The 46-year-old Epstein still has one more year left on his contract with the Cubs, but decided that after nine seasons and winning the Cubs’ first World Series in 108 years he was done.
Epstein also helped put together the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that finally ended that franchise’s World Series drought of 85 years.
Before the announcement of Epstein’s departure was made public, he sent a lengthy letter to his co-workers that explained his decision and which has since become public.
Dear Cubs Friends:
Later today we will announce that I am stepping down as President of Baseball Operations and that Jed will be succeeding me effective November 20. I wanted you to hear this news from me first so I can share some background on my decision and begin to thank you for everything that your dedication, hard work, loyalty, and accomplishment has meant to the Cubs franchise, to the fans, to me and to my family.
I think most of you know that I have always planned to be with the Cubs for a maximum of ten years. Bill Walsh’s theory that in the sports industry a change in leadership after about a decade can be beneficial for both the organization and the individual has always resonated with me. The idea is that the executive finds the renewed vigor and passion and creativity that comes with a new challenge; the organization receives the jolt of a fresh perspective and the chance for immediate growth that comes with change. Given this timeline, Tom and I had been communicating for the last couple years about how to execute a transition that leaves the Cubs in the best possible position going forward. While we had been operating with the basic assumption that the formal transition would take place next October, this summer it became apparent to me that for a number of reasons we should consider moving the timeframe up a year.
First, the organization faces many decisions this winter that carry long-term consequences; those types of decisions are best made by someone who will be here for a long period rather than for just one more year. Second, as we know all too well, COVID-19 has brought serious threats and impacts to our business and our people — and to every sports franchise in the country — and we must face the immediate challenge of how to allocate our temporarily reduced resources in a way that allows us to move forward and to succeed. In a way my presence in 2021 would actually make that challenge more difficult. Last, Jed Hoyer is more than ready to lead the Cubs into their next chapter. Well respected in all corners of the organization and the industry — and with experience as a Baseball Operations “number one” already on his resume — Jed offers continuity that will preserve our areas of strength. At the same time, Jed is realistic about the areas where we need to improve and is unafraid to make necessary changes, as evidenced by his role in 2019’s restructuring and re-modernization of our amateur scouting and player development departments. Jed has been a loyal and impactful right-hand man, but he is his own man, with his own eyes, his own opinions, and his own leadership style. He does not need me watching over his shoulder for another year as we finish off a transition that in many ways has been years in the making.
I am excited about the Cubs’ future despite the obvious short-term challenges. This organization has myriad strengths, starting at the top. Tom and his siblings have managed to do exactly what they said they would do in their first decade: improve Wrigley Field, invest in the community, and put revenues back into the baseball operation to produce sustained winning and a World Series. It’s exciting to think what they can accomplish over multiple generations of club stewardship. Meanwhile, Crane Kenney and our talented partners in the business operation are poised to resume their track record of outstanding revenue growth when we move past the current crisis. On the baseball side, while we face a complicated landscape this winter, we have so many reasons for optimism: Jed and a dynamic front office featuring several future GM’s; Rossy, a natural-born leader and winner coming off a terrific managerial debut; coaches and support staff who just helped us win a division and remain COVID free in one of the most trying seasons in baseball history; scouting and development staff who have embraced the challenge of reinvention, broken new ground, and started to see the fruits of our labor pay off with outstanding early returns this summer and in instructs; and, last but not least, a group of players who with their on-field play, leadership, and blood, sweat and tears have transformed the franchise and are eager for more. Yes, there are real challenges; yes, there will be some changes going forward; and, yes, there will be patience required in certain areas. But I am confident the Cubs will find a way forward to live up to the high expectations that have become commonplace and welcomed around Wrigley.
As for what I will do next, I’m not precisely sure, though I have a few things in mind. Next summer will be my first in 30 years not clocking into work every day at a major league ballpark. Believe me, it has been a blast, but I’m looking forward to the increased time to spend with family, to explore, and to follow a few different pursuits. For starters, I’m looking forward to working with a few non-profits: The Foundation To Be Named Later in Chicago and Boston, the CASE (Careers As Sports Executives) Study Program here at the Cubs, and The Players Alliance as a member of its Executive Advisory Committee. I do plan on having a third chapter leading a baseball organization someday, though I do not expect it to be next year. I have seen first-hand the profound impact a baseball team, especially a championship team, can make on its community, and how team owners can become important forces for civic good. If and when the timing and opportunity and partners are right, I would like to join an ownership group. In the meantime, I would love to find a way to serve the game that has given me so much and am pursuing a few possible avenues to do just that.
