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Thursday, January 19, 2006

  Theo Returns, but the Saga Continues

I heard the news after an uneventful evening at the mall, where I was away from the radio for two hours. When I got back to my car and flipped on the radio, I only half grasped the words: Theo Epstein is back with the Red Sox.

For weeks, Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino promised that the light would be left on and the door would be kept ajar in the event that Theo Epstein opted to return to the club. After weeks of speculation, that exact scenario unfolded, with the Red Sox releasing a brief statement Thursday night saying simply that Epstein, who departed his post as general manager on Oct. 31, will return to the organization.

[ . . . ]

Epstein's new role figures to have plenty of significance, as the club did indicate he would be returning to the club full-time, and not, as had been speculated in some circles, in an advisory role.

It was like one of those really strange dreams that seems unreal even while you're still asleep. My first instinct was to grab the cell phone and start calling people, but the truth is there wasn't much to talk about. The announcement raises more questions than it answers, at least for now.

Just what do we know at this point? A Globe story doesn't say much more than the MLB story quoted above. Theo is coming back to the team in a baseball operations capacity and on a full-time basis. That's it.

Not that the lack of detail prevented fans from filling in the blanks. One particularly arrogant caller to WEEI's Planet Mikey program bloviated about return-on-investment and the front office blowing up the team to slash what he calculated to be $38 million in payroll and stating with certainty that Theo left back on Halloween because he didn't want to be a part of it. The argument is verifiably false on several points, not the least of which is that Theo has gone on the record on several occasions since quitting, most recently while making the media rounds in advance of his Hot Stove Cool Music concert, saying that the moves that have been made this off-season—trading Hanley Ramirez and Edgar Renteria, putting a ceiling on what they were willing to pay Johnny Damon and sticking to it, and exploring but not necessarily making a trade involving Manny Ramirez—are part of a larger strategy that was in place long before he left and which he had a major part in planning. So much for not wanting to be associated with off-season changes.

So the big questions remain. Why did Theo feel the need to leave in the first place? What has changed since October 31 to overcome his concerns? If the problem was an irreparable rift between him and Lucchino, does this new development portend a change for Lucchino?

No one who knows is answering any of those questions tonight. Some of the more burning questions, the ones we've all been talking about for the last two and a half months, may never get answered to our satisfaction. Perhaps we'll have to be satisfied with whatever we get.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

So many questions, and so few answers. At least until next week. Or so they say. it's Saturday as I write this, and the time for those answers is coming up real soon.
And, hey, I like it here.

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