Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It's the talk of Boston these days. You hear of nothing else. The calamity due to pig-headed, official decision making. The calamity brought on by the President's toxic spin --- channeled through a well-connected, out of control member of the press. A member of the press who lately has come up with a totally lame, fundamentally bogus apologia for the way he injected himself into the story, and caused the problem in the first place.

Himself, yes. Dan Shaughnessy. Who did you think I was talking about?

The calamity to which I refer is the sudden departure of Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who dealed the Red Sox to one World Series win, and might have had another this year if his erstwhile blue-chip closer, Keith Foulke, had been more than shadow of his former self. (Foulke just wasn't effective --- and to make a long story short, the ripple effects of his failure sunk the rest of the bullpen).

As of last Friday, everyone involved thought Theo and the rest of Red Sox management --- most notably Red Sox President Larry Lucchino --- were pretty close to a deal to renew his contract. Then, on Sunday, a Shaughnessy column appeared, loaded with Red Sox front-office gossip, thoroughly slanted against Theo. On Monday, he was cleaning out his office. And his public statements have made plain that money was no longer the issue (the Red Sox had nearly doubled their initial offer); he was just sick of the backstabbing around the office.

The problems seem to center around the relationship between Theo and Lucchino. Lucchino seems to be prone to problematic relationships. In part that's because of his habit of meddling with the work of subordinates, like his cancellation of a trade with the Rockies that Theo had already agreed to earlier this year, infuriating them. And in part it's because of his habit of sliming other people in the press. Earlier this year, he was complaining about the work habits of Manny Ramirez to the media. (Maybe it's something in the water here; there were similar complaints about Ted Williams, who was never traded --- and Babe Ruth, who, of course, was). Gee, do you think that helped Theo, who was actually trying to arrange a trade at the time that Lucchino was talking down the goods? In any case, this has been going on a good long time. The reason that the Red Sox wound up with Theo the Boy Wonder (he was not even 30) as GM was because at least two more experienced candidates didn't want to put up with Lucchino.

Which brings me to the column, and to Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy has built up his own career on tearing down the team. The "Curse of the Bambino" was, quite literally, something he made up --- and then dined out on for decades. But it's one thing to gloat at the team's public misfortunes. Now, by relaying skewed accounts of internal gossip, particularly concerning the Colorado trade (reporting as fact Lucchino's absurd claim that he was doing Theo's bidding in killing the deal), he's made himself part of the story --- and his subsequent, "what, me worry" denial of his own role is getting skewered all over town.

A few weeks ago, Matt Yglesias was attacked all over the liberal blogsphere for using sports metaphors in a post which argued that the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea to begin with. (Though strangely, a lot of the Matt's overly offensensitive attackers didn't seem to have read far enough into the thing to realize that on substantive points, he agreed with them). Well, I'll say this much for sports metaphors: if they can get Judith Miller roasted on a public spit, I'm all for it.


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