In the end, it wasn’t about money, and to some extent, I really don’t believe it was a power struggle either, which is the popular theory as to why Theo Epstein rejected a three-year deal to remain the general manager of the once removed World Champion Boston Red Sox.
A dislike of the environment the Red Sox front office had become, a daily backstabbing milieu intent upon business handshakes, charity naming rights, and real estate partnerships, perhaps. But a power struggle, not really. If anything, Epstein’s struggle was trying to figure out how to maintain a level of baseball operations within an atmosphere more intent upon making dollars in various real estate and other financial deals the city has to offer.
In the end, he realized that this was an atmosphere with which he no longer wished to be associated.
Which moves us on to the next question: What’s next for Theo? Barring a miraculous breaking of bread at the altar of John Henry, Brookline’s native son is off to another challenge, whether that be in Tampa, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, or outside of baseball entirely. Maybe he’d like to follow his Hollywood heritage, where his first order of business could be making sure Sylvester Stallone doesn’t start getting his mind on “Cobra” and “Over the Top” sequels to add to foolish “Rambo” and “Rocky” editions.
Or, maybe he’ll get to California and the baseball bug will bite him again. Not that it might be any better in Chavez Ravine that it was on Yawkey Way.
The Dodgers have an opening now that Paulie DePodesta got the ax from former Red Sox prospective buyer Frank McCourt, but there are conflicting reports out of LA this morning as to where McCourt’s interest might lie. The Daily News says that Epstein’s name isn’t likely to come up despite the owner’s “fascination with all things Boston,” while the Times relays that even though Epstein is in the same mold as DePodesta, he does possess a championship ring, a cachet that could intrigue the Dodgers into taking another shot at a young’un.
But if Epstein wasn’t pleased with the situation unfolding in Boston, he’s certainly not going to be enamored with the one in LA, either. Whereas the final straw for Epstein’s departure was the behind-the-back comments made by some in the Red Sox front office on the eve of his expected contract-signing, it may be the same in Dodgerland, where Tommy Lasorda was supposed to have spoken ill of DePodesta to McCourt, accelerating the GM’s dismissal. Lasorda denies the comments, but it’s quite obvious he is a loyal minion to McCourt.
T.J. Simers writes, “‘I’ve mentioned my selection to Frank, and you’ll know as soon as we get a new GM if he was listening to me,’ Lasorda said with that smug smile he gives when he already knows the answer.”
At 78, Lasorda isn’t the kind of baseball man you’d expect to respect the number-crunching ways of the stats geek. We can only assume that means he had some issues with the ways things were being done under DePodesta as well. And if that’s the case, don’t you think Lasorda might have made a comment or two to his owner?
Does Epstein want to walk into all this after what he just walked away from? It is ludicrous to think so.
If it is anonymity he wants, and who can blame him in a region that obsesses over even a mid-July journeyman pickup, perhaps there is no better place for him to end up than San Diego (if Larry Lucchino can sway Kevin Towers to Boston) or Tampa Bay, where even if he worked seven hours a day he’d be considered a workaholic.
In Boston, Epstein had likely already worked seven hours by 10 a.m. It is that schedule that drove him to his ultimate success, but also one that may have made him realize he is a 31-year-old man with no other life than Lucchino, Henry and Werner. His only vacation was the annual GM meetings.
Make no mistake; this was Theo Epstein’s dream job once upon a time. But the job the way he envisioned it way back when no longer exists. Too many hands in the cookie jar. And it might take some time away from the game for him to realize that this is indeed his calling.
Just not in Boston. It’s all too much. The front office. The fans. The media. The multiple multi-million dollar partnerships that fall apart if Edgar Renteria fails to win a Gold Glove.
No, this wasn’t a power struggle, this was one created out of respect. The Red Sox refused to give it to him, and he decided working for those kind of people just isn’t worth it with the rest of his life ahead of him.
And with that in mind, Los Angeles certainly won’t be his next destination, either. At least, not with the Dodgers.