Monday, October 31, 2005

Journalism and Red Sox baseball

Red Sox wunderkind Theo Epstein has resigned from the Boston Red Sox, contrary to reports this morning in the Boston Globe that his contract would be extended.

Theo, as he is known in the Boston area and throughout the diaspora of Red Sox Nation, left with a classy statement.

The Boston Globe is owned by the New York Times, which has a 17 percent ownership of the Boston Red Sox -- another reason to doubt journalistic integrity in this day and age. The Boston Herald, which did not get the antiscoop of Theo resigning a contract for three more years (not resigning his contract and leaving the team) has the massive scoop this evening. Theo, the Herald reported, is unhappy with the Globe's coverage on Sunday.

Michael Silverman of the Herald broke this one, and no doubt the dynamics between the two Boston dailies are fairly obvious (emphasis added):

Money and length of the contract were not issues in the past few days for Epstein, who had lobbied hard for an annual salary of more than $1 million a year.

Epstein had come close to agreeing to a deal Saturday evening but had not officially conveyed acceptance of it. On Sunday, he began having serious misgivings about staying on. A leading contributing factor, according to sources close to the situation, was a column in Sunday’s Boston Globe in which too much inside information about the relationship between Epstein and his mentor, team president and CEO Larry Lucchino, was revealed -- in a manner slanted too much in Lucchino’s favor. Epstein, according to these sources, had several reasons to believe Lucchino was a primary source behind the column and came to the realization that if this information were leaked hours before Epstein was going to agree to a new long-term deal, it signaled excessive bad faith between him and Lucchino.

That column, of course, needs to be read with a careful eye. It is, simply put, a journalistic embarrassment -- even for a Sport's writer. The headline calls for dirty laundry to get aired out, but Dan Shaughnessy's column is written from one person's waste basket alone.

Some of the excerpts I imagine set off the World Series winning GM:

Larry taught Theo too well and now he is looking in the mirror as he tries to hammer out a deal with the GM he made in his own image. Both are merely doing what they are trained to do. In Theo's case, he's doing what Larry trained him to do.

Lucchino and Dr. Charles Steinberg are a pair of Red Sox executives who ''discovered" Theo when he was a student at Yale. They picked him out of thousands of wannabe interns.

Let's start with Theo being a ''baseball guy" while Larry is a lawyer with a lofty title (CEO). Granted, Epstein is a student of the game, but it's a mistake to say he knows more about baseball than Lucchino or anyone else in the Red Sox baseball operation. Theo is 31 years old and did not play baseball past high school. He spent four years at Yale and three years at law school. That hardly leaves time for much more than rotisserie league scouting. He can read the data and has a horde of trusty, like-minded minions, but we're not talking about a lifetime of beating the bushes and scouting prospects. Lucchino was a good high school baseball player and made it to the NCAA Final Four with Princeton's basketball team. He came to baseball as an executive in 1979, when Theo was 5 years old. That doesn't make him George Digby or Ray Boone, but he's not Les Otten, either.

The offenses: Larry trained Theo. Theo was one among a legion of wannabe interns. Making the NCAAs at Princeton makes you a baseball maestro.

We do not even need to get into the fact that Shaughnessy was writing his column to defend the executives of a sister company.

Good luck, Boston's Olde Towne Team. I have been a fan for life but I am done with you now. Besides, I've got a sweet offer from a Mets' partisan to cheer on Pedro and await their new stadium.


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