Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Choose Your Own Adventure: Be the GM! (Red Sox Edition)

Theo Epstein stunningly walked away from the Boston Red Sox yesterday, in the 24th hour of negotiations. According to most sources, the contract he didn't take would have guaranteed his occupation for the next three years, and made him about 4.5 million dollars richer.

Why would he do this?

Speculation (and that's all we can really do, since his statement didn't shed a whole lot of light on his thought process) cover a variety of possibilities, ranging from my initial guess, which was that he wanted to prove his mettle away from Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox CEO who had brought Theo into the baseball business first with the Orioles and then with the Padres, to Theo's acrimonious relationship with Larry Lucchino, to indignation over the close ties between the Red Sox and the Boston Globe that was handicapping his ability to work and negotiate, to comments that his father made before Theo got the job with the Sox

But the more I think about it, and I have thought about it a good deal, the more I think that the simplest explanation is best. While the legendary Red Sox team of 2004 famously eschewed the use of Occam's Razor (or any razor for that matter), I'd like to present a quick and simple scenario using the time honored tradition of "Choose Your Own Adventure." Just follow along, please, and humor me as I take my stab at what happened when Theo decided to walk away from his hometown team this past weekend. Forgive me for my presumption, as I have no clue if this is how things went at all.

Page 1

Your hands shake as you open the door to the interview room. Inside the room, three individuals, all men in neatly tailored suits, smile at you. You are young, you love the game of baseball, and you're applying for one of the coolest jobs available, as far as you're concerned. You want to be an intern! The man on the far right stands.

"Hi there," he says, glancing at the sheet on the table in front of him. "Theo, right?"

If you work through the interview, nervous as you are, turn to Page 3.

If you're too afraid, and suddenly feel the urge to run to the bathroom, turn to Page 7

Page 3

You got the job!! What's better, it was a great summer. Mr. Lucchino was a hard boss, but you work your ass off during that summer, and make a good impression. You like the offices, you like the people you work with, and of course, you're now inside. You're part of the baseball machine now, a step above the groundcrew and the ballboys, but not quite on the level of the batboys, yet.

"Even so", you think to yourself as you walk up the steps to your Residential College at Yale, where you will be for the next four years, "even so, I think I've found my calling."

If you decide to be an English or a psychology major, turn to Page 1.

If you decide to change your major, major in American Studies, and go to law school, turn to Page 8

Page 8

Man, life is tough. Tort class, contracts class, and then off to push papers for the San Diego Padres. You're starting to wonder if you'll ever sleep this week. At least all the girls are gorgeous around here. No time for them though, really, when all you're thinking about is contract law and if that Ken Caminiti guy is going to honor the no tackle football clause in his contract. And you thought Mr. Lucchino was tough when you were an intern. Boy were you in for a rude awakening. How are you going to manage 70 hours a week with the Padres and then another 50 in the library and in class? Are there even that many hours a week? The answer? Because you love baseball, that's why.

"Just a couple more years," you think, "just a couple more."

If you want a steady high paying job with an LA law firm, turn to Page 666.

If you want to work for the Padres and Mr. Lucchino, turn to Page 18

Page 18

You love California, but something isn't right. For 5 years now, the Padres and San Diego has been your home. But the organization isn't exactly moving forward. Barry Bonds is murdering balls up in San Francisco, and you start thinking about getting the hell out of Dodge. Bill James is working with the Red Sox, and it sounds like they've heard of your work. Would they think about hiring you?

If you stay in San Diego, and ogle the girls while the organization obtains Woody Williams, turn to Page 28.

If you check out the situation with the Sox, and you want to go home, turn to Page 35.

Page 35

OH MY GOD! They made you their General Manager! You try not to let the news get to your head, but you only manage to spin around and babble incoherently for a couple of minutes, which would be weird except it's fairly common here in Boston. Happily, but knowing that the expectations of one of the country's most rabid fan bases are now resting upon your shoulders, you take the job, move into a nice office, and get ready to talk to the media. Except that Shaughnessy guy. You never really liked him. But now, you're home. You're working for the home team. You wish your father was more proud of you, but wait until you make him eat his words and win the Sox a World Series!!

"Well," you think, "better not get too far ahead of myself."

If you want to sell the farm for free agents and try to win with veteran players, turn to Page 78.

