Four to replace Theo at annual general manager meet

Updated: November 6, 2005, 12:40 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- First came closer by committee. Then the Boston Red Sox tried to anoint themselves co-division champions.

Now the Red Sox are adopting a new kind of job share, sending four people to baseball's general managers' meetings next week while they search for a singular successor to Theo Epstein.

"We really are going to work as one group," said Jed Hoyer, the general manager's assistant without a general manager to assist. "We are really going to be no different from the 29 other teams out there."

Well, not exactly.

The Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers are the only teams that don't have a general manager as next week's GM meetings in Indian Wells, Calif., approach. Boston will send Hoyer along with director of player development Ben Cherington, special assistant to the general manager Craig Shipley and director of baseball operations Peter Woodfork.

In a tag-team conference call with reporters Saturday, they insisted that Boston's baseball operations were business as usual.

"Looking from the outside, it may appear there is turmoil," Shipley said. "On the inside, I can tell you, that is not the case."

In addition to talking trade, the GM meetings are usually a place to open discussions with free agents. Boston's top priority is center fielder Johnny Damon.

"Make no mistake," team president Larry Lucchino said in a statement issued Friday, "they are also empowered to speak with other clubs and with agents and to consummate any deal they feel will be in the best interest of the Boston Red Sox."

All four emissaries have also been mentioned as possible successors to Epstein, the most successful general manager in franchise history before he walked away from the team rather than accept a three-year contract extension for $4.5 million.

But none has asked for the job, Shipley said.

"What's most appropriate is to focus on the task at hand," Cherington said. "I think any of us that are working in this business have aspirations. It's just not the time right now to be focused on those aspirations."

Epstein has continued to come into the office to help prepare for the meetings, but that is expected to end when his former assistants leave for California. They said they will continue to call him for help, if needed -- unless he winds up working for another team.

Although all four spoke glowingly of Epstein, there was a long silence when they were asked whether they tried to talk him into staying.

"I think we all hoped Theo would stay," Woodfork said. "We thought very highly of him. The choice was his."

Epstein's reasons remain a mystery, but he alluded in his farewell news conference to news leaks about his negotiations that may have caused a breach in trust with Lucchino, his longtime mentor.

"I guess we could say he left for a reason to be named later," said owner John Henry, who insisted that Lucchino was not to blame for the divorce.

Lucchino has not commented on the fiasco, but in a statement on Friday he said, "This group has the full confidence of the ownership and management of the Red Sox."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press