November 2, 2005

Theo Speaks: It's Personal, Not Political

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Theo Epstein said his decision to leave the Red Sox was personal and not due to a power struggle with team president Larry Lucchino:
Larry and I like each other. As with any other working relationship there are complexities, there are ups and downs. ... If there are reports of a power struggle or meddling on behalf of Larry, that really wasn't the case. Essentially, I felt like I had pretty much a free hand to run the baseball operation the way I saw fit. ... This is a job you have to give your whole heart and soul to. In the end, after a long period of reflection about myself and the program, I decided I could no longer put my whole heart and soul into it.
Lucchino was not in attendance. John Henry said Lucchino has been "maligned and blamed for the situation for the last couple of days. I think that's wrong. I think that's inaccurate. If you want to place blame for what happened here, I'm responsible. Never in my wildest dream did I think this was ever going to happen."

It's hard to believe Epstein. I think he's simply taking the high road.

Bob Ryan (Globe):
What other conclusion can we draw from the stunning announcement that Theo Epstein has left his position as general manager of the Boston Red Sox? Theo lost a power struggle with Lucchino. ... We can draw no other conclusion. ...

What person of quality, watching how this all came down, will want the job? Larry Lucchino isn't going anywhere. He is in a stronger position than ever. Oh, sure, there will be no end to the list of wannabes and first-timers lusting for the job. But people of substance, people in possession of personal pride, people who believe that in a well-run baseball organization the personnel buck stops with the general manager, all will give pause before accepting the job as general manager of the Boston Red Sox as long as it is understood that there is no apparent limit to the power and influence of the president and CEO? ...

In the end, Theo walked away from nearly five times the amount he'd been making. He's not a fool. There had to be a very good reason.
Gerry Callahan (Herald) writes that both sides agreed before negotiations on something they called "radio silence", though it covered newspapers, as well.
Theo believes Lucchino and Charles Steinberg violated the agreement. They did their best to make him look like he was just trying to cash in, and he did the opposite: He walked out. On almost $5 million. On a 400-percent raise. On the job of his dreams. Some greed that is. ...

[Theo] told [the Sox] Sunday afternoon that it had better not happen again, and then he told the Herald's Mike Silverman late Sunday night that they hadn't reached an agreement but were still working on one. Maybe Monday. Then he woke up Monday morning, and there it was again, another story in the Globe that wasn't supposed to be there. That was the last straw. Theo decided he didn't want to work with these people for three more years -- whatever the salary -- and resigned with just hours left on his contract. ...

Now the bad news for Larry and his friends at the Globe: It doesn't matter what you do or say, no one is ever going to think of Theo as the bad guy. He looks, if nothing else, like a man of principle, a guy who didn't like the way his bosses were going behind his back and spoon-feeding stories to their favorite newspaper.
Sean McAdam (ProJo) writes that one Red Sox insider "described what was left of the relationship between Lucchino and Epstein as 'a mess.'"

Again, here is the original Shaughnessy column. He also wrote an explanatory follow-up.

Scott Van Voorhis (Herald business writer):
The Boston Globe may now be finding out what other newspapers and media companies have already discovered: Owning a professional sports team can be bad news. The Globe, whose corporate parent, The New York Times, holds a 17 percent stake in the Red Sox ownership group, has found itself at the center of a public backlash over the team's fumbling loss of general manager Theo Epstein. ... The gathering consensus in Red Sox Nation -- as judged by talk radio, angry bloggers and even some media critics and business scholars -- is that the spoon-fed story, along with Lucchino's missteps, combined to throw the Sox front office into disarray.

