Red Sox fans have yet to get all the answers behind the now-popularly monikered “Theo-gate,” and yet there is the prevailing theory among some that this will all boil over, like some T fare hike, in a matter of days. Swept under the rug in the best interests of Red Sox Nation, where the departure of one man shouldn’t derail the hopes and dreams of a rabid fan base.
Sorry. This is too big of a deal to quietly let drift into our collective memory like some minor hiccup on the city’s illustrious and tainted timeline.
Oh, sure, this story by definition may have legs shorter than say, the A-Rod fiasco perhaps, but the reasons, personalities, and back-stabbing particulars behind it will define this baseball team’s offseason in every single move it makes, press conference it holds, and latest construction development it announces.
The region hasn’t been this up in arms since Roger Clemens decided to take the money and run off closer to his Texas home, all the way to Canada, almost a decade ago. Then GM Dan Duquette wished Clemens luck in the “twilight of his career,” a comment, and a bungled contract negotiation, that would ultimately define his tenure in Boston and overshadow any of the positive transactions he made, many of which helped build a 2004 World Series title for Boston.
For the most part, he is a despised man in New England, most notably for allowing the greatest pitcher in Red Sox history to simply walk away.
If you think similar feelings will not linger toward this current front office on Yawkey Way, you are ridiculously mistaken. This situation could have repercussions ranging from Manny Ramirez’s exit out of town, the restructuring of a fruitful farm system, a fractured clubhouse, and a lack of a solid system in place from which to woo free agents to play for the Red Sox, a ball club currently without a GM, a plan, and frankly, a clue.
“As a free agent, this is a red flag,” Curt Schilling said this morning on Boston sports radio station WEEI. “The last thing I want to do is move into an organization where there’s instability in the front office, where you don’t know who’s going to be where when.”
Epstein is not walking up to that microphone and doing a reversal of fortune today, announcing he’s actually going to return after all. No. Way. Barring Larry Lucchino’s ability to pry Kevin Towers from the San Diego Padres — thus opening the door for Epstein to take on the operations in Southern California — Boston’s next general manager likely consists of one of Peter Woodfork or Jed Hoyer, provided Josh Byrnes doesn’t take the opportunity to recruit his Fenway brothers in arms to join him in Arizona. Pat Gillick is off to Philadelphia. Gerry Hunsicker to Tampa Bay. Bill James? Mike Gimbel?
Laugh all you want about Scott Boras’ claim that the Red Sox would perhaps be further along with the Johnny Damon negotiations if Theo Epstein were signed, but there is a shred of truth to that, unfortunately. What’s the sales pitch now? Come to Boston, where instability is rampant? The players on the current roster are already peeved and frustrated over this latest turn of events (see David Ortiz, Curt Schilling, and Jason Varitek). What makes you think prospective ones are going to be intrigued to buy in based on the way things are run over on Yawkey Way?
Talking behind each other’s back. Back-stabbing galore. Secret sources. When the Red Sox release their latest DVD, they can make it part of the, “Sweet Valley High” series, thanks to the insanely immature high school nature of it all.
These are people running a multi-million dollar business who can’t leave petty differences alone. Ultimately, Lucchino looks like the bad guy in all this. But to steal his own Star Wars analogy if we might, even Darth Vader had the Emperor, even he had Moff Tarkin. There’s always someone else behind the curtain, and another angle to the story.
The biggest one yet to come of course will be the Manny Ramirez situation. Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, who reported that Manny wanted out back in July, reiterates that the team is exhausted with his in-or-out demands. And already rumors are starting to percolate as to how Ramirez might get to his preferred West Coast. The Los Angeles Times today reports that a three-way deal with the Sox, Angels, and Byrnes’ Diamondbacks might be a possibility, with the Red Sox getting slugger Troy Glaus from Arizona in return, as well as Darin Erstad from Los Angeles.
But consider this: Had Ramirez been traded under Epstein’s watch, the majority of this fan base would have been livid, but would have moved on in time, or at least once they realized the possible pitching prospects the team received in return. But now? How will season ticket holders, fat cats, and politicians react? Will the EMC Club fill up? How will Joe Public, the forgotten fan of Red Sox Nation, react? Will they choose to purchase those scant $12 bleacher seats, as long as they can beat 42 others before they all sell out?
If there was a circle of trust among these owners and the fans, it has been unceremoniously broken. And the Red Sox brass is about to find out extremely abruptly, that while you can to some degree get away with this in the likes of Baltimore and San Diego, it’s simply not going to happen here, where public opinion and provinciality define every native New Englander.
The Red Sox will go on lucratively without Theo Epstein, let’s not kid ourselves that he was at the epicenter of their ability to succeed. But the franchise itself has taken a much bigger hit than losing its general manager. There is now a sense that they can not be trusted, a return to the dark and waning days of the John Harrington administration. This group, which worked so hard to get the public’s trust back, has seemingly lost some of it in a simple snap, thanks to the perceived notion that there are people within the Yawkey Way walls more politician than baseball-minded.
That’s ultimately why Epstein walked away. Maybe some fans will as well.
Boil over? Are you serious? This story is just beginning, folks. Because like it or not, we are going to be talking about the repercussions over all this for a very, very, long time.
Time Magazine’s Asian edition recently did a cover story on Asian Heroes, one of whom is Yankee outfielder Hideki Matsui. And let’s just say Matsui really apparently enjoys his Cinemax After Dark among American innovations.
“Indeed, his only eccentricity, if it can be called that, is his extensive private library of adult videos. His refreshing ability to laugh self-deprecatingly about his porno collection, reporters say, is one reason why fans and even nonfans have taken to him so much. Says former reporter Isao Hirooka: ‘Hideki just wants to be like ordinary people.'”
Even odder is that in the very next paragraph, Matsui is described as having, “meaty, calloused hands.”
Speaking of Yankees, Alex Rodriguez is back in the news today, as the New York Daily News reports that the team has warned its third baseman about frequenting illegal poker clubs, but admits the Yankees are powerless to stop him from doing so.
“Officials aren’t happy that the man considered by many to be the greatest active player is rubbing elbows with gamblers – some who presumably wager on baseball games,” the report says. “With clubs being raided by cops and sometimes robbed by gunmen, the 30-year-old star’s flirtation with controversy or possible danger is seen as odd for a player known for his perfectly scripted public image.”
Um, known for his perfectly scripted public image? Where, might I ask?