Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
of the bad things about writing for a weekly newspaper is you canít
react to breaking news, like the uproar that followed the resignation of
Saint Theo Epstein last Monday. One of the good things about it is, you
get a chance to reflect a bit longer on what happened rather than write
in the heat of the moment. And thatís what Iíll do today.
watching it all happen I must say the passion for the Red Sox around
these parts is certainly something to behold. It fueled the latest
demonstration of the absolutely insane Red Sox Nation. Epsteinís
resignation wasnít just front-page news four days in a row. Local TV
stations pre-empted the Bold and the Beautiful to breathlessly carry his
press conference on why he walked away from the job he had wanted all
his life. And even though he never said what was preventing him from
giving his all 24/7, it did once again show him to be a classy and
impressive young man.
Everyone had an opinion. And whether it was in the Boston Globeís poll
or callers on my (plug, plug) 610-WGIR radio program, the overwhelming
majority defended Theo and assigned CEO Larry Lucchino the bad guy role
last played in the Nation by Grady Little. And while good points were
made, a lot of it was typical, hysterical ranting from the
over-reactionary nation. Hereís my take on some of what I heard and saw.
uproar: Youíd have thought the rioters in France had burned down Fenway
Park, instead of a guy not getting along with his boss. Compare it to
hearing nary a whimper when in the late 1970s Celtics owner John Y.
Brown tried to push Red Auerbach out the door. Since, by then, Red had
13 rings to Theoís one, I scratch my head and say I donít get it.
Ogre factor: Lighten up on the Lucchinoís a bad guy rap. He could be the
meanest guy in the entire world and he still would not be the worst guy
in baseball to work for. That goes to George Steinbrenner and Brian
Cashman. Cashman just re-upped to GM with Steinbrenner AC a few days
before Theo walked.
Timing: Iíll give you this one. With pressing decisions to be made on
free agency, injuries and Mannyís annual trade request, the Sox need to
address holes at first, second, third, left, center, two starters and
two prime bullpen slots. There are probably better times to be looking
for a new GM.
Unproven Assumption: Has Epstein already put together a farm system to
rival what the Braves have done for the last 15 years? Maybe that
eventually will be the case, but to date Iíve seen just one who makes me
say wow. Jonathan Papelbon. Though watching Jon Lester blow away 15 or
so F-Cats in June was impressive. Iím a show-me kind of guy whoís been
hearing about five-tool minor leaguers like Henley Ramirez headed to
Cooperstown since long before SI put canít-miss (flop) Clint Hurdle on
its cover in 1977.
Prediction: Like Bob Kraft eventually did after the Parcels who-ha
theyíll find a guy who can take them back to the promised land.
MVE: If you had to pick between Lucchino and Theo as the Most Valuable
Executive who would you pick? Iíll take Larry. Even though the White Sox
won this year with just a $69 million payroll, the AL East is still a
money game. Thus they need a guy at the top to keep revenue growing
while playing in the smallest ballpark in the majors. Given what he did
with Camden Yards and in San Diego, Lucchino is that guy. Look at whatís
going on in the Fenway area and guess whoís behind that development.
Itís those kind of things that are going to let the Sox maintain the
second highest payroll in baseball, which is what everyone wants, even
as they whine about the Yankees. And, oh by the way, wasnít it Lucchino
who saw Theoís talent way back when? What makes you think he canít do it
Final word: Itís not like itís Bill Belichick or Auerbach walking out
that door. Red started from scratch in delivering 16 titles, and they
havenít been close since he left. Belichick has been a key guy on five
Super Bowl winners and he came from a roster that, aside from Tedy
Bruschi, Willie McGinist, Ty Law and Ted Johnson, was mostly turned over
from previous administrations. Theo already had Manny, Pedro, Derek
Lowe, Johnny Damon and Trot Nixon here when he took the job. Thatís not
to diminish what he did. Itís just to put it in context. He did a very
good job at a young age, with the gutsy Cabrera deal being his finest
hour. And heíll no doubt get even better. But the uproar was over the
top, since heís not on the level of Red or Bill Belichick.
least not yet anyway.
Dave Long hosts a nightly radio program nightly from 6-7pm on WGIR-AM.