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Dan Shaughnessy

Riveting drama at Fenway theater

Technically, Theo Epstein still runs the Sox baseball ops. Technically, Theo Epstein still runs the Sox baseball ops. (File/The Boston Globe)
By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / October 16, 2011

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It’s been 2 1/2 weeks since the Red Sox season went up in flames by Baltimore’s inner harbor, and still we have rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air - just about every day.

John Henry lit the latest match Friday afternoon when he burst into the studios of 98.5 The Sports Hub on Leo Birmingham Parkway in Brighton in an overdue effort to tell his side of things.

Unfiltered Henry was great stuff. His anger reminded me of “Back to the Future’s’’ George McFly rescuing a damsel in distress, cocking his fist, and telling Biff, “Get your damn hands off her.’’

Henry spoke of the “media riot’’ that has ensued since those fateful three minutes in the midnight hour in Baltimore.

He should feel good about his impassioned defense of all things Red Sox. He should also be mindful of one great takeaway from all this noise: The Red Sox rule. Even in chaos.

I’m told there is a pretty big football game going on at Gillette Stadium this afternoon. Indeed, this is the best part of the Patriots schedule. They had the Jets here last week, the Cowboys are here today, and after a bye week Bill Belichick & Co. will be in Pittsburgh.

As ever, football television ratings will be boffo, millions of fantasy players will bore fellow Americans, ESPN will furnish hundreds of hours of analysis, and all the data will support the obvious truth that the NFL is our national pastime. Football is king.

Everywhere except Boston.

Think about it; is there any football-, basketball-, or hockey-related event that could saturate our region the way the Sox just took over our lives for the last 18 days?

No. Spygate wasn’t this big. Parcells vs. Kraft wasn’t this big.

It’s baseball in Boston. Even when it’s bad, it’s good.

And it’s pretty bad right now, is it not?

The Sox still don’t have a manager and they won’t have a manager until their general manager leaves. Waiting for Theo Epstein to leave for Chicago has become like waiting for Albert Haynesworth to make a play; it seems inevitable, but it never happens.

I love the notion that the Sox are in their offices working furiously to correct the problems of 2011 and make things better for 2012 . . . all while Epstein is still running baseball ops.

Don’t they usually change the locks and walk you to your car when you take a job at a competitor?

Really, how is Esptein supposed to be fixing things at Fenway Park when his head, his heart, and his wallet are out the door, bound for Chicago? When will the Sox and Cubs make announcements so that both franchises can get on with their lives?

Tomorrow, I hope. Then we can proceed to the business of thinking about the 2012 Red Sox instead of more bloody autopsies on the frenzied freefall of 2011.

Do not underestimate Larry Lucchino’s place in everything that is about to happen. Henry made it clear Friday that Lucchino (not Henry, and not Tom Werner) is the man in charge of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. In addition to the Red Sox, John and Tom are occupied with Roush, Liverpool, and NESN.

Lucchino is the baseball guy. He runs the Red Sox. He is the smartest guy in the room and too often has been the only adult in a room of rich guys snapping wet towels and giving one another wedgies.

Now that Epstein is gone, look for Lucchino to insert himself in larger, if not more public, fashion.

The idea of a big personality taking over as manager of the Red Sox was unthinkable as long as Epstein was at the switch. Not now. Lucchino worked in Baltimore when Earl Weaver managed the Orioles and would not be threatened by independent thinking in the dugout.

It will be interesting to see what the New Sox do about David Ortiz. Wrapping up a selfish summer that saw him disrespect Terry Francona a couple of times, the tone-deaf Papi told ESPN’s Colleen Dominguez that he is tired of the drama here and he’d think about playing for the Yankees.

He should let the Yankees know about this while he’s at it. The Yankees are overloaded at DH, and Ortiz just gave Sox management cause to pause before handing out more money for past performance.

That’s just one of a million decisions the Sox have to make.

Any way you slice it, this will be one of the greatest spring trainings of all time. I’m thinking there probably won’t be a standing ovation for the owners when they first walk into the clubhouse in Fort Myers. It’s hard to imagine Carl Crawford rising from his chair now that Henry has told the world that he didn’t want the $142 million outfielder.

And so the media riot will continue.

They are like your children, these Red Sox. They drive you crazy and break your heart, but you still love them and you always take them back.

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