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Theo Epstein Leaves the Cubs, but Plans to Stick Around Baseball

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Credit…Cliff Owen/Associated Press

Epstein, 46, said he planned to buy season tickets to the Cubs and also discussed areas where he could help build the game as a whole, perhaps in a role with the commissioner’s office. An early devotee of data analysis, he took some responsibility for problems with the game due to the expanded reliance on advanced statistics, which he believes has made the game less entertaining.

Epstein had one year remaining on a five-year, $40 million contract extension he signed with the Cubs in 2016. But he has long held to a belief, which he credits to the former San Francisco 49ers Coach Bill Walsh, that 10 years are the optimal period of time to remain in one venture. Epstein said his real skill was building teams into champions. “Maintaining” them, he said, is not as much of a strength for him.

“In the first six years or so, we did some pretty epic things,” he said. “And the last couple years weren’t as impressive.”

Tom Ricketts, the chairman of the Cubs, has stated that baseball is facing significant financial stress because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Epstein, presumably referring to the cost of his contract, said that the projected rebuild of the team would be “easier” without him there. He said his departure would allow Hoyer, who spent two years as general manager of the San Diego Padres, to make long-term decisions about the Cubs’ current roster.

When Epstein took over the Cubs after the 2011 season, the team went through a painful rebuild in which it finished fifth in its division three years in a row, and he felt the burden of trying to end the longest championship drought in the sport. But through a combination of astute draft picks, trades and signings, he built a team that won a seven-game World Series against the Cleveland Indians, who have not won the Series since 1948.

During those early years in Chicago, Epstein said, he often dreamed that the Cubs had won the title, only to wake up and realize they were still in fifth place. Then, after they beat the Indians, he returned home from a night of celebration in Cleveland only to wake up later with that same feeling. For an instant, Epstein wondered if it had all been that same tantalizing dream.

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