Does the Girardi pursuit undermine Epstein with the Cubs?
The Cubs’ interest in Girardi is understandable. He’s a very good manager. He has ties to the organization and area. He’s also disciplined, well-spoken, intelligent, good with young players, handles the media and is agreeable to the stat-based theories under which team president Theo Epstein wants his club run on the field. However, this story is an ominous sign of impatience on the part of Cubs’ ownership that they’re feeling the pressure of the slow rebuilding process that Epstein undoubtedly warned them was possible when he took the job. It also states that Epstein isn’t making the final call on all organizational decisions.
Epstein, being from the stat-based school of thought and having been torched by a manager in Grady Little who didn’t do what he’s told, wouldn’t have to worry about Girardi going off the reservation. That’s not the problem. The problem for Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer is that the manager wouldn’t just be another Dale Sveum-like fly-by-night “guy” they hired and could fire if the team doesn’t perform. He’d actually have some say-so and would possibly have a pipeline to ownership to pull an end-around on his bosses Hoyer and Epstein.
For all the assertions that everyone in baseball operations would be on the same page, that only lasts until there’s a legitimate disagreement. Then we start to see who really has the power in an organization. If Girardi wants X player on the roster and Epstein and Hoyer don’t, who makes the decision if the manager goes and complains to ownership about it? What if there’s a free agent that Girardi says he has to have and Epstein and Hoyer either don’t want him or don’t want to pay him? Would Girardi be able to go to Tom Ricketts and make his case with the benefit of newness, historical success and a big contract that his way is right and Epstein and Hoyer are wrong? And what kind of fissure would that create in the relationship of manager to GM to president?