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Monday, November 28, 2005

  Notable Notes about Our New Sox

What matters most about our newly acquired players is how they will perform on the field. But until next spring when we can see them in action, we'll have to be content with learning a few info bits about Messrs. Beckett, Lowell, and Mota.

Ace-in-waiting Josh Beckett (full name: Joshua Patrick Beckett) is 25 years old and a native Texan. At 6 feet 5 inches, 222 pounds, and 97 mph on the fastball, the righty is an imposing presence on the mound. He broke into the majors in 2001 with the Florida Marlins, starting every game in which he's pitched except three. His best ERA in a full season was 3.04 in 2003, the year he led the Marlins to World Series victory against the Yankees and was named series MVP. In 2005, his ERA (3.38) was the second best of his career, innings pitched (179.2) his highest so far, and record (15-8) his best. Through his career he has averaged 8.97 strikeouts per 9 innings and 2.72 strikeouts per walk.

Beckett should get along well with new teammates Curt Schilling and Mike Timlin. The Palm Beach Post last December described him as "a George Bush conservative whose other loves include deer hunting and country singer Kenny Chesney". Schilling campaigned for Bush in 2004 after winning the World Series, and Timlin—a Midland, Texas, native like the president—is an avid hunter.

Third baseman Mike Lowell (full name: Michael Averett Lowell) hails from Puerto Rico despite his very Anglo name. The 31 year old (he'll be 32 before preseason games begin) hit the bigs in 1998 with the New York Yankees but has been in Florida since 1999. 2005 was his worst full season for batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and home runs and his second worst in RBI. Taking that year out of the equation, he is a .277 career hitter who bats in a run in ever 5.90 at bats and homers in ever 22.7 at bats. Defensively, 2005 was his best year yet with a .983 fielding percentage at his position that earned him a Gold Glove. He has played third base his entire career except for 9 games at second last season. The 6 foot 3 inch 210-pounder missed most of the month of September in 2003, but otherwise has averaged just 1 missed game per month in the last four years.

For the second time in his major league career, Lowell pulled the old hidden-ball trick last summer against the Diamondbacks. He caught Luis Terrero with a 2-step lead off third. Man, was Terrero p*ssed. (To watch the video, go here and scroll down to 08.10.2005.) But his best trick to date has to be beating testicular cancer (free registration required), with which he was diagnosed in 1999. He underwent surgery and radiation, and has been cancer-free since.

Right-handed Dominican pitcher Guillermo Mota, 32, has been inconsistent during his 7 years in the major leagues. Starting with Montreal in 1999, he has also played for the Dodgers and Marlins. It was with Los Angeles that he had his best season by far in 2003, when he put up an ERA of only 1.97 and threw 99 strikeouts in 105 innings. Last season was his worst since 2001 with a 4.70 ERA, more than a run and a half higher than 2004. His strikeout numbers remained good, however, with 60 Ks in 67 innings pitched. His career ERA is 3.61.

Fans may remember Mota from 2003 spring training when, as a Dodger, he plunked Mets catcher Mike Piazza during an exhibition game, prompting Piazza to charge the mound and later go looking for Mota in the clubhouse. So watch for residual fireworks when the Sox host the Mets next June. The Boston Police might also watch him on the road; he was arrested for drunk driving back in April 2003 and later pleaded no-contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving to avoid jail time.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Wagner off the Market

My earlier post is now officially obsolete. WEEI's "Big Show" just reported that Billy Wagner has signed with the Mets. No link yet on ESPN.com.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  So Many Rumors, So Little Time

Those who expected the Red Sox to take a breather after consummating the Josh Beckett deal last week should have known better.

Casting further doubt on the future role of Keith Foulke, New York Newsday reports today that Boston has tossed its hat into the Billy Wagner lottery.

The Red Sox could extend an offer to Billy Wagner as soon as today...

Wagner, who already has offers from the Mets and Phillies in hand, could have interesting third and fourth options in the Red Sox and Braves. Bean Stringfellow, Wagner's agent, said yesterday that he expects to speak with both clubs early this week, although there are no face-to-face meetings planned with either team.

