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Media Meltdowns

Don’t Let The Ricketts Family Off The Hook

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 09: during game three of the National League Division Series at Wrigley Field on October 9, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Theo Epstein resigned Tuesday as head of the Cubs’ baseball ops. There are many reasons to quit your job. You hate it. Or it’s fine, but you are burnt out. Or you just want to try something different. Or your beloved interim boss Barry Petchesky was abruptly fired and you’d follow him to the ends of the earth. Or your multibillionaire ownership has shown every indication that it is going to cheap out on your still-young, still-talented baseball team, making your job more difficult and largely futile, and you may as well get out of there before that happens. Can’t really say which one of these applies to Epstein! But one of the few nice things about the very concept of “employment” is that you’re allowed to quit any time, for any reason, and you don’t even really need to justify it to anyone.

Which made it a little surprising to see this pop up in the ol’ timeline this afternoon:

What appears to have happened today is that Epstein, perhaps winkingly, hinted that the money earmarked for his 2021 salary could instead be spent to prevent the further cost-cutting by club chairman Tom Ricketts and the Ricketts family that most expect to be coming down the pike. Maybe that means resigning a player, or perhaps hiring back some operations staff that was laid off last season. At best, it’s a pointed little jab from Epstein that the Ricketts family and the Cubs might not be so financially desperate as they want reporters covering the team to believe they are.

What it’s not, is “leadership.” I’m gonna number this because it’s the only way to keep straight all the fallacies in that Morosi tweet.

1. It’s… not at all extraordinary that Epstein won’t be paid in 2021 for a job he’s resigning from in 2020? That’s… what happens when you resign? (Unless you are an allegedly abusive college coach.)

2. If it’s leadership for Epstein to quit, meaning there’s more money that could go to other employees, than it’s leadership any time any person leaves any job for any reason. I got fired once, so call me George fucking Patton.

3. That the money earmarked for Epstein “can be reallocated” is very much not the same thing as “jobs likely will be saved,” especially not with this ownership, and it feels extremely premature to be assuming that or congratulating anyone. This is the team that instituted mandatory salary cuts for everybody in the organization, including Epstein, and then laid off 100 people, half of them from baseball ops. Epstein resigning theoretically frees up a decent of amount of money (minus, presumably, what they’ll be paying the new GM), but shouldn’t we wait to see the Cubs hire back some ticket-takers and hot-dog vendors before we start blowing smoke up anyone’s ass?

4. It is a pernicious trend to treat an entirely arbitrary, internal accounting target as if it’s a hard-and-fast law. There is no salary cap in business ops or in the front office. If the Rickettses wanted to pay more employees, they could do so at any time without waiting for Epstein to leave.

5. It’s worth repeating: If the Rickettses wanted to hire more employees, they could do so at any time. The Ricketts family’s net worth has been pegged north of $5 billion, and if they’ve taken a bit of a hit due to the pandemic, well, get in fucking line. They’ve dropped hints through friendly reporters that they’re so strapped for cash, they can’t possibly afford to pay free agents, let alone bring back some scouts they laid off. Ten million dollars is nothing to them. To frame this as Epstein foregoing that $10 million being the only way it could possibly be spent on other employees lets the cartoonishly wealthy cheapskates off the hook.

OH COME ON.

Anyway, congrats to Theo Epstein on leaving a job he did well and for a long time; I know it can be bittersweet. But please, for the love of John Stuart Mill, let’s not pretend the Cubs’ clearance sale has anything to do with Epstein one way or the other, or anything to do with anyone not named Ricketts.