By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Theomania

Jay Fitzgerald’s got most of the relevant links this morning, so I’m not going to repeat them all. There seems to be little doubt that Dan Shaughnessy’s column in the Sunday Globe was a major factor in Theo Epstein’s decision to quit as Red Sox general manager. For support, I cite a neutral observer, Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal, who has an analysis today at ESPN.com. McAdam writes:

A column in the Boston Globe on Sunday, which Epstein deduced had been leaked by Lucchino or others on the CEO’s staff, intimated that the general manager had been at fault when a proposed multi-player deal with the Colorado Rockies fell through at last summer’s trade deadline.

(In truth, ownership made Epstein cancel the agreed-upon deal, though Lucchino reportedly later blamed the mess on [Epstein’s then-assistant Josh] Byrnes in talks with Rockies ownership.)

The column further stated that Lucchino had accepted public blame for the fallout to spare his general manager further embarrassment.

This incensed Epstein and, along with other anecdotal evidence, caused him to reconsider working under Lucchino for another three seasons. By late morning Monday, he had made up his mind: His tenure with the Red Sox was over.

This isn’t spin from the Globe’s archrivals over at One Herald Square. And it makes laughable Shaughnessy’s assertion today that “it seems pretty ridiculous that Theo would break away from a man he worked with for 14 years because of a few lines he read in a column in the Sunday Globe.” In fact, that’s a grossly oversimplified version of what McAdam is reporting. It wasn’t the column that made Epstein quit; rather, it was the fact that the column contained clear evidence that Epstein’s rift with Sox president Larry Lucchino couldn’t be mended.

Which leaves us with some questions:

1. Even if you accept that Shaughnessy’s column helped push Epstein out the door, does it then follow that this has something to do with the reality that the Globe’s parent company, the New York Times Co., is a 17 percent owner of the Sox? That’s what everyone seems to think at the Herald and on WEEI Radio (AM 850), but I’m not sure how one follows from the other. Shaughnessy, after all, just did a huge amount of damage to the Times Co.’s investment.

Lucchino obviously likes to suck up to the Globe — but that could be more because the paper is New England’s dominant media institution than because they’re business partners. Still, this is an awkward relationship given that such questions inevitably come up at times like this. Naturally, the Herald can’t resist doing a sidebar today on the “Cozy Sox-Globe ties.”

2. Should Shaughnessy have refrained from writing his Sunday column, with its over-the-top spin in favor of Lucchino and against Epstein? I’m not going to suggest that Shaughnessy should consider his words carefully lest they damage the team. (That’s what he’d do if he really were concerned with protecting his employer’s business interests.) But Shaughnessy appears to have used his column in order to advance Lucchino’s version of events without taking into account the possibility that he was getting spun. Still, Bruce Allen is surely right when he says, “It is clear though, if Shaughnessy didn’t write the article on Sunday, someone else would have.”

3. Might Theo still be talked into staying? The line of the day goes to Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who tells the Globe’s Gordon Edes, “I’ll believe it when I’m at the general managers’ meetings next week in Palm Springs and he’s not in his chair. It’s like a Mafia hit. You don’t believe it until you see the guy at the funeral.”

4. Will Shaughnessy show up on Mike Barnicle’s radio program this morning?

5. What would I learn from Peter Gammons, whose wisdom would be available to me if only I were a paid subscriber to ESPN.com?


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8 Comments

  1. Bryan Person

    Shaughnessy will surely make an appearance on 96.9 today. He was already on Kiss 108 this morning, speaking with Matty a little bit after 7:30am. He pretty much repeated what was in his Globe column today, that Theo was too smart and mature to leave the GM job just because of one of his columns.

  2. Anonymous

    What caught my eye was Shaughnessy’s claim that he has three sources for his leak. But he doesn’t say anything about going to Theo for a comment. Then he goes and dutifully reports it as news. Then, in the very next paragraph, he sneers at the smear campaign story. Um, Dan? The smear was in the last two sentences you just wrote. -pg

  3. mike_b1

    DK writes, Still, Bruce Allen is surely right when he says, “It is clear though, if Shaughnessy didn’t write the article on Sunday, someone else would have.”Not sure how you come up with that. Dan admits to a Friday night phone call with Theo and Larry, and says the column came out of that. No one else wrote anything! Now, I think Dan writes that column either way, but I think everyone else was op-ed’ed out at that point.

  4. kevin

    So Dan Shaughnessy had a conference call with the Red Sox including Lucinno and Epstein and wrote a column on it. Big Deal. Do you really believe a guy is going to make a desicion on a 4 million dollar contract based on one article in the paper and if he is do you want a guy like that running your team. Looks like people wnat a 25 words or less answer to what most likely is the accumalation of a 14 years relationship. Personally I think Epstein made the right move he is never going to top the past 3 years it is only going to get ugly from here for the team. He can go to anothercity pretty much any city where a baseball GM is as unknown as the local bank president and enjoy himself.

  5. mike_b1

    Kevin, when after agreeeing with your boss not to talk publicly, that same boss goes to the biggest paper in town and spreads a bunch of old and unnecessary gossip about you, well, yes, I think that would make someone walk away from a $4 million contract, especially when you are almost assured of making a similar amount elsewhere. In fact, athletes do that all the time.

  6. Anonymous

    Kevin, the gripe here isn’t about Theo’s decision, or whether it’s good or bad for Red Sox fans. It’s about Dan Shaughnessy functioning as a tool of the Red Sox front office instead of doing his job. He served as the uncritical conduit of a smear against Theo Epstein, and presented it as factual reporting of what transpired.

  7. Anonymous

    Wow. ‘functining as a tool of the Red Sox front office instead of doing his job’So I guess you must be a tool for the Herald. Who cares if it’s your opinion, if you disagree with mine you are obviously being a “tool.”get a life.

  8. Anonymous

    I assure you, I have a life. And in that life, I have no use for the Herald. True, they do still have a couple of good reporters in their metro section, and a couple good sports writers. But I just cannot stomach that rag. And I am a Globe subscriber (despite the fact that it often disappoints me).This isn’t about the Herald. It’s about Dan Shaughnessy being spoon-fed a smear by Lucchino, and acting very much like a PR guy for the Red Sox front office, and very little like a journalist. And it’s about the apparent lack of strong oversight from an editor. And Massarotti’s piece was not factully inaccurate. The Red Sox were leaking information about the ongoing negotiations, despite having agreed to keep mum. The smear process was taking shape.

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