After the 2006 debacle when Theo Epstein returned it was largely considered that Epstein had won nearly complete control over the baseball operations from Larry Lucchino. It sure seemed that way as the Red Sox spent the next two seasons largely adding the type of players Epstein liked. Players who might not have been as “entertaining”, but won games no matter how they did it.
Then things seemed to change after the Red Sox fell out of the playoffs last year. The Red Sox for the first time in a long time made a Yankee type signing by going big early and stealing Carl Crawford before free agency even got in full swing. Then they added long time target Adrian Gonzalez, who fits the Epstein mold, but even still with only one year left on his deal it was a big switch to see Epstein trade his best prospects for him.
Now with Terry Francona being shown the door as reports state that he was not offered an option it is becoming clear that many day to day decisions are being either made by John Henry or influenced by him. This is concerning for many reasons and surely brings back thoughts of someone like George Steinbrenner. His influence has not feen nearly as vocal or loud, but it’s pretty clear it’s there.
The other reason there is concern over this new found interest in day to day operations is that this appears to be the reason Epstein wanted to walk away in 2006. Then it was Lucchino, but the reason was the same. Epstein wanted full control over baseball operations and wanted final say. Did that seem like the case with Crawford, Gonzalez of the letting go of Francona?
If Epstein is on the end of more calls from Henry telling him how to run the team then it seems more and more likely that Epstein could be on his way to Chicago to run the Cubs. It would require the Cubs ownership giving him complete control, but I can’t see many teams not willing to give that to him after what he has brought to the Red Sox.
Why has Henry become more vocal on personel moves and now the manager position? After ratings began to fall last year you could explain why he supplied the money and drive to make a big splash last season. (If only they had put that money into Cliff Lee instead of Carl Crawford) How do you defend pushing such a successful manager out the door though?
The timing for Henry’s increase in interest is also odd. This spring Larry Lucchino said that the ownership group would see the team through the 2012 season and 100 years aft Fenway Park, but he admitted the team could be sold to new ownership in the next decade. Is Henry trying to push hard for one more win or build a team worth more when he sells? I don’t think he’s thinking that far ahead, but if they have discussed selling then his actions come at a weird time.
Henry has always been a vocal partner and his verbal actions have not been increased, but rumors have been louder that he is behind the signings and actions of the front office. If this is the case I could easily believe that Epstein would be interested in the Cubs job and could be gone sooner rather than later. September could be remembered as the worst month in a long time and a historic collapse, but it could lead to a front office clearing that changes the makeup of the Boston Red Sox for years to come.