Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Study In Contrasts: Bob Kraft = Class; Larry Lucchino = No Class

As the sun rises over Boston this morning, Red Sox Nation is in mourning – and it has nothing to do with relinquishing the World Series crown to a team that wears a “whiter shade of pale” hose. Theo Epstein has resigned, and it never should have come to this.

In this space, in the past I have rhapsodized about the Red Sox ownership and leadership team. They have done some wonderful things - both on and off the field. Over the course of the past three years, I have had the opportunity to have personal conversations with all the players involved in the latest embarrassing events and intrigue emanating from the Kremlin on Yawkey Way. I have spoken with John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Dr. Charles Steinberg and Theo Epstein on more than one occasion. So, I am writing not just as a passionate and life-long Red Sox fan, but also as someone who has had an opportunity to observe some of what goes on behind the Wizard’s curtain. Bottom line: I am disgusted and sorely disenchanted with what appears to be a lack of character and class on the part of Lucchino and Steinberg in spinning their way to a media smear campaign to sway public opinion against Theo Epstein as contract negotiations reached a fever pitch and the 11th hour loomed.

All of the facts have not been revealed – and may never be objectively revealed – but from my vantage point it looks as if the following scenario played itself out:

Theo’s three-year contract (annual pay around $350K per year) expired last night at midnight. To the casual observer, one would have expected that the Red Sox organization, on the heels of their World Series victory a year ago, would have torn up Theo’s contract and rewarded his success with a new long-term deal. That did not happen. Apparently, in the past few weeks, the Red Sox presented Theo will a low-ball offer of around $850K/year for three years – not bad for a 31 year-old, but pathetically low when one considers that this is about the same salary earned by the recently-deposed GM of the hapless Tampa Bay Devil Rays. By way of contrast, before elevating Theo to the role of GM, the Red Sox had tried to woo Billy Beane away from the Oakland A’s for a reported $2 million per year. The Yankees GM, Brian Cashman, recently signed a multi-year deal at more than $2 million/year.

Early reports yesterday had the Red Sox and Theo agreeing to a new three-year deal at $1.5 million per year. Over the weekend, Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote a piece with information clearly leaked by Lucchino and Steinberg. That Shaughnessy column painted Theo in a bad light regarding an aborted trade last summer involving the Colorado Rockies. Apparently, Theo was furious, and cleaned out his desk.

From my vantage point a few miles west of Fenway Park, it appears that Theo decided on principle to walk away from a guaranteed $4.5 million dollar payday because he was no longer willing to work for an organization that would treat a successful employee with such disdain in order to spin public opinion towards the side of the owners. Bravo for Theo! Shame of Lucchino! No class!

In sharp contrast, in a move that has garnered little media attention, New England Patriots’ owner, Bob Kraft, made a moral decision that I applaud. In paving the way for the return of Tedy Bruschi to the Pats’ line-up last Sunday night, Kraft apparently rejected the advice of his own attorneys, who had urged him to require Bruschi to sign a waiver of liability agreement, holding the Patriots’ harmless in case of any injuries that Tedy might incur in the wake of the mild stroke that he suffered eight months ago. I cannot recall Kraft’s exact words, but when asked about the issues he said something very close to the following: “We are a family; we don’t need signed legal agreements to protect us from a scenario like this.” In this litigious age, that is a rare demonstration of good faith and class! Kudos to Kraft!

I will still attend games at Fenway, but some of the magic has faded. Emerald City is still magical, but the “Wizard” behind the curtain working the dials and levers has been exposed as a cantankerous old man with bad breath and a bad habit of kicking Toto! No class!

Theo, we're not in Kansas any more!

There's no place like home!

Go Sox!

Go Pats!

Go Theo!


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with "My Pal Al." His much esteemed analysis hits the mark. The Theo debacle reminds me of a gentleman most of you know: Drew Bledsoe. True gentlemen who TRULY model "others above self" are hard to come by. There are plenty of "OK" athletes who probably are very nice people. But the class acts are rare and are the true gems of the game. Drew sat patiently all year when he was sidelined by injury and then replaced. I was in Pittsburgh for the AFC championship when he got the chance to finish the game. Seeing him bound across the field and get the high-fives from his teammates was a moment I won't soon forget. I wish Theo had gotten more of those same "high fives" instead of the gamesmanship. I certainly am not delighted about how this will pan out in our off-season acquisitions, either.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this debacle will distract from the normal amount of off season excitement for the up coming '06 chase. There appears to be an underlying theme of owners to keep things the way they want them with no movement towards the best way to conduct their business. With that said, it is their business, isn't it?...What if we choose to move away from their role modelling and select a different sport with much better role models. Soccer, basketball or even football. Surely there is someone out there who conducts themselves properly and makes our chest swell with anticipation of their next move.........wait a minute, WHAT ABOUT BOB KRAFT? I hear he's available.

Jacob said...

I am particularly distressed by these events because it reminds me of those bleak days in the early 1990s when the Sox seemed endlessly mired in sloppy business decisions and poor planning. These past few years have been wonderful because it has been a breath of fresh air to see the Sox begin to look more like the Patriots - a lean, efficient business with allot of heart.

This is a big step backwards and it is very upsetting to see.