11/25/2002 4:26 pm ET
Young Epstein 'more than ready'
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Red Sox promote Epstein to GM
When Theo Epstein was being introduced to Boston baseball fans as the new general manager of the Red Sox, Padres GM Kevin Towers couldn't help but feel a sense of pride from 3,000 miles away.
Having watched and at times shepherded Epstein's rise from a media relations assistant to the Padres' director of baseball operations to his newly appointed role with the Red Sox, Towers certainly wasn't surprised with Monday's announcement.
Actually, Towers thinks this is probably just another step in Epstein's development as a baseball executive.
"I've never stopped at GM when talking about Theo," Towers said Monday morning from his San Diego office. "I've always thought he can be a club president, too."
For now, GM of one of the most high-profile organizations in sports will have to do.
And on the day Epstein became the youngest GM in baseball history, there was good reason for pride in the San Diego offices where he cut his teeth in baseball operations. When this calendar year began, Epstein was still with the Padres, a vital piece of the Padres' braintrust. Now, after joining the Red Sox as assistant GM last spring, he has gone on to become the GM of his hometown team at age 28.
"It was hard to lose him, but I knew the Red Sox were kind of his dream team growing up," Towers said. "I knew how much it meant for him to be part of that organization, and now to be running it, it's got to be a dream come true."
It's a dream whose foundation was built in San Diego. Epstein followed former Padres president and CEO Larry Lucchino to Boston, having followed him to San Diego after serving as an intern with the Orioles at the end of Lucchino's tenure there.
After graduating from Yale in 1995, Epstein was a media relations assistant for the Padres in 1996 and '97, and then switched over to baseball operations beginning in 1998. While attaining a law degree from the University of San Diego Law School, Epstein served as a baseball operations assistant before taking on the role of director of baseball operations in 2000.
During that time, Towers wasn't shy about making Epstein part of the decision-making team.
"We exposed him to a lot while he was here," Towers said. "He helped with contracts, went to the GM meetings, the winter meetings, talking trades. I think he's more than ready."
The storyline of Epstein's hiring played out much the same as the one when Towers was hired by Lucchino as GM of the Padres following the 1995 season. While several outside candidates were interviewed, ultimately the Padres hired from within, giving an opportunity to someone who was unproven yet knew the organization well.
"I didn't even know if I was ready," Towers said. "I don't think you ever know until you're put into that position."
The Padres went on to win the NL West title in '96 and then went all the way to the World Series in '98. Apparently, Towers was ready.
While Towers can't guarantee Epstein is ready to help lead the Red Sox to their first World Series title since 1918, he can vouch for Epstein's readiness to assume his new role.
"The work ethic will definitely be there," Towers said. "The confidence will definitely be there. He won't be afraid to make some tough decisions. He'll be true to his convictions on certain things, and be able to back them up.
"The only thing he really hasn't done is lead. He's never been the No. 1 guy. He's never had to be the team spokesman, dealing with the media and things like that."
But Towers has no doubts that Epstein can handle those tasks as well. He already has vast experience in dealing with contracts, talking with agents and any other aspects of baseball operations he'll be called upon to do as GM of the Red Sox.
"The one thing he did more than anything for me was to study everyone else's farm system, put together depth charts and rank everybody else's system," Towers said. "I know he has knowledge of every single organization."
That said, Towers is well aware Epstein knows the Padres inside and out, and he expects to be hearing from his new peer soon in trade talks.
"You get a new job and the first thing you're going to do is prove you're smarter than your mentor and try to steal one from me," Towers said.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.