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Seth Mnookin 'Feeding the Monster' chat transcript

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Jimbo57Seth - since you had such access to the team - were there any times where something happened and someone looked over at you and said "you better not write about this" or "this never happened"?
Seth_MnookinNope, there wasn't any situation where I was specifically told I could or couldn't write about a specific situation. That said, a lot of the information in the book is from one-on-one interviews, so if there was a topic a subject didn't want covered, he'd be more likely to just say it was off the record.
MattSeth -- Cannot wait to buy the book! In all the time you spent in and around the Red Sox can you tell us who was the most fun current or former player to be around / interview and why? Thanks and good luck with your future endeavors.
Seth_MnookinDefinitely Ortiz. He's just a big, fun-loving guy. He lit up the clubhouse every time he came in there.
TPSeth how did the idea for this book originate? Did the Red Sox contact you or vice-versa?
Seth_MnookinThe book came about after I had written a magazine article on the '04 playoff run. At one point in a conversation with John Henry, we both remarked that the story of this ownership group (stretching back to the sale) would make a great book. And we moved on from there. 
Jon_AHow has JH reacted to the semi-controversy w/ O'Donnell and the Gang?
Seth_MnookinI don't know -- you'd need to ask him. I did think it was interesting that on WEEI O'Donnell basically said all of the facts in the book were correct; he just didn't like how they were being interpreted. It's also worth pointing out that it doesn't say anywhere that Joe threatened John's life; in fact, I don't ever quote John. I did reprint an email talking about John had been freaked out; that email was sent out to a lot of people.
mattWhen did you first begin collecting information for your book and how long did it take you to finish?
Seth_MnookinBegan covering the team in October 04; began working exclusively on the book in March 05. I reported throughout the year (and into this year), and spent most of December-March writing. It was exhausting.
JasonHicksConsidering that you currently in Manhattan isn't it safe to assume that you're a Yankees spy trying to tear down the foundation of the Sox with this book?
Seth_MnookinNope. But you should think about applying for a job in government.
chttrAfter Theo resigned and the co-GMs were put in place, was Theo kind of pulling the strings, with an understanding that it was very possible he'd come back?
Seth_MnookinI don't know if I'd use that phraseology -- pulling the strings. But after it became clear that there was a strong likelihood that Theo would return to the Sox, he was in very close contact with the rest of the team's baseball operations staff.
BoSoxFanHello Seth: I encourage folks to check out your blog at http://www.sethmnookin.com/blog/2006/07/10/joe-odonnell-and-weei/ . What did you think of Gerry Callahan suggesting Joe O"Donnell take legal action against you?
Seth_MnookinI thought it was a little silly. Suffice to say I haven't heard from any lawyers.
bradSeth, Can you tell us a bit about Manny? Did you interview him, and is he anything like Ortiz (fun and happy) - or more like what the media says about him (mean spirited)? - Thanks, can wait for my book to be delivered today from Amazon.
Seth_MnookinI didn't talk to Manny -- Manny only talks when he feels like it, and I think the only interview he gave last year (besides the on-field comments after the July 31 game) was to Chris Snow of the Globe (er, the NHL). I don't know if anyone thinks of Manny as mean-spirited, though. People in the media and in the organization think of him as an enigma. I had more than one employee of the team tell me they'd love to read a book on him...if such a thing would ever be possible.
SoxySeth -- hypothetical question -- if the Sox had the resources and payroll of the Twins, would the management team they have in place be able to generate as good a record as Minnesota?
Seth_MnookinIf they were hypothetically in the AL West? I'd bet they'd do as well as anyone. They'd also have to hypothetically have a pitching prospect who developed along the lines of Santana.
bradWill the Red Sox profit from the sales revenue of this book?
Seth_MnookinNope. They didn't have any editorial control and didn't get any financial benefit.
SoxFanSoxFanSeth - who is running the show over there? Theo or Larry?
