Playing the part

Next, on SportsCenter, Steve Philips in his most challenging role yet: a man with his dignity intact.

In case you missed it, or are still wondering how Philips became the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, ESPN, America’s sports network for the lowest common denominator, rolled out its latest innovation last night by airing a “mock” (a fancy word for fake) news conference with Philips playing Boston’s GM, a role he wasn’t all that good at in real life with the Mets.

Philips, flanked by Red Sox logos behind him, answered prepared questions (Will you trade Manny? What about Konerko?) from a group of reporters and extras acting as if this were a Presidential press conference. This is where I’d usually ask sarcastically when they’ll just air a simulated Madden video game in its entirely, except that I’m absolutely positive that day is around the corner.


Philips fielded “questions” from the likes of respected journalists Jeremy Schapp and Buster Olney, who apparently were not allowed to do the segment with paper bags over their heads. If there was one thing to be said for the piece, ESPN provided some nifty camerawork so that the viewing audience didn’t see the gun pointed directly at their heads.

Who’s coming up with these ideas in Bristol? Has ESPN hired Dan Rather as a consultant for its news creation division?

Let’s put aside the general absurdity of the idea, the embarrassment of its participants, and the question as to whether the yahoos coming up with these ideas think they’re actually innovative, or a great way to significantly rile people. (If that’s the case, guilty as charged.) Where exactly is the line? For years, ESPN has been less about sports than entertainment, but this latest stunt ventured into new territory only CBS was familiar with in recent years: fleecing the viewing audience.

No news out there? Hell, make it. There’s a brilliant Mr. Show sketch from years past that does precisely that, where the reporter starts shooting people just to make the story he’s covering more interesting. It’s not so far-fetched unfortunately to imagine something similar, yet less dramatic out of ESPN.


Meanwhile, the real Red Sox GMs, plural mind you, are off to California for today’s start of the GM meetings. I can just imagine the four of them, Jed Hoyer, Peter Woodfork, Ben Cherington, and Craig Shipley strolling into the Palm Springs hotel like the Reservoir Dogs, Little Green Bag blaring off in the distance somewhere.

While former Boston GM Theo Epstein awaits another offer to discuss open opportunities, besides that dead-end job in Los Angeles, the Red Sox are going about business as usual with no general manager in place, and frankly none on the horizon. It could be one of the four aforementioned guys in Palm Springs for this week’s meetings. It could be Jim Bowden. It could be Theo Epstein? No. C’mon?

Yeah, right. While there are apparently rumblings within the organization hoping that Larry Lucchino and his former protégé can smoke a peace pipe, that’s not going to happen. More realistically, one of Hoyer, Woodfork, Cherington, or Shipley is the new sheriff in town. Maybe they’ll have a little RoShamBo in Lucchino’s office to decide who gets the gig.

Meanwhile, while old friends like Josh Byrnes go about their daily business in their new world, the Red Sox’ contingent approaches things like a four-headed monster. Obviously, this is a temporary thing, the team’s need for a permanent GM a necessary first step this offseason. And yet fans can’t help but worry what the delay in game means for the team. Epstein resigned a week ago today, and still no interviews have been set up to anyone’s knowledge, out of a group that is seemingly shrinking by the day. Kevin Towers. No. Doug Melvin. No. Brian Sabean. No. Dan Duquette. No, thank you.


With likely Sox suitees Johnny Damon, B.J. Ryan, Paul Konerko, and Brian Giles already being approached by other teams, Boston’s group of baseball minds needs to get itself in gear, and at least lay the ground work for someone to take over. Look, if Ryan, Konerko, and Giles have to choose between the likes of the Yankees, Indians, Orioles, Angels, and whomever else, what makes anyone think he’s going to pick the franchise in complete front office disarray? Any free agent the Sox land this offseason is going to have to come with one big, fat paycheck in order to sway them with.

Seriously, what is the pitch? Come to Boston. Yes, players like David Wells want out because the environment is too focused. And yes, our GM just quit because of internal issues. And, yes, we’re going to try and trade one of the game’s most feared hitters. And yes, our two most vocal players came out recently challenging the front office due to recent events. But look, we’re going to add an extra zero on that offer.

Even that might not be enough with so much competition in a weak free agent pool.

We don’t have our act together, but let’s talk.

Why did Theo quit? That’s still the big question. And until a potential candidate knows whether the answer will not affect how he performs on a day-to-day basis, why would he want the job? And for that matter, why would players want to play in said environment?


Those are the real questions facing the Red Sox as they move forward in the immediate future. Someone let ESPN know.