Reinstated Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and team president Larry Lucchino joined Boston sports radio WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan this morning to kick off a day of meeting with the media. Among the topics discussed were the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s return, the restructuring of the baseball operations department, and some past, and potential, player transactions.
Regarding the issues that led to Epstein leaving on Oct. 31: Were they chain of command issues? Player development and acquisition philosophy within the organization? Or was it the division of duties and power between the baseball side and the business side?
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein: The issues had nothing to do with chain of command per se. And I think that’s what John [Henry] means in his statement when he says it wasn’t a power struggle. He didn’t say there wasn’t any conflict. He didn’t say we weren’t experiencing a struggle of some sort. He said it wasn’t a power struggle, and it wasn’t. I said in my press conference on Nov. 2 and I said again yesterday… I’m happy with the chain of command. I feel like I do have as much autonomy as any GM in baseball, I’ve never questioned that. Larry and John and Tom [Werner] play a very important role in the supervision of the baseball operations department. And it hasn’t been a power struggle in the sense that I’ve never asked for more authority. I’ve never asked for a new title. This was never about titles. It was never about breaking down any chain of command.
What it was about was we had a fairly fundamental disconnect about things that are very important in an organization, if you’re going to stay for three years as a GM and be responsible not only for the product on the field but be accountable to your colleagues and the fans as well and where that disconnect was fairly wide ranging. I’m happy to say we put in 10 weeks of really hard work to resolve it and we’re all confident enough that it’s been resolved that we’re taking chances.
I’m taking a chance by coming back. Larry’s taking a chance by having me back. John and Tom are taking a chance by getting involved to help broker this whole thing.
So the disconnect is related to everything from baseball philosophy, simple issues that come up all the time but are very important. How much do you value the long term vs. the short term? What’s your philosophy? How far will you go to retain veteran players? How much do you want to rely on young players?
Everything from baseball philosophy to simple communication issues … How do we communicate internally? What’s our philosophy to communicate with the press? How much must we trust each other to communicate the right way with respect to the media? It was all these issues that may not seem that important on the outside looking in but I can tell you and Larry can tell you, that when you’re in a leadership position with a sports franchise, especially one like the Red Sox, those things are fundamentally important. And that’s what we really resolved over these last 10 weeks. You have to give Larry, John, and Tom credit here. Because I left essentially over those issues, and Larry and I admit it, there was personal conflict as well as a result of the public negotiations but rather than turn their back on me after I left and rather than turn my back on the organization after I left, we got together and had great conversations for 10 weeks to get to a consensus on all those issues.
Additional excerpts follow (summary of their comments, not direct quotes):
TE: You have to believe in the direction of the organization. Priorities, values, baseball philosophy… enough of a disconnect, it didn’t make sense. Not going to go into particulars, what precisely our philosophy is.
The proof is in the fact that we’ve gotten back together. All you have to do is read the papers.
It’s one thing to talk about vision, togetherness. It’s another thing to execute it.
Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino: The circumstances haven’t changed. Baseball operations is a collaborative process. Sure disagreements and debates come up. Theo’s departure and time prior to that prompted us philosophically [to look at our] operations, long term thinking… when you sit down forced to look backward and forward.
Where are we going? Do we share same goals and approaches? It’s important to do this from time to time.
We’re a stronger, deeper, bolder, more effective organization with Theo. The kind of depth and experience we have. If you look at the picture in the [Boston] Globe today it gives me a whole lot of comfort … you want that kind of strength and depth.
TE: One of the things that will allow us to function with more effectiveness. We have a better understanding of overriding philosophies.
I haven’t been overruled. I have as much autonomy as a GM could want. Consensus on a vision. Easy to look back to that when specific decisions come up. Long term vs. short term. Gray area. Comes down to GM’s interpretation, run up chain of command. Haven’t had a problem with that.
Issue was the philosophy. Obviously I’m extremely comfortable with the philosophy or I wouldn’t have come back.
There was much more talk about autonomy in the press than at 4 Yawkey Way.
The one regret I have was, was there some way to find this vision together, resolve issues, before Oct. 31 and the10 weeks later. If not for Oct. 31, we would not have had the talks we had. I admit I put the organization in a very delicate position.
