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The Long Thaw
2006-01-26 05:39
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

While Johnny Damon anticipates the upcoming WBC games (and Mariano Rivera lets out a long sigh), Murray Chass examines the state of affairs in Boston:

Last Thursday, announcing that Theo Epstein would return to the team's front office 12 weeks after he walked away from his role as general manager, club officials issued a statement that made them sound so full of themselves that they must have been inflated like hot-air balloons.

John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein all released statements to the media:

The statements totaled an astounding 2,500 words. If they were printed in their entirety in this newspaper, they would take up three columns, or half a page. Henry & Company could have used a good editor.

For much of the past 12 weeks, the Red Sox had been widely viewed as having a dysfunctional front office. I disagreed. Epstein's departure, I believed, did not throw the front office into a malaise that rendered club executives ineffective and incapable of performing the team's off-season personnel activities.

With those statements, though, the Red Sox are beginning to sound dysfunctional. Their verbosity runneth over, and they tripped all over their words. Maybe that's what happens when you put executives from Princeton, Yale, Amherst and Wesleyan in a room together.

Meanwhile, while it is not likely that we'll see Mike Piazza in pinstripes this year, he's not completely out-of-the-picture yet either. Accoding to The Daily News:

"I have not made a decision," [Yankee GM, Brian] Cashman said. "We're still going through it. I'm obviously evaluating Mike and seeing if he fits where we're at at this point in time.

"I don't have a need for anybody, but that doesn't mean you don't constantly evaluate what's available and the price they're available at."

Too bad the Big Hurt was already nabbed by Oakland; Piazza would have looked great in the Green and Gold.

Comments
2006-01-26 06:06:30
1.   rbj
The problem I have with the WBC is what it does to pitchers. How many of them are going to be ready by the first week in March, and what will that mean for the rest of the season; or will they treat it like exhibition games. Glad to see that Mo is keeping to his schedule, saving his arm for the season.

It takes a 2500 word essay for Chass to think the Red Sox are beginning to sound dysfunctional? How about having/not having a GM, appointing co-GMs (meanwhile the ex-GM still has his office), then rehiring the ex for some undefined position, then, aw hell, make the ex-GM the GM again. (phew.)

2006-01-26 06:35:02
2.   Sliced Bread
The Chassticle is just chafed because he didn't get an advance copy of the eagerly awaited encyclical from the Red Sox Papal Triumverate. Don't be fooled by his BoSox chastizing, Murray adores any baseball club that competes with the Yankees for attention in the NY Times.

I'm most amused by yesterday's revelation from the two-headed dog (see Orthrus in your mythology book) formerly known as the Red Sox GM: despite their histories of medical problems, neither Beckett, nor Mota was subjected to a physical before they joined the Sox. Apparently, the player's medical records (and a note from their mother?) sufficed.

I'm not sure how thoroughly the Yankees doctors scrutinize prospective pinstripers, but isn't a physical as necessary as test-driving a used car before you purchase it? Service records don't tell half the story, right?

2006-01-26 06:45:02
3.   Sliced Bread
Oh, I just loved this from the Pride of Panama re: his decision to not play in Bud Selig's Intergalactic Baseball Extravaganza:

"They're killing me," he (Mariano Rivera) said by telephone this week. "They're ripping me apart. It's like my head is in Haiti, my legs are in China. I never said anything to anyone about the team being incompetent. I never said Panama is incompetent. They have a chance to win like any other team, as long as they play hard. This is about my arm."

Have we ever heard Saint Mo sound this annoyed? This ill-timed and logistically-flawed exhibition tournament, this swarm of gnats, is ruining the peaceful pre-season picnic that should be Spring Training!
Don't Tread on Mo!

2006-01-26 07:05:02
4.   The Mick 536
Mythology. Orthrus? I hope that they fly too close to the sun and all their wings melt.

The Big Hurt. When he was good, there was no one betta at the plate. Fearsome. Nice to see he still be around, but that body on those feet, a pair they do not make.

