BOSTON – The memories flooded in when Theo Epstein traveled back home last month and saw all the old faces. The Band of Idiots got back together again at Abe & Louie’s, a Boylston Street steakhouse where the Red Sox celebrated the 10th anniversary of the championship team that will live forever here.
“It felt like the best possible high school reunion,” Epstein said. “I hadn’t realized I don’t spend any time thinking about that. I don’t think about the ’04 World Series. I don’t think about those teams or those events. And it brought it all back.”
Epstein couldn’t make it to Fenway Park on Monday night, because family reasons kept him back in Chicago. But the Cubs president of baseball operations doesn’t really enjoy being the center of attention anyway.
And Epstein doesn’t really worry about his legacy, which should be bulletproof after becoming the youngest GM in baseball history, helping construct the Red Sox team that broke the 86-year curse and building another World Series winner in 2007.
But there was also Boston’s epic collapse in September 2011, the fried-chicken-and-beer stories and the hardball compensation negotiations with the Cubs. It’s now almost 250 losses into the long rebuild at Wrigley Field, with no Hall of Fame core already in place, and 2016 being targeted as a potential breakthrough year.
Epstein isn’t concerned about how he will be remembered.
“That stuff kind of takes care of itself,” Epstein said. “I was there 10 years, and of course you’re going to have great times and great moments and you’re going to have really disappointing moments.
“Just because it was Boston and the Red Sox and because we kind of did everything to the extreme, the highs were really high and the lows were really low. But looking back, we had so many more great moments than we had disappointing times. It just happened to end on a bad note. That’s life.”
That’s Boston. (See the nasty endings with Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Terry Francona, Kevin Youkilis, Bobby Valentine, etc.)
“Yeah, it’s Boston, but for 10 years, we had as good a run as you could possibly hope for,” Epstein said. “So when I think back on what we accomplished in the World Series, I’m proud to have been part of that. And then I look at the people who are left there, with (Red Sox GM Ben Cherington) and the scouting staff and the development guys.
“And then some of the players who are there now, the (Xander) Bogaerts of the world. And then the players who are coming, Mookie Betts and Henry Owens and all those guys from the last couple drafts – it just makes me feel good. I should be proud that I was a part of that, and I am.
“But I also moved on for a reason, because after 10 years, not much good can happen.”
Epstein clashed with Boston CEO Larry Lucchino, another Yale guy who once helped him break into the business. In the end, Epstein felt like the Red Sox lost their way, becoming addicted to big-money, big-name stars, trying to sell tickets at Fenway Park and drive ratings on NESN – and he didn’t do enough to stop it.
But the guy who responded to the power struggle by sneaking out of Fenway Park on Halloween 2005 – avoiding the Boston media and beginning a leave of absence – says he’s not heading toward another gorilla-suit moment.
“It was the healthy thing for me and the organization to move on,” Epstein said. “There’s nowhere I would rather have been for the last three years than being part of this organization, growing and finding our identity. And I think over the next couple years, we’re poised to explode, and do some really nice things down the line.”