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Thursday, January 26, 2006

  Are We There Yet?

All the front office melodrama has distracted me from my appointed rounds, i.e. the updating of other stops on the long road to a full roster. Please forgive my laxity.

1 The status of Ricky Bottalico, who was acquired by the Red Sox but never played, was unclear. ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports listed him as a Red Sox, but Sportsline listed him as a Brewer and MLB's free agent tracker listed him as having been released by Milwaukee. Anyone with clarification can post a comment. In any event, reader Earl recently posted a link to a Baltimore Sun article nothing that Bottalico was invited by the Orioles to spring training.

The long-rumored trade that would land Boston a center fielder hasn't happened yet, so the only trades so far remain as follows:

Please don't e-mail me to ask what's going to happen with Coco Crisp. I don't think even the parties involved know at this point. If I could see the future, I'd be out buying lottery tickets.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Pitchers and Catchers: I Had It Wrong

Now that we're a mere three weeks from the start of spring training, I decided I should pay closer attention to the countdown at the top of this page. When I posted the countdown last month, I used February 15 as the date pitchers and catchers were due to report. I'm not sure where I got that date, but it's wrong.

Pitchers and catchers report on February 18, which is a Saturday. The Red Sox have had pitchers and catchers report on a Saturday for as long as I can remember.

So if you've been checking the countdown periodically, be aware that it was three days off. It is now correct.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

  Yesterday's Big Announcement

If you haven't already seen it, you can now read the entire text of yesterday's Red Sox press release on the team's web site. It's a long read, so I'm happy to summarize it for those who may not want to plod through the whole thing.

Who "Spoke" — Who didn't speak? The release contained statements from Principal Owner John Henry (speaking first about Theo, then about Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer), Chairman Tom Werner, president Larry Lucchino, Theo, newly named Assistant GM Hoyer, newly named VP of Player Personnel Cherington, and finally a joint statement from all of the above.

Through the magic of the Properties features of Microsoft Word, I can report that Lucchino's statement was the longest at 626 words. Werner's was the shortest at 73 words. Henry's two statements combined were 566 words, Theo's statement was 318 words, Cherington's 300, and Hoyer's 176. The joint statement was a succinct 144 words.

What Henry Said

Despite the attempts of some to portray Theo's return as a win for someone and a loss for someone else, this is a win-win situation. As Theo said in his press conference on November 2, and as we have all repeated, there never was a power struggle between Larry and Theo. It was simply mythology. I can assure you as we move forward that Larry's role has not changed at all, and no general manager in baseball could ask for more autonomy than Theo has. This has never been an issue for us -- only in the media.

With that, Henry seemed to put the kibosh once and for all on speculation that this was all Lucchino's fault and transfer the blame onto the media. We all know that Lucchino is Henry's guy, so I didn't expect the owner to hang him out to dry. But this seems to be a clearer and more specific statement than we've heard before, for what it's worth. No objective observer could deny that much of the so-called coverage of the front office situation, beyond the initial reporting of Theo's departure and the subsequent GM candidate interviews, was little more than speculation about things no one who was talking knew anything about.

Henry also took upon himself some accountability for what has transpired, acknowledging that he could have been "more assertive when bumps in the road appeared."

Ben and Jed accepted the GM roles on an interim basis with the expectation that is was likely Theo would be returning to the club at some point... We agreed with them before they accepted their new positions as to what their ensuing positions would be, so this is hardly a demotion.

The inclusion of the word "interim" in talking about the co-General Managers was something new, though one could argue that it sure looked like a temporary situation when the team failed to mention anything about contracts for Hoyer and Cherington and then continued to talk about leaving the door ajar for Theo. The fact that there was agreement on the new roles before the announcement, though, doesn't mean they aren't demotions. They now report to Theo, who is doing the job they shared for a few weeks. As the saying goes, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck... well, you know the rest.

What Werner Said

This is a very happy day for Red Sox fans.
. . .

That's pretty much the crux of it.

What Lucchino Said

The Red Sox are a stronger, deeper, bolder, and more effective organization now that Theo Epstein has rejoined us as General Manager, and that strength, depth, boldness, and effectiveness will lead to successful baseball teams in the years ahead. While Theo was contemplating returning to the organization in an advisory role to Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington, he and I talked and agreed it was best for the organization if he returned as General Manager...

