Monday’s declaration of whether to qualify free agents was an unavoidable evil that butted right up against the Red Sox championship parade and their third World Series title in a decade. That’s what happens when you play until nearly Halloween. Next year arrives … immediately.
But, really, we couldn’t have one blissful week without the rumblings of controversy and pettiness filtering from the Fens?
According to multiple reports, Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs are interested in interviewing Boston bench coach Torey Lovullo for their managerial vacancy. You’d think the former minor league skipper (with Triple-A Pawtucket and Columbus) would be pretty keen on that as well.
It appears, however, that it won’t happen. All because of some dirty laundry.
It’s no secret that Epstein didn’t leave his hometown team under the best of circumstances. The Red Sox had just fallen short of the playoffs following that historic and dysfunctional collapse in September of 2011, and he opted to bolt for a new challenge with a fancier title and a bigger salary, not to mention a change of company. In the years prior, he endured a very strained and well documented relationship with team president Larry Lucchino. Not many stories at the highest levels of Major League Baseball involve a gorilla suit.
Now, two years later, a bench coach who wasn’t even in the organization at the time this mess began is caught in the middle because of an arrangement made as part of Epstein’s departure that states the former Sox GM can’t poach employees from his old offices for three years, according to reports.
If we’re talking about a lateral move here, maybe even a front office position in the baseball operations department, that's easy to understand. But a coach being denied the chance to fulfill a presumed career dream as one of only 30 big league managers?
Selfish, trifling, and downright stupid.
It’s commonplace – a courtesy, really – for teams to allow members of their staffs to interview for promotions. Say what you will about the lowly Cubs and their four consecutive fifth-place National League Central finishes but, for Lovullo, this would be a tremendous opportunity. Chicago may not (and probably won’t) win any time soon, but it would provide the coach a great destination to cut his teeth. Even John Farrell, acquired by Boston via trade, you may recall, had to experience a painful two-year tour north of the border.
Ben Cherington, no longer viewed merely as “Epstein 2.0,” told the media on Monday that no requests for Lovullo’s services had been made. Perhaps, or it could be that Lucchino’s fury or that of other members of ownership toward Epstein is standing in the way of a complete answer.
We’re talking about an interview. Not an offer. Should it reach the stage of a proposition, there’s no reason to think the organizations couldn’t once again work out some sort of compensation – and not take several months to do so this time.
To blatantly stand in the way of one innocent man’s career advancement because of a grudge is no way to do business. It’s not unheard of, unfortunately, but it is embarrassing. And, who’s to say what effect that could have on potential employees in the future? A prospective manager may think twice about joining the club with a history of blocking interviews.
For now, the Cubs will seemingly have to turn elsewhere, like to Padres bench coach Rick Renteria or executive A.J. Hinch. Possibly Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, or past MLB managers Manny Acta or Eric Wedge.
Lovullo could do worse than returning to the dugout of a World Series champion. But, maybe, just maybe, he could have done better.
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Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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