Theo Epstein Prepared for ‘Mixed Emotions,’ But Says He Felt Mostly ‘Joy’ When Red Sox Won World Series

Theo EpsteinTheo Epstein has plenty on his plate in Chicago. But as his former colleagues in Boston celebrated a World Series victory, he couldn’t help but feel a little something.

Epstein, now president of the Cubs, spoke with the Boston Herald during this week’s GM meetings in Orlando, Fla., and lauded the work done by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington en route to Boston’s triumph in the Fall Classic. The former Red Sox GM also expressed pride, especially given how quickly Boston turned things around.

“I was prepared for some mixed emotions,” Epstein reportedly said. “There was a little bit of that at times, feeling detached from it, because all of my friends in the front office are there. But the overriding emotion was really joy for Ben and those guys, who worked so hard and suffered so much in 2012.

“That was really the tough time. I was on the phone with those guys a lot during ’12, which was so hard, unfairly so in a lot of respects, on them. And then to see them bounce back and triumph that way was really gratifying.”

Epstein won two World Series titles during his time in Boston but left for Chicago shortly after the Red Sox’ 2011 collapse. While Epstein left behind some bad contracts — forcing some Sox fans to turn sour — he also left the Red Sox with a solid farm system that has the organization in a very good place moving forward. It’s something that has gone relatively unnoticed amid the Red Sox’ celebration, but it’s something that Epstein takes pride in, even if he’s quick to deflect any praise thrown his way.

“Yeah, there was some gratification about the players in the farm system and all that,” Epstein reportedly said. “But more so, it was about those guys in the office and [the] great job they did, and how they were justly rewarded after suffering so much in 2012.”

The Red Sox’ incredible turnaround will forever be traced back to the club’s blockbuster deal with the Dodgers in August 2012. Boston shipped away Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto, and in turn, gained plenty of financial flexibility, which enabled Cherington and Co. to be aggressive last offseason.

“Ben did a phenomenal job,” Epstein reportedly said. “He’s someone I always kept close to me, because I felt like I learned as much from him as he did from me. He’s a great manager of people, very systematic, a methodical thinker, a great feel for the game and players. It’s no surprise to me the great job he’s doing. That’s why he was groomed for that role over time, and why he’s the perfect guy to head up that organization.”

The collapse of 2011 and the debacle of 2012 will always be considered dark days in Boston. But beyond the brief hiccup, the handoff from Epstein to Cherington as general manager has been seamless.

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