Seth_MnookinI haven't been reporting on the team this year, but in my experience they both are: Theo's running baseball operations and Larry is the CEO of the team. He oversees everything, but handles a lot of the business side of things (along with Mike Dee). He's not there looking over Theo's shoulder or telling him what to do. It's a little like asking, "Who runs the White House: the attorney general or the treasury secretary?" (An imprecise analogy, but you get the point.)
NateSeth - give me some info on how horribly Larry treated Nomar in contract negotiations... and the "real" reason he was traded. Thanks, can't wait to buy the book!
Seth_MnookinI don't think Larry did treat Nomar horribly. And the real reason he was traded is because Pokey Reese was injured, Nomar had indicated he might not be available for all of the remainder of the season, the Sox and Nomar hadn't been able to come to terms on a long-term deal, and the organization believed it was going to be difficult making a playoff run with Ricky Gutierrez at SS. 
BobXYou obviously heard Joe O'Donnell's comments on Monday, in which he described some of your accounts as "farcical", particularly the 1:00 a.m. meeting at Pier 4. Looking back, do you think your account adequately filtered out the embellishment of your witnesses?
Seth_MnookinWhile Joe said it was "farcical," he didn't dispute a single fact. He asked John to the waterfront at 1 am. John asked if he could come with David Ginsberg, a business advisor who had been working on the deal the entire time. Joe said no. I think Joe thinks it's farcical that he threatened John's life; that's fine. I never wrote that. I also think it's a bit disingenuous to complain now -- I tried to contact him more than a dozen times, and offered to speak with him on the record, off the record, or on background. And despite his radio silence, I did manage to speak with a number of his associates.
Carlos_QuintanaSeth, Fellow Manhattanite here. I work in finance, underwriting transactions. From time to time we over analyze deals and really miss out on some great opportunities. The post mortem on those deals is always difficult to stomach. The Red Sox appear to have an underwriting matrix they use to evaluate contracts to players, and they would never come out and say they were wrong even though everyone knows they were (Johnny Damon). With your intimate knowledge of the heads of the organization, Do they have a softer side that you see that actually allows them to admit mistakes? Have they ever told you they were wrong, because when they put their robot face on in the media they certainly would never admit it to their customers (i.e. the fans) and that's sometimes why I don't love this team as much as I used to.
Seth_Mnookin One thing I think sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is the difference between process and results. No one on the Sox -- not Theo, not John, not Larry, not Tom -- thinks every decision they make is going to work out perfectly, or even work out at all. There'll be players they invest in who get horribly injured; trades in which the player departing turns into a superstar; etc. The team does believe that there's a thought-out, carefully calibrated process they can follow, and that more often than not that will lead to positive results. It's the same thing in stocks, or finance (or commodities, where John made his fortune): not every stock will be a winner, but if you have a plan and stick to it, you're likely to come out ahead in the long run. Finally, I'd disagree with you that everyone knows the Damon non-signing was wrong. They offered him a lot of money. They thought that's what a centerfielder on the wrong side of 30 was worth, especially considering some of the less expensive options. I think we all saw last year in New York what a rapidly declining center fielder can look like, so let's come back in 2008 or 2009 and evaluate that deal.
Bill_Clintondoes anyone in the RS organization regret giving you access to the team?
Seth_MnookinWell, when I began this project, the Red Sox were probably the most celebrated and lionized sports team of the decade, and perhaps ever. It was probably difficult to conceive of what 2005 would end up looking like. I think there are people in the Red Sox who wish this project had never been started. But again, I don't really feel comfortable talking for the team.
IchiroHi Seth. Maybe this is an unfair question, but, what is your impression of Lucchino? Is he really the bad guy everyone portrays him to be?
Seth_MnookinI think Larry gets a bad rap in the press. Part of that might be because it's a little unclear what a CEO does on a sports team; that's a relatively new position vis-à-vis MLB. But he's seen as the tough guy or the thug regardless of the situation. (One example: he's probably more sentimental about keeping superstars than anyone in the front office, but always gets blamed for chasing them out of town.) He's an incredibly bright, incredibly creative, incredibly hard-working guy. It's no secret that he rubs some people the wrong way, and there are those people within the RS who have a hard time with him. There's also no question -- at least in my mind -- that he's an incredible asset.
