01 November 2005

Revenge of the Nerds No More

BF: OK, here's one. In the split between Van Halen and David Lee Roth, who's side did you take?
JN eyes the bandmembers closely.
JN: Uh- Van Halen, of course.
BF: He's a cop!

First, before I start trying to really tear meat off of bone here, can I ask a question? Why does this stuff always happen, uniformly, in Boston? Why is everything that goes on in this town- well, THAT town; I live in NYC- have to be a fucking soap opera? It seems that no matter who's the boss, or who writes the checks, when they walk through those proverbial doors, there is a transformative quality that makes every decision by it's very nature both public and acrimonious, every disagreement not only destined to become personal, but destined to become fatal- that old quote from Boswell, that "every Red Sox ship springs a leak, and that leak always sinks the ship," maybe doesn't apply to the field anymore. Maybe it applies to the people involved, the off-the-field drama. If it's the fans, if it's the media, or if it's some fucked up coincidence wherein the owners of the club covering the last 90 years have had the ability not to quell but stoke fires, it doesn't matter. This shit follows these people around like the plague, and as someone who would rather see a well-run, efficient, perennially winning baseball team that I can be proud to root for, it gets tiring.

Just like a lot of people, I bought it when the Globe said that Theo was in the bag- check out my las post. When I was writing that too, I paused ever-so-slightly and thought, "maybe I should wait until there's a press conference." So you can see, I was still a bit naive to this Globe/ Red Sox thing. Not anymore.

So when Shaughnessy ran this article on Sunday, I should have immediately realized that it was Lucchino. I should have realized that it effectively waved goodbye to Epstein, and that it was another link in a chain of smear acts that follows every big name out of Boston under this ownership group. But I didn't realize it, so when Mike called me Monday to tell me that Theo was, as we spoke, cleaning out his desk on Yawkey Way and had resigned, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Eventually, the excuse was that Theo was "burned out" on the lifestyle of Boston GM, and that he couldn't take the lack of privacy, and the inability to function in public was wearing him down. Theo alluded to this slightly in his press statement regarding the resignation, but didn't clarify it. Gammons is telling anyone who'll listen that it "wasn't Lucchino" and that he "would have quit anyway."

If it wasn't an issue of Lucchino, and in addition, the article he wrote this past Sunday wasn't the final straw, then what about the lack of comfort in his situation was different late Monday? Why did he wait the situation out, letting assistant Josh Byrnes fly off to Arizona? But the idea that a bright, young, talented and heretofore extremely successful Red Sox GM just got so fed up with life in Boston as a celebrity that he walked away from $4 million dollars and his dream job doesn't make sense to me. It's rather insulting to someone who worked as hard as Epstein as well to suggest that he's one of the only GMs in recent memory to simply beg off the task because he "couldn't hack it" after three years.

The issue was Lucchino, and the fact that he has a Steinbrenner-ian inability to cede control and credit. It seems to me that Theo was given leeway when he first started to begin to craft the team as he saw fit- and that the more success they gained, and the more credit he received, the more Lucchino wanted to exert his influence and be held in higher esteem for the work. Take a look at Theo's moves before the 2003 season, and before the 2004 season. Then look at the moves made after 2004. Tell me it's the same voice.

So going into these negotiations, this was a sticking point, and as it drew itself out, Epstein attempted to reach compensation that would make the situation palatable- more control and more money. Otherwise, he was willing to walk. As Rob Bradford mentioned in his article for the Lowell Sun, his willingness to walk was a trump card they never took seriously.

Many knew about Epstein's increasing disdain for the lifestyle his job had lent itself to, but what few took into account was his disgust in what the Red Sox had become. Instead of focusing on the inner-workings from innings one through nine, the group running the franchise preferred to drive the fans' passion using Red Sox Nation citizenship cards and images of champagne toasts in the midst of breaking in ‘Wild Card Champions' baseball hats.
But then, shortly after waking up around 7 a.m., an article in The Boston Globe was brought to Epstein's attention. The piece struck a chord for Theo, not only because of the content (much of which defended Lucchino while diminishing Epstein's stature within the organization), but also because of how familiar the verbiage sounded. Many of it was all too familiar to words uttered by Lucchino to his general manager earlier in the week.