On a personal level, Theo and I have concluded independently that the Red Sox is a stronger organization when we are both part of it. We have been comfortable assuring each other that a productive collaboration lies ahead, and we pledge to Red Sox Nation that we will devote our combined energy, undistracted, to the goal of producing a team that will continue -- and increase -- our competitive success for years to come. Make no mistake: much work lies ahead for all of us, and we fully realize that our future conduct must conform to our sincere aspirations.

It is obvious that Theo could not have continued to work with the organization on an unofficial or informal basis, given the unrelenting perception among media and fans alike that if he was around, he would be running the show in fact if not in title. I find it heartening that Lucchino realizes the negative impact of behind-the-scenes squabbling and seems committed to working cooperatively with Theo. What, if any, inference should be drawn from that about how cooperative he was before is unclear.

What Theo Said

As accomplished as the Red Sox were last October, there were fundamental disagreements among members of upper management with respect to organizational philosophy, approaches and priorities. This lack of a shared vision, plus the stress of a far-too-public negotiation, strained some relationships, including mine with Larry Lucchino...

[W]ith the benefit of time and greater perspective, we tackled not only our personal conflicts but also the differences regarding our thoughts for the organization. We emerged, ten weeks and many spirited conversations later, with the comfort of a shared vision for the future of the organization, including the role of the Baseball Operations department. I deeply regret that the Red Sox were placed in a delicate position while we worked out these issues...

We can add Theo to the list of people who are taking responsibility for their part in the debacle. But more importantly, Theo has told us with more specificity than we had heard before the reasons why he chose not to extend his contract back in October. It sounds as if there was not just a disagreement between Theo and someone else in a position of authority, but among some of those other people of authority. If that's the case, it is understandable that Theo would feel he couldn't effectively do the job under such circumstances.

It is this statement that is most illuminating and begins to answer, at least in general terms, some of the lingering questions about why it took them so long to work things out and why the solution did not involve the departure of Lucchino.

What Hoyer Said

Ben and I agreed to become co-GM's during this difficult period because we thought we could bring continuity to a Baseball Operations department full of terrific people...

During our meetings with John, Tom and Larry in the days preceding our announcement as co-GM's, Ben and I were not only aware, but also quite hopeful, that this structure could pave the way for Theo's return. We are thrilled that it has.

What Cherington Said

I was aware that by accepting the Co-General Manager position I was helping to "leave the light on" for Theo's eventual return. Since preserving the direction of our baseball operation is so important to me, I welcome Theo's return as an opportunity to continue what we have started to build.

...Although the last several weeks have been a challenge, it has been well worth it. We have an opportunity to build an operation that helps sustain long term Major League success.

Unless they are lying, and I have no reason to believe they are, it apparently really was the plan within the organization to have interim GMs. That doesn't explain why that tidbit wasn't part of the media event announcing their appointments. But evidently they're both fine with it.

The press release ended with Werner, Lucchino, and Theo thanking not only Hoyer and Cherington but also Craig Shipley, Bill Lajoie, and "the entire Baseball Operations department" for their off-season work thus far. They also revealed that Hoyer's and Cherington's new positions are "roles to which we had planned to promote them last November". So by that account, the front office is today what it was supposed to be two months ago.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

  Theo and Larry (Well, Mostly Theo) Speak to WEEI

Once and again GM Theo Epstein and Red Sox president Larry Lucchino spoke live this morning on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show. I took some extemporaneous notes, to the extent I was able while at work, and relate here what I heard.

At this point, I missed a big chunk of the interview. By the time I got back to it, it was winding down.

John Dennis brought up a column in today's Herald in which Steve Buckley opines that perhaps Theo and Larry "needed a couple months away from each other."

So there you have it, straight from the horses' mouths. Check back here this afternoon for the Triumphant Red Sox Fan's analysis of the Red Sox' full press release from last evening.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

  A Bit More Information

The Red Sox issued a lengthy press release at approximately 5:55 this afternoon containing statements from all parties involved in and affected by the return of Theo Epstein in the role of Executive Vice President and General Manager. I have not yet found an online copy of the full release, but WEEI's Glenn Ordway read the release it in its entirety. It contained individual statements from John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, Theo, Jed Hoyer, Ben Cherington, and possibly others that I missed while answering a phone call.