Terry Francona:
I think I took for granted a little bit that we were going to be together for a while, certainly as long as I was here. ... I think we had an outstanding relationship. This is not an easy place [to work]. You're supposed to win 162 games.
Jason Varitek:
It seems like we've had a lot of changes in this organization for a team that has just come off a world championship and was able to work its way back into the playoffs. We're seeing a lot of turnover and a lot of things changing, a lot of people you trust leaving, and a lot of people that have spent a lot of hours, from players to trainers to coaches, making this a very strong, solid organization. To see that start to go, it is a bit frustrating.
Hopefully, they have a plan. Hopefully, the plan is to put out the best team. [Epstein's departure] leaves a lot of gray area right now. We've got to take a little step back, not too far back, [because] there's a lot of important people that need to be dealt with. I'd love to have a conversation with Theo to find that out [the reasons behind the decision].
Bronson Arroyo:
I'm definitely surprised, and I would lean toward disappointed about him leaving because it's hard to find a general manager like Theo. He's close to our age and is just easier to communicate with. There was never a barrier there. You knew where you stood with Theo. You knew he would be honest with you.
Curt Schilling:
You don't get better losing a guy like Theo. It's obviously going to be an incredibly unpopular decision with the players. ... I'm stunned and I'm incredibly disappointed. I can't believe they allowed this to happen. This is a guy who did everything they asked of him. He's built this team. He won a World Series. And they just let him walk away.
Mike Myers:
Shock, to say the least. ... The link between Lucchino and the locker room is Theo. For Larry to do something and put Theo's neck on the line within the locker room walls is disrespectful to Theo. That probably played out in Theo's negotiations. ... I think if you go around, everybody is going to be surprised that he's not back.
Jeff Jacobs (Courant):
Whispers of power-mongering and control-freaking followed Lucchino to Boston from his previous major league stops. ... The incredibly stupid thing about this mess is neither had to go. This should have worked. It seems sad and idiotic that it didn't. ... In an age where the 24-hour news cycle allows for few shockers, this was an honest-to-goodness shocker.
J.P. Ricciardi:
I still don't believe it. I'll believe it when I'm at the general managers' meetings next week in Palm Springs and he's not in his chair. It's like a Mafia hit. You don't believe it until you see the guy at the funeral.
One MLB executive:
I really think they don't know what they're going to do or what they're doing. Who's out there: Gerry Hunsicker or Pat Gillick? None of those guys would put up with Larry.
Michael Silverman (Herald) reports:
Based on calls to executives and agents around baseball, there was unanimous shock that Epstein had declined to accept a long-term deal with the Red Sox on Monday. One industry source said the team's reputation had taken a serious dive. ... Another industry source likened the situation to an unfortunate and self-inflicted wound.

"They self-imploded at a crucial time," the source said. "I don't think anyone's happy there. You think they're going to attract free agents there right now? Besides, who would be contacting those free agents? It's sad. I feel badly because they really had it going on."
Art Martone (ProJo) offers an excellent wrap-up/analysis:
Ill will started brewing on both sides, far before the public became aware of what was going on. ... [T]he longer it dragged on, and the more contentious it got, the more Epstein began contemplating leaving the Sox. And the more he thought about it, the more the idea of tossing out all the parts of his professional life that he didn't like became more and more intoxicating.

More than one media outlet is reporting that Dan Shaughnessy's Sunday column in the Boston Globe was the straw that broke the camel's back. I don't know that for a fact, but it's plausible to me. Very plausible, especially if Theo thinks the column represented the voice, or even a voice, of Boston management. ...

I don't think [the Sox] perceive it as the baseball disaster that many others do -- as I said, they had their doubts about some of the things Theo did -- but they're P.R. geniuses and they certainly know this is a nuclear hit to their public image. The fact that they finally agreed to meet Epstein's money demands indicates, to me, that they felt they had to sign him. ...

What their negotiating tactics really did was allow Theo Epstein to contemplate life beyond the Boston Red Sox.
Tony Massarotti (Herald) says John Henry must publicly take control of the situation:
Without question, Henry has taken, and will take, his share of the blame in all of this, for one reason and one reason only: He might have stopped it.

Henry had a sense early on that negotiations between Epstein and Lucchino were not going well, but he stayed out of the way and empowered Lucchino to conduct the talks. By last week, the relationship between Lucchino and Epstein had been strained to the point where a reconciliation seemed impossible. ...

In Red Sox history, rarely, if ever, has a story of such magnitude resulted in such a one-sided outcome in the court of public opinion. Epstein was young, smart and personable. The support for him has been overwhelming.
Could Theo go to the Dodgers? ... Some of the possible candidates. ... What about in-house? ... Giants executive vice president Larry Baer: "When the first pitch of the 2006 season is thrown, Brian Sabean will be the Giants' general manager. He won't be the Red Sox general manager." ... Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said: "I have no interest in that job, none whatsoever."

Finally, the Nation says: Thank You, Theo!

Other news: Mike Timlin signed a one-year deal for 2006. Johnny Damon, Tony Graffanino, Mike Myers and Matt Mantei all filed for free agency. ... Matt Clement and David Wells each had successful knee arthroscopies last week. Clement's procedure repaired a torn meniscus in his left knee. ... Paul Konerko's agent said the free agent first baseman expects a call from the Sox. "They're a top team with a potential first baseman's power need. Paul seems like a very good fit there."

Joel Sherman (New York Post) writes that the Yankees should "Tell Hideki Matsui his consecutive-games streak is done. Make this part of his renegotiation so it is understood now and not forced upon Torre in May. No one is going to think a guy who plays 155 games rather than 162 is a slacker." ... For the record, Manny Ramirez played 152 of 162 games last year. He played 152 games in 2004 and 154 in 2003.

Speaking of Manny, lost in the Theo Decision is a report of another trade demand. I'll comment on that soon.

1 comment:

DanM said...

Penthoouse to basement - no stops on any other floor. Welcome to The Curse of the Kid - you heard it here first!