The Braves, given their budget restraints, would have to rely on Charlottesville, Va., resident Wagner accepting a hometown discount of sorts. But the Red Sox, whose closer, Keith Foulke, had an injury-filled 2005, certainly can match the Mets when it comes to financial firepower. They signed Foulke to a four-year deal (for $24 million) two offseasons ago, so they have established a precedent of committing four years to a closer.

Meanwhile, NorthJersey.com reports that Manny Ramirez may not get his wish to be traded to the west coast, although it should be noted that Shea Stadium is west of Boston.

Ramirez is, and always has been, [Mets' GM Omar] Minaya's biggest prey, although the hunt until now has been slowed by two obstacles. First, Ramirez' $20 million annual salary was more than the Wilpon family was willing to spend. And second, Ramirez, 33, would almost certainly cost the Mets hot-shot outfield prospect Lastings Milledge.

That's one reason Minaya was exploring a deal for Alfonso Soriano - until the Rangers' demands included Milledge, said the NL source. Once the price tag became too steep, Minaya resumed an earlier dialogue with the Red Sox, who were surprisingly receptive. It's still unclear whom, exactly, the Red Sox would demand in addition to Milledge, but Minaya may be willing to convince ownership that with Ramirez in a lineup that already has Carlos Delgado, the East can be conquered outright in 2006.

All this is going on with the Sox apparently no closer to hiring a new General Manager than they were before the flurry of activity made the news. The Globe's Nick Cafardo thinks that could bode well for one of the current front office execs, if only as a temporary solution.

In making one of the most significant deals in recent team history, the committee worked pretty well. In the end, CEO Larry Lucchino sealed the deal with the Marlins, listening to all voices, even one or two who didn't want to part with their favorite prospect.

Since no outside GM candidate has overwhelmed ownership (though Jim Beattie is clearly the front-runner), would Lucchino keep Bill Lajoie or Jeremy Kapstein in their advisory roles or even as an interim GM, overseeing young guns Craig Shipley, Jed Hoyer, and Ben Cherington?

I for one wouldn't endorse that idea, especially if it makes Lucchino the de facto GM.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Thursday, November 24, 2005

  Thanksgiving

At the risk of starting Sister Mary Ethel spinning in her grave because I ended a sentence with a preposition, here are a few things I am thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. May you be truly thankful for what you have, and may the coming year bring you more of it.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

  About That Blister

Since the impending Josh Beckett trade was reported, much has been said and written about Beckett's recurrent (and very Derek Lowe-esque) blister on his right middle finger. While such a malady could provide a useful excuse for Beckett to flip off the hometown crowd in the event they should ever get on his case, it is a legitimate concern because it has landed him on the disabled list on several occasions.

Globe columnist Jackie MacMullan presents a comprehensive look at the history of problem, the results so far, and possible solutions going forward. It is possible that Beckett has already found an effective way of either preventing or treating his blisters, according to former Marlins manager Jack McKeon:

"I know he spent a lot of time seeing different doctors about it, and they came up with some kind of remedy that helped him. I'm not exactly sure what it was. Some kind of medication."

Laying aside my natural skepticism about athletes using mysterious unknown substances, it is encouraging that, according to McKeon, the blister only landed Beckett on the DL once in 2005. That's down from an astounding three blister-related DL stints in 2002. Besides, notes MacMullan, if the blisters are heat- and humidity-related as McKeon suggests, it may be a moot point for most of the Boston baseball season:

"And then there's the climate in Florida, [McKeon said]. It's always hot, and it's always sticky, so those fingers are always moist."

(Are you thinking what I'm thinking? It's not always hot at Fenway Park, particularly during those early April dates.)

Imagine that, the New England weather actually being a help for a pitcher rather than a hindrance, as it was with A Certain Former Red Sox Pitcher Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken who didn't like pitching in the cold.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

  W.W.T.D.?* Not This Trade

* W.W.T.D. = What Would Theo Do?

