. Much like the players, I’m certain Epstein could have “opted-out” of being in the office in 2020, yet he stayed to handle the grim task of layoffs. Theo Epstein overrated? Nah, not even close.

Was Theo Epstein Overrated in Boston too?

Not many Red Sox fans would say so. Prior to ending the Cubs’ century-plus drought, Epstein also brought relief to Beantown with World Series wins in 2004 and 2007. Epstein’s ability to compile a winning team in 2004 for the Red Sox shattered Boston’s 86-year World Series drought.

I know, I know… he’s overrated.

Cut the Guy a Little Slack, Will Ya?

Yes, Epstein had his share of bad signings, but so do a lot of others in his position. Come to think of it though, not many of those others compiled three World Series-winning teams in two different cities, in the span of just over a decade.

You can argue your opinion all day, but there’s an old Latin legal expression: res ipsa loquitur, which when translated means the thing speaks for itself. Theo Epstein’s track record does just that.

I’ll ask one last time: Is Theo Epstein overrated? I don’t think so.

Epstein plans on taking 2021 off for some long overdue family time. He has, however, vowed a return to MLB, perhaps as a team owner.

Godspeed, Theo. You’ve earned each of your wildest ambitions.

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Ken Allison, Baseball Dept Head
Ken Allison is the senior of two MLB Department Heads, as well as a writer and editor for Overtime Heroics. A life-long MLB fan, he's also written for CubsHQ and had the opportunity to try out for the Chicago Cubs in 1986.

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