Epstein on free agents, fans and fun in BeantownPosted: Friday March 07, 2003 11:33 AM
Theo Epstein grew up in Brookline, Mass., a short jog away from Fenway Park. Last November, he became the youngest general manager in baseball history when his hometown Red Sox elevated him from his post as assistant GM. Epstein, 29, a Yale grad who also holds a degree from the University of San Diego Law School, sat down with SI.com's John Donovan at the Red Sox's spring training stadium in Fort Myers, Fla., for this edition of 10 Questions.
Q: Is this whole "world's youngest GM" thing getting a little old?
A: No. I told myself when I got the job that I was going to have to have a sense of humor about the age thing. Otherwise it would drive me crazy. Everyone introduces me by my age, before my title. We're too busy trying to build a championship club to worry about how old we are.
It's not getting old, but I can't wait for the season to start so the attention will be between the white lines, where it should be, and less about anyone's age.
Q: Do you think that some other GMs maybe looked at you as this young kid and tried to take advantage of you, maybe test you?
A: I'm proud of what we've done, so I don't think we've been taken advantage of. I was pleasantly surprised that, to a man, all the other GMs treated me with respect. I prefer just to treat everyone in this game -- scouts, players, agents, other GMs -- with respect, and sooner or later the respect will come back to you. I think the other GMs gave me respect from the get-go.
Q: You've been criticized for not making a lot of moves this offseason. Is it valid criticism?
A: We made probably as many moves as anyone out there. What we were criticized for is not bringing in a big-name free agent, a big-money free agent. We executed our plan exactly the way we wanted to.
Q: What was the difficulty in bringing in a big-name free agent?
A: The problem with the Boston Red Sox has never been a lack of star power. We have a core of good players in their prime. We want to build this organization from within, with scouting and player development. We brought in a number of talented players that just don't happen to be household names. I think they will be. The days of giving up first-round picks for star players and overspending just to make the fans happy in January or February, those days are over. The Red Sox want to please their fans in late October, not December.
Q: Was it hard for you not to pull the trigger on a big-name deal, especially given your history as a Red Sox fan?
A: The day you go into the front office is the day you have to realize the difference between fans and leadership in the front office. Fans want big-name guys and they want 'em now. They want to win this year. They're focusing on this year. That's the way it should be. I remember, that's how I was, too. But we have to keep one eye on this year's club and one eye on the big picture. We have a plan to turn the Red Sox into a championship organization that has a chance to win year in and year out.
Q: What can baseball do to attract young fans?
A: Target markets, the younger audiences, shorten games. Put the World Series games on during the daytime. Those types of things.
Q: Is baseball exciting enough for young people?
A: Yeah. Baseball is not exciting in an MTV kind of way. But it's exciting for the inherent nature of the game. There are a lot of young people who love baseball, once they're exposed to it, once they play it, once they go to the ballpark. It's fabulous.
Q: What are you looking forward to in this baseball season?
A: Seeing how this lineup of players gets on base, how they do for power, how many runs we're going to score. Seeing how our bullpen comes together. Overall defense is something that I want to keep an eye on, a very important part of the game. Just seeing how the positive feeling we have in the clubhouse now, how that translates onto the field.
Q: Has this whole experience been what you expected?
A: You never know exactly what it's going to be like to be general manager if you haven't been before, especially in a big market like Boston. But by and large, it's going very well. I might be the one being interviewed right now, but I'm not the only one in this organization. We do everything as a team. We set our goals in the offseason, and we accomplished them. We're building an organization, not just a team. We revamped our scouting and player development offices. By and large, it has been what I expected, professionally. Personally, it's been a little different.
Q: Meaning ...?
A: Less privacy and less time for myself. I didn't actually expect [to get a lot of privacy]. But it's something that's hard to adjust to when it actually happens.