The deal (free registration required) is pending physicals by Red Sox doctors, but it sure looks like Marlins righthander Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell are coming to Boston for AA prospects shortstop Hanley Ramirez and pitcher Anibal Sánchez, plus single-A pitcher Jesus Delgado.

Here are the pros and cons of the deal as I see them:

Plus Minus
  • Beckett is young, only 25 years old, but already a proven major league starter.
  • His postseason record is solid, with a record of 2-2 and a 2.11 ERA in six appearances.
  • He made just $2.4 million in 2005 and won't be free-agent eligible until after the 2007 season.
  • He provides desperately needed stability in the rotation now, as opposed to the promise of some unknown future production by prospects.
  • Lowell was the National League' 2005 Gold Glove third baseman and will be a worthy successor to the hard-playing Bill Mueller.
  • He is three years younger than Mueller and doesn't have the bad knee history.
  • Prior to 2005, he had decent offensive production every season.
  • Rotoworld notes that Fenway should be a better park for Lowell to hit in.
  • With Edgar Renteria under contract for three more years, Hanley Ramirez' upward mobility with the Sox was limited. His greatest value to the club may well have been as trade bait.
  • Lowell had a lousy 2005 at the plate, with career lows in batting average and home runs. The reasons are unknown, and in such cases I always suspect a nagging injury or post-steroid breakdown.
  • He is due to make $9 million in 2006 and 2007, which is at least twice as much as Mueller would have cost. With Edgar Renteria's salary, that's a whopping $19 million a year for the left side of the infield.
  • Beckett is arbitration-eligible, so that $2.4 million salary is unlikely to continue.
  • He had shoulder trouble in 2005, and the last thing this pitching staff needs is another injured hurler to keep company with Curt Schilling, Keith Foulke, and Wade Miller.
  • In Ramirez, the Red Sox give up a player consistently ranked as one of the top four prospects in the organization. And he's only 22.
  • Sánchez has been one of the organization's top pitching prospects.
  • Kevin Youkilis has been patiently waiting for his turn to play third base at Fenway, and you certainly can't platoon him with a player earning Lowell's salary. If the move puts Youkilis at first, will he excel there?

Despite the assurances of two of my more knowledgeable Red Sox friends, I have serious reservations about this trade. I've become so comfortable with the development of the farm system and the promise of a future team loaded with inexpensive homegrown stars that my instinct is to hold onto them at any cost. If Lowell bounces back at the plate, I'll feel much better about the loss of prospects. But if we end up facing Ramirez and Sánchez in a future World Series and they kill us, I will personally hunt down this GM-by-committee and give each of them a swift knee to the groin.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

  About Those Amphetamines

It's a long season with games nearly every day, sometimes for up to 20 days straight. Players are bound to have lulls in energy, so why shouldn't they be allowed to get a little help from "uppers"? Well, they are highly addictive and, if used improperly, can cause mood problems, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, psychosis, and a host of other side-effects. So it makes some sense that the new testing policy includes testing for amphetamines and accompanying penalties, though they are less than those for steroid use, as illustrated in this side-by-side comparison:

Offense New Steroids Penalty Amphetamines Penalty
First positive test 50-game suspension Mandatory additional testing
Second positive test 100-game suspension 25-game suspension
Third positive test Lifetime ban 80-game suspension
Fourth positive test N/A Commissioner's discretion

A player banned for steroid use has the right to apply for reinstatement after two years and have an arbitrator review reinstatement decision. A players given a discretionary penalty for a fourth amphetamine offense can have an arbitrator review the decision.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Testing with Teeth (cont.)

I've been reading on ESPN.com some additional details of the new testing policy which appear to make it tougher not just in terms of the penalties.

Frequency of tests — Under the new policy, players are tested during spring training physicals and at least once during the regular season. The previous policy provided for one test during spring training or the regular season.

Additional substances — Amphetamines are now included in the list of tested substances. Penalties are less than those for steroid violations, compared to no penalties before.

