Friday, November 4, 2005
Searching for St. Theo
By Jim Caple
The saddest part of St. Theo leaving the Red Sox? Had he only made his decision just a few hours earlier, he would have been available for a Supreme Court nomination.
Or, had Theo made the decision just a week earlier, he could have been named Alan Greenspan's replacement at the Federal Reserve. Or better, had he made the decision during spring training, the College of Cardinals could have elected him Pope. Or, based on the breathless tributes, he could have taken any other similarly high post befitting someone who has been a baseball general manager for almost three whole years.
It's hard to know for sure, because of the way the mainstream media, talk radio and blogosphere have buried this story, but Epstein apparently left the Red Sox because he didn't always see eye-to-eye with team president Larry Lucchino. This is a startling development, of course, because it makes him the first person in history who did not get along with his boss.
And who can blame him? After all, Lucchino only hired Epstein a decade ago, then made him the game's youngest general manager, then gave him the second-largest budget in baseball to work with, and then offered him a $4.5 million contract to stay. The gall! Imagine working for such an ogre. That is so much worse than what Brian Cashman or Terry Ryan ever have to deal with.
Yes, his departure is sad but at least we're finally learning the true story behind the Red Sox's success. For a long time, I was under the impression it was David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez who hit all those home runs, and Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez who pitched all the games, and Jason Varitek who caught all those pitches. But now I understand that it was all Theo. And he's leaving! No wonder Red Sox Nation is grieving!
There has so much wild speculation about his next career that we're led to believe Theo is currently deciding whether to make millions on Wall Street, run for Congress or join the Peace Corps and dig wells in Sudan.
In other words, the Theo tributes have gotten a little thick. Just once, I would love to read speculation that doesn't include the man curing cancer or ridding the world of e-mail spam.
Theo's initial plans are to spend April and May doing something he's always dreamed of experiencing but never could while he was in baseball: Clubbing baby seals at the annual harvest in Newfoundland. It's startling but true. The rivalry with the Yankees only whet his appetite for bloodlust. This time he wants to get out of his padded seat and participate. Get right in there with the clubs and the blood and the pelts. It will be like playing the Devil Rays.
Following that, he'll spend the summer touring as a roadie with Motley Crue. He wants to wear spandex and take whiskey/heroin enemas and screw five women a night and fall asleep in his own vomit and use a hypodermic needle full of adrenaline as an alarm clock. Then again, don't we all?
After that, he plans to take a consulting job with Exxon. You think their profits are obscene now? By the time Theo is through, they'll be making so much money they'll have to send their annual reports out in a brown wrapper. And after he's gotten the oil industry back on track, he'll take over his dream job: CEO of Halliburton.
Naturally, he'll still find time for his role as spokesperson for the tobacco industry.
Does all that seem a little ridiculous, a little over the top? Perhaps, but not much more outlandish than some of the St. Theo hyperbole. I'm not sure whether Red Sox fans want Theo rehired or canonized.
Five days into the Post-Theo Era, I suggest everyone drink a nice big glass of Calm Down.
Yes, Theo is an intelligent guy who did an excellent job as the general manager and he can probably do many other things very well in life. But he still was a baseball general manager for crying out loud, not the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, the director of Habitat for Humanity or the guy who developed Google. I mean, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams just accomplished the exact same thing as Theo and with a much smaller payroll. And I don't see anyone anointing Williams as an irreplaceable genius.
Personally, I agree with a friend who thinks Epstein was simply smart enough to get out while he was still revered. With a questionable pitching staff, yet another Manny trade demand ("And this time I really mean it!") and a probable team makeover that does not involve Carson Kressley, the likeliest short-term direction for the Red Sox is down. Perhaps Theo shrewdly decided to leave now as a saint rather than wait until talk radio started complaining that he was a moron.
Either that, or the Jon Daniels hiring in Texas made him feel really old.
Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," is on sale at bookstores nationwide. It also can be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.