As for Mo, he should take a twelve step for metaphorists.

2006-01-26 07:05:22
5.   debris
Sliced Bread,

What the Sox said was that they don't always perform their own physicals on guys they pick up in trade, they always do with free agents. Go figure.

As for the Yanks, I don't know their policy, but I do know that Jaret Wright failed his physical. They signed him anyway, just changing the contract allowing them out of 2007 if Wright spent more than 75 days on the DL with a shoulder injury between 2005-2006. It looks like they saved themselves $7 M with that change, though they probably, in retrospect, should have bailed completely.

2006-01-26 07:10:15
6.   Beth
damned if they do, damned if they don't.

i really dont see why everyone's reading so much into this theo thing. theo and the ownership disagreed about the state of the team. theo walked away to prove his point. john henry went wait a minute, larry, you shut up, theo, come back and we'll talk about it. they did. they eventually came to an agreement. theo accepted the job again.

lots of people want to brand that as dysfunction...i fail to see the dysfunction in a GM not settling for a team strategy he fundamentally disagrees with, and an ownership willing to have an intense discussion about it in order to get him back and get everyone back on the same page. to me that seems like a lot of smart human beings acting like adults.

after this happened, they didn't WANT to release a lengthy statement or even hold a press conference--but dan shaughnessy et al took them to task for their supposed dishonesty in dealing with the public and fan base. even the normally even tempered jackie macmullan went apeshit in her column saying theo and the ownership OWED everyone a thorough, painstakingly detailed explanation.

so they came out with one...and now people are picking on the length of said statement?

it never ends.

2006-01-26 07:28:51
7.   Sliced Bread
I also read Lucchino and his pet gorilla ended their spat ("discord," whatever) with a HUG, according to eyewitness John Henry (I kid you not).
Who lit the candles? Who played "The Way We Were" on the violin? Did anyone suggest "Spin The Bottle?" Red Sox fans have the right to know every detail!
2006-01-26 08:19:18
8.   sam2175
6

And in the meantime, Red Sox goes on to have two GMs, who go about their jobs in a reasonably professional and unfussy manner, but have to constantly deal with insinuations that every good deal is being brokered by Epstein from the background. Peter Gammons writes effusive columns in praise of Theo and his plans to cure the world of every single malaise that afflicts it. And to cap it all, Theo comes back and usurps the two general managers and all the members of the Red Sox FO sing sweet nothings about teamwork and commitment in unison.

To be honest, it is a pretty bad soap opera. As a Sox fan, you are entitled to put any positive spin on it as you deem fit, but if the same thing were happening with the Yankees or Dodgers, the rest of the MLB would point at them and laugh. The same thing is happening with the Red Sox now, nothing really special. Red Sox FO uses media strategically to gain leverage on pretty much anything, and they have to live with the consequences of such strategies.

2006-01-26 09:13:43
9.   Simone
Actually, both Chass and Bob Ryan sounded ticked off in their last columns. They rallied around the Red Sox and Lucchino when Theo left, only to get a thumb in the eye now that he has returned the triumph Prince.

I'm having a good laugh at the Yawkey Circus. What a joke. I do wonder what Lucchino does now that John Henry has effectively chosen Theo over him in their power struggle. Does Lucchino move on at the end of the season or in a couple of years or does he stick out that long term contract and just ride it out until Theo falls out of favor? Lucchino will be in high demand from other owners who want help maximizing revenues and getting new stadiums.

Theo played his last card first by resigning, he will discover that he won't be able to play it again so everything better go well for the Red Sox under his tenure or next time he leaves in a gorilla suit, it will be his last exit.

2006-01-26 10:00:47
10.   jalexei
The particulars playing out on the grade school playground that is Yawkey Way are less the issue than the manner in which the whole episode has been aired.

I've no doubt that far nuttier and ridiculous stuff happens in the front office of many a ballclub, but most of them are smart enough to keep it more or less under wraps. I'm surprised that the usually media-saavy Sox brass allowed this soap opera to play out splashed across the Globe, the Herald and WEEI.

