Theo Epstein is widely considered by many pundits as arguably the best architect in baseball today because of the feats he accomplished with the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Both historic franchises saw their World Series droughts come to an end the moment the 44-year-old executive took over their front offices.
Epstein’s body of work as the top decision-maker for two great baseball clubs earned him the No. 1 spot on Fortune’s 2017 World Greatest Leaders list. In an interview with Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Epstein touched on few principles that paved the way to the success of the Red Sox and the Cubs.
While Epstein is notoriously known for being an analytics guy, the Cubs president of baseball operations is still a proponent of using scouting reports to evaluate prospects and guide him in his next move. He believes that a combination of analytics and the experience of scouts actually lead to better decisions.
Another strong point the three-time World Series champion stressed is that winning goes beyond the numbers because in the end advanced data merely serves as aids, and the human aspect of the game eventually outweighs other factors.
“And the last issue is to go beyond the numbers and remember the game is played by human beings. So, if everyone has the same information, you really want to put a premium on a humanistic approach an understanding of the people and being able to support them as human beings and the chemistry of the group overall.”
Epstein left Boston roughly seven years ago, but his remnants are still playing crucial roles for the Red Sox. Right fielder Mookie Betts was among the last batch of Epstein’s draft picks and has become a major driving force behind the team’s resurgence the last two years.
According to the executive, he never expected Betts to become a perennial All-Star, let alone an American League MVP finalist. Betts finished runner-up to Mike Trout in American League MVP voting, while fellow 2011 Draft picks Jackie Bradley Jr. and Blake Swihart form part of Boston’s young core.
Even Red Sox’s new manager, Alex Cora, draws a connection with the former general manager as Epstein traded for him in 2005. Cora won a World Series ring with the Red Sox in 2007 and captured another 10 years later as part of the Houston Astros’ coaching staff.
On the other hand, the Cubs are gunning for a return trip to the World Series after coming up short last year. The 2016 champ upgraded their pitching corps with the addition of Yu Darvish (six-year, $126 million), Tyler Chatwood (three-year, $38 million), Brandon Marrow (two-year, $21 million) and Steve Cishek (two-year, $13 million).
Epstein, who is reportedly earning $10 million per year, said he was happy that everything worked out well for both franchises, hoping that sooner or later the Cubs and the Red Sox will eventually collide in the World Series.