JonCan you describe your perspective on the tension between Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez in the '04 clubhouse?
Seth_MnookinI wasn't there. The perspective I have -- from players and other people in the organization -- is all in the book; I didn't hold anything back.
MadwomanOne of the reviews I read said pretty much everyone associated with the Red Sox except for John Henry came off as more or less a jerk in the book: did you find the people on and with the team to be generally unpleasant?
Seth_MnookinI've read everything from everyone on the club will hate the book to the book makes John look like a saint to it makes Theo look like a genius to it makes Larry look like a sympathetic character. But to answer the second part of your question, I found the vast majority of the people in the book to be incredibly pleasant. John is a fascinating and generous guy. Tom was incredibly open and thoughtful. Larry spent an enormous amount of time with me and always treated me with respect and consideration. And Theo -- despite what's a pretty well-documented aversion to the amount of coverage the team always gets -- was helpful, insightful, and always incredibly respectful. It certainly was a better group of people than a lot of workplaces I've been in.
EmilyHi Seth - do you really think it's fair to blame Theo's departure from the Red Sox on the article written by Dan Shaughnessy in the Boston Globe?
Seth_MnookinNope. And I didn't. The Shaughnessy article is more analogous to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that set off World War I. If all of the other stuff hadn't been there, it wouldn't have mattered. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
demantoidHi, Were there any pre-conditions to your access to John Henry and the red sox before your wrote the book or were there any afterwards...please be honest with us
Seth_MnookinThe only condition was that if I came across any proprietary financial data, I had to clear it with the club, and that was only because they wanted to feel comfortable giving me access to Fenway without feeling like I needed a babysitter. Besides that, I operated with the same ground rules I would use on any project.
Josh_2Seth: in your book you portray John Henry as a strong mediator through the storm, do you feel the book speaks more glowingly of him, whereas Theo and Lucchino take more blame
Seth_MnookinActually, I think in the book I portray John as a little removed and uninvolved during what turned out to be a crucial period for the club. But Theo and Larry were obviously the main actors in their personal drama; how could they not be?
Bill_Clintonis the "M" silent?
Seth_MnookinNo. Pretend there's a vowel between the M and the n.
mick_jamesHey Seth, who was the most open player in the clubhouse during your time with the sox?
Seth_MnookinJohnny Damon and Bronson Arroyo were two guys who always took the time to answer questions, even when they were clearly exhausted. Youkilis was pretty open, as were Trot and Gabe Kapler.
MaineRedWhy do you think Renteria was moved so quickly?
Seth_MnookinBecause last year was a disaster and it didn't look like anything was going to change. He's (obviously) hitting better in Atlanta, but he still looks like he's oftentimes incapable of fielding his position... Thanks for the opportunity, and thanks for the questions. There's plenty more info on my website (www.sethmnookin.com). And I want to stress again that all of these -- and everything in the book -- is my opinion, not something sanctioned by the Sox.
Mookie_WilsonWhen Theo left the team I was impressed by how he, Larry and John spoke with the press--very polite and respectful of each other. However, reading excerpts from your book it seems as if some of the things they said went beyond spin and approached lies. How do you think your book effects their credibility?
Seth_MnookinIn any workplace, there are going to be times when you get along great with the person in the cubicle next to you and times when you can't stand him. In Boston, with the Red Sox, there's not the freedom to have those normal periods of ups and downs. I'm sure some of what was said during that period was designed to tamp down the frenzy, but I wouldn't call that lying. And I absolutely think the working relationships in the front office are stronger now that all this was dealt with.
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Feeding the Monster


About author Seth Mnookin
Seth Mnookin is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. A native of Newton, Massachusetts, he currently lives in Manhattan.

About "Feeding the Monster"
"Feeding the Monster" is the inside story of how savvy management turned the Red Sox into world champions and how this success presented the biggest challenges of all. Seth Mnookin was given full access to the team.

Click here to purchase "Feeding the Monster"