The front-running Red Sox (last nine games: eight losses, one champagne bash, five Ortiz celebrations) have slinked home for the winter, telling you that the whole staff is coming back and everything is just swell with the Local Nine. The team that scored the most runs in baseball, consensus national media darlings, got broomed by a team that didn’t have two of its best pitchers or one of its best hitters, but never mind any of that. Masters of their own hype, the Red Sox no doubt will be preseason favorites to get to the 2017 World Series. They always are . . . even though they have failed to win a playoff game in seven of the last eight Octobers.Now that the Red Sox are out of the playoffs, you, Red Sox fans, need to jump off the bandwagon like Shank and root, root, root for someone else, like the Chicago Cubs Why's that, you ask?
If you are a Red Sox fan, the Cubs are your team the rest of the way. They are sitting on a drought of 108 years since winning their last World Series. You know what 86 years feels like. Like the Sox, the Cubs have been masters of the near-miss. They had Steve Bartman the same year the Sox had Aaron Boone. They had Leon Durham before you had Bill Buckner. They have the Billy Goat where you had the Bambino. They had the black cat before you had Bucky Dent.You guys remember Theo Epstein, right? The guy Shank tried running out of town one year after winning that World Series at the behest of Larry Lucchino?
They have Theo Epstein, the Brookline-born architect of the 2004 Red Sox. Theo has wingmen Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, the same guys who helped build the Red Sox when they were kids. The Cubs have grandpa catcher David Ross, who was one of the spiritual leaders of the 2013 Red Sox. They have John Lackey, who hated Boston, but pitched his butt off and won the final game of the 2013 World Series.
Question for Shank - is it still a mistake to say he knows more about baseball than Lucchino or anyone else in the Red Sox baseball operation?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.
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.
It was charged last week that Sox management conducted a ''smear campaign" against Epstein. How? Where's the campaign? It was correctly reported that Theo turned down a three-year deal at $1.2 million per year. That's a smear campaign? There have been no quotes from Sox management on the negotiations. Lucchino and Epstein called me together at home Friday night but said they could say nothing about Theo's contract talks because they had not spoken with other outlets. So much for the Globe's ''home-court advantage" (the Globe's parent company, The New York Times Company, owns 17 percent of the Red Sox). So much for the cartel. In fact, Epstein's minions probably have done more talking about Theo's situation than anyone in Sox management. When postseason baseball visited Chicago, at least one nationally known Lucchino-hating Epstein source was trashing the Sox CEO to anyone who'd listen.