Epstein was reasonably comfortable returning to the job Saturday, but as Lucchino decided to, through Steinberg to Shaughnessy, knock him down a few pegs, Theo came to realize that nothing was different. Larry Lucchino was still Larry Lucchino, and that wouldn't change. So he walked.

So now, a brief roster check of our departed front office. Theo Epstein, GM/ VP: gone. Josh Byrnes, assistant GM: gone. Bill Lajoie, Senior Advisor to the GM: gone. Peter Woodfork: reportedly gone.

John Henry picked Larry Lucchino over Theo Epstein. He chose a glory-hounding, pig headed corporate bully over the brightest young executive in the team's history. I haven't felt this down about the Red Sox since after Game 7 in 2003, and the difference here is that there was considerable hope, a steely resolve. Now there's the realization that the GM meetings are a week away, and we have no GM. So we'll either hire one rashly to get him in there, or we'll draw it out and this offseason will be a wash.

My picks for a replacement:

  1. Chris Antonetti; Assistant GM, Cleveland Indians

  2. David Forst; Assistant GM, Oakland Athletics

  3. Tony Lacava; Director of Player Personell, Toronto Blue Jays

  4. Grady Fuson; Director of Player Personell, Cleveland Indians

  5. Doug Melvin; GM, Milwaukee Brewers

  6. Gerry Hunsicker; Former GM, Houston Astros

  7. Peter Woodfork; Current FO, Boston Red Sox

  8. Jed Hoyer; Assistant GM, Boston Red Sox

  9. Kim Ng; Assistant GM, Los Angeles Dodgers

  10. Kevin Towers; GM, San Diego Padres

  11. Paul DePodesta; Former GM, Los Angeles Dodgers

Ultimately what stings so much about this for me was that I looked up to Theo Epstein. This was the first time in my life- in anyone's life- that the guy running Boston baseball personell moves was bright, intelligent, receptive to new ideas and theories, and geniunely applied a logical, well planned approach to building a team. Duquette had come close- but Theo incorporated all aspects of managing a baseball team, and while keeping the big club competitive, he was able to amply stock the farm system and begin developing young players for the future. Reminds me of something Mike said after Pedro left- we used to able to say, "yea, but we've got PEDRo. We always had that. Same felt true, to me, with Epstein.

Since winning it all in 2004, the ownership of the Red Sox seems more intent on turning the team into a brand, a corporate engine for John Henry to increase profit margin. "We've got them hook, line, and sinker with the Championship; now lets slough off the undesirables, leak negative press, and sign some guys for show while we take some more meetings on what new crap we can sell. I hear there's paint chipping off the bathroom stalls. It'd go nice with the Sod those retards bought."

We had a guy that we could trust at the helm- there was no back-minded worry that we'd wake up to find some prize prospect flipped for John Q Veteranclubhouseguy. He was tailor-made for the job, and while he certainly made mistakes, he was one of the best in the business at what he did.

So can he be replaced? Of course he can. That's hardly the issue. The issue is that we didn't HAVE to replace him, because we had him. If Lucchino had treated Epstein and his staff with respect and ceded them the control they'd earned, this wouldn't have happened. Instead, we have to hope that the replacement we bring in hits the jackpot like Theo's hiring did. Unfortunately, guys with Theo's baseball/ business acumen don't grow on trees. People say that if he allowed Shaughnessy's article to sway him, he was too sensitive- this is ridiculous. What he saw in the article was that nothing would change, and that this job wasn't about building a great baseball team, a "$100 million dollar baseball development machine." It was about PR, fan creation, and revenue. For someone as gifted as Theo, why should that be enough?

Papelbon is bummed out, Ortiz is pissed- hell, even SCHILLING came out of his shell and said something (heh, heh)!