Penalties for criminal offenses — Players convicted of possession or distribution of banned substances will result in additional suspensions ranging from 15 games to a lifetime ban.

Independent testers — Tests will now be conducted under independent supervision not associated with either management or the union.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Testing with Teeth

WEEI radio is reporting that the steroid policy agreement described as "imminent" in this article has in fact been consummated.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that ... the agreement will call for a 50-game suspension for first-time offenders, a 100-game suspension for second-time offenders and a lifetime ban for third-time offenders.

Those penalties are identical to those suggested by Commissioner Bud Selig in a proposal he made in the spring.

The new policy reportedly covers additional substances not included in the previous agreement.

The deal, which also adds testing for amphetamines, was described to the AP by two congressional aides on condition of anonymity because it had not been officially announced.

I'm wondering if this agreement had anything to do with an in-depth report published in the current issue of ESPN Magazine that documents in great detail and using named sources how all parties have avoided the steroid issue for years.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Monday, November 14, 2005

  Free Agent Update

The exclusive free agent negotiating period has expired, so it's time to start tracking who's staying and who's going. The following 13 Red Sox players filed for free agency:

So far the Sox have not signed any other free agents, but when they do, we'll have them here.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Bad Guy Finishes First

Alex "Slappy" Rodriguez, Yankee mercenary extraordinaire, beat out Red Sox nice guy and the Yankees' Papi David Ortiz for the American League Most Valuable Player award.

That just ain't right.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Theo the Dodger?

The Long Beach Press-Telegram is reporting "strong indications" (i.e. rumors) that the Los Angeles Dodgers have offered former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein their General Manager's position and a small ownership share in the ball club.

Two sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they had heard through baseball's considerable rumor mill that such an offer had been made. But neither source had heard it directly from Epstein or from anyone inside the Dodgers organization.

We'll soon find out how reliable the leaks within the Dodgers front office are.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Thursday, November 10, 2005

  Could the Right Man for the Job Be a Woman?

Among the names bandied about as possible candidates for Boston's GM job is Kim Ng, the Dodgers' assistant GM. One report figured her to be a top candidate for the top spot in her current organization, but there's reason to think the Red Sox would be amenable to interviewing her given that she is widely considered a qualified applicant. Indeed, the Red Sox were the first organization to hire a female to be assistant GM.

Only three women have risen to assistant GM. The first was Elaine Weddington Steward, hired by the Boston Red Sox in 1990.

As an experienced and potentially available up-and-coming baseball executive, Ng is increasing mentioned by local news sources as someone John Henry & Co. might look at.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

I say why not... many people thought theo was too young and look what happened. Having a woman gm would create some opposition but who knows its worth a shot


  Lucchino Resurfaces

Forgive us for wondering if Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino had fled to Dick Cheney's secret undisclosed location following the departure of Theo Epstein. Now Larry is back, and he is denying rumors that the Red Sox have been trying to talk Theo into changing his mind.

Lucchino said he has not asked Epstein to reconsider and return, and he allowed Tom Werner, chairman of the Red Sox, to close the door on recent reports that certain members of the Red Sox' hierarchy are still trying to woo back Epstein.

That seems clear enough to me.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

Wherever he has been(Baltimore, San Diego, & now Boston), His Arrogance, Archbishop Lucchino, believing that HE, ALONE, is the ANSWER, is a Character, Worthy of The Scorn, heaped on George Steinbrenner.

He must want a DUMMY GM, ala "Seinfeld" Character, George COSTANZA, so WHEN things go wrong, he can ALWAYS blame The Stooge.

Larry? How long will it be, before you run like the blazes, for The Hills?

It can't be soon enough. I knew guys in the Knights of Columbus, with your style, who left their local council, in shambles, & then, ran away.


  Wishful Thinking

Dan Shaughnessy wrote yesterday in the Boston Globe that he believes it's time for Theo Epstein and Larry Lucchino to reunite. He gave a pretty good reason why the Red Sox should ask Theo to return and why Theo should accept. Theo is the best person for the job. I agree with that. What I don't agree with his this:

There was a lot of emotion involved in young Theo's decision last week. He never really told us why he's not coming back, but he did say he could no longer put his heart and soul into the business of running the Red Sox.

