Front Office Notes: Epstein, Red Sox, Orioles

With recently returned Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel having issued another ninth-inning meltdown today–against the NL Central-leading Cardinals, no less–Chicago fans may feel disinclined to read today’s piece from Chicago Sun-Times scribe Gordon Wittenmeyer, which doesn’t pull any punches in evaluating the job done by team president Theo Epstein and his staff this year. In Wittenmeyer’s view, blame for the Cubs 2019 underachievement should be directed at ownership and Epstein’s front office–not underperforming players or maligned manager Joe Maddon. Wittenmeyer writes: “What’s clear is that the onus of this season’s shortcomings falls on the shoulders of Theo Epstein’s front office for free agency and player development failings and Ricketts ownership for failure to exercise the market advantage of franchise-record revenues to increase spending during a seize-the-moment competitive window.”

Wittenmeyer leaves little earth unscorched in this column, citing the club’s inability to develop impact pitching, unwillingness to spend beyond ownership-established thresholds, and in-house pressure regarding the need for early-season “urgency” as factors that dragged down this year’s Cubbies. The Cubs dropped today’s 9-8 decision to St. Louis and now fall to 6.0 games back in the NL Central race.

More notes concerning FO leaders and PD staffers from around the game…

  • When Dave Dombrowski was relieved of his post by the Red Sox on Sept. 8, many cited the club’s thinned-out farm system as a potential impetus for the leadership change. For those interested in investigating that theory first-hand, Alex Speier of The Boston Globe took the time to explore Dombrowski’s effect on the Boston farm in a subscriber-only piece today (link). Recent farm system rankings from Fangraphs and Baseball America have placed Boston’s system as 30th and 22nd in the game, respectively.
    In more Sox-related news, Jen McCaffery of The Athletic spoke with Red Sox assistant GM Eddie Romero regarding the organization’s decision to retain front office staffer Tony La Russa in the wake of Dombrowski’s ousting (link). La Russa’s title under Dombrowski had been “Special Assistant and Vice President of Baseball Operations”, but the club is in the process of how the club can augment the baseball legend’s role moving forward: “We think it will evolve into a lot more overall staff development, not just major league-focused,” Romero told McCaffery. “But those are things we’re still talking about and we’re excited with the prospect of Tony continuing to bring his vast experience and knowledge.” 
  • Former big leaguer B.J. Surhoff was one casualty of Orioles GM Mike Elias’ midsummer front office shakeup, and Surhoff, for one, does not appreciate the way Elias handled his dismissal. In a candid interview with Dan Connolly of The Athletic, Surhoff claims that he was relieved of his duties as special assignment instructor after only having spoken with Elias on one other occasion–the day Elias was introduced as O’s GM back in November. “Am I pissed? Yeah. I’m unhappy about what happened,” Surhoff told Connolly. “Do I have sour grapes toward the organization? Well, I don’t like the way things are being handled. I just don’t like how they’re treating people. I want that to be known.” Surhoff stressed to Connolly that he could not speak for the other 30-plus employees who were issued non-renewals by Elias this summer. One of those non-renewals, longtime Baltimore scout Dean Albany, has been hired as a special assignment scout by the Phillies organization after spending 20 years in the Orioles org, per a separate tweet from Connolly (link).