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BOB RYAN

Seems that it may be time for credit check to be run

Whenever it finally gets done, people will start handing out the credits. Let's make certain the list includes all the deserving parties.

The Red Sox are the team they are thanks to two ownership regimes, not one. They are the team they are thanks to three general managers, not one. The Red Sox are not just a John W. Henry/Theo Epstein production. They are a John Harrington/John Henry/Lou Gorman/Dan Duquette/Theo Epstein production, and that doesn't begin to account for the contributions of the dedicated front-office assistants and scouts, many of whom overlap regimes.

Whenever it gets done, Bud Selig will be handing over the championship trophy to John Henry. He might as well do it by thanking himself for having the wisdom and clout to steer the team in Henry's direction, but that's another matter for another day, right, Joe O'Donnell? But it will indeed be Henry standing there beaming, not Harrington and not the late Tom Yawkey, who certainly deserved to have that moment.

And Henry deserves credit. There is no doubt this ownership regime has done something none of us thought was possible. He and his chosen envoys actually have intensified the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. We all thought it couldn't get more insane, but in two short years Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Epstein have gone after George Steinbrenner with such unrelenting fervor that the heat is higher now than in the previous 30 years put together. It's not just the war of words, the "Evil Empire" thing. It's the battle for Jose Contreras, the battle for Curt Schilling, the battle for A-Rod, and the signing of Keith Foulke. These people have made it clear they were a thousand percent serious about toppling the Boss's team, and it has, in turn, irritated the Boss to an unimaginable degree.

There is no doubt that, second only to winning the championship himself, what Steinbrenner wants most in this world is for the Red Sox not to win it. Should the Red Sox go on to win their first World Series in 86 years, he will regard this as having been done on his watch, and that will be intolerable. Should it happen, it will be a hellish winter in the Bronx.

But it's not as if prior Sox regimes weren't trying. One thing has been true since that day in 1933 when Yawkey bought the floundering Red Sox: The aim here has been to win. Yawkey tried desperately to win. Haywood Sullivan tried to win. Harrington tried to win. And these people clearly want to win. Epstein will get a lot of credit, and he should. I count 17 Epstein guys on this team, and a fair number of them represent some absolutely brilliant decisions. Everybody knew trading for Schilling would make sense, but who saw David Ortiz turning himself into one of baseball's marquee sluggers? Bill Mueller was available to one and all. What did we American Leaguers know about Kevin Millar? Wasn't Gabe Kapler just another touted bust?

You think making the Nomar trade was easy, either in the concept or the execution? Whatever was going on in the clubhouse, this was Nomar Garciaparra we're talking about, not Cesar Crespo. You talk about Joe Cronin, Johnny Pesky, Rick Burleson, take your pick, this was the best shortstop the Red Sox ever have had. If you're going to trade him, you'd better get something back for him, and Epstein did. I mean, how much fun to watch is Orlando Cabrera? (Any of you 1967 scholars think of Rico throwing out Buck Rodgers when you saw Cabrera make that play to end the 10th inning on Friday night?) This guy has solidified the infield, and he's no stiff with the stick. Great move.

But we still have seven Duquette players on this team. I pounded the Duke as much as anyone for some of the things he said and did, and he was very lucky no one chose to expose just how many lives he made miserable from Boston to Fort Myers with his tyrannical ways, but he casts a long shadow in terms of personnel. Pedro and Manny, for openers. Johnny Damon. Tim Wakefield. And how about one of the great trades in Red Sox history, arsonist Heathcliff Slocumb for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek? I still marvel at the Doug Mirabelli deal (for Justin Duchscherer). There are a lot of faceless, anonymous backup catchers out there. How Duquette and his staff knew that Mirabelli was something more than that amazes me. Obviously, no one else did.

Now go back a few sentences. Would everyone in town be walking around with a smile on his or her face if Duquette had not gone out and obtained Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez?

The third GM you should be thinking about in these heady times is Gorman. There is only one Gormanite left in a Red Sox uniform, but it's one he should be proud of. Trot Nixon is not a great ballplayer, but he is a very solid one and he is one of those players who must be viewed on a daily basis in order to understand what he brings to a team. I don't know about you, but I am always comfortable when Trot is up in a big situation and I am always at peace when a baseball is hit in his direction. Don't forget that Lou had to battle hard to sign Trot, who was ready to be the starting quarterback at North Carolina State. Trot was worth fighting for. If I were Lou, I'd be pleased to have Trot Nixon as my representative.

Gorman is the forgotten man in all this, which is sad and unfair. People who don't know this sweet, gentle man always have had a lot of fun at his expense. What they choose to ignore is the true reality of 1986, which is that Gorman built a team good enough to win, and if the Diamond Gods ruled out that possibility at the last minute it certainly wasn't Lou's fault. The team came within one strike of winning the World Series. That means he built a championship-level team. He gave John McNamara a team that was good enough to win. That's all any general manager can do.

It's hard to close the deal, as Epstein already knows. It's all out of his hands now. There is nothing he, Henry, Lucchino, Tom Werner, or anyone else who might be standing up at that podium some night in the future can do except root and agonize. The players have to win this thing before anyone can start smiling for the photographers.

But relax, boys. We'll make sure all of you get your credit.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is ryan@globe.com.

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