Bet he's having second thoughts about that decision right about now. Bet he'd listen if the Sox reached out.

[ . . . ]

Anybody out there ever break up with a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, or wife? Any of you ever get back together a few days later? It happens all the time. It can be done.

Puh-leeze. One need only think back to the Nomar trade of 2004 to know that Theo makes decisions in spite of, not because of, his emotions. While Theo may be the best person for the job, being the GM of the Red Sox obviously isn't the best job for the person. Someone needs to grab Shaughnessy by the shoulders, gaze deeply into his eyes, and break the news in the brutally frank words of former Celtics coach Rick Pitino: Theo isn't walking through that door. Get over it.

Shaughnessy isn't the only one who has indulged in the fantasy. The Herald's Michael Silverman also yesterday wrote about rumors that the Red Sox were still trying to to bring Theo back.

Multiple Red Sox personnel, several prominently placed in the organization, have quietly been trying to talk Epstein into rejoining the ballclub he left on Halloween when he rejected a three-year, $4.5 million offer. Retaining credibility for Epstein in case he changes his mind remains a significant hurdle to overcome, plus a multitude of organizational issues would have to be resolved.

Team president and CEO Larry Lucchino e-mailed a "no comment" regarding the issue. Epstein was not available for comment.

Believe me, no one wants more than I do for this all to go away, for the wrong to be righted. But we need to deal with reality, folks. This isn't Bill Murray getting a second and third and fourth chance to get things right with Andie McDowell, or Wile E. Coyote surviving yet another thousand-foot fall from the cliff, or Bobby Ewing coming out from behind the shower curtain the morning after a year-long bad dream. That's fiction.

The facts are less pretty. Theo is no longer the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox. When the position is filled again, he still won't be. Wishing it were otherwise won't change it.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Monday, November 07, 2005

  I'm the Acting GM... No, I'm the Acting GM... No, I'm the Acting GM...

If you were the General Manager of a major league baseball club and you wanted to discuss a deal with the Red Sox during this week's GM meetings, to whom would you go? It isn't a simple answer now that Theo Epstein's contract is up and assistant Josh Byrnes has left for Arizona. It seems that Boston's front office has plenty of people with the necessary depth of knowledge to pull off deals, but not the breadth of knowledge. So, to cover all possibilities, the Red Sox are represented by four people (free registration required) who are being called the "GM by Committee".

The Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers are the only teams that don't have a general manager as next week's GM meetings in Indian Wells, Calif., approach. Boston will send Hoyer along with director of player development Ben Cherington, special assistant to the general manager Craig Shipley and director of baseball operations Peter Woodfork.

[ . . . ]

"Make no mistake," team president Larry Lucchino said in a statement issued Friday, "they are also empowered to speak with other clubs and with agents and to consummate any deal they feel will be in the best interest of the Boston Red Sox."

The obvious question is how four people can conduct potentially four different conversations with four different parties at the same time and feel confident they're all on the same page. Never mind the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. In this case, the right hand also has to keep track of both feet.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  The Triumphant Red Sox Fan Meets and Greets Bronson Arroyo

Knowing an on-air radio personality has its occasional perks. Yesterday afternoon, I attended Bronson Arroyo's appearance at WXLO's Music Loft as the guest of DJ Adam Webster of Oldies 98.9, WXLO's sister station.

Bronson performed for about a half hour, playing songs from his popular CD Covering the Bases as well as a couple of his favorite songs not on the CD. While Arroyo does only vocals on the CD (a full band backs him up), he actually plays a mean acoustic guitar and accompanied himself yesterday. Complementing his guitar and vocals with some melodic counterpoint was accomplished saxophonist Elan Trotman, who played with Bronson on a number or two at July's Hot Stove Cool Music show at Fenway.