Theo's statement was unique among those of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino in that it gave a glimpse of the reasons he left and what has changed to bring him back. He made reference to differences in organizational philosophy that, he felt, made it impossible for him to continue in his role. He also mentioned that his relationship with Larry Lucchino had been strained during negotiations.

The post-reading consensus among Ordway and his Big Show guests is that the Red Sox have, in the words of ProJo's Sean McAdam, done themselves more harm than good. They pointed out some inconsistencies between the various statements (for example, there was no problem between Larry and Theo, but the problems have been worked out) and believe that the team would have done much better to just have a press conference. As things stand now, all parties are making themselves available for one-on-one or small group interviews with media organizations tomorrow.

The fallout from this situation continues...

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

You know what I love? If you go to boston.com they have a message board with many intense Red Sox fans posting on it. When asked how they felt about the Sox issuing a press release instead of having a press conference, none of the fans cared that the media got their collective feelings hurt.

I found no inconsistencies in the statements. Everything was worded carefully enough that Theo could admit there were issues between he and Larry while John Henry could tell the media that THEY made it an issue that it wasn't.

It is obvious to me that the Boston sports media, which includes McAdam since he covers the Sox, is put out that the Red Sox are trying to do things without their help.

  Theo Has His Bobby Ewing Moment

When Theo Epstein announced last Halloween that he was leaving the Red Sox organization, chatter commenced immediately about what and how long it would take to get him back. I wrote at that time:

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.

I was wrong. Bobby Ewing has stepped out of the shower. Theo is going to be the General Manager once again, according to the Boston Herald, and we are being asked to believe that everything is back to normal.

As of yet, the statement promised by the team has not yet been released. I have no idea what that announcement will say, but I am certain of one thing: it will leave all the same questions unanswered.

Perhaps we fans don't really need to know exactly what's going on behind the org chart. Perhaps we shouldn't know. Customers of other businesses seldom are privy to the inner workings of the companies that produce the products and services they buy. That's fine, until the customers get a glimpse and discover it isn't necessarily an attractive picture.

Imagine finding out that the guy who wears the Mickey Mouse costume at Disney World has a drinking problem and has a thing for little girls. It sort of kills the magic, tarnishes the carefully crafted image. The same thing is happening now with the Red Sox. Whereas once we pledged our unconditional trust in Theo, henceforth we will always wonder if things are really as they seem. The Red Sox are a dysfunctional organization, and what's worse is that we all know it.

Remember the days when we felt sure, even before the championship, that everything was under control? It was a nice feeling. But those days are gone.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 0

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.

Friday, January 13, 2006

  Bit by Bit

A morsel here, a crumb there. That's all we're getting these days from the Red Sox front office. I'm beginning to think we'll find out who the starting center fielder is when the starting lineup is announced on April 3. As of now, here's what we know about the comings and goings of free agents:

1 The status of Ricky Bottalico, who was acquired by the Red Sox but never played, is unclear. ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports list him as a Red Sox, but Sportsline lists him as a Brewer and MLB's free agent tracker lists him as having been released by Milwaukee. Anyone with clarification can post a comment.

The Tavárez deal (free registration required) is done but not yet official because the physical isn't complete, but when it's final,

Free agent updates have occupied much space on this site, but let's not forget the trade action. Remember trades? Here's what has happened so far by way of the trade:

Whether other trades large or small may be in the works is a constant topic for sports radio, but franky I have grown weary of it. This blog will address further trades when they actually happen.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

A couple days ago, the Baltimore Sun reported Bottalico signed a minor league deal with the O's.

Friday, January 06, 2006

  Free Agents on Parade

Little by little, the Red Sox are finding pieces to the 2006 puzzle. The team's status now stands thusly:

1 The status of Ricky Bottalico, who was acquired by the Red Sox but never played, is unclear. ESPN.com and Yahoo! Sports list him as a Red Sox, but Sportsline lists him as a Brewer and MLB's free agent tracker lists him as having been released by Milwaukee. Anyone with clarification can post a comment.

The gaping holes at shortstop and center field, not to mention the question mark in left field, remain conspicuously unaddressed.

Cheers of Red Sox triumph so far: 1

On an unrelated matter this Tues. am, nobody was elected to the Hall of Fame. See my blog, or Firebrand's. See ya...hey, if you want to read my blog and see if it's link-worthy here, thanks!

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