It’s not Dave Dombrowski. It’s not Ben Cherington, either. It’s not Mike Hazen. It’s not ownership. It’s certainly not Bill James.Naturally, Shank was singing a different tune a few years ago:
None of the above.
No. This Red Sox team you have come to love early in the 2016 Boston baseball season — this team that looks like it might be a worst-to-first facsimile of the 2013 bearded wonders — was largely built by Theo Epstein.
He was the Camelot Kid from Brookline when he became general manager of the Red Sox at the age of 28 in November of 2002. He took charge of a roster assembled by Dan Duquette, made big bold deals, and got all the credit when the Sox won their first World Series in the biblical October of 2004.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — The blame pie is big and heavy.Last but certainly not least, who can forget the infamous Dirty Laundry column?
There’s a giant slice for Bobby Valentine. We all know Bobby’s the reason everything went wrong with the 2012 Red Sox. Ownership gets three hefty slices. John, Tom, and Larry lost their way in the name of sellouts, bricks, and NESN ratings. Theo Epstein is a handy dartboard ornament. He gets a solid slice of blame pie.
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.Dan Shaughnessy - the ultimate weathervane.
Lucchino-bashers, and they are legion, maintain that he repeatedly has undermined Theo and on occasion killed deals made by Epstein and the minions. There was one, for sure. When Theo's assistant Josh Byrnes (hired by Arizona as GM Friday) made a deal with Colorado, Epstein thought he had a better deal with another club and requested that Lucchino fall on the sword and invoke the ownership approval clause to kill the Rockies deal. Accustomed to people hating him, Lucchino took the fall, killing the deal and saving Epstein.
Publicly, Theo always has talked about ''mutual respect" regarding his relationship with dad Larry. They know that their silence produced considerable speculation and acrimony. Fans and media members have taken shots and taken sides. The Sox tomorrow will present a united front. It still can work. The only unfortunate aspect is that the embers will smolder for years to come. We know too much now.