Despite the disquieting pall that has enveloped Yawkey Way the Red Sox are, in fact, open for business, evidenced yesterday in three developments, each aimed at addressing a different component of the club: playing, managing, and coaching.
As expected, the team made an initial offer to Johnny Damon. The offer, according to a well-placed industry source, was in the neighborhood of $27 million to $30 million over three seasons, though it could include a fourth-year option or vesting option.
The search for a general manager, effectively suspended for today and tomorrow while president/CEO Larry Lucchino attends the owners' meetings in Milwaukee, should regain momentum this weekend or early next week, when Jim Beattie expects to be back for a second interview.
And, on the coaching level, the team yesterday announced that minor league pitching coordinator Al Nipper will succeed Bill Haselman as bullpen coach. The Sox also announced that offers to return to the team had been extended to bench coach Brad Mills, hitting coach Ron Jackson, and Haselman, the only Boston coaches not under contract for 2006. Haselman will be reassigned to coach first base.
Beattie's reentrance into the GM picture stands as the most intriguing of these developments, since the club's search for a replacement for Theo Epstein has slowed considerably. The Sox remain the only team in baseball without a general manager, and are known to have rejected or been rejected by six potential candidates (Kevin Towers, Doug Melvin, Chris Antonetti, Dayton Moore, Tony LaCava, and Wayne Krivsky).
That leaves only Washington GM Jim Bowden and Beattie, who met an unceremonious end in Baltimore last season, as candidates interviewed and believed to still be in the running for the job. Bowden, reached yesterday by phone, said he'd rather not comment on the GM search process. Beattie, however, said he's ''had a couple conversations with Larry, to stay in touch, and he has indicated to me that I'll be brought in for a second interview."
That's a somewhat surprising twist, since it was Beattie, not the Red Sox, who requested his initial interview, which occurred last Friday at Fenway Park. Beattie doesn't know exactly when his follow-up interview will be. ''I got the impression it would be before Thanksgiving," he said.
Beattie, a native New Englander and a Dartmouth College graduate, will be in Boston for the weekend for personal reasons and could visit Fenway while in town. He has a son and a daughter attending Dartmouth and a daughter at Phillips Andover, and he'll be in the area to watch one daughter participate in a crew race and the other in a volleyball tournament.
Lucchino is believed to have come out of his interview with Beattie impressed and has, in the time since, done due background diligence on the former Baltimore executive vice president for baseball operations.
Beattie realizes that the more time that passes, the less opportunity he or another candidate would have to learn the inner workings of the organization and participate in offseason planning. However, in 2002, when he joined the Orioles, Beattie wasn't hired until Dec. 2, and he'd worked in the other league the previous season as the Expos' GM.
''I've been in the AL, in the AL East," said Beattie, who held his position in Baltimore for three seasons. ''I know the league fairly well. I'm doing all the reading. I have spoken with other GMs."
Beattie, who as Montreal GM dealt Pedro Martínez to the Red Sox in November 1997 for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr., worked in Baltimore in tandem with vice president Mike Flanagan. Beattie and Flanagan effectively operated as co-GMs, and under their stewardship the Orioles did little to distinguish themselves in the AL East, despite a healthy payroll.
Flanagan, at season's end, was elevated to Beattie's position of executive VP for baseball operations, while Beattie was offered a consultant's role.
Lucchino, meanwhile, said Monday night that he'd sought permission to interview two other GM candidates but would not reveal their names. A possible candidate could be Kim Ng, the Dodgers' young and respected assistant GM. Ng was strongly considered for the team's GM opening before owner Frank McCourt opted for Ned Colletti, the Giants' 50-year-old assistant GM.
Nipper's hiring, meanwhile, marked another step in the offseason reorganization of the Sox' coaching staff. DeMarlo Hale, formerly of the Rangers, has replaced the departed Dale Sveum to coach third base. Haselman will replace Lynn Jones as the other base coach, and Nipper will replace Haselman in the bullpen.
Nipper's hiring reinforces the belief that the Sox are committed to developing their young pitching prospects at the major league level. Bill Lajoie, the Sox' senior adviser speaking on behalf of the club on a conference call last night, said that with this hire, the organization wanted ''a pitching coach from the system who has worked with some of the younger pitchers coming onto the scene as we go along over the next three, four, five years. That was how we proceeded."
Nipper, 46, has spent 17 seasons in the Sox organization, as a pitcher, minor league pitching coach, major league pitching coach, and minor league pitching coordinator.
In that last role he worked with many Sox prospects and became a valued mentor to, among others, Jonathan Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen.
''Obviously, Wally [pitching coach Dave Wallace] had them this year," Nipper said on the conference call.
''I might be able to help Wally and give him some insight into their personalities, some mechanical things, which we'd already talked about last year.
''I'm just an extra set of eyes. Most important as the bullpen coach, I need to build that bond with Wally and be that confidant."