"damned if they do, damned if they don't."

True, and it's their own fault, for having managed this whole issue so poorly. Given everything that's transpired, there IS no course of action that won't draw ridicule from some corner.

2006-01-26 10:42:15
11.   YankeeInMichigan
The Yankees were actually a bit wimpier in the Wright negotiations than what was reported by Debris. The 2007 escape clause (that will kick in due to last year's injury) allows for a 3 or 3.5 million buyout. So the Yankees are only saving themselves about 3.5 million.
2006-01-26 10:47:04
12.   YankeeInMichigan
And as for managing risk through creative contracts, the A's did a great job with the Thomsas deal. After a 500,000 base salary, he gets bonuses as follows (as reported by mlb.com, quoting the AP):

"He can earn $1.4 million in bonuses by avoiding the DL with an injury related to his left foot ($325,000 each on May 1 and June 15, then $375,000 on July 15 and Aug. 15) and another $1.2 million by reaching 550 plate appearances, the AP reported."

2006-01-26 11:09:06
13.   unpopster
Speaking of circuses in Boston, something quite troubling just occurred to me:

With the departures of Millar and Damon, who will be the "voice of the Red Sox"? I THINK WE ALL KNOW THE ANSWER TO THAT!!! 'The Mouth" will be roaring in '06!

Damon and Millar were the chearleaders, spokesmen, sideline boosters, and PR hacks of the most recent Sox teams. Of course Schilling waved his fat lips around a great deal, but his comments always seemed to be tempered by the clownlike antics of Mr. Cowboy Up and Johnny of Nazareth.

But now that they're gone, it gives The Mouth the lone place at the mic stand. Heaven Help Us All! It'll be intolerable!

2006-01-26 11:56:16
14.   Sliced Bread
Yes, it will be up to the pitcher with the infamous chili-stained sock to hand-out scraps to the starving media hounds.
But the departures of Damon and Millar aren't the only reason King Curt will be holding court alone, delivering his Judgement Day sermons.
I predict there will be long periods of radio silence from Yawkey Way this summer, as the Theo II administration enforces a strict clampdown on media access.
Plus, the Schillmaster will, no doubt, be stepping up his reporter-friendly "Hall of Fame" campaign, which began when he was in kindergarten.
2006-01-26 13:20:36
15.   Beth
"put whatever positive spin i want on it", eh?

how about, i was horrified when theo left, now he's back, i'm not going to sit here and complain about the circumstances, and i think those who do in boston are complete gnitpicking idiots?

how about, this kind of thing happens in business all the time--someone leaves an organization and comes back when there have been discussions about philosophy, chain of command, etc.

"it's their own fault for managing this so badly".

yes. because they should have implanted a mind-control chip on theo that would keep him from ever questioning them or asserting his opinion in a way that might take a serious process to work out. is that what's worked on cashman?

2006-01-26 13:54:40
16.   wsporter
Oh Beth, and you were doing so well until the "is that what's worked on Cashman?" line. Less would have been so much more. Oh well.
2006-01-26 17:00:28
17.   sam2175
6

"theo and the ownership disagreed about the state of the team. theo walked away to prove his point. john henry went wait a minute, larry, you shut up, theo, come back and we'll talk about it. they did. they eventually came to an agreement. theo accepted the job again. "

This was the specific spin I talked about. Nobody, including you and me know what really happened behind closed doors. It is open to imagination and interpretation. What you wrote there was putting the situation in the best possible light for Theo Epstein. And it is your prerogative, as I conceded before. I choose to see it differently, as is mine.

It did put the Yankees in bad light during the Bronx zoo era when Billy Martin kept getting fired and rehired by Steinbrenner. This latest Theo-Red Sox melodrama (which are driven more by sentiment than by business, and so, I would be shocked to see evidence that "it happens all the time in business") have a similar air, although nobody got fired.

