CHICAGO — Two months after resigning from his role as Chicago Cubs president, Theo Epstein was hired Thursday as a consultant for Major League Baseball in on-field matters.
In his new role, Epstein will work in Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office with analytics experts on potential rules changes that MLB is exploring.
“It is an honor to assist the efforts by Major League Baseball and the Competition Committee to improve the on-field product, and I appreciate Commissioner Manfred asking me to be a part of these important conversations,” Epstein said in a statement.
“As the game evolves, we all have an interest in ensuring the changes we see on the field make the game as entertaining and action-packed as possible for the fans, while preserving all that makes baseball so special. I look forward to working with interested parties throughout the industry to help us collectively navigate toward the very best version of our game.”
Epstein has worked with the MLB rules committees over the last few years, but now will have a bigger say in how the game decides to change.
Last spring in Arizona, he defended the rule change making relievers face three batters to move the game along, saying “99 percent of the game is the same and that connection is still there” with all fans.
“The thing to realize is the game evolves constantly,” Epstein said then. “And sometimes it’s important to be thoughtful and get ahead of it so it evolves toward a brand of baseball that’s more pleasing for fans — full of action instead of full of dead time. So sometimes it’s important to nudge it in the right direction.”
In effect, Epstein will be MLB’s Designated Nudger.
He’s said in the past he is in favor of a universal designated hitter, which was employed in 2020 due to temporary rules changes put into effect due to the shortened season caused by COVID-19 concerns. The DH rule may not be in place in the National League in 2021, though MLB and the players union could still agree to implement it and will likely do so in the next collective bargaining agreement after the ‘21 season.
During his final press conference announcing his departure as Cubs president, Epstein said he was concerned about “the quality on on-field play,” pointing to the proliferation of the “three true outcomes” — strikeouts, walks and home runs. He wants to see the ball in play more often, believing the lack of action is damaging the fan experience.