You can make up your own mind about whether there could be something to it, but in any case we found this excerpt from Buster Olney’s blog on ESPN.com (subscription required) today very interesting:
“In conversation with folks in the game yesterday, this is what they hear: Theo Epstein, feeling great regret over walking away from the Red Sox job, sent feelers through channels to Boston ownership that he’s interested in talking about coming back — and so far, that overture has been rebuffed.
“You could understand John Henry’s predicament in this. Ownership was extremely unhappy with the way Epstein handled his contract negotiations, according to others in the game, and then by leaving abruptly, Epstein helped to create a situation in which Larry Lucchino has been damaged and pounded in the court of public opinion. To bring back Epstein now, after all that has transpired, would be another blow to Lucchino, because it would create the perception that Epstein had won out in his request for a change in how some decisions are made within the front office.
“Henry could have solved this months ago, of course, if he had simply stepped in and brokered a solution between Epstein and Lucchino. But that’s not his style.”
Olney clarified his blog entry, and added some new details, during an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI 850 AM this afternoon:
“What I was told by baseball people yesterday is that Theo … feeling regret over leaving the Red Sox basically through channels indicated to the Red Sox ownership that he’d be willing to talk about coming back … to this point, he’s been rebuffed and I’m sure it’s probably through channels as well. … I can’t tell you exactly why he’s been rebuffed to this point — but the people I talked to agreed with me that you could understand how difficult this would be for John Henry because of the damage that’s been done to the image of Larry Lucchino over this thing. … After all the damage has been set forth on Larry — who’s a higher ranking executive than the general manager — do you now welcome Theo back with open arms? That’s a tough call.”
“I believe there are so many different versions of what went on here and I really believe that if Theo had worked for someone other than Larry Lucchino, and I don’t mean to sound like an old fart here … he’d realize that every organization has someone that’s demanding and difficult and that he would have made a different decision.
“I look at Brian Cashman here (in New York), who’s about 7-8 years older than Theo, and the way he handled his decision with the Yankees, he basically indicated to the Yankees in early October that he hadn’t made his final decision but he was pretty sure that he was leaving. What he did was he stepped back for about two weeks, knowing that his instinct was to leave, and then he thought through everything rationally, and I guarantee you that if Theo had done (that) differently, he probably would have had a different answer for the Red Sox.
“There’s a part of Theo that doesn’t get enough credit in the work that he does — the amazing consensus building that he did within that front office. Building a support system where a lot of information was generated, a lot of conversations took place, and from that you had a lot of wise decisions … The best thing in what he does (is dealing with people) and in fact yesterday, the two executives I talked to referenced that Theo built a great organization for the Red Sox.
“Clearly, the best possible way for this to come back together is if Larry Lucchino is the guy who stepped forward and made the phone call to Theo, made the phone call to John Henry, and said ‘let’s work this out.’ Because John Henry is kind of in a tough position because if he simply brings back Theo, despite what took place without really getting approval from Larry, he essentially undercuts Larry, who is an important guy to the organization. And that’s the one way it could work out where it would be comfortable for everybody, if Larry was the guy out there saying ‘we love you Theo, we want you back, I want you back, look, we’ll work it out, I know we had problems but we’re gonna solve this and we’re gonna make sure that we get you back and get the best organization possible.’
“I think it’s dangerous for the organization that they don’t have someone in place because clearly they have to do some business. The team that’s gonna come closest to offering them equal value for Manny Ramirez, without a doubt, is going to be the New York Mets, but if they are not in a position to have those conversations, the Mets are clearly going to move to other options. (Omar Minaya’s) gonna strike fast, if the Red Sox are not available, then they’re going to be sitting there with an unhappy Manny Ramirez, their best possible trade partner out the door, and that’s going to be a problem.
“I think the damage that’s been done to Larry is part of the reason why people turned down the opportunity (to interview for GM). Let’s face it, the way that the perception is of the Red Sox front office right now is that Larry Lucchino is tough guy to deal with. In many respects, he’s kind of like the George Steinbrenner of the Red Sox, fair or not, that’s the perception.
“I think in the end, the Washington Nationals (GM opportunity once the team is sold) is the most likely possibility (for Theo). That’s the franchise that has a gutted farm system … it’s a team that’s going to have limited resources, it’s never going to be a team that’s going to be as powerful as the Red Sox, and in the end, it’s going to be sad to me that Theo’s going to be in a compromised situation if he ends up going there when he could be in his dream job, making incredible money, in a situation that was perfect for him.
“If I’m guessing (about the possibility of Theo returning to the Red Sox), and I have not spoken to Theo or John Henry, based on what I heard yesterday and this morning I think it’s 5-10 percent (chance Theo will return to the Red Sox). It’s not zero, it’s not great, it’s not completely shut off from what I’ve been told, but it’s still alive.”
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