If Theo Epstein does walk out that door, let's hope he channels Mo Vaughn on the way out with a peeved, "It's not about the money" speech. Maybe even a Joe Morgan, "These guys aren't as good as everyone thinks," just to get the blood boiling a bit.
Epstein, the local boy done good who helped deliver Red Sox Nation its first World Series title since 1918, very well may be gone as soon as today, a decision that will prompt a sound bite from Larry Lucchino that -- mark my words -- will become every bit as infamous as Dan Duquette's ridiculous "Twilight of his career" statement, when referring to one Roger Clemens.
With last night's completion of Chicago's beat-down on the Astros (way to show up, Houston) to win its first World Series title since 1917, the free-agent season has officially begun. It was the first time baseball has seen back-to-back Series sweeps since 1998-99 (both by the Yankees), and the National League Central now takes an eight-game World Series losing streak into 2006. The division has never seen a Fall Classic victory, and the last resident to win a Series game was in the 1990 World Series sweep by Jose Rijo and the Reds (at the time in the NL West).
Meanwhile, back in Boston, where nobody apparently was watching the Fall Classic, we've got ourselves a little crisis on our hands, now don't we? Manny Ramirez might want out, Johnny Damon is available to the highest bidder, the cantankerous closer, Keith Foulke, still has another year on his deal, the underwhelming Edgar Renteria has three, and most immediately concerning, Theo Epstein might say sayonara to Lucchino and company.
The Red Sox are just some other champion of the past, a one-and-out shooting star like the Florida Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California, USA of recent years. And in order to break that mold, there is plenty of work that needs to be done this offseason. Starting like, now.
Of course, there seems to be a problem on Yawkey Way. In order to sign free agents, make trades, and decisions on all sorts of personnel moves, the Red Sox need someone in place to sign free agents, make trades and decisions on all sorts of personnel moves. The guy they've got right now is only doing it for the next five days unless a deal can get done. After that, well as embarrassing as this situation is looking for the team right now, trust us, it can get worse.
So, while teams like the Angels are making their plans on how to land the likes of Paul Konerko, the Red Sox might be searching for a general manager, a delay in game that will only hurt them in the all-important free agent market. And that's if the potential candidate signs quickly. What if Brian Sabean, Kevin Towers, etc., haggle as much as Epstein in these extended negotiations? We could be looking at the first full-blown week of free agency with your Boston Red Sox not in the mix because of their lack of a general manager.
Now, that sounds promising, no?
While reports out of the Brookline Ave. offices have insisted that Epstein has not halted his day-to-day duties during these unnecessary negotiations, as of Monday, he's done, and it's not like he's going to leave a to-do list tacked to his office corkboard.
1. Make push for Damon
2. Sleep over Konerko's for Christmas
3. Tell Manny he's been traded to Boston and see if that will suffice
4. Whoopee cushion Lucchino's office
This isn't about just losing a local hero, it's about losing a warm body that can do the job. Mike Port has left the building, and Josh Byrnes is about to. The search for a new GM will have to begin, with the Nation praying John Hart's name doesn't come up.
Like Pedro Martinez wondered a year ago, "Why did they have to wait until the last minute?"
There will be at least a week's delay while the Red Sox get their house in order, perhaps two weeks, at which point all the top free agents will have been contacted and into the wooing process by other teams. The Red Sox will rush to the meeting, late, and have to settle for bits and pieces for 2006.
The new GM will have to familiarize himself with the farm system, wondering what the big fuss was all about after he traded Manny Delcarmen for Chan Ho Park. For that matter, he'll have to get used to dealing in the Boston market, a place that can be torture on a man in his position. Ask Duquette.
Would you want to follow in Theo Epstein's shoes? Argue all you want about where he ranks among the game's GMs, but it is undeniable that he is something of a New England icon, even with Renteria on his resume. Whether that be a honeymoon, or complete admiration for the new way of thinking in a place that certainly could have used some of that in the past, particularly when some unknown guy named Jackie Robinson tried out for his first team one day in the Fens.
His departure would cause ripples in the fandom, a loss of faith in the franchise. Epstein's successor wouldn't stand a chance, frankly. There is perhaps no man more right for this job than the Brookline native. Do the Red Sox really want to screw that up?
Or maybe Theo just thinks sitting under that mango tree Pedro keeps blabbering about sounds enticing right about now. Whichever way he decides, we'll know soon enough. And if it's a decision of a one-way ticket that Theo makes, the Red Sox will prove themselves vulnerable for a period of time that could have drastic consequences on how the 2006 season and beyond play out.