November 3, 2005

The Unanswered Question: Why?

Theo Epstein's and John Henry's comments at yesterday's press conference (transcript here and Chris Snow's excellent overview here) brought up a lot of questions -- none of them larger than: Why? Why? Why?

[I]n the end, this is a job you have to give your whole heart and soul to, you have to devote yourself to completely. You have to believe in every aspect of it. And in the end, after a long period of reflection about myself and the organization, and the time, I decided I could no longer put my whole heart and soul into it.
Why? Why couldn't you no longer "give your whole heart and soul" to your job? What aspects of the job do you no longer believe in? What was it about the Red Sox organization that made you realize you had to leave?

Art Martone (ProJo):
[Epstein] was asked [why] dozens of different ways yesterday ... He was clear -- indeed, expansive -- about all the things that weren't part of his decision to leave. But he never really articulated the things that were, other than to say, in various forms, what he said at the very beginning of the press conference.
But there were some hints (my emphasis):

The way I am, to do this job you have to believe in every aspect of the job. You have to believe in yourself, you have to believe in the people you work with, you have to believe in the whole organization. ...

A lot of things happened during the end of this negotiation that caused me to think more closely about the situation, think about myself, think about the organization and whether it was the right fit. Again, in the end I decided that the right thing to do was to move on.
It's possible that Epstein did not agree with the future direction -- regarding players, size of payroll, etc. -- that ownership wanted to take the team.

Tony Massarotti (Herald):
Yesterday, the one question for which no answer was given was also the one which needed no answer: Why? Henry deferred to Epstein on the matter and Epstein danced like Fred Astaire, but deep in our hearts, we all know the truth. Epstein did not trust Lucchino. ... Why is [Lucchino] so difficult to trust? Lucchino's baseball career is spotted with fractured relationships, none more costly than this one. Epstein was his apprentice, his pupil, his understudy. In theory, no one should have trusted Lucchino more. In reality, no one seemed to trust him less.
Bill Reynolds (ProJo):
Lucchino was the one we wanted to hear, the one who might have been able to shed some light on how this ended up the way it did ... You would think he would have been there for no other reason than he's the public face of this franchise, its CEO. ... You would think he would have begun the first day of damage control, both to his image and the perception that the Red Sox are going to be fine, that the organization is strong enough to withstand the loss of anyone, Epstein included.
But Lucchino was not present, at owner John Henry's request. Henry absolved Lucchino of any blame:
I don't know how anyone can legitimately think the principal owner is not ultimately responsible for what happens with the general manager. How you can just give the principal owner of any baseball club a free pass?
Henry said that the club had been trying for the past two days to get Epstein to reconsider and he admitted that he should have been more involved:
To lose Theo is a great loss. So I feel responsible. What could I have done? There's plenty I could have done. I have to ask myself maybe I'm not fit to be the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox. ... I had this romantic notion that Theo was going to be our general manager for the rest of my life. We had the best relationship imaginable. We still have the best relationship. I can't imagine having a better relationship with a human being than I have with Theo.
So again: Why did things have to deteriorate to the point that Epstein felt he had to walk away?

Snow writes that, according to a team source, "Henry's involvement extended only so far as remaining in close contact with Lucchino. Henry, according to the team source, made no real effort to involve himself in the negotiations until after Epstein's Monday afternoon resignation."

What was Lucchino telling Henry about the progress of the negotiations? Why didn't Henry approach Epstein himself and get something done quickly last spring? Why wouldn't Henry have all three men sit down and talk? And when the talks dragged on this fall, why didn't Henry become more involved? ... Despite the non-answers and denials, the reasons for Theo's departure seem pretty clear. And Henry is siding with Lucchino on this one.


phil said...

Good post. Here's a question, if all of these reporters are now asking why, why didn't they do that during the press conference?

Also, if the reason was really so deep, why should it come out on Monday afternoon at the 11th hour. Shouldn't Theo have known long before what lay in his heart. Theo did say that things went sour in the end. But you've got to think that the sourness was about something fundamental. They're both too skilled negotiators to let a little thing trip them up.

Why did the talks have to resume before his contract ran out? You think if Theo really wanted to get as much out the Sox as he could he would have come to them with other offers.

Lastly, I don't believe that J. Henry was ultra aloof. If he was, and Lucchino was pulling a snow job on him then it's unlikely he would be standing by him now.

We may never know the specifics.

redsock said...


i think the reporters did ask all kinds of "why" questions, but those answers just aren't coming. yet.

and yeah, henry does seem to be approving of lucky's tactics, in some passive-aggressive way.

if he loved theo that much and really thought he'd be GM-for-life, he would have nailed down a contract a long time ago.

as theo said at the time the sox won in 2004, he would have signed any extension they put in front of him.

DanM said...

Perhaps the Colorado fiasco stole his heart and dashed his reputation. I figure he hoped that the negotiations would restore his front office voice, his impeccable reputation and his heart. But the Dan Shaughnessy Sunday Globe article (a drive by assault on his reputation), fed by some kind of 'Deep Throat' from the front office, more than likely curdled the milk for Epstein.

Theo will make $1.5M and maybe more somewhere that he can get a fair shake - he is a stand-up guy. The Sox will get a new GM - the players will figure out whether they want to play in the "new organization" and the rest of this ugliness will fade away.

The proof is always found at the finish line - and this one will find Theo in the winner's circle before our beloved BoSox can make it out of the paddock.

One year down and 85 to go before we win another World Championship.

Anonymous said...

I'm still puzzled by Theo. Obviously, he could live with a youth movement, and I suspect he could live with Manny. So if it wasn't the teams direction, and it wasn't LL (he can find someone he disagrees with in any organization, plus he and LL go way back), then it must have been Theo: he must have been promised the CEO job at some point and realized it wasn't going to happen soon enough for himself.