If you want to build through the draft, and build a solid core around what you already have, Nomar, Manny and Pedro, turn to Page 86.

Page 86

You were so CLOSE! If only Aaron Boone hadn't messed everything up, you would have been on your way to a World Series, in only your second year as GM! How amazing would that have been?

"That's that," you sigh, taking a deep breath.

"I wonder if A-Rod is on the market?"

If you do whatever it takes to get A-Rod, turn to Page 31.

If you can't bring yourself to make the money work, and you think A-Rod is a bit of a pussy anyway, turn to Page 5.

Page 5

So the A-Rod thing didn't work out. Who knew that after hitting that homer, Aaron Boone would blow out his knee during the offseason, leaving the Yankees (who Mr. Lucchino recently branded The Evil Empire) with an opening at third base?

It's ok. You didn't like him anyway. He was always kind of a pussy.

You at least have a good closer now, Keith Foulke, after that committee thing didn't really work out.

You pulled a very nice PR move by going over to Curt Schilling's and getting him to come to Boston, and you didn't even mention that his wife's turkey was kind of dry. Curt didn't notice how much cranberry sauce you used, and he seemed genuinely intrigued by your offer. You think that he really just likes to be contrarian, and the idea of sticking it to Jeter makes him feel warm and fuzzy inside. In addition, he's obviously sick of Randy Johnson's redneck jokes.

All in all, 2004 looks like it's shaping up to be one hell of a season, with the rivalry amped up and payroll up near your neck and the entirely of the Boston Red Sox fanbase breathing down your neck after last year.

Crap. You have to go to Bronson Arroyo's "concert." But do you really want to go?

If you stay home and crunch some stats, turn to Page 10.

If you decide to listen to Bronson mangle some Nirvana covers, turn to Page 47

Page 47

Man, that concert sucked.

You keep the thought to yourself, but you bet that Bernie Williams is twice the musician Bronson is.

Then again, twice zero is zero, you remind yourself.

At least Peter Gammons was there to get some good quotes from you.

And you realize that Pokey Reese is a damn cool name.

Turn to page 60.

Page 60

Midseason. There are some troubles brewing. Your team isn't clicking, Nomar isn't happy, and your defense is best described as "colandar-like." What to do?

What to do?

What to do?

If you flip Nomar in a huge four team trade that will net you defensive upgrades Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mient-somethingorother, despite the fact that it pains you, not to mention your fanbase, to trade the face of the organization, and you start to wonder if you're liking this whole GM thing after all, turn to Page 18.

If you sit tight, turn to Page 29.

Page 18

There are no words to describe the feeling you have. You just won the series. Pedro is pouring champagne on you and grinning like a madman, which he is. Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield are off in the corner crying, Keith Foulke is sitting there with a dumb grin on his face, Curt Schilling is saying something that no one is really listening to, and Doug . . . hey, where did Doug go?

In any case, it's over. You did it. Your team came back from an insurmountable deficit against the Yankees, and your moves all turned out right, especially Dave Roberts, and you trounced the much vaunted Cardinals in a World Series, which was otherwise only memorable for a few defensive errors from Manny and a baserunning gaffe by Jason Marquis. All those runs your team scored were cool though.

And sitting there drenched in champagne, you know that this is it. There's no better feeling.

And you also realize that if the team was Peanuts, drawn by Charles Schultz, Mark Bellhorn would be Pig-Pen. The guy is just never clean.

If you hold the team together for the next year, even though it's neither fiscally responsible nor the best way to repeat, turn to Page 90.

If you let Derek Lowe, Orlando Cabrera, Pedro Martinez and a bunch of other guys out the door via free agency, taking draft picks with a heavy heart as you break up what now seems to be a family, knowing that the chemistry won't be the same in the clubhouse next year, turn to Page 68.

Page 68

It's the end of the 2005 season. Things didn't go too well, and you just got swept. Even so, you managed to win 95 games. But now that it's the offseason, you have to think about the contract again. You brought it up in Spring Training, but Larry brushed you off. You tried again near the all-star break, but again, came up empty handed.

All you want to do is work for the Red Sox, because that's where your heart is. But even so, all the trading, all the economics, especially all the bickering that goes on in the organization between Larry and the rest of the staff, really puts a damper on how you view your own team. No longer are they the team you grew up cheering for as a kid.

