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Epstein unlikely to seek Cubs job now

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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Well, we have our first casualty of the Red Sox’s collapse. Naturally, it’s the Cubs.

If ever the Cubs had a chance to hire Theo Epstein as general manager, that chance probably is gone.

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Oh, the Red Sox still might win the American League wild card, but Epstein cannot and will not run from his share of responsibility for the team’s historic flop.

Epstein, in the rare trying moments during his nine-year tenure, always has been accountable. It’s almost impossible to imagine him leaving his hometown team in a moment of epic failure — if indeed the season ends in such fashion.

“He would never be allowed back in the city of Boston,” one rival GM said Tuesday.

Then again, this could go the other way, too.

The Red Sox, if they miss the postseason for the second straight year, could make a series of impulsive moves. One such move might be allowing Epstein to leave with a year left on his contract.

The Sox, though, would be far more likely to part with manager Terry Francona, either by declining his option for 2012 or, in an effort not to look too callous, by offering him a new deal, but one that he likely would refuse.

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Boston is an emotional market. Someone — maybe a few someones — would be held culpable if the Red Sox blow it. But the Sox under Epstein and owner John Henry have taken great pride in removing emotion from their decisions.

Henry is fond of Epstein and will not want him to leave. Epstein has never said he was interested in the Cubs and never said he wasn’t. But the way this is unfolding, the timing just isn’t right.

In fact, one member of the organization said he would be “shocked” if Epstein left, saying that the GM is deeply invested in the Red Sox and excited about the team’s future.

Epstein also is not blind to the poor contracts on the Sox’s roster — contracts that he should want to acknowledge as his own, not leave as a burden for another GM.

Right-hander John Lackey, signed for three more years, qualifies as a bust. Right-hander Josh Beckett, also signed for three more years, and left fielder Carl Crawford, signed for six more, eventually might fit that description, too.

Injured reliever Bobby Jenks, whose $6 million salary is higher than that any of Rays player, is under contract for one more season. So is injured right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, earning $10.3 million.

It’s too early to debate how to clean up this mess, but it’s not early to say that it should be Epstein who does it and not someone else.

As for the Cubs, well, for every opportunity lost, there is an opportunity gained.

Andrew Friedman, anyone?

Friedman, the Rays’ GM, might not want to leave Tampa Bay. He is close to owner Stuart Sternberg and team president Matt Silverman. The Rays, despite playing in the AL East, might be better than the Cubs for the next several years.

Still, if Friedman’s stock is high now, it will be even higher if the low-budget Rays make the playoffs for — get this — the third time in four seasons.

The Cubs at least must ask permission to talk with Friedman. His team, after all, is the one that keeps giving Epstein’s fits.

Tagged: Red Sox, Cubs, Rays

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