Totally sucks, and mark my words- if Lucchino is, in anyway, named interim GM (whatever)- I'm taking a year off from the Red Sox. End of discussion. One more tidbit on Lucchino, from Baseball Prospectus:

In Larry Lucchino, we have a man who long ago cultivated the legend that he's somehow solely responsible for Camden Yards, and devil take those who remember otherwise. Especially those who might recall his stated desire from the time, which was to tear down the warehouse that today is the signature feature of Baltimore's ballpark. Such a man is jealous of his place in history, coveting the past and the present as comfortably as he feigns disinterest in taking up Czar Bud's scepter the day after the car salesman steps down. In his need to portray himself as the father of victory, he has instead become like Cronus, so jealous of his prerogatives that he would rather consume the future than truly shepherd it. He came to Boston with a reputation for self-promotion, and this latest incident makes it plain that in Lucchino's world, he's the star of his own show.

Journalists consider their jobs to be no more than the regurgitation of the information they're handed, either from every baseball club's increasingly polished media relations department, or courtesy of some unnamed inside source. It doesn't matter that such sourcing is transparent, whether it's Bob Nightengale's reliance on tales told by two owners named Jerry, or Dan Shaughnessy playing Howdy Doody to fulfill the desire of a Larry To Be Named Later to play "who's your daddy."

As for the immediate future for whoever goes to Boston, I think it's much less rosy: whoever goes in is going to have to have plenty of Blistex on hand to keep the Bossling happy, while having very little actual control over the franchise.

He's an absolute snake, and you don't have to look as far back as the A-Rod debacle to realize why. It's all over the place.

The AL Gold Glove Awards were announced today- here's the winners, with my original picks in parentheses:

C- Jason Varitek, BOS (Joe Mauer, MIN)
1B- Mark Teixeira, TEX (Mark Teixeria, TEX)
2B- Orlando Hudson, TOR (Orlando Hudson, TOR)
3B- Eric Chavez, OAK (Eric Chavez, OAK)
SS- Derek Jeter, NYY (Juan Uribe, CWS)
OF- Ichiro Suzuki, SEA (Ichiro Suzuki, SEA)
OF- Vernon Wells, TOR (Vernon Wells, TOR)
OF- Torii Hunter, MIN (Aaron Rowand, CWS)
P- Kenny Rogers, TEX (Tim Wakefield, BOS)

They've had worse years- no Boone in 2004-level stupidity, but the Jeter choice is close. Jeter is not even league average defensively. Whatever- I'm not going to belabor an obvious point. Uribe, Peralta, Lugo, Cabrera- all better defensively.

Varitek didn't deserve the award either, especially considering how incredibly good a catcher Mauer is. Varitek won a hype award, even if it is fun to see him win his first. He's not as bad a catcher as Jeter is a SS, but the same dynamic is at play here.

So did Hunter win on hype, and while he is without a doubt very awesome, he missed all of August and September. How do you give that guy the award? Oh that's right, by not knowing what they're voting on. Terrific. Uribe, Mauer and Rowand got jobbed pretty good here. NL winners tomorrow.

Decided to finally watch Shaun of the Dead last night, as it was Halloween and I'd been putting of watching the movie for forever. Good stuff.

As a zombie movie, no great- a lot was sacrificed for the humor which, ultimately, was OK, because it was pretty funny. There were a lot of scenes where, for instance, the characters were fending off the zombies via head shots with bats, clubs, etc, and the effect was underwhelming. They were more-or-less poking them, and it was working. There's even a scene where the lead runs into a crowd of zombies to attract them away from something, and gets away alive.

I did, however, really like the part where they all acted like zombies to pass among them unharmed. That was funny, and while it did raise some plot holes later on, didn't really matter because it sort of survived on being a joke alone.

Easily the best part about the movie though was how the lead, Shaun, managed to be out of the loop on what was going on for so long- different circumstances, distractions, the like. Introducing a very slight bit of reality into a movie like that can often result in a new wrinkle, humorous or otherwise- the idea that Shaun and his best friend would assume that the zombies they were encountering from a distance would be late-night drunks wandering around was really funny and really clever.

The end was fantastic, too. "Uh, I gotta head out to the shed again." Nicely done.

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