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Theo Epstein furious with Kevin Gregg for complaining to media

Kevin Gregg CubsChicago Cubs GM Theo Epstein is considering releasing Kevin Gregg in response to the relief pitcher’s comments to the media after Friday’s game.

Gregg took the loss after allowing four runs in a 9-5 defeat to the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field. After the game, Gregg complained to the media that the Cubs had told him a few days earlier that he would not be a part of the team’s closer plans for next season.

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Jeff Samardzija told Theo Epstein he would dump his girlfriend to focus on improving

Jeff Samardzija CubsJeff Samardzija was so intent on becoming a successful pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, he once told Theo Epstein that he was going to dump his girlfriend in order to focus on improving.

Epstein was the subject of an excellent feature written by Joe Posnanski. The article discussed Epstein’s efforts to overhaul the culture of the Chicago Cubs organization after becoming the team’s President of Baseball Operations following the 2011 season. When he first took the job, Epstein thought that only shortstop Starlin Castro would be part of a winning future in Chicago. He soon realized that Samardzija, a former Notre Dame wide receiver who signed with the Cubs in 2006, could also help the team win.

Epstein recalled something Samardzija told him and new manager Dale Sveum that delineated the pitcher’s dedication to the game.

“Welcome guys,” Epstein remembers Samardzija saying on his first day with Sveum, Posnanski writes. “I just want you to know one thing about me. I will do whatever it takes to help this team. And I think the best way to help this team is by being a starting pitcher. I’m eliminating everything in my life that gets in the way. I’m dumping my girlfriend. I’m moving to Arizona. I just want the chance to show you that I’m a starting pitcher.”

We don’t know if Samardzija actually dumped his girlfriend or if that was a figure of speech, but he wouldn’t be the first professional athlete to dump a girl in order to focus on training. Whatever Samardzija did definitely worked.

After pitching out of the bullpen from 2008-2011, Samardzija became a starter last season and went 9-13 with a 3.88 ERA. He lowered his previously high walk rate, and he impressively struck out over a batter per inning. He will even be the team’s Opening Day starter, and the Cubs are so pleased with him they have even approached him about signing a contract extension.

Hopefully Samardzija hasn’t completely cut off contact with the opposite sex, but the good news is it sounds like he is following one of Epstein’s most important tenets for Cubs players.

CSN Chicago has the full feature on Epstein if you’re interested in reading it.

H/T Paul Sullivan

Theo Epstein takes exception with his quotes in Terry Francona’s book

Terry Francona has co-authored a book, “Francona: The Red Sox Years,” and from the sound of it, the former Boston Red Sox manager is seeking a bit of revenge in the wake of the team smearing his image on his way out the door.

Earlier this week, we shared one of Theo Epstein’s quotes from the book in which the former Boston general manager talked about John Henry, Larry Lucchino and the Red Sox ownership group wanting “sexy” players.

On Wednesday, Epstein told Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com that the quotes were taken out of context.

“My quote about how ‘they told us… we needed sizzle’ was in response to a question about the meeting to discuss the consultants’ study on NESN ratings,” Epstein, who is now with the Chicago Cubs, said. “It was specifically about the consultants’ meeting; it was not about ownership.”

Epstein insists that it was marketing consultants that said the team needed to bring in “sexy” players — not Henry and company. He also took exception with the book’s assertion that he was pressured into trading for Adrian Gonzalez and signing Carl Crawford prior to the 2011 season.

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Theo Epstein: Red Sox owners wanted ‘sexy’ players

Former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona has co-authored a book, and as expected there are parts in it that paint an unflattering picture of the way the team’s owners operate. As many of us already suspected, John Henry and company care more about the image of their team than they do about putting a winning team on the field.

In his book, “Francona: The Red Sox Years,” Francona talks about how Henry, team chairman Tom Werner and team president Larry Lucchino were always worried about television ratings. Former general manager Theo Epstein, who is now with the Chicago Cubs, also weighed in.

“They told us we didn’t have any marketable players, that we needed some sizzle,” Epstein said. “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 removed from what we set out to be.”

In 2004, Epstein was able to break an 86-year World Series drought with little-known players like Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar. David Ortiz was hardly a household name when Boston brought him over from Minnesota, but he was a “small” acquisition that wound up becoming huge. On the other hand, trading for Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford two years ago brought fireworks in the media, but it led to one of the worst results the team had seen in years.

Francona even went as far as to say he doesn’t think the current Red Sox ownership group loves baseball.