The best part of this journey with the Cubs has been the feeling of togetherness: the friendships, trust, camaraderie, and collaboration inside the organization as well as the deep connection with the fans. Nine years ago, after I laid out some lofty goals at my introductory press conference — a pledge to create a foundation for sustained success that would mean playing baseball regularly in October as well as a promise, over time and together, to build a team that would ultimately win the World Series — our first act as a baseball department was to set out a collective vision for how we could meet those goals and make our fans proud. Even in the darkest days of the three-year rebuild, we never felt alone. Everyone in baseball operations — most toiling anonymously and without any credit — bought in and stood shoulder to shoulder while working hard and making the unseen sacrifices necessary to move the organization forward. Your work led to some great trades, productive trips for our young talent through our system and onto the major league roster, and finally a recruitment of free agents that evinced a mutual faith — us in them, and them in us — that together we could take the next step and translate talent into October baseball and a ring. Then Joe and his staff built just the right atmosphere to allow the players to turn those plans into a reality for the most deserving fans in the world.
And what a reality it became.
The moments are so precious and such obvious lifetime memories that you almost don’t want to access them too often; yet, they are impossible not to watch — and make your heart skip a few beats — every time they pop on a screen. Our wildcard coming out party in Pittsburgh. Homer after homer to finally slay the Cardinals. A jaw-dropping comeback in San Francisco. A slam and a near perfect game to fell the Dodgers. The atmosphere around Wrigley before Game Three of the World Series — the first played here since 1945 — somehow at once a civic celebration and as tense and edgy as a city can feel. Our scouts and development people bursting with pride while walking around the track. Holding your breath for the entire second half of Game Five and a raucous exhale afterwards. The Game Six breakout. The highs and lows, and rain, and highs again, of Game Seven, which we all endured together, our stomachs clenched and our hearts beating with the fans around us and the generations before us. A little ground ball, a smile from KB, a slip, the ball in Rizz’s glove, and, finally, a collective catharsis and celebration that forever changed the Cubs experience. I am so grateful to you and the fans for everything you have given to this organization and for making this experience so meaningful.
My family and I came here nine years ago as strangers to this city. Over time — thanks to the support and warmth from you, the Ricketts and our fans — Chicago has become our beloved home, the Cubs a second family, and our fans like an extended network of friends. Our boys have grown up watching games at Wrigley, loving the team, and running around the outfield on off days, trying to lose as many balls as possible into the ivy; selfishly, nothing can match the feeling of having them smile and rush into my arms to sing and watch the crowd during every seventh-inning stretch, no matter how old they are getting. The front office and team have enjoyed countless champagne celebrations together and even commiserated a few tough games with fans at Murphy’s under the L flag. The constant banter, laughs and friendships formed in the office, up in the box, and in the clubhouse will last a lifetime. (Unfortunately, so will the hamstring tears from our spring training soccer scrimmages and postseason basketball marathons.) We’ll cherish the pre-game chats with Billy Williams about Cubs history and all the great teams that came up just short, and then the privilege of getting to see the joy on his face as he slipped on his World Series ring for the first time. I keep remembering that feeling from the carefree and expectant days just as we started to turn the corner on the rebuild, walking home after games inconspicuously amongst the fans — all in the jerseys of their new favorite players — hearing them talk excitedly about the upstart young team, feeling their confidence surging. And we’ll never forget the generations of families celebrating together at the parade, nor the images of Cubs pennants and hats draped on gravestones for family members who did not quite live to see the day.
I cannot wait until the fans and all of us are able to return to Wrigley. On the first day back, I am going to walk to Clark and Addison with my wife and two sons, taking in the sights and the sounds and the smells, mixing in with the fans in their jerseys new and old. I will make sure to arrive early enough to come say hello, catch up, and share a few stories. Then, we will settle into our seats, admire the now familiar hues and shapes of the gorgeous Wrigley panorama, and get ready to root on the Cubs and sing during the stretch.
It will feel like home.
Thank you, stay safe, and Go Cubs!
With Admiration and Appreciation,
So, what are the odds of Epstein showing up as the New York Mets’ next president of baseball operations under the team’s brand new owner Steve Cohen? They’d have to be pretty good, don’t you think?