Jack Marshall said...

So Theo quit over Larry Bigbie??? Give me a break. This is all Monday morning quarterbacking...if, if, if. Nobody, INCLUDING EPSTEIN, thought that waiting until the contract was up and then negotiating would cause him to quit. Nobody thought any adult would quit a dream job over a Globe sports column. Unless someone can show me that Lucchino did something truly vile (and there's no proof that Lucchino was the source for or approved the Globe story...not that the story was worth quitting over anyway), Epstein over-reacted in a very unprofessional and nasty way, sand-bagging the club and timing his resignation to do the maximum amount of damage. My guess is that he's having some kind of mid-life crisis, but whatever the reason, you don't quit a job with major responsibilities without notice and without giving your employers a chance to address whatever's wrong. And you don't quit letting the Boston media jackals eviscerate your colleagues based on pure conjecture because you won't talk.

Oh..Redsock, by the way, an ethics note: "taking the high road" and not telling the truth are incompatible. The high road would be for Theo to stop all the speculation and say why he quit. I think, in the final analysis, he's just one more in the long line of talented but unstable Red Sox figures who seemed too good to be true and were.

DanM said...

Take the high road and tell why he quit? To whom? Perhaps Theo already told the team's management? Isn't that to whom he owes his reason for leaving?

Still, I disappoint even myself that I have not yet moved on. You gotta admire Theo - he has moved on!

Jack Marshall said...

Friends: For those of you who haven't seen it, attached is the most reasonable column I have yet to see on the Theo issue:

Epstein's departure isn't the end of the world
by Jim Donaldson (Providence Journal)_

To all the questions surrounding the resignation of Theo Epstein, here's one more: Who is Kenny Williams?
If you know, you're either a diehard seamhead, or a Chicago White Sox fan.
Williams is the low-profile general manager of the reigning World Series champions, who disposed of the defending world champion Red Sox in three straight games in the ALDS, took four of five from the Angels in the ALCS, then swept the Astros to win Chicago's first World Series crown since 1917.
All of which probably raises another question in your mind: What's the relevance of bringing up Williams' name in connection with Epstein?
The connection is that some guy you may never have heard of could come to Boston and do a better job than Epstein. Who, by the way, most people had never heard of three years ago when, at the age of 28, he was hired after Billy Beane disappointed Red Sox rooters by turning down the job.
Remember the reaction?
We could have had Billy Beane and, instead, we're getting a 28-year-old stat geek? Oh, no!
Epstein proved to be a highly-intelligent, extremely hard-working young man who was instrumental in bringing Boston its first World Series title since 1918 -- an achievement which earned him an everlasting niche in baseball history.
That, barely a year later, he has chosen to leave his dream job is truly unfortunate. But it's not a tragedy. It's not the end of the world. Nor does it mark the end of the Red Sox's run as perennial playoff contenders.
Unlike Theo, whose failure to provide insightful answers Wednesday as to why he resigned was not unlike his failure to provide the talent necessary for the Red Sox to repeat as World Champions, Williams did what the best general managers are supposed to do: he got the guys he needed to win.
It was Williams who added Jose Contreras and Freddy Garcia to Chicago's pitching staff. It was Williams who, before the 2005 season, signed Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, Jermaine Dye, and A.J. Pierzynski. It was Williams who traded Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik -- a controversial deal at the time. And it was Williams who, in 2003, hired manager Ozzie Guillen.
Epstein, who did a brilliant job assembling Boston's 2004 World Championship team, didn't do as good a job this year as Williams, who was working for the second team in the Second City.
The White Sox are nowhere near as popular in Chicago as the crosstown Cubs, despite the fact those lovable losers finished fourth in the N.L. Central. The White Sox averaged barely 29,000 per game in their 40,600-seat ballpark on the unfashionable South Side. That ranked them seventh in the league in attendance, which is one of the reasons Williams doesn't have the financial resources at his disposal that Theo did in Boston. Williams spent $75 million on this White Sox team, considerably less than Epstein expended on the Red Sox roster.
Payroll is not an issue for Brian Cashman, who just signed a new contract to remain as GM of the Yankees. So he has plenty of leeway to keep bringing in players until he finds the right mix. Nonetheless, while the Red Sox struggled all year with pitching problems, particularly in the bullpen, the Yankees were able to overcome a devastating series of injuries to their starting rotation because Cashman brought in Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small, who went a combined 17-3 and enabled the Yanks to catch the Red Sox and capture their eighth straight A.L. East title. It didn't help Boston that highly-touted shortstop Edgar Renteria, signed from St. Louis by Epstein, was a disappointment.
The World Series is what matters, of course. But it should be noted that, in his three years as GM, Epstein's Red Sox never won more games in a season than Cashman's Yankees. And they were no match this year for Williams' White Sox.
There are understandable concerns about next year. Manny is making his annual request to be traded, and replacements likely will be required at first base for Kevin Millar, third base for Bill Mueller, and also second base for Tony Graffanino. Popular center fielder Johnny Damon will be looking to be overpaid. And it's not as if the problems with the starting rotation, where knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was the ace of the staff this past season, or the incendiary bullpen have been resolved.
All that, and now the Red Sox need a new GM, their Boy Wonder having decided he no longer could work for the organization -- in particular, CEO Larry Lucchino.
Is it unfortunate that Theo's leaving? Yes, definitely. But it's not the disaster that some people are making it out to be. You didn't know who he was when he took the job, just as many people still don't know who Kenny Williams is, even after the job he's done with the world champion White Sox.