“They come in with all these ideas about baseball, but I don’t think they love baseball,” Francona said. “I think they like baseball. It’s revenue, and I know that’s their right and their interest because they’re owners … and they’re good owners. But they don’t love the game. It’s still more of a toy or a hobby for them. It’s not their blood. They’re going to come in and out of baseball. It’s different for me. Baseball is my life.”

After Francona was fired following Boston’s epic collapse in 2011, Henry had to defend himself against accusations that he leaked information to the media to smear Francona’s name. Tito seems to think it happened that way, and who can blame him? The quotes in the book simply confirm what Red Sox fans have come to know so well — it’s all about image for Henry and the boys.

Red Sox didn’t send Theo Epstein’s unvitation to Fenway’s 100th anniversary until day before the celebration

The Red Sox probably thought they were doing a cool thing by celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, but little did they know how much drama it would cause.

Last week, Terry Francona, who left/was fired by the team after last season’s collapse, said he would not feel comfortable attending the celebration. He changed his mind this week and said on Wednesday he would be in attendance.

Well if the manager for the Red Sox’s last two World Series-winning teams will be in attendance, surely so will the general manager who built those teams, right? Wrong.

The Red Sox initially did not invite Theo Epstein, who was “traded” to the Cubs in the offseason, to the celebration until Thursday, the day before the ceremony. Buster Olney believes that the unvitation was the result of public pressure.

Shockingly, Epstein wasn’t able to change his plans to arrange a last-second trip to Boston, but he is wishing them a good time.

“I hope tomorrow is a great day for Red sox fans and for the whole organization,” Epstein told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman. “I have plans to be at the Cubs game tomorrow, but I will take a moment to toast Fenway along with everyone else who loves that ballpark.”

Nice going, Boston. You guys are just oozing with class right now.

Photo Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

Theo Epstein to Cubs: No more staying out late, Chicago nightlife has ruined careers

For those of you who who unaware, it has been a while since the Cubs won a World Series. The same was true of the Red Sox when Theo Epstein took over as general manager 10 years ago. Epstein helped break a life-long drought for the fans of Boston, and the Chicago faithful are hoping he can do the same for them. One of the ways Theo believes the Cubs will be able to achieve their goals is to ignore the Chicago nightlife.

“It’s been a factor in ruining some careers,” Epstein said at the Cubs convention according to the Chicago Tribune. “And I’m sure it’s been an impediment to the Cubs in winning. … The approach we’re going to have is the opposite of laissez faire. We’re not just going to say, ‘Oh, that’s the way it is. This is Chicago. Boys will be boys. I’m sure they’re going to get enough sleep and I’m sure they’ll show up the next day ready to play.’

“That’s a failure on the organization’s part. We have to take a very proactive approach in setting a high standard.”

In other words, Epstein isn’t going to tolerate the type of behavior that went on in Boston in 2004 when the Red Sox snapped their 86-year curse. If he doesn’t want his team enjoying the nightlife in Chicago, I doubt he wants them ripping shots of Jack in the clubhouse before big games. Outfielder Reed Johnson agrees with the new team president.

“It’s important for young players to recognize that you need to get your sleep,” Johnson said. “This is your career. This is what you do for a livelihood. You need to treat it that way, especially in our park. You don’t have that extra 10 hours when you wake up in the morning to get ready for that 7 o’clock night game. You’ve got to be able to get into that routine. … I know I’m in bed probably by 9, 10 o’clock at night to get ready for that day game.”

In reality, we’re talking about professional athletes. Guys are going to do what they want and aren’t going to adhere to a curfew just because the new sheriff in town says to. That doesn’t mean Theo’s advice should be taken lightly.

Did Theo Epstein Outbid the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp on a Chicago Home?

Theo Epstein is just living the dream. He is known to many as the savior of the Red Sox franchise for having broken an 86-year curse, and now he has an opportunity to snap an even longer drought in Chicago. Having just signed a five-year, $20 million contract with the Cubs, Epstein must be feeling pretty good about where his life is at. After purchasing a new $3.25 million home located just blocks from Wrigley Field, he must be feeling even better.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Epstein’s new mansion is located in Lakeview, which is right around the corner from the Cubs’ stadium.  The list price on the home was $2.99 million, which I’m guessing means Theo really had to have it.  The house includes five full bathrooms, two half baths, a master suite, and a four-car garage.

Of course, there is a fun little side plot to all of this.  Just five days before Epstein closed on the home on Oct. 26, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp cancelled the contract that he had signed to buy the home on Sept. 15.  It’s certainly possible that plans changed or something went wrong for Sharp, but it’s also possible that the big, bad, new front office guy in town outbid him.  Money talks.

Fist pound to Hardball Talk for the story.