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'Progress' on Theo

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  October 27, 2005 04:05 PM

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It looks like the Theo Epstein saga will go down to the wire after all. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and president Larry Lucchino made the following joint statement today regarding the ongoing negotiation to re-sign Epstein, whose contract expires on Oct. 31.

“We had a meeting over lunch today to continue our discussions and to conduct other business as well. We made progress, but we anticipate no further statement until there is something to announce. We are hopeful that these discussions will work out for the best. In the meantime, we continue 'business as usual.'"

It remained unclear just how much "progress" was made between the sides, or when the team planned to make its next announcement.

The following background information is from an article by Gordon Edes in today's Boston Globe:

On Tuesday, Lucchino met with Epstein and presented him a three-year offer at $1.2 million a year, according to a major league executive with knowledge of the negotiations. Epstein, who was paid $350,000 in the last year of a three-year deal that expires Monday, is believed to be seeking $1.5 million annually. That would seem to leave room for a compromise relatively easy to achieve, but there are other issues that could get in the way of a settlement.

Those issues revolve around management style and other philosophical differences that have left some members on the baseball operations side privately expressing anger at the way they are regarded by the Sox' hierarchy, i.e. Lucchino, who has always taken an active role in baseball decision-making with the Red Sox, as well as the other teams he previously served as CEO, the San Diego Padres and Baltimore Orioles. Lucchino has publicly denied ''chain of command" issues but otherwise has vowed to keep negotiations private.

Sources familiar with Epstein's thinking said he does not question the propriety of reporting to the CEO but chafes at times at the degree to which Lucchino involves himself in baseball decisions, and at a perceived lack of respect toward the baseball side.

Lucchino has known Epstein since he began as a summer intern with the Orioles in 1992, and has mentored Epstein through an apprenticeship that continued in San Diego when Lucchino moved to the Padres, and then to Boston, where Lucchino first hired Epstein as assistant GM shortly after the new ownership group took control in 2002, and promoted him to GM a year later. The protracted negotiations have left Lucchino hurt by a perceived absence of loyalty, according to sources close to the Sox CEO.

The Red Sox' situation is a topic of conversation among baseball executives attending the World Series, with most saying they expected the situation to be resolved with Epstein remaining with the Sox. Epstein's options should he elect to leave the Red Sox? There are three GM jobs currently open, in Arizona, Tampa Bay, and Philadelphia. The San Diego job could open if Kevin Towers leaves the Padres for Arizona, where he interviewed and was considered the leading candidate.

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