BOSTON -- Among the skills Theo Epstein has acquired in his nine years as Red Sox general manager is elusiveness in those times when he may be most in public demand. Like, say, when folks are writing about whether the Chicago Cubs' new owner, Tom Ricketts, might take a run at him now that the Cubs have dismissed Jim Hendry as GM.
But Wednesday afternoon, Epstein waded into the media scrum on the field before the Yankees-Red Sox game, though holding court was not his intention. He'd come out of his office to satisfy an obligation for the Jimmy Fund. Epstein was quickly surrounded, of course, and questioned on a number of topics, including the Cubs talk.
"I try to avoid commenting on things so speculative,'' Epstein said. "I can say I'm completely focused on the Red Sox, the 2011 Red Sox first and foremost, and what potentially lies ahead for this club. I'm really focused on trying to get to the postseason and win another World Series. I spend all my time working with my staff, making this organization what we want it to be, building for the future. That’s where my focus is. Something like that (a potential wooing by the Cubs), I can't even contemplate it long enough to comment on it.''
For those hoping to detect a hint from Epstein that he was yearning to try something else, or at least do the same thing at another address, the Sox GM offered no satisfaction.
"I'm really happy to be with the Red Sox,'' he said. "I'm really happy to be able to come to work at a place like this. Again, we spend all our time trying to make this organization what we want it to be building for the future, focusing on this year, maximizing our competitiveness for this year. Anyone associated with the Red Sox is happy to be working here, and I am.''
Similar sentiments have been expressed by others, of course, until something better comes along. But for now, anyway, Epstein is giving no support to the notion that he would contemplate a move.
He did, however, offer his take on the current state of the team.
"We've put ourselves in position, if we continue to play well, to accomplish the first of our goals,'' said Epstein, alluding to the team's quest for a playoff spot. "We haven’t done anything yet. We’ve bounced back from a rough start and had a nice season so far. All that’s done is put us in a position to -- if we execute, work hard, stay together and play well -- we can accomplish the first of our goals and go from there.''
Epstein was asked how important it was to win the division. The Sox enter the season's final month with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East.
"First of all,'' he said, "that’s a primary goal. No one sets out to win the wild card.''
With winning the division and having the league's best record comes home-field advantage through the league's playoffs. The National League won the All-Star Game, so the NL entry in the World Series will have home field.
"It's an advantage, home field,'' Epstein said. "In the postseason, there are no big advantages, right? They are all good teams, so any advantage, no matter how small, is worth fighting for. Any advantage, no matter how seemingly minute, is significant. This is our home park. We play well here. I know I can say this year our record happens to be better on the road, but look at the bigger picture: We play very well in this ballpark. We’ve never lost a postseason series in this era with home-field advantage, so why wouldn’t we work our tails off and win the division, our primary goal, and get home field advantage if we can?''