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Inner workings revealed

By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / July 7, 2006
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The breach in trust between Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino that led to Epstein's departure from the Red Sox, and how principal owner John W. Henry was able to persuade Epstein to return as general manager less than three months later, is explored in a new book by Seth Mnookin, who was given extraordinary access to the team's inner workings during the 2005 season. A copy of the book was obtained by the Globe yesterday.

In ``Feeding the Monster," Mnookin, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, describes a meeting Henry had with Epstein in the general manager's office Oct. 8, 2005, just 23 days before Epstein announced his resignation, in which Epstein first discussed his disintegrating relationship with Larry Lucchino.

``He explained how he'd felt left out to dry after the [Nomar] Garciaparra trade, how he felt increasingly isolated from much of the organization, how he felt that the team's obsession with generating more and more press coverage actually made it more difficult to focus on what he thought should be the team's primary goal: winning baseball games," Mnookin writes.

By that time, Mnookin writes, Henry was aware of President/CEO Lucchino's unhappiness at press criticism, specifically from ESPN analyst Peter Gammons, which Lucchino felt originated from within the organization.

``With Larry, there was the A-Rod stuff [the failed Alex Rodriguez trade, for which Lucchino was widely blamed] and the Gammons stuff, so you had this situation as far back as before we won the World Series where both [Epstein and Lucchino] felt the other was throwing him under the bus with the media, that they were out to get the other," Henry is quoted as saying. ``Until then, I never realized it, I didn't realize it was a big deal."

Henry then insisted that Lucchino and Epstein meet to resolve their differences, Mnookin says, but the meeting that took place three days later ``blew things up," according to Henry.

Still, Henry, who according to Mnookin did not know of Epstein's salary request until he read it in the newspaper, told Mnookin that ``we pretty much had a deal," the owners having agreed to Epstein's request for $1.5 million a year.

And Epstein, despite his ``bitterness" over leaks about the negotiations, ``was at peace" with his decision to return, until reading an Oct. 30 column in the Globe by Dan Shaughnessy, headlined ``Let's iron out some of this dirty laundry," that was critical of Epstein. Convinced that either Lucchino or his longtime lieutenant, Dr. Charles Steinberg, was the source of the column, Epstein e-mailed Henry with his intentions to resign the next day, according to the book.

``I have a huge pit in my stomach," Epstein wrote, ``but it's nowhere near as big a pit as I'd have if I'd already signed a contract."

Almost immediately after Epstein did indeed resign the next day, Mnookin writes, Henry began his campaign to woo Epstein back. Undeterred when Epstein refused a direct offer of his job, Henry asked him for advice on how the baseball operations department should be run, and those conversations, Mnookin said, had the effect of softening Epstein's position, especially when Henry signaled a willingness to get more directly involved. Mnookin writes:

``If [Henry] does [become more involved]," Epstein remembers thinking, ``and we pledge mutual commitment for a certain ideal, then does it go from being a bad situation that was ripe for leaving to possibly one of the best situations I could imagine? Yes, it does."

The book, which gives a brief overview of the team's history, focuses primarily on the events that have occurred since Henry's acquisition. Among the highlights:

  • During failed negotiations with Boston developers Joe O'Donnell and Steve Karp about becoming minority partners, Henry was so concerned about a post-midnight trip to Boston's waterfront that he called an associate to tell him where he was headed, and with whom. Henry wrote a 3 a.m. e-mail after the meeting describing how O'Donnell ``talked about the sports media and the Herald being in his control or something to that effect." O'Donnell then asked Henry that he be made managing partner ``if something happened to you." ``That," Henry wrote, ``was a little scary."

  • Manny Ramírez asked Henry to be traded on the first day he met the new owner in spring training, 2002: ``Look, man, you gotta get me out of here," Ramírez told Henry. ``I hate the pressure. I hate the manager [Joe Kerrigan, at the time]."

  • Other Ramírez tidbits: stat analyst Bill James did a study in the 2003 season in which Ramírez was cited for half of the 60 instances in which Sox players did not hustle, and this spring, after the Sox did not trade him yet again after he'd asked to be dealt, Ramírez directed a rant at the owners in which he referred to them as ``[expletive] white devils."

  • During the 2005 season, as the Sox struggled without Pedro Martínez, Lucchino walked around Fenway Park humming the tune to Simon and Garfunkel's song, ``Mrs. Robinson," changing the lyrics of the song to: ``Where have you gone, Pedro Martínez, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

  • Henry's claim that the Sox had a long-term deal done with Martínez in spring training, 2004, that broke down because the club could not obtain insurance.

  • Epstein last year complained about veteran players who ``become blowhards" and talk excessively to the media, a comment that seemed directed at Kevin Millar.

  • The Sox asked James to do a study to determine whether David Ortiz was being truthful about his age; James told the club his performance was age-consistent.

  • Henry, who felt ``pure rage" toward manager Grady Little when he left in Martínez to pitch the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the Yankees, was unhappy with the manager all season. ``Henry had taken to joking that if the Red Sox did not win the World Series and he was tapped to star in one of the iconic `I'm going to Disney World,' commercials, he would instead announce to the world, `I'm going to fire Grady Little.' "