This is getting a tad ridiculous, no?
Despite what most thought were surely delusional rumors of Theo Epstein's return to the Red Sox (ones that percolated the very moment he resigned on Halloween and continued to brew right into the Christmas preparatory season), the once and future general manager of the Olde Towne Team could be set for a grand return to the franchise he supposedly turned his back on six weeks ago today.
It's difficult to imagine a stranger scenario. Well, that's not quite true. I suppose Jim Beattie as the team's GM would have been a pretty strange choice for a team with championship aspirations. But perhaps it took interviewing the likes of Beattie and Jim Bowden and being turned down by 52 other candidates to make Larry Lucchino realize what everybody else in the world knew in the first place: the candidates were in-house already. So before losing any more of them as well, the team finally announced Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington co-GMs this afternoon at Fenway Park.
What about Theo? Lucchino tap danced around those questions (and there were plenty), saying only the door was still open for his potential return in some capacity.
Gee. Why didn't they just do this in 2000 with Bush and Gore?
Hmm. Maybe because there's no way in hell it would work? Bet you thought some semblance of that once you learned the plan, whether or not you were pleased with the fact that the club was putting its operations in the hands of two of its most capable and instrumental men. Still, you have to get a bit queasy when you see co-GMs, particularly on a team that already has three heads at the top. That's five guys at the top of the food chain making decisions, which is why sometimes you're sure to get debacles like Larry Bigbie coming across the desk. That's why you'll have split decisions on medical reports for the likes of Josh Beckett, with daily updates on who was for, and who was against the trade, just so when things pan out one way or another, you know where to point the finger.
"Don't blame me for Beckett," John Henry can say if he breaks down before July. "That was Lajoie's call."
"Don't blame me for Marte," Lajoie can retort. "That was Cherington's call."
And so on…
So, will co-GMs work? Do you really want to find out?
Which is why Theo Epstein could be coming back as well.
Epstein, the man who walked out of Fenway in a gorilla suit on Oct. 31 and never really gave a reason for his departure, could return to the team in an advisory role to Hoyer and Cherington.
Actually, "advisor" seems like a generic way of saying he'll be the general manager.
He’ll be what he has been the last six weeks, only publicly acknowledged. He'll be the man behind the curtain, Oz, as the unnamed forced driving the team's offseason. We should have thought it to be a little fishy when Bill Lajoie resigned out of respect to Epstein and then re-upped with the team just as quickly. That's because, as we found out last week thanks to a spilling-the-beans Peter Gammons, Epstein never really left.
And now, he could be back. Or, staying, at least. Or something.
According to Rob Bradford of the Eagle Tribune, the advisor role would be nothing more than a back-door way to give Epstein his old job back by spring training. "The switch will largely depend on redefining the duties of president/CEO Larry Lucchino, whose role in the organization continues to be revamped in order to pave the way for Epstein's re-emergence," he writes.
Bradford goes on to write, "The animosity between Epstein and Lucchino spilled out into a public forum just two weeks ago when the team's CEO repeatedly denigrated the former GM in an off-air rant to a Boston radio personality. The tirade included Lucchino repeatedly inferring that 'the truth' regarding 'that kid' would be coming out soon in a book about the Red Sox's ownership group. (The book is being written by former Newsweek contributor Seth Mnookin, who was given virtually unlimited access to the organization's hierarchy, including a Fenway Park office.)"
So, for all the talk and denial that this was not a power struggle between Epstein and Lucchino, it turns out all along this was a power struggle between Epstein and Lucchino, the padawan sniping back at his Jedi master for more power and control.
The truth. Contrary to their opinion, the public can handle the truth in this matter, and in fact has been waiting some time for it. Instead, we got a monkey suit and continued "no comments" out of Lucchino, who bristled any time anyone mentions the GM job or Epstein as if someone has just asked him for his PIN number.
Until now it seems. When asked by the New York Times' Murray Chass whether the Epstein rumors were indeed be true yesterday, Lucchino replied, "We haven't replaced him yet and he hasn't taken a position yet, so by definition it's been left ajar."
So, after six weeks of denial, the door is still left open for Epstein? Whatever. More like Henry not allowing any hiring papers to be processed until he got his guy back, whatever it takes.
I have to admit, the conspiracy theory hit me this weekend, wondering if this wasn't all some grand ruse planned by Dr. Charles Steinberg, a soap opera of Shakespearian grandeur that would ensure the team remained in the forefront of the fans' minds from November until pitchers and catchers. I mean, where else does this happen? You quit your job, you usually just quit, not continue to show up at the office, and dabbling in everyday activities to boot. OK, I'm leaving, but on the way out, I might as well trade the shortstop. No, and then I am really leaving. I swear. Maybe it was all fiction.
He could even end the whole charade with some take on Al Pacino's "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." Maybe NESN can even make its own cinematic account of the drama. James Caan as Lucchino, Elijah Wood, Epstein. Working title, "Chronicles of Fenway, the Lying, the Rich, and the Hot Stove."
We've wasted six weeks theorizing where it all went wrong, wondering what Henry's "reason to be named later" in this whole charade was. Instead, it was nothing more than a little tit-for-tat between Epstein and Lucchino, with the team owner apparently doing everything he can to bring back the guy who never really left in the first place. And now the entire front office is in a state of Aeon Flux, with nobody really knowing his role in a work environment seemingly as chaotic as your average Building 19.
After six strange weeks, it looks like Epstein could be back in the fold (despite Lucchino’s tap dancing today), where he apparently never left. Maybe he's been dressing as Wally these past few weeks after returning the gorilla suit, doing business incognito.
What, after all this, like THAT seems so strange anymore?