Epstein Acknowledges Differences With Maddon

"I have never wanted to infringe on a manager's authority," Theo Epstein says.

Bruce Levine
February 11, 2020 - 5:10 pm
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MESA, Ariz. (670 The Score) -- Hours after an article was published in which former Cubs manager Joe Maddon cited "philosophical differences" with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein for his departure from Chicago, Epstein on Tuesday expressed a desire to avoid a back-and-forth while also sharing a bit of his perspective.

"I am going to take the high road, and that is easy to do because I love Joe," Epstein said at a press conference to open spring training. "I value our friendship, and I have nothing but respect and appreciation for what he brought to the Cubs. Nobody on the planet could have done what he did with us those first couples of years. He changed the whole mindset and raised expectations."

Epstein explained his approach to the front office-manager dynamic, which in Maddon's view changed in the 2019 season with the front office taking on a bigger role in the day-to-day culture of the clubhouse.

"This is my 18th year at this, and I can guarantee you I have never wanted to get involved running a clubhouse," Epstein said. "I have never wanted to infringe on a manager's authority ... I am a firm believer that it's the manager that has to define the culture."

The Cubs front office wanted "to change everything" ahead of the 2019 season, Maddon told ESPN.com. That disconnect began in Maddon's eyes after the Cubs disappointingly lost the NL Central crown in a Game 163 and were eliminated a day later in a wild-card game to end their 2018 season.

"Philosophically, Theo needed to do what he needed to do separately," Maddon told ESPN.com. "At some point, I began to interfere with his train of thought a little bit. And it's not that I'm hardheaded. I'm inclusive. But when I started there -- '15, '16, '17 -- it was pretty much my methods. And then all of a sudden, after '18 going into '19, they wanted to change everything."

Epstein didn't take issue with Maddon's comments. And like Maddon, he stressed the two have a quality friendship.

"I do not think he meant any ill will with his comments," Epstein said. "He was just giving his interpretation of what transpired. The way I do my job is to empower the manager and put him in a position to succeed."

So, were there philosophical differences between Epstein and Maddon?

"I don't think so," Epstein said. "We talked all the time, but if he is saying that in hindsight, there could have been. I have been open with (the media), the team and everybody. I sensed and feared a growing organization complacency. Over time, this developed after the championship (in 2016). I think that was something we had to be open and honest about. We took different approaches to guarantee that we were working, competing and winning at a real high level. If certain standards are not met, it's the job of a leader to say something about it even if it leads to a difficult conversation." 

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.