The departing general manager of a baseball team can’t take his players with him. Regarding Theo Epstein’s decision to leave the Red Sox, that’s the only thing about which the Boston Red Sox can feel good.
It’s easy to suggest that any general manager given the money the Red Sox have been willing to spend on players could succeed, but the Boston team has always spent lavishly, and Theo Epstein is the only general manager to have presided over a World Series winner at Fenway since 1918.
While Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, and Nomar Garciapara departed and Curt Schilling and David Ortiz arrived; while Alex Rodriguez almost arrived and then joined the Yankees instead; while Manny Ramirez demanded to be traded and almost got traded but didn’t, and then reconsidered, and then demanded to be traded again; while the bullpen-by-committee transmogrified into Keith Foulke, and then while Keith Foulke went on the disabled list and turned the closer’s duties over to Curt Schilling; while Grady little gave way to Terry Francona…while all this volatile foolishness transpired, Theo Epstein presided over a team that made the playoffs for three straight years.
The lesson here, beyond the obvious if infuriating, on-going demonstration that the Red Sox can’t stand prosperity, is that for owners, team presidents, CEO’s, and general managers, baseball is a business. Doctors, lawyers, insurance executives, and hospital administrators daydream about how much fun it would be to run the home town baseball team, trading for their favorite players and slipping wily suggestions to the manager. But the administrators actually responsible for operating the franchise are as likely to resent each other, gossip about each other, blame each other for failures, and stab each other in the back as executives and administrators in any other line of work.
Was Theo Epstein breaking away from the father figure Larry Lucchino had been for him? Was Lucchino enacting some sort of oedipal kill-the-son-before-he-can-kill-the-father melodrama? We may never know. but we have been reminded that come the fall, the summer game is no game at all.