Report: Theo Epstein Turns Down Middleton, Phillies

Photo credit: © Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports / BILL STREICHER-USA TODAY SPORTS

John Middleton has always come off as a guy who identifies as an alpha male, the leader of the pack, seizing organizational control, consolidating power, and declaring he wants his f’ing trophy back. If Middleton has been channeling his inner Mufasa this offseason, he’s likely been clinging onto hope -like the elder lion to the cliff in that classic Disney film- for a proven baseball executive to lift him to safety. Theo Epstein just pulled a Scar.

Per Jayson Stark of The Athletic, Middleton’s Phillies have met with and/or expressed interest in multiple potential targets to head their baseball operations with one name standing out as the primary target: Theo Epstein. Unfortunately for Middleton, the three-time World Series champion executive informed the team that he’s not interested and intends to take a year away from the game:

Sources who have spoken with Epstein told The Athletic that the Phillies’ managing partner, John Middleton, made contact with the outgoing Cubs president of baseball ops. But the Phillies were informed that Epstein isn’t interested in the job at this time. As expected, Epstein intends to step away from the front-office grind for at least a year.

Not great. It’s not a total shock, considering the team’s president Andy MacPhail went on record in October saying how difficult it would be to make a hire because, “…who’s going to want to uproot in the middle of a pandemic?” This apparently didn’t apply to the Los Angeles Angels or Miami Marlins, both of which managed to hire new GMs. Maybe it’s just something about Philadelphia? Nope.

You’ll certainly recall that another team in town, the Sixers, had some roles to fill after a disappointing season. First, they wooed former NBA Coach of the Year and NBA champion head coach Doc Rivers and made a pitch to get right back on the horse and take the reins of their coaching staff. Then they shocked the basketball world when they brought in former NBA Executive of the Year Daryl Morey to head basketball operations rather than take time away from the sport. Both men had expressed privately and somewhat publicly how attractive taking a bit of time away would be. Sixers owner Josh Harris, who’s seen his stock in the city drop over the past couple of seasons, pulled a Don Corleone and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

A lot can be said about Harris as an owner and as a guy who tried to finagle a publicly-financed arena deal out of the city, but he’s shown a willingness to spend to win. Can anyone say the same for Middleton? Yes, the team signed Bryce Harper to a gaudy 13-year, $330 million deal. But when the team entered last season with glaring holes and a myriad of free agents to fill them, the Phillies owner seemed to pull back. With each passing day, the re-signing of JT Realmuto, who the Phillies’ social media accounts refer to as THE BEST CATCHER IN BASEBALL, seems more and more unlikely. Meanwhile, the Phillies this week informed more than 80 employees that their services are no longer needed. If optics were kindling, Middleton’s organization has lit the biggest fire the city’s ever seen.

If John Middleton wants his f’ing trophy back, he’s going to need to look elsewhere on his list and hope that fans are willing to join him on the ride. If Twitter is any indication, he’s got his work cut out for him:

Ouch.

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