TE: If I were on the job … from what I understand about the [Johnny Damon] negotiation … I was being referred to by Ben and Jed. The exact same thing would have happened with Johnny Damon. We set a value on players and stick to that value. I don’t think anyone did anything wrong in that negotiation.
Johnny Damon did what is best for him and his family. The Yankees did what was best for them too given needs and resources.
What was your role over past 85 days?
TE: My participation in these discussions. I was helping to participate in formation of this vision. I was available to answer the phone when Ben and Jed called me. Four years working together. They would call me. Would you trade X for Y?
The Beckett deal. I was out of the country when it went down. As it was constructed in the window I gave my full stamp of approval for. Absolutely a slam dunk for the Red Sox. We’re thrilled to have Josh Beckett on the Red Sox. It’s important to look at the long term.
One player is probably as close to an ace as you’ll find. We’re enjoying successful season after successful season, we’ll look back on this offseason.
Working on Coco Crisp deal?
TE: As part of our new vision, we aren’t going to speculate on deals that aren’t done. No comment.
LL: We did see Beckett’s MRIs and had plenty of discussions there. There are issues of strength, durability with all pitchers. The assessment said this was well worth taking.
TE: Yeah. I certainly made a mistake on Edgar [Renteria]. I signed off on him. We wanted him. I admitted publicly that was certainly a mistake based on results of the first year. There’s a chances he’ll bounce back strong, but there’s a chance physically he’s a different player. Struggled bending over getting to certain balls. Can’t take a risk that he won’t bounce back. I applaud that deal [for Andy Marte]. Yes I made a mistake signing him originally.
LL: Trainers and doctors have followed Keith Foulke’s progress. Last I heard he was working very hard. His knees were in excellent condition. Some reason for optimism.
LL: Certainly not giving up on Manny Ramirez in any way, shape, or form. He asked that we explore other possibilities. Not going to predict the future, Manny’s frame of mind. We tried to honor our commitment to him. If the opportunity presents itself, I’m sure Theo will field a few phone calls.
We made a whole bunch of announcements. We’re going to talk all day today about anything you want to talk about within reason. After today, we aren’t going to get into this. We think it is a distraction. We want to put this melodrama that has played out in some of the tabloids behind us. At some point a week from now, we’re going to say “we’re moving on.”
This has to be real world behavior. Get focus back where it belongs, on the baseball field.
TE: Respect and admiration for Ben [Cherington] and Jed [Hoyer]. They performed a selfless act for the organization. Going through a period of relative uncertainty. They hoped to have me back. This is the structure we hoped to have all along. They’re two of my best friends in the world. Those two individually thought it was best to share [the GM] role and keep continuity. They knew they would be thrust out front, take some lumps, and they did.
Both guys I’m sure will be general managers in the future, either here or somewhere else.
LL: [Thanks people in the baseball operations department.] Helped us develop that sense of team.
On Jim Beattie as a Red Sox GM candidate
LL: We had to explore what the options were. No certainty in early November. Lots of discussions and debate took place. We had to explore what the other possibilities might be. Jim Beattie is a very good baseball executive. He’s going to have a good career going forward. We appreciate his interest.
On keeping young pitching this offseason
TE: I’m thrilled that we have this pitching surplus. There are always frantic calls in spring training looking for pitching. We have plenty of pitching, which is good. That surplus might come in handy in spring training in case we have to fill a hole in the roster. Deal from a position of strength.
I talked to Jed as the Bronson [Arroyo] negotiations were going on. Bronson and his agents were fearful that a deal would get him out of town. We signed that deal with the intent of having Bronson pitch here for three years.
We’ll see [if we can trade David Wells.]
LL: There’s something to the idea that the passage of time giving us a chance to reflect on our past 14 years together. This wasn’t just Theo and me coming together. This was a larger, broader discussion. I express gratitude to John and Tom who functioned as important catalysts. They deserve to be recognized fore the constructive role they played in this.
TE: I’ll second that. Rare for owner to embrace someone who walked away from the organization… We really feel like we’re in a different place than we were on Oct. 31. We’re very confident that it’s going to work. …We’ve talked about moving our offices closer together.