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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Time to kiss and make up

Sox search should look back at Epstein

It's all pretty simple if you think about it for a moment. The Red Sox are looking for a general manager. They've had some good candidates tell them ''not interested" and they're interviewing others who've done the job in smaller markets with little success. They have a deep roster of young GM wannabes and could turn to any one of them to do the job.

But we haven't talked much about the obvious choice to fill the position. He's young, talented, experienced, local, and has a World Series ring in his dresser drawer. He was born and raised to be general manager of the Boston Red Sox and he's currently not employed.

The Red Sox should offer the job to Brookline native Theo Epstein.

This is not as stupid as it sounds. Think about it for a moment. There was a lot of emotion involved in young Theo's decision last week. He never really told us why he's not coming back, but he did say he could no longer put his heart and soul into the business of running the Red Sox.

Bet he's having second thoughts about that decision right about now. Bet he'd listen if the Sox reached out.

One would presume that Messrs. Henry and Lucchino covered all these bases last week. There must have been some heated discussions on Yawkey Way in the hours after Theo submitted his resignation Monday -- before he delivered his closing remarks on Wednesday. No doubt all parties had their say.

So why not revisit the situation now? Everyone knows Theo is better-suited for the position than Jim Beattie, Jim Bowden, Ben Cherington, Peter Woodfork, Craig Shipley, Jed Hoyer, Dan Duquette, or Lou Gorman. Some of them are about tomorrow, others are about yesterday. Theo is about today and it's not too late to go back and get him.

Anybody out there ever break up with a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, or wife? Any of you ever get back together a few days later? It happens all the time. It can be done. And every effort should be made in this case before the Red Sox spend any more time spinning their wheels talking to those who would be Theo's successor.

This is where Larry Lucchino needs to step up. Do what's best for the Red Sox. Go back to Theo and ask him if there's any way all parties could make this work again. The breakup was unnecessary and emotional, and too much damage was done. Theo has had a few days to think about it. He's only 31 years old and there was a lot of pressure on him leading up to his decision. Bet he'd listen now.

Maybe Smith & Wollensky could offer Larry and Theo and John Henry a private room, stocked with the finest meats and wines. Let them break bread and don't let them out until they come to an agreement. The restaurant made this offer to the bickering parties during the baseball strike in 1994, but nothing came of it. Lucchino and Epstein should find a way to work this out. And Henry should see that they do.

Note to conspiracy buffs and sports-talk radio listeners: None of this comes from inside sources close to the negotiations or The New York Times Company, which owns 17 percent of the Red Sox (and all of the Boston Globe). It's not a suggestion from Curt Schilling or any of his little late-night, on-line friends. It wasn't fed to the Globe by Scooter Libby, Mark Felt, or any Lucchino consigliere. It's just something that makes sense.

The Red Sox need a general manager. Theo Epstein is between jobs. Pride and embarrassment needn't get in the way. Theo made an emotional decision last week. The Red Sox didn't do a good enough job of making him feel he could trust them. It was a low moment in a 14-year relationship between Lucchino and Epstein and it came at a time when Theo felt he had to make a life-changing decision.

But it doesn't have to be a final decision. It was Bill Parcells who reminded us that he reserved the right to change his mind. Billy Martin left and came back. Michael Jordan left and came back. Muhammad Ali and Frank Sinatra left and came back. Harry Sinden and Ray Bourque left the Bruins and came back. Bob Kraft left for Hartford and came back. Red Auerbach even thought about leaving the Celtics for the Knicks for a few hours before he came back to Boston for keeps. Now Red has his own statue in Faneuil Hall.

Theo Epstein can come back. It's not too late. The Red Sox are looking for a general manager and he's clearly the best man for the job.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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