If it were business, they would have cut the crap and gone straight to "Theo Epstein is a shrewd and competent GM, and he suits our organizational needs best" and Theo saying "At this point, this is what is best for my career and I feel comfortable doing this job". That incredibly verbose crap served no purpose except to provide more evidence of ongoing (bad) soap opera.

I dont know why the Cashman bit came up either, but Cashman did clarify the situation succinctly to Yankees brass who apparently met his demands before the contract extension. The specific nature of those demands were Cashman being the filter through which every decisions pass, as revealed by Cashman himself. Far from anything like a mind control chip.

2006-01-26 17:56:06
18.   Sliced Bread
The BoSox Boy in the Grrilla Suit doesn't need a "mind-control chip" (as suggested above), what he needs now, is to become a mind-control chimp, like the telepathic Gorilla Grodd (from your DC Comics mythology).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorilla_Grodd

"Grodd's psionic abilities allow him to place other beings under his mental control. Grodd can also project mental attack beams and transfer his consciousness into other bodies."

This would give Kid Kong Epstein the upperhand in future negotiations with supervillains like $cott Bora$ and Larry Lucchino.

2006-01-26 17:56:58
19.   Nick from Washington Heights
"I dont know why the Cashman bit came up either, but Cashman did clarify the situation succinctly to Yankees brass who apparently met his demands before the contract extension. The specific nature of those demands were Cashman being the filter through which every decisions pass, as revealed by Cashman himself. Far from anything like a mind control chip."

exactly sam2175!

It has become a pastime of certain Sox fans to limn Cashman as a spineless mediocre yes-man content to take George's shit, and the Boss as a callous owner. In their version of things, Cash is unprincipled, is over-rated because the Yanks should always win with that budget, and displays none of the integrity and willpower of the Boy Genius. And the Boss lacks the sympathetic nature of that most gentlest of millionaires, John Henry. Yet, it was Cashman who stood up for himself at the negotiating table and to great effect: his boss actually took him seriously.Imagine that.The Boss actually repected and listened to what Cash wanted. From afar, the opposite seems to have occurred in Boston. Sensitive and gentle man that Henry is, he just didn't understand that young Theo chafed under Luchinno's watchful (perhaps all too critical) supervision. And Theo, oh great Theo, called it quits rather than compromise his vision, and suffer the indignities of having to report to Larry. But then the story changes. Well kind of. Lucchino doesn't get fired and Theo still returns? How does happen? Who compromised? Surely Larry isn't going to stop being the snake he's always been. So did Theo realize that his power play was all for naught? The Dodgers situation was not to his liking, and none of the teams hiring were to his liking. Did he return with hat in hand? And did he willingly implant his own mind control chip?

Arrgh, January is so goddam cold and boring. Who gives a rat's ass about the soap opera that is Boston? It's just fun to speculate on the personal shortcomings of our teams' respective gm's. I truly wish the games would start now.

2006-01-26 19:09:43
20.   jalexei
"how about, this kind of thing happens in business all the time--someone leaves an organization and comes back when there have been discussions about philosophy, chain of command, etc."

All the time? I'd say it's fairly uncommon.

"yes. because they should have implanted a mind-control chip on theo that would keep him from ever questioning them or asserting his opinion in a way that might take a serious process to work out. is that what's worked on cashman?"

Huh? I fail to see how handling the negotiations with Theo in a manner that was discreet and professional (and Theo handling them in the same manner) would, in any way, preclude him from "asserting his opinion" or would imply the process wasn't a serious one.

I'm sorry Beth, I actually like Theo, and living in Brookline I know a few people who've known him for many years and speak the world of him, but it doesn't change the fact that the Sox brain trust had their heads up their arses and Theo acted like an angry little kid taking his ball home and pouting.

2006-01-27 04:34:28
21.   Rob S
Regarding Josh Beckett & did he/ did he not get a physical: a sportswriter you all know was here at a local high school's Hot Stove League. He claimed that the Sox did give Beckett a physical, which showed that essentially his shoulder is shot. But by the time they got the results the Nation was ecstatic about the signing, so John Henry wouldn't pull the trigger & reneg the deal. Time will tell...

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