MLB commissioner? Charitable powerhouse? What's next for Theo Epstein?

John Tomase
·3 min read

Tomase: What is Theo Epstein's next step? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Theo Epstein says he's eventually returning to baseball, but when you've ended the two most famous title droughts in professional sports, can bringing, like, the Mets their first World Series since 1986 really release the endorphins?

Epstein works in nine-year cycles, which is why it should surprise no one that he officially stepped down as Cubs president on Tuesday, leading the sports world to wonder: what's next?

Perhaps we should broaden our horizons beyond baseball, because it's possible his future rests outside the game.

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His twin brother, Paul, is a social worker. The two cofounded the Foundation to be Named Later, a charitable organization that benefits kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods. Theo has made no secret over the years that Paul is the family's real hero. Perhaps now he can join him on the front lines.

Democratic politicians would love a crack at his golden touch. Former President Barack Obama, a lifelong White Sox fan, joked in 2017 that Epstein should lead the Democratic National Committee, because, "he takes the reins of an organization that's been wandering in the wilderness and he delivers them to the promised land."

Or maybe there's a combination of the two. Multiple sources close to Epstein have mused over the years that his next step might be as a liberal answer to the powerhouse Republican mega-donor Koch brothers -- Theo as Democratic Kingmaker.

It should all be on the table, because Epstein has nothing left to prove running another baseball operations department. In his farewell letter to Cubs employees, a copy of which was obtained by The Athletic, he reiterated the 10-year mantra that he attributes to Hall of Fame football coach Bill Walsh about the need for change.

He also says he'll be back in baseball, but probably not this year, noting that he wants to devote his time to various charitable endeavors.

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"I do plan on having a third chapter leading a baseball organization someday, though I do not expect it to be next year. I have seen first-hand the profound impact a baseball team, especially a championship team, can make on its community, and how team owners can become important forces for civic good," he wrote. "If and when the timing and opportunity and partners are right, I would like to join an ownership group. In the meantime, I would love to find a way to serve the game that has given me so much and am pursuing a few possible avenues to do just that."

Epstein has leveled out of front office work. Fronting an ownership group would allow him to devote an organization's considerable resources to making real change in a community, and if that sounds lofty and idealistic, what's wrong with that?

He could similarly serve as baseball's commissioner, or he could branch out into another sport entirely, although I've never gotten the sense that soccer or football or basketball stokes his passions like baseball.

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One place I don't see him coming is Boston. Even though Fenway Sports Group has plans for global domination, the Red Sox feel like a been-there-done-that venture from Epstein's perspective. I can't imagine him coming home to Boston unless it's to own the team.

A lot can happen between now and John Henry moving on, however. And it wouldn't shock me at all if forces beyond baseball tug Epstein away from the game.