He didn’t exactly chuck an egg at Larry Lucchino’s office door on the way out, but Theo Epstein might as well have.
The Halloween deadline turned out to be the biggest trick the Red Sox could have possibly expected from their former — yes, I said former, as in past tense — general manager. In a stunning move, Epstein announced this evening that he’s gone. Kaput. Finis. In any language, no matter how you pronounce it, it spells Lucchino.
“In my time as general manager, I gave my entire heart and soul to the organization,” Epstein said in a statement. “During the process leading up to today’s decision, I came to the conclusion that I can no longer do so. In the end, my choice is the right one not only for me but for the Red Sox.”
Now, the question will be asked time and again over the coming days: Is it that he no longer can do so, or would not be allowed to?
I can only imagine what the offices on Yawkey and Brookline are like tonight, a scattered group of folks wondering what in the hell just happened here in this organization. At best, this is a public relations disaster for John Henry and company. At worst, it could very well spell the end of their kind welcome through the six-state home base of Red Sox Nation, where they have been appreciated and celebrated since Day One.
Paul Konerko? Brian Giles? Forget about it. Manny Ramirez? As good as gone. Johnny Damon? I doubt it. With Theo Epstein gone, the day-to-day operations of this ballclub are in flux, at the time of the year when they need to be at their most active. By the time the Red Sox get a general manager in place willing to work under Lucchino, Boston will be lucky to get its hands on Kevin Millar again.
To his credit, Epstein will stay on for a few more days to aid with the transition. That will be a comfortable working environment, no?
Here’s the bottom line, folks: Epstein cared too much about putting a baseball team on the field. That was his undoing at an address where the latest real estate development plan was more important. Why be concerned about bullpen help when you’ve got blueprints on the table? Why give your general manager that $1.5 million he’s asking for when instead you can sink $200 million into renovation of a Howard Johnson’s?
The Red Sox are no longer the local baseball team. The Olde Towne Team no more. They are a monster business, attaching itself to any and every money-making opportunity that comes its way. Coming soon, Fenway Park-themed fast food restaurants. They are more “This Old House” than “This Week in Baseball” these days.
The Boston Red Sox have become an enormous marketing machine. Winning isn’t everything, but it sure does help them make more money.
It’s going to be wildly interesting over the next few days to see how the Red Sox treat this. It is certainly a minority out there that isn’t unhappy with what has transpired here this evening. And you have to wonder what Lucchino’s plan is for a new GM. Paul DePodesta? Pat Gillick? John (shudder) Hart?
In their world, the Red Sox are doing just fine, thank you very much, with or without Theo Epstein, the former boy wonder. Why, they bang out the ballpark every single night, and had the “conscience” only to raise ticket prices slightly in 2006, even though demand said they could go higher. They are talked about 10 times as much as the local football team, which happens to have had a pretty good run of its own of late. Think anyone is talking Peyton Manning in these parts until the weekend now? Forget about it.
But with all that success comes a price that this group has yet to suffer. Any bad PR on their part has come in small bunches here and there. They even survived the Nomar deal in good part because of the way Garciaparra had brooded in the preceding weeks, and the immediate hot stretch they hit. Well, the team isn’t playing anytime soon, and the Red Sox have nothing to take the Nation’s mind off this front office disaster.
Theo Epstein is gone, and the Red Sox are much worse off for it.
I’m sorry, I meant the Red Sox fans. The Red Sox are probably embroiled too deeply in their latest multi-million dollar development plan to really care about it all that much.