Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

How do I feel about Theo Epstein?

Theo says thank you and goodbye

I think I wanted to be mad at him.  On the surface, he’s bolting just as the team is under fire from all angles.  The Boston sports media is destroying them, fans are screaming about how embarrassed they are by the team and the players, for a while, seemed to be having a daily “Who can sound like a bigger jackass” competition. Bailing on the team he’s been with for nine years seems like taking the easy way out.

But then I think about everything that happened prior to the September collapse.  This was a good, strong team in spite of some injuries hitting them hard.  If not for their failings in September, we might be watching them beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series…again.  So even though emotionally I want to say “Theo’s leaving us in shambles!”, it’s not really how I feel.

Since we were told about his departure, Theo has done two things that will stick with me.  He took out a full-page ad (see above) in the Boston Globe to thank everyone associated with the Red Sox, including the fans (and excluding the media…heh) and today the Boston Globe published an editorial he wrote, again thanking the fans and explaining his reasoning for leaving when he is (because, as he puts it, he thinks we’d appreciate an explanation).

For the last decade, I gave everything I had to the Red Sox and received even more in return. I grew enormously as a person, had some successes, and made a lot of mistakes, too. I still love the organization, enjoy close relationships with owners John Henry and Tom Werner – as well as a complicated but ultimately productive and rewarding relationship with Larry Lucchino – and count many of my co-workers among my dearest friends. The reason I am leaving has nothing to do with power, pressure, money, or relationships. It has nothing to do with September, either.

Football legend Bill Walsh used to say that coaches and executives should seek change after 10 years with the same team. The theory is that both the individual and the organization benefit from a change after so much time together. The executive gets rebirth and the energy that comes with a new challenge; the organization gets a fresh perspective, and the chance for true change that comes with new leadership. This idea resonated with me. Although I tried my best to fight it, I couldn’t escape the conclusion that both the Red Sox and I would benefit from a change sometime soon.

Read it all.  It’s well-worth the time and so much more than I expected to get from him.  I don’t know what’s going to happen to this team in the coming months but Theo is pretty much the first person, aside from Terry Francona, who made me feel like he was being genuine.  Theo’s editorial today definitely brought a few tears to my eyes but it has given me hope as well.

Yes, September was a collective failure. As the general manager, I am the person ultimately responsible. Things did indeed happen in the clubhouse that do not have a place at the Red Sox or anywhere in sports. But the reports about team-wide apathy and indulgence are exaggerated. It may not seem this way now, but the team did care about winning, about the fans, and about each other; unfortunately, we failed when we let less important things get in the way. I tried desperately to reverse our slide, as did Tito, the coaches, and the players. But we just could not play well, and then we did not handle the adversity well.

I will take Theo at his word because, frankly, what is the alternative? Turning my back on my team because they pissed me off at the end of the season? Time (and the silence from them recently that I am grateful for) is putting that behind me. I want this team to succeed and I want to root for them and have them make me happy again. Odd as it seems, Theo’s departure is helping that process begin.

If not for the complete confidence I have in Ben to address these issues, I could not in good conscience leave the organization at this time. But there is no one in baseball more qualified to be the next general manager of the Red Sox.

Theo hasn’t been the only one to express this confidence in Ben Cherington. Many in the know have been trying to tell fans this for a few weeks now but hearing it come from Theo makes me believe it all the more.  Most of us had no idea who Theo was when he came to the team and he did wonders for it (and us)…with Ben we’re fortunate that we already know him and know what he is capable of so I’m choosing to look at this as an exciting time in the history of the team.  Sad with Theo’s departure, no two ways about it, but exciting to see what the future has in store for us all.  It’s never easy to see an era end, especially when that era was amazing, but Ben gives me hope that we have more good times to come.

Because it’s an off-day for the World Series, today the Cubs will introduce Theo as their new President of Baseball Operations at 12pm ET and the Red Sox will announce that Ben is their new General Manager at 3pm ET. The future begins this afternoon!

Goodbye, Theo, and thanks for everything!


October 25, 2011 - Posted by | 2011 | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Today I experience a paroxysm of “W T F–NONE of this should have happened.” We had a TERRIFIC manager and as savvy a GM as ever stepped up to the mic to face the various kinds of music entailed in that job. The ballclub missed the playoffs last year entirely due to a torrent of critical injuries to the core of the team. This year they had a horrific start, a great summer due to outstanding offense and a long string of excellence from Beckett, Aceves, Bard, and Papelbon, but an injured Youk and too many ragged 5-inning starts from a dead-armed rotation resulted in an overwhelmed bullpen and a horrific September. What we need is not a new manager and GM but a stronger pitching staff. Hopefully our new GM–for so long our player-scouter-and-developer par excellence–will address this need effectively and hire a manager of Tito Francona’s quality. I hope the Sox win. I hope Theo gets to remake the Cubs in a positive way. And I hope Tito manages another World Series champion, presenting a very loud raspberry to his former employers.

    Comment by Elaine Apthorp | October 27, 2011 | Reply

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