Contrary to the erroneous claim on the WXLO web site, "Dirty Water" was not one of the songs performed, not that people didn't want to hear it. It was just that Bronson has never played it on guitar, and there was no one there who could. Also absent were the backing vocals from the CD, fellow players Kevin Youkilis, Lenny DiNardo, and Johnny Damon.

Following the performance and a brief photo op with the radio stations' staff, Bronson signed autographs and posed for pictures. Besides me, other fans spotted at the event included Miriam, the promotions manager of the independent Worcester Tornadoes baseball team who, I suggested only half-jokingly, should try to book Bronson to sing the national anthem before a 2006 Tornadoes game. One enterprising fan had his bald head autographed.

I'll say this for Bronson—he is not only a surprising good guitarist for someone who only took up music as an adult, but he has a fine voice and a very comfortable presence on stage. If he lacks the ability and/or interest to write some original songs, he should at least collaborate with someone who can write for him. An original CD would be a good follow-up to "Covering the Bases", which is a collection of covers of some of Bronson's favorite tunes.

One more note of particular interest to me: as a devotee and practitioner of the art of calligraphy, I was curious about the "Calligraphy Room" t-shirt Bronson wore. I have no idea where he got it and didn't think to ask, but I wonder if it has anything to do with his teammate Tim Wakefield, who dabbles in calligraphy.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

The Both of you, look so good in that photo.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

  Care, Concern, and a Confession

It's been like this since Tuesday morning. Faces are solemn, voices hushed. Words conveyed by e-mail are chosen carefully. "Are you alright?" they ask. "What do you think of the news?" the bolder few dare to inquire.

Co-workers have been passing my office door in a steady stream, inquiring about my state of mind since The Big Quit. Some readers of this blog have e-mailed to inquire about my emotional condition.

I'm fine, really. This is a bump in the road. Well, more like a pot hole. Or a sink hole. OK, it's serious. Damn serious. But I'm fine. Sure, I told Scott that I was "in mourning—sackcloth and ashes, weeping and wailing", but that was an exaggeration designed to distract him from the fact that he's off at war. Aside from that, my reaction has been very Zen. The situation is what it is and will unfold as it is supposed to.

That said, I must acknowledge that Monday was a restless night for me. I couldn't sleep. The Theo news ran through my head like a CD track stuck on repeat. Granted, the reason I couldn't sleep was a vicious head cold and a throat that felt like tenderized meat. But I found it significant that my discomfort wasn't enough to distract me from what had transpired mere hours earlier.

By Tuesday morning, I was back to normal. Qué será, será, as the old song goes. It's a big deal, a tremendous loss for the club, and they'll try to go forward in the best way they can. Of course I'm interested in more information about the whats and wherefores, because I'm not above craning my neck for a glimpse of the car wreck as I drive by. And of course I have something to say about it, because far be it from me to not give my opinion whether or not it's requested. But I don't feel, as some of my friends have put it, like I felt after Game 7 in 2003.

There will be plenty more discussion as the search for a replacement progresses. I'll have plenty more opinions, because that's what I do. But don't worry about me...unless I happen to run into Larry Lucchino on the street. In which case, bring bail money.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Theo: It Was the Paper Clips

Call of the Green Monster has the exclusive on the "multitude of reasons" behind Theo Epstein's resignation. At last, it's all becoming clear:

I hate the food at Fenway, and I hate the way our office supplies are managed. For crying out loud, you can't even get a paperclip when you need one, and we're always out of pens! The copy machine drives me stark-raving berserk!

Folks, aside from the Blogroll in the sidebar, I don't make a habit of plugging other people's web sites. But if you appreciate satire in the vein of BlameBush! and The Onion, you need to bookmark Call of the Green Monster and read it on a regular basis.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

  Meet the Press

Besides listening to the first 15 minutes on the radio and some coverage later this afternoon, I was unable to hear the Epstein and Henry Show at Fenway this afternoon. (My doctor, in whose office I was at the time, declined to pipe in live coverage.) But from what I heard, Theo was very cordial and restrained in addressing the assembled media to discuss his stunning decision to leave the team. He opened with some humor, describing his Monday night escape from the ballpark disguised as a gorilla, and very patiently took questions even when he would not respond with what he described as private information.

