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updated: 10/12/2011 3:01 PM

How historic collapse set Epstein free

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  • Theo Epstein speaks during a news conference in Boston at the end of the season. Epstein reportedly has signed a 5-year contract with the Cubs for $20 million, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.

      Theo Epstein speaks during a news conference in Boston at the end of the season. Epstein reportedly has signed a 5-year contract with the Cubs for $20 million, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
    Associated Press

 
Daily Herald News Services

BOSTON -- Will Boston's demise lead to the Cubs' salvation?

With reports that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein has agreed to join the Chicago Cubs, it's worth noting looking back on the historic collapse that made Epstein available for a Cubs franchise that hasn't won a World Series since 1908.

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Epstein, who just finished his ninth season with Boston, watched the Red Sox miss the playoffs following a record collapse, going 7-20 in September and finishing at 90-72. The team failed to win consecutive games in September.

Through Sept. 3, the Red Sox held a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL wild card. The teams were tied in the standings going into the final day of the regular season. The Red Sox lost to Baltimore 4-3 a few minutes before the Rays beat the New York Yankees 8-7 in 12 innings to gain the playoff spot.

"This is one for the ages, isn't it?" Epstein said moments after the Rays won.

No team has blown a bigger lead in September and missed the playoffs. Boston did not win consecutive games at any point in the month.

It was a startling fall for the Red Sox and Epstein.

Epstein's departure would be the latest in the wake of Boston's disastrous finish. On Sept. 30, two days after the Red Sox were eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the regular season, Terry Francona's eight-year stint as manager ended.

The Red Sox had two years of options on Francona, but he said during a meeting the morning of Sept. 30 with Epstein and team owners John Henry and Tom Werner that he thought the club needed "a new voice" after problems arose in the clubhouse.

Much like Jim Hendry with the Cubs, Epstein has been criticized for giving long-term, costly contracts to free agents. In Boston's case it was deals to J.D. Drew, John Lackey and Carl Crawford, none of whom came close to meeting expectations.

Ricketts reportedly has been impressed with the Red Sox model and how they overhauled Fenway Park and increased revenue streams by adding seats above the Green Monster in left field and other parts of the stadium. Fenway is the only park in the majors older than Wrigley Field.

Ricketts said he was seeking a general manager who could use the new statistical and analytical data in baseball in conjunction with traditional scouting, a description that fits Epstein.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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