axelrod files

Editor’s Note: The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works at the Institute.

Chicago CNN  — 

What’s next when you have helped snap the two longest championship droughts in sports history and, at 43, have all but clinched a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame?

If you are Theo Epstein of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, the answer is at some point you could own a baseball franchise and not just run one.

“I think you can do things as an owner that you can’t necessarily do as an employee, helping the team really get involved in the community and doing some great work, using baseball as a vehicle to do some important work in society,” Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations and former Boston Red Sox general manager, told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files” podcast, produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

Epstein, along with his twin brother Paul, started the Foundation To Be Named Later in 2005. According to its website, the foundation has granted $8.5 million to over 200 non-profit agencies benefiting urban youth and families.

“The reality is these days so much of the most important work in society is done by these non-profits, most of which don’t get real government funding, so it’s really important to identify the most impactful non-profits in your community, especially in a city like Chicago right now that is battling so many critical challenges and support them,” Epstein said. “Baseball is just bread and circus. What we do, we just entertain the masses.”

“Of course, at certain moments it becomes really meaningful to people and transcends that, but by large it’s just bread and circus,” he added. “But there are rich fans who are willing to spend money to get access to games and sit in better seats or sit in the general manager’s box or get autographs or have these experiences going to dinner with players or with general managers. If you can use that and raise some money and redirect it to non-profits, I think that’s a great thing and really our responsibility in some ways.”

For now, Epstein is focused on adding more titles with the young and talented Cubs, with whom he recently signed a five-year contract extension, and on Monday the team is visiting the White House, an annual tradition for title-winning teams.

While Epstein and team chairman Tom Ricketts may share a common goal with the Cubs, the two have opposing political views, with Epstein a Democrat and Ricketts – along with his father Joe and brothers Pete and Todd – supporters of President-elect Donald Trump. However, Epstein says that divide has never affected their relationship.

“Baseball gives us a lot to talk about besides politics, which is great, but I’ve never been one who feels that if you disagree with someone about politics, you can’t connect with them in other ways or be friends with them or work constructively with them.”

Theo Epstein reacts after the Cubs defeat the Indians on November 2, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio.

At one point during the 2012 campaign, Epstein approached Tom Ricketts about doing an event for President Barack Obama to “balance” out the Ricketts’ support for GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

“I said, ‘I feel like I need to do an event for Obama,’ and [Ricketts] was fine with that,” Epstein recalled. “He said, ‘Yeah, that’s totally fair.’”

“You don’t have to agree about politics all the time to agree about baseball and the Cubs.”

To hear the whole conversation with Epstein, which also touched on his childhood in Massachusetts, his promotion to general manager of the Red Sox at only 28 years old, his use of advanced analytics, and much more, click on To get “The Axe Files” podcast every week, subscribe at