Theo tried to put to rest speculation that his departure was due to a power struggle with CEO Larry Lucchino.

... Epstein said Wednesday that the two remained close and that Lucchino gave him wide discretion over baseball decisions. "If there are reports of a power struggle or meddling on behalf of Larry, that really wasn't the case," he said. "Essentially, I felt like I had pretty much a free hand to run the baseball operation the way I saw fit."

What I would much rather have heard was John Henry's segment of the conference. That was when the owner apparently fell on his sword, saying that he rather than Lucchino was to blame for the failure to bring back the GM.

"He's been maligned and blamed for the situation for the last couple of days. I think that's wrong. I think that's inaccurate," he said. "If you want to place blame for what happened here, I'm responsible," he added. "Never in my wildest dream did I think this as ever going to happen."

How much of the afternoon's comments are the unspun truth is anyone's guess, but it was obvious that both men were determined to lay to rest talk of a virulent rift. Based on what I heard, they both took the high road. We're left to speculate what Lucchino's approach would have been if he were there. Perhaps his absence suggests the answer.

The club must be hoping that the apparently sincere display of cordiality will serve to allay the concerns of would-be successors to Theo. It's a critical time for a team to be without a GM, and it isn't unreasonable to think that qualified applicants might be reluctant to jump into such an unstable situation.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Catch This—A Gold Glove in Boston

As the band Boston once sang, it's been such a long time... since a Red Sox player won a Gold Glove. OK, Boston didn't sing that latter part. But it has been awhile—14 years, to be exact— since one of our own was honored with the defensive award.

Thank Jason Varitek for ending the drought. Varitek has been named as the American League's Rawlings Gold Glove catcher for 2005, and the award will look nice on his mantle alongside the Silver Slugger award he got the other day. The Captain has long had the appreciation of we who get to see him play all the time, but it's nice that the wider baseball community has finally recognized his talents.

Two players, Varitek and the Rangers' Mark Teixeira, also won Silver Slugger awards. The entire list of 2005 American League Gold Glove winners is:

Gold Glove winners are chosen by Major League managers and coaches.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

Kenny Rogers should've received the "Golden Fist."

Derek Jeter is so OVERRATED!


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

  By the Way, Here's What Theo Said

In my zealous pursuit of reaction to Theo Epstein's departure, I somehow neglected to post the most important comments: those of Theo himself. Here is the complete text of his statement, which was posted on the Red Sox web site at 7:00 pm last night.

First, I want to thank John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino for the opportunity to serve as General Manager for the last three seasons. Their support and friendship mean a lot to me, and I wish them all well. I also owe a debt of gratitude to the players, Terry Francona, the coaching staff, the front office, the baseball operations staff, and the fans for making my Red Sox experience so meaningful.

Growing up in the shadow of Fenway Park, I never dreamed of having the chance to work for my hometown team during such an historic period.

My decision not to return as General Manager of the Red Sox is an extremely difficult one. I will always cherish the relationships I developed here and am proud to have worked side-by-side with so many great people, in and out of uniform, as together we brought a World Championship to Boston.

In my time as General Manager, I gave my entire heart and soul to the organization. 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.

My affection for the Red Sox did not begin four years ago when I started working here, and it does not end today. I will remain on the job for several days as we finalize preparation for next week's general managers meetings. Thereafter, I will make myself available to the organization to ensure a smooth and stable transition.

My passion for and dedication to the game of baseball remain strong. Although I have no immediate plans, I will embrace this change in my life and look forward with excitement to the future.

It's hard to read that statement and not conclude that this is an honorable man.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Post-Mortems

If I can have my opinion about why former (God, it hurts to say that) GM Theo Epstein walked away from the Sox and what it all means, then so can every sports writer with space in today's papers. Among the highlights:

Sean McAdam, beat writer for the Providence Journal, writing for ESPN.com:

In part, it may have been because it was difficult for [CEO Larry] Lucchino to view Epstein as anything other than his protege. But when Epstein dug in his heels and [principle owner John] Henry entered the picture last week, the team's hard-line negotiating stance softened some.