Even though your investment in them is much larger now, you can't help but wish for a simpler situation in which you could just cheer for the Sox and not wonder if Chuck LaMar is going to approach you about a trade, or if Larry is going to nix a deal, or if those pieces of sod that you sold after last season will ever ship. You don't want to worry about Damon's contract, or Manny, who, although he's a nice guy, is an absolute basketcase, or in Spanish, un basketcase, or marketing, or getting rid of the 406 club. You just want to enjoy baseball and get away for a bit.

"But c'mon," you rationalize.

"This is every kid's dream! Even if the reality is a bit more stark, it's still a great thing to do! It's still the only industry I really know. It's still home."

If you decide to renew your contract, turn to Page 100.

If you decide to keep thinking about it, turn to Page 87.

Page 87

You wake up on a Sunday morning. It's light outside, and your clock reads 8:00 AM. That can't be right, you think. You slept better than usual. Then you realize that you gained an hour due to daylight savings. That's a good way to start out the day.

Getting up, you walk to the front door to get the paper. You open it over coffee, only to spew the contents of your mouth over the front sports page as you read what that curly haired idiot at the Globe wrote about you.

It's insulting, that's what it is. Baseball isn't about infighting, or petty, underhanded arguments carried out through the media. It's not about making a buck if it means selling the heart and soul of your team out. It was bad enough that Jimmy Fallon got onto the baseball field when you won it all. But it's just too much. The trades you had to force yourself to make, the critics you had to face, the reporters that had to have a sound-byte in response to something Larry said.

It's over. You loved the game, and you loved your Red Sox, but you just can't justify working for them anymore. It would slowly poison you, until you were as cold and as unfeeling as Larry Lucchino, a mercenary that saw (sees) baseball only as a business. As Machiavellian as he is, you know that he's wrong.

Baseball is a business, but part of business is taking care of your own. And that's why, even though you know you want to take care of the team, and the players, and the fanbase, you can't do it anymore. You can give your body and mind to the sport and the team, but you can't sell your soul to it. When you lose that perspective, all you can take care of is the bottom-line, which is what people like Lucchino do. You can't turn into that.

You walk away, glad you can be a fan when you still can. You'll attend games next year, not as a businessman or a manager, but a fan. And you'll love the game.

Who knows, maybe in a year or two you'll miss the background and the behind-the-scenes dealings. But you need some time off first. You went out on top, and Boston will always love you no matter what happens after this.



Blogger panda said...

Good post, but for the entire time I was hoping you'd include an alternative ending which would have Theo abducted by aliens from a planet similar to Tralfamadore...

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


1) Lucchino is spelled with an H.

2) I believe Epstein got his internship with the O's through a letter he sent them (he sent several to other "local teams"), don't think he interviewed. Maybe he did.

3) He followed Lucchino to the Sox, not the other way around. He was supposed to be an Assistant GM, but when Beane turned down the Sox, and then Ricciardi joined the Blue Jays, he got offered the GM job.

Interesting blog, though.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Satchmo said...

1) Lucchino fixed. Thanks for pointing that out and making me look stupid. No seriously. Thanks

2) He did. I took a liberty (and did you like how being an English major circles you back to Page 1? I did)

3) Did I say Lucchino followed him to the Sox? If so, I need to find that and fix it. I didn't know I suggested that.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"2) He did. I took a liberty (and did you like how being an English major circles you back to Page 1? I did)"

That's really clever, actually. Missed it tho. Too subtle for me.

As for insinuating that Lucchino followed Epstein...maybe I didn't phrase that right. You did say "The Sox like your work" or something like "they've heard of you". Well, Lucchino knew him, of course, and Theo was sure to follow Lucky Larry anyway.

But it's cool - poetic license. Nice post.

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"2) He did. I took a liberty (and did you like how being an English major circles you back to Page 1? I did)"

That's really clever, actually. Missed it tho. Too subtle for me.

As for insinuating that Lucchino followed Epstein...maybe I didn't phrase that right. You did say "The Sox like your work" or something like "they've heard of you". Well, Lucchino knew him, of course, and Theo was sure to follow Lucky Larry anyway.

But it's cool - poetic license. Nice post.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Satchmo said...

Re: Epstein going to the Sox -

Good point. That probably was a bit too much license on my part.

9:55 AM  

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