And so, one of the most bizarre narratives in Red Sox lore -- and that is saying a lot -- has finally come to a merciful end.
Well, sort of.
This must be how Bob Newhart felt waking up next to Suzanne Pleshette. Same as it ever was. Theo's back. Yippee! Soda pop and pie for all, then let's get things back to normal.
And a nation rejoices. Or, at least so says the libretto on Charles Steinberg's desk.
Former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is returning to the team he never really sort of left 80 days ago, to take a position apparently channeling his own charitable foundation. In a joint statement released last night, John Henry, Larry Lucchino, and Tom Werner said, "Theo will return to the Red Sox in a full-time baseball operations capacity, details of which will be announced next week."
As far as coming attractions go, it isn't exactly Jack's want for an army to ward off The Others, but shoot, I'll bite.
Everyone outside of JD Salinger knew this moment was coming, it was just a matter of time based on all the rumors, reports, and "candle in the window" references that have inundated us since Epstein skipped out of Fenway Park in a Koko costume on Halloween night. Even then, the very next morning, there were inklings that Epstein would be back, kicking back his heels in his Yawkey Way office doing the very same job he'd done since his first name was "28-year-old."
As the weeks went on, it became almost a foregone conclusion that Epstein was playing Oz, the man behind the curtain, playing the role of "advisor" to buddies Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington. Call me crazy, but if you quit your job, you don't keep hanging around the office. Unless you worked at the Chez Parée.
Soon, we had the Beckett deal, proving that life could go on without a singular name in charge, co-GMs named to take Theo's place, and Lucchino's Motel 6 reference, which said all that needed to be said about this entire charade.
So now, is Red Sox Nation supposed to rejoice in this stunning development? Those who are surprised have either just returned from extended mission work in Bora Bora, or were the target audience the team deemed dumb enough to hoodwink into buying some World Series sod.
"We have engaged in healthy, spirited debates about what it will take over the long-term for the Red Sox to remain a great organization and, in fact, become a more effective organization in philosophy, approaches and ideals," the team's statement reads. "Ironically, Theo's departure has brought us closer together in many respects, and, thanks to these conversations, we now enjoy the bonds of a shared vision for the organization's future that did not exist on October 31."
Great. I mean, what is this, "The Parent Trap" or a professional sports organization?
It's heartwarming that the Theo saga brought everybody together on the same page on Yawkey Way, isn't it? Personally, I'd be a bit more concerned over the matter that they basically admit that there was no "shared vision for the organization's future" two-and-a-half months ago, but what the heck, let's go glass half-full here. Maybe Theo wasn't just determined to spend his winter following Eddie Vedder, perhaps he was also teaching his owners lessons in cooperation and sharing. How heartwarming.
Is this now what we're being fed by the powers that be? Is this the paradigm, a Rodney King-like, "Why can't we all just get along" tutorial, that we're all supposed to take away from all this? If that were the case, couldn't Theo have just left a Bernstein Bears book on one of their desks and saved us the mess?
It remains to be seen what Epstein's title will be, but the bets are piling up on "director of baseball operations," or something like that. Buster Olney floats the possibility that this may not be permanent, that Epstein may seek out more offers next fall, which would mean he'd take some sort of advisor role. Officially, at least since he's really been a consultant since Halloween anyway.
And what of Hoyer and Cherington? Do they get to keep their ceremonial titles, which mean even less now than they did the pointless day they were given? It's more than evident that naming them co-GMs last month was nothing more than a public relations ploy to quell a fan base that was getting nervous over the perception that the front office had less structure than Tom Cruise's religion.
Will there be a complete restructuring of the front office in order to make Epstein's return a smooth transition? Depends on how far he had his foot out the door in the first place, which doesn't appear to have been too great a distance. Now all he has to do it go out and get a center fielder and a shortstop, figure out if he wants to trade Manny, deal with the David Wells headache…
But hey, all that can wait, right? Next week the Red Sox will announce that their general manager is back. Officially, at least. And maybe, just maybe, they're betting that the Nation will be so overjoyed with this sudden, shocking turn of events, they'll forget about the fact that the team heads to Fort Myers in a month short a couple of position players, its former star center fielder, and its former popular third baseman. All that and Manny might or might not show up.
Welcome back, Theo. Or at least, keep doing what you were doing?
I don't know. How do you congratulate someone on landing a job he always had? It's times like this I wish I kept a spare center fielder lying around.