[ . . . ]

By the end of the week, they met Epstein's terms, and when everyone left the office, the thought was a deal could be finalized Monday, the same day on which Epstein's original three-year deal was to expire at midnight.

But over the course of the negotiations, a rift had developed between Lucchino and Epstein. Both sides wondered if it could be repaired.

The Boston Herald's Michael Silverman:

... Epstein's dismay with his job and his work environment overrode all other concerns.

The decision by Epstein was an agonizing one. The Brookline native weighed the job he always coveted against the intra-organizational politics, power struggles and lack of privacy issues that increasingly were becoming a burden to him.

[ . . . ]

A key factor that ultimately soured Epstein on the job, according to sources close to the situation, was a column in Sunday's Boston Globe which revealed too much inside information about the relationship between Epstein and his mentor, Larry Lucchino, and slanted the coverage in the team president's favor. Epstein, according to these sources, had several reasons to believe Lucchino was a primary source behind the column and came to the realization that if this information was leaked hours before he was going to agree to a long-term deal, excessive bad faith existed between the two.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

The bottom line is that these negotiations, which dragged on for nearly a month, were about Epstein wanting to sit at the head of the table and Lucchino being unwilling to give up the seat. Lucchino isn't your typical president. He's not a money guy—he's a baseball guy, and what's more, he's a sports guy. We're talking about a man who has earned two World Series rings (Baltimore, 1983 and Boston, 2004), a Super Bowl ring (Washington, 1983) and a Final Four watch (Princeton, 1965). Epstein—and his career—might be his baby, but Boston is still his franchise. He's not about to turn over the keys to his 31-year old protégé—not now at least.

ESPN's Peter Gammons (subscription required):

Lucchino should have gotten Epstein's extension done over dinner in spring training, and when he let it drag on several forces came into play. It eventually became a media circus, which made Epstein uncomfortable. With leaks and speculation, it became ugly. But Lucchino also doubled what he believed the fair-market value of Epstein's contract, and Epstein walked away because he didn't believe this is what he wanted to live with.

Dan Shaughnessy, whose Sunday Boston Globe column may have been the straw that broke the camel's back:

I'm still hoping that it can be fixed. Theo knows everyone in Sox Nation wants him back. Lucchino wants him back. They're both smart people. They've been through a ton of life experiences in Baltimore, San Diego, and Boston. Maybe Henry can broker a truce. If Sox fans had their way, they'd watch Henry fire Lucchino and bring back Theo.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

There should be a website to tell Dan The Shill, to SHUT UP.


  Red Sox Make News Worldwide

Last year, international media in countries that didn't even have baseball were reporting on the triumphant World Series champion Boston Red Sox. This year, the team again made national and international headlines with Theo's resignation.

In the U.S., the story was reported by media outlets from sea to shining sea, including the Washington Post, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Indianapolis Star, and Houston Chronicle. It was picked up by news organizations from Fox Sports to Bloomberg to Reuters, and even merited mention in China, Canada, Italy, and India.

There are unhappy people the world over today.


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


  Congrats to Silver Sluggers

Three Red Sox players are among the winners of Louisville Slugger's Silver Slugger awards. Designated hitter David Ortiz, catcher Jason Varitek, and the left fielder whose name I won't speak until he stops being a cry-baby all won the award for outstanding offensive production at his respective position. The winners comprise a who's who of top hitters in each league. No team had as many winners as Boston.

The full slate of 2005 winners is:

Silver Slugger winners are determined by balloting by managers and coaches, who are precluded from voting for players on their own teams.

During the World Series, Ortiz was also honored as the American League recipient of the Hank Aaron Award, which recognizes the best all-around hitter in each league.

Congratulations, gentlemen. The recognitions are well-deserved. (Yes, M****, even you.)


Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0


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