The Nation Cries Theo

Two days after. And the shock is still evident in Boston. We’ve heard since Day One that Theo didn’t plan on spending his entire career not only for the Red Sox, but for baseball. But three years? The Theo Era is over after three years? I thought it would be 30. I thought Theo was going to lead us into the Golden Age. He started the Golden Age, but now someone else is going to have to lead us through, and I’m not at all confident of the successor’s abilities to do that, whether that’s Peter Woodfork, Ben Cherington, Brian Sabean, Kevin Towers, Billy Beane, David Forst, John Schuerholz, or Dan Duquette.
Okay, maybe the last guy definitely won’t return, but we have to now do this GM hiring stuff. That will take a while. Setting us back on the field. My choice is either Kevin Towers or Ben Cherington, but even these two will not be as effective as Theo. Theo wasn’t just another general manager. He was the most recognizable GM in the game, and certainly person in Boston. It’s odd, but I don’t think any other team has ever had as much faith in Theo as we did. A little strange, for he was young, and he’s only been here for three years, but for the most part, what Theo did was the “right thing”. I’m not going to lambast Larry Lucchino here. He’s a qualified baseball lifer. His only negative, which is going to may eventually be his downfall, is that he’s too media savvy. I refuse to lambast a man who, in the paraphrased words of Kevin Towers, keeps you on your toes, to justify every move you make. That’s what a president should do. What’s the big deal about the GM reporting to the president and not the owner?
The chain-of-command issue was never at issue here. Epstein and Lucchino, mentor and mentee, were fine. It was the differences the two men had that Theo decided he could not deal with any longer. Lucchino is a marketer. Marketing the Red Sox. The Sox are no longer the Olde Towne Team. They’re a marketing giant. There’s tons of PR involved, media work, politics. Theo wasn’t into that. He was into running a team.
And Theo decided he couldn’t run this team anymore – not to the best of his abilities. Theo didn’t leave because he wanted to leave. Come on – this is his dream job. He left because he knew he couldn’t give 100%. That takes a lot of guts to leave – to leave a $1.5 million per year job, beloved by everyone (although quite a private person) in your dream job because you can’t give 100% to the team anymore. That’s how much he loves the Red Sox. Theo decided that his life was more important than his job. Couldn’t we all wish we could say the same? Instead of being slaves to the job, have it be what it is – a job – not a life.
After my initial hatred of Dan Shaughnessy for apparently cementing Epstein’s belief that he would not return to the Red Sox, that has dissapated somewhat. His column yesterday in the Boston Globe (in which he mentioned to feel free to run him out of town) was a very well-written article in my opinion and he makes the great point that Theo has got to be more mature and sensible than what we’re saying he is. If he is running out of town because of a paragraph in a Shaughnessy article, it never was going to work out anyways.
That’s not to say there aren’t issues between Epstein and Lucchino – there are, and it was a contributing factor. But see, there were lots and lots of contributing factors to this decision. The Epstein/Lucchino mentor/mentee spat, the politics, the media, the fans (Theo is besieged by fans all the time and has to pretend to be on his cell phone so people won’t come up to him) … and not to mention he achieved his goal of a World Series. Shades of Ozzie Guillen saying he’d retire if the White Sox won it all. Certainly was not true, but there is truth in it.
Zach has been doing a quick and dirty summation of Theo’s three years in Boston. He started Sunday, put up the 2004 file on Tuesday, and will be closing with the 2005 (and final?) file in Theo’s tenure in Boston. Much like Nomar Garciaparra, we are going to have to move on. It’s going to hurt more than Nomar because we were ready for Nomar and we are not ready for Theo, but it’s something we are going to have to do. Yes, we lost our Boston born-and-bred Boy Wonder, I’m not going to dispute that, but if anyone thinks we’re about to slip into a 10-year long losing funk reminiscent of the current Pirates (and Devil Rays) then you’ve got another think coming. I believe, and many do believe, that Theo is the best general manager in the business, but there are other quality ones who are currently GMing (Kevin Towers) or waiting in the wings (Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington) and this ownership, this franchise, is going to demand a quality general manager. There’s no risk of Chuck LaMar here – or Ed Wade – or Dan Duquette.
Perhaps change is good. It brings in fresh eyes, a new perspective. If the man doing the change is smart enough, it could even improve the Red Sox. There really isn’t anything else to do but move on, and now that the shock is starting to wear off (imagine that – two days after the fact and the shock is only starting to wear off?) … I can now see that this organization is not going to be crippled. Not with Jonathan Papelbon, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lestr, Hanley Ramirez, and a host of other exciting people in the major leagues. Not with David Ortiz and Tim Wakefield pushing this team to the playoffs. What’s very important right now in the wake of all this is to retain the brain trust that was set up. It’s pretty good that only baseball lifer Bill Lajoie resigned in support of Theo – no one else did. That’s step one. Step two is to keep them all together, to retain them. We will miss Theo, but he’s put us in a great position to succeed for years, and his legacy will last for decades. So for one last time … In Theo We Trust.