Window wide open for Red Sox, Cubs

BOSTON -- There is no potential conflict with a Game 7 in the NLCS Monday, which in the view of the commissioner’s office would have been the wrong time for the anticipated exodus of Theo Epstein to grab headlines.

The Cardinals won the NLCS on Sunday night, a night after the Rangers won the ALCS, so the matchup has been set for the World Series, scheduled to begin Wednesday night in St. Louis.

That gives the Red Sox and Cubs a two-day window to settle their differences on compensation for Epstein, freeing Epstein from the limbo of having accepted a five-year offer from the Cubs while still showing up for work on Yawkey Way.

The start of the Series represents an unofficial deadline for the Cubs and Red Sox to strike a deal, given Bud Selig’s distaste for any non-Series business to take place while MLB is settling its championship.

By all accounts, both sides dug in early on the compensation issue, as well as which members of his staff Epstein would be permitted to take with him to Chicago. Epstein was told early in the process that he would not be allowed to take any members of his inner circle, although that could change as part of the compensation haggling.

A reasonable guess is that one or both teams will be scheduling press conferences for Tuesday, with the Cubs introducing Epstein in Chicago and the Red Sox ushering in Ben Cherington, who has already been identified as the team's new GM to other members of the front office.

In the meantime, from ESPN Chicago, here's a look at some of the Cubs' top minor-league prospects.

A few other notes and musings:

* Red Sox owner John W. Henry clearly scored some style points with his unannounced visit Friday afternoon to The Sports Hub, where he jousted for over an hour with two of his most outspoken critics, show hosts Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti. Henry was convincing in his assertion that he was as frustrated and disappointed as any fan over the team's September collapse, and raised eyebrows by contending he was opposed to signing Carl Crawford -- which was refreshing for its apparent candor, but shifted the blame onto Epstein, an odd position given that Epstein had to call Henry in the middle of the night in England to get the owner's permission to up the ante to sign the outfielder.

After some prodding by the show's hosts, he also termed implications of Terry Francona abusing pain medication and details of his marital problems as "reprehensible," while insisting that the team's owners had been unfairly maligned as the "team sources" who provided the information to the Boston Globe, which printed them. Henry's condemnation of the publication of that material was in marked contrast to the reaction to New England Cable News by CEO Larry Lucchino, who alluded to the Globe's findings as "interesting theories.''

Henry claimed that the story's author, Bob Hohler, has said that the owners were not his sources, though if and when Hohler did so, at least publicly, is a mystery. To date, he has not done any interviews regarding the story. Hohler's colleague at the Globe, columnist Dan Shaughnessy, has been among those suggesting that the owners, or someone acting on their behalf, were the most likely sources for the damning allegations regarding Francona (an opinion I shared here as well).

* Henry's appearance on the radio show was a startling contrast to his conduct during the team's collapse and its immediate aftermath. He missed the press conference announcing Francona's departure as manager because he said he fell on his yacht, and until Friday, he had limited any public comments to a few submissions on Twitter and an appearance with Lucchino on the team's flagship radio station, WEEI, in a program simulcast on the team's TV station, NESN.

Henry told the radio hosts that he was driving around and listening to the show and chose on the spur of the moment to go to the station's Brighton studios, about a 10-minute drive from Yawkey Way. He arrived about 20 minutes or so into the program, which suggests 1) he wasn't listening long before becoming agitated enough to act completely differently than he has throughout the team's crisis, or 2) his visit was planned. Saturday, I e-mailed Larry Rasky, head of Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, Inc., which represents the Red Sox and specializes in crisis management, and asked whether he or his firm were in any way involved in the planning of Henry's appearance. He promptly e-mailed a response: "Nope.''

* The fuss made over the fried chicken and beer consumed in the Sox clubhouse by the starting pitchers was greeted with amusement by at least former major leaguer, who told me that when he played, in the '70s and '80s, it was not uncommon for a player to pop into the clubhouse to do a line of cocaine before returning to the dugout. Yes, sports fans, he asked that his name not be used. I think you can understand why.

* And thanks to all of you who offered to accompany me on my Boston-to-Lunenburg walk which I pledged to make if the Red Sox fail to live up to my prediction that they will be in the playoffs next season. If that happens, I may take you up on those offers, and we'll do it all for charity.