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Dan Shaughnessy

From bad to worse in offseason

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By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / November 20, 2011

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Can the Red Sox do anything else to boost their image as a doofus organization?

Remember when the Yawkey Way boys were a mere team, playing baseball games?

Not anymore. The Sox don’t play games in November (they don’t play in October anymore, either, come to think of it). But they are in the news, and on our minds much more than the Celtics, Bruins or midseason Patriots.

The Sox don’t need baseball to make news.

Hits, runs, and errors? The offseason Sox take hits. People run from the Boston franchise. And the goofy owners make more errors than Julio Lugo in a day-night doubleheader.

The Sox are in the news because they are a daily punch line. Who needs to play games when you have daily chaos at the top?

Boston baseball’s nuclear winter thus far has seen the firing of Terry Francona, the no-resistance departure of Theo Epstein, the abrupt flight of the greatest closer in franchise history, disclosure of the Delta House environment of 2011, and a series of head-scratching missteps and mind-bending news conferences.

Meanwhile, an increasingly uneven and cumbersome ownership group - ever concerned with image - confuses all with ever-changing explanations of ball club governance.

Things got so bad last week that Miss Heidi left without even leaving a note (the good news on that one is it finally gives Tom Werner something to do). Can’t say we blame her.

Let’s start our weekly update with the state of non-compensation for Theo. What a joke this has become. Theo is ensconced in his office at Wrigley Field, laughing at the dopes in Boston who let him out of his contract before insisting on payback. And now there’s nothing the Sox can do except wait for Uncle Bud to force the Cubs to send Boston some Single A outfielder who’ll be waiting tables in a year or two.

Why didn’t the Sox hold out for Matt Garza before letting Theo go? The Cubs had to have Theo after all the hype. Now they have their man and the Sox have lost all leverage. The Sox are like a guy who “sells’’ his house, and lets the new owner move in before closing. The played “seller’’ has to go to court to evict, or make the new owner pay. It’s a joke. Epstein had tremendous value and the Sox let him walk and now they are begging. Pathetic.

Speaking of pathetic, we have the Cirque-de-so-lame managerial search, which is now coming up on its eighth week. The world champion St. Louis Cardinals needed only 12 days to find their man.

It doesn’t really matter how long it takes if the Sox wind up getting the right guy, but this process at the very least raises questions about the chain of command on Yawkey Way.

After the soft parade of Dale Sveum, Pete Mackanin, Sandy Alomar Jr., Torey Lovullo, and Gene Lamont, Sox ownership effectively emasculated new general manager Ben Cherington in Milwaukee last week, thumbing their noses at Sveum, the choice of Ben and his baseball ops team. Then we find out the owners wanted a guy like Bobby Valentine all along.

So, what was the Dale and Pony Show at Fenway over the last three weeks? Was it really necessary to trot all those guys out in front of the media so we could find out that none of it was serious?

Why the misdirection? Why make your serious new GM look powerless right out of the gate (Ben is in the Dominican Republic this weekend, scouting Yoenis Cespedes while the grown-ups resume the managerial search)? What is happening at the top?

John Henry has gone underground since bursting into the SportsHub studios. It’s pretty clear that pork bellies, Liverpool, and his new family have taken his attention away from the Red Sox. Meanwhile, Inspector Werner is now on the case looking for the next Heidi and more of that nifty, award-winning NESN programming. That leaves Larry Lucchino, “the man who runs the Red Sox.’’

Without saying much of anything, Larry is presenting as the de facto GM of the Red Sox, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The Sox could have used some of Larry’s urgency when Jonathan Papelbon was allowed to walk without receiving an offer.

We know Henry is a Valentine fan (curious, given Valentine’s rejection of Carmine and Moneyball), but Larry is the guy who sat in on a panel with Valentine a couple of weeks ago. Larry is the guy flexing his baseball muscles now that Theo (Henry’s long, lost son) is no longer battling for power inside the walls of Fenway.

No one is saying Sveum is any great loss. He had only 12 games of managerial experience and the Brewers passed him over when they had a chance to name a new manager. His PR skills are minimal and perhaps being a poor third base coach makes one questionable managerial material.

But Sveum was the choice of slow-moving Cherington and baseball ops. And ownership said no. After lunch. Maybe Sveum chewed with his mouth open or said something nasty about “Pocket Money,’’ but he should not have been a mystery to Henry, Werner, and Lucchino. Sveum worked at Fenway every day for two seasons while they owned the club.

Now it’s on to Bobby V.

This is going to be great. Let’s hope Valentine brings the fake nose and glasses he wore in the Mets dugout. Maybe he has a Groucho mask.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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