Yankees Don't Have Theo Epstein to Kick Around Anymore

Epstein heads to the Cubs in wake of Sox collapse

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011  |  Updated 10:23 AM EDT
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Winds of change blow through the AL East.

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Well, it's finally official.

After 10 years as the man behind the Yankees' biggest rival,Theo Epstein is the general manager of the Chicago Cubs. Ben Cherington, who assisted Epstein, will replace him in that job with the Red Sox.

The fallout from the collapse of the Red Sox is now complete and it is pretty total for a team that was two wins away from avoiding all of the hand-wringing and bloodletting of the last month. No more Epstein and no more Terry Francona means Boston will have a new look at the top of the franchise as they try to end their two-year playoff drought next season. 

It also means that the two men who were most closely identified with changing the Red Sox from the American League's eternal losers into a two-time champion are gone. That's a pretty significant psychic shift, even if you imagine things won't change all that much with Cherington at the helm. 

One of the more interesting things Epstein wrote in an op-ed saying goodbye to the team on Tuesday was that he felt 10 years was the right amount of time to spend in one place and that organizations ultimately benefit from change after that length of time. Judging by Francona's own comments about losing the clubhouse, it would seem that new voices are a pretty good idea for the franchise as it tries to plot a new course.

Cherington's history with the team means that there will still be baggage from the last two seasons, but he's getting some help in changing the story. John Lackey, whose inability to be even average was a season-long pain for the Sox, will have Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2012 season.

That means one less reminder of all that went wrong this summer and an easy way for Cherington to start putting his own stamp on the franchise. That won't be his first move, the Sox still need a manager, but replacing one of Epstein's biggest mistakes is a nice way to start carving out a new niche.

The Yankees obviously don't share Epstein's thoughts about change for the sake of change being a good thing. Brian Cashman will almost certainly have a new contract in the coming days, ensuring that there will be business as usual with the Yankees.

Is it the right move? Cashman's record is hard to argue with on the macro scale, so while you might quibble with some of his individual decisions there isn't much to suggest that the team has been blown off course in any significant way.

If anything, Cashman has gotten smarter over the years and you can probably thank Epstein for some of that. The emergence of the Sox has pushed the Yankees to be better and moves like the trade for Curtis Granderson and the gambles on players like Russell Martin and Bartolo Colon are not things that the Yankees would have done early in Cashman's tenure.

Both Cashman and Epstein have seen the baseball world change in the wake of their success. Epstein's data-driven approach is no longer an outlier while the Yankees' largess has been blunted by the willingness of teams to sign young players to long-term deals long before free agency.

The flattening of the world means Cashman's job will be even harder even though his chief rival is now in the other league. History says he's up to the task, but, as the Red Sox showed us this month, change comes when you least expect it.

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