As with Sean McAdam (who writes for the Providence Journal), here we see another halfway decent column on the current Theo situation coming from well outside the Boston area (this time, it's Vin Sylvia in the Manchester Union Leader, which, despite its deeply conservative bent, has shown itself a remarkably sane paper editorial-wise on other subjects as well); it's beginning to seem like sanity is inversely proportionate to one's proximity to the Hub.
IF YOU were to catch a Red Sox official in a moment of candor regarding Theo Epstein’s semi-departure and full return, you’d probably hear something like this:
“What this whole thing has been about is differing philosophies over what kind of team we plan to put on the field in 2006.
“On the one hand, you have Theo, who’s looking beyond 2006 toward building a championship contender for 2007-2010. He’s willing to take a hit this year to stockpile young talent and create payroll flexibility, so that when the young talent matures in a year or two, the team will have the financial wherewithal to sign premium free agents.
“On the other hand, you have Larry Lucchino, who would rather not see us rid ourselves of marquee names at a time when he’s looking to increase TV and radio revenues, and working City Hall and the State House to secure support for the club’s local business and real estate interests. The more stars the team has in its lineup and the more games it wins, the more the City of Boston and Commonwealth of Massachusetts get caught up in Red Sox Mania. The more fans who get caught up in Red Sox Mania, the greater the team’s media appeal and the more pressure on city and state politicians to accede to Larry’s wishes.”
“In the middle, you have John Henry, who has a deep appreciation for Larry’s business savvy and political sophistication, but who also recognizes how uniquely Theo’s skill set is suited to what a head of baseball operations needs to succeed in Boston.
“Theo stepped down as GM because Larry had veto power over him and because Mr. Henry underestimated how great the rift was between his general manager and CEO. Theo returned because Mr. Henry granted him control of baseball operations, limiting Larry to control of non-baseball business decisions. Now, if Theo wants to broker a major deal, the only person he has to answer to is Mr. Henry.”
But such words will never be uttered — at least not publicly.
When the Red Sox hold their press conference next week to explain the announcement they made Thursday night — that Epstein is returning to the club after his abrupt resignation on Halloween — they’ll try to spin the news as win-win, for Epstein and Lucchino. We’ll hear that the club has addressed the issues precipitating his resignation to Epstein’s satisfaction. We’ll hear that Lucchino retains the title of president and CEO, along with all the power he wielded before the Sox’ offseason soap opera began.
Don’t believe it. It’s not true. It can’t be.
Epstein came back for a reason. Unless that reason was simply the $4.5 million he left on the table when he walked away last October, which no one who knows him believes to be the case, the motivation for his return had to be control of baseball operations. And if Epstein now has control of baseball operations, that means Lucchino no longer does.
There can be no other bottom-line scenario. Either Henry gave Epstein what he wanted or Lucchino won out in a power struggle over his former protege. You can’t have it both ways.
The beauty of the new arrangement is that it is as it should be.
Speculation? Yes. But at least it's intelligent.
Via Annette on the SGMB.