« October 27, 2005
November 2, 2005 »
October 31, 2005
By ART MARTONE
One year ago today, we were sleeping off the Rolling Rally hangover. Now this.
There's a lot we don't know, and a lot we may never know, about why Theo Epstein quit today. And I don't expect to glean a whole lot of insight out of the Red Sox official statement or
Theo's own press release, either.
But many times, the truth is hidden in public view. I think it's safe to say that . . .
-- Epstein expected to be offered a contract extension after last season, and was surprised when it was put off.
-- That one of the reasons the Sox didn't offer him what has a become a pro-forma extension was because of reservations -- to whatever degree -- they had about the job he'd done in his first two years. Not to say they felt they'd made a mistake or that Epstein was a liability, but that his performance wasn't the seamless display of perfection people were crediting him with after the World Series triumph.
-- The Sox, I'm certain, felt themselves in no danger of losing Epstein, who they thought would never walk away from his dream job.
-- Epstein, conversely, began to feel resentment the longer it dragged on . . . and unpleasant aspects of the job that he'd been willing to overlook, or to live with, started to become more and more important.
-- When negotiations finally began in earnest, Epstein was shocked at the Sox' monetary offer, which he felt was far below his open-market value.
-- At the same time, the Sox were themselves shocked that a third-year GM wanted the sort of money normally reserved for veteran executives.
-- Ill will started brewing on both sides, far before the public became aware of what was going on. (This I know for a fact.)
-- Still, I also know the Red Sox expected a deal to be struck eventually. But the longer it dragged on, and the more contentious it got, the more Epstein began contemplating leaving the Sox. And the more he thought about it, the more the idea of tossing off all the parts of his professional life that he didn't like became more and more intoxicating.
More than one media outlet is reporting, and will be reporting, that Dan Shaughnessy's Sunday column was the straw that broke the camel's back. I don't know that for a fact, but it's plausible to me. Very plausible, especially if Theo thinks the column represented the voice, or even A voice, of Boston management.
If the Sox had approached Epstein in the spring with a monetary offer half as good as the one he just turned down, odds are he'd have signed it. Ditto in June. If the offer was two-thirds as good, he'd probably have signed in September.
Why the Sox waited so long to begin talks on a new contract is a question they'll have to answer. Why they chose to open negotiations where they did monetarily is yet another. What we know now is those were blunders that opened the door to what happened . . . or at least they were blunders if what they wanted was to retain Theo Epstein as general manager.
I think they did. I don't think they perceive it as the baseball disaster that many others do -- as I said, they had their doubts about some of the things Theo did -- but they're P.R. geniuses and they certainly know this is a nuclear hit to their public image. The fact that they finally agreed to meet Epstein's money demands indicates, to me, that they felt they had to sign him.
But it was too late. The genie was out of the bottle. What their negotiating tactics really did was allow Theo Epstein to contemplate life beyond the Boston Red Sox.
The fact that he chose to follow that path says something about him, and about the Red Sox.
Just what, we'll have to wait to find out.
Posted by Art at 9:59 PM | Permalink
| Comments 2