|Monday, November 25
Updated: November 26, 5:05 PM ET
Epstein's promotion completes front-office overhaul
BOSTON -- It's no wonder the Boston Red Sox are so comfortable putting the team in the hands of 28-year-old Theo Epstein. After all, the New York Yankees won three World Series after they hired the youngest general manager in the major leagues.
The Red Sox made Epstein the youngest GM in big league history on Monday, giving the local boy wonder a promotion and hoping he can lead the team to its first World Series title since 1918.
''We're going to become a championship organization,'' he said at a news conference at Fenway Park, about a mile from where he was raised. ''We're going to win a World Series.''
Much has been made of Epstein's age -- the joke on talk radio is that he can be a San Francisco Giants bat boy when he grows up -- but the only difference between him and previous Boston GMs is the era in which the Red Sox first broke their hearts.
It's now 84 seasons since the Red Sox last won it all, a fact not lost on Epstein. He moved to the area at the age of 4½ in 1978 -- ''the Bucky Dent year,'' he noted, though no one around here really needs reminding.
''I was a Red Sox fan from Day 1,'' said Epstein, who is the 11th GM since the club's first was hired in 1933. ''Growing up in New England, you never lose the Red Sox from your blood. Being here, being general manager of this club, it just feels right.''
The Red Sox had been without a permanent general manager since Florida financier John W. Henry bought the team in spring training and fired Dan Duquette. Mike Port was the interim GM during the season and a candidate for the long-term job; he has been invited to remain as vice president of baseball operations but has not decided whether to accept.
Former Philadelphia Phillies general manager Lee Thomas, who had been a special assistant under Port, has also been asked to stay on, with expanded duties. Former Detroit Tigers GM Bill Lajoie could also be asked aboard as the Red Sox try to supplement Epstein's brains and exuberance with more experienced hands -- an organizational structure the Yankees used to ease Brian Cashman into the top job there.
''I definitely see a similarity,'' said Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, who has nurtured Epstein at three major league organizations. ''But it's not just a Yankees model, it's the kind of baseball braintrust they're using in Oakland and other places.''
Lucchino was running the show in Baltimore when Epstein came on as an intern, and he followed Lucchino to the San Diego Padres. Epstein spent two years in San Diego's media relations department, two as a baseball operations assistant and became the Padres' director of baseball operations after his graduation in 2000.
Still, his heart was with the Red Sox. And when the group headed by Henry and TV producer Tom Werner bought the team in February and put Lucchino in charge, Epstein came in as assistant GM.
He toiled at Port's side this year, representing the club at the general managers' meetings and even negotiating with Oakland over compensation when it appeared that Athletics GM Billy Beane would take the Boston job. Beane backed out, citing family reasons, and joined in the chorus of those recommending Epstein for the job.
Last week, without ever interviewing Epstein or even acknowledging he was being considered, Lucchino began to focus on the candidate right in front of him.
''We're aware that as a public relations matter there are safer choices. But Theo is someone who is ready for this job,'' Lucchino said. ''Theo is young, but he's older than he was when the process started.''
With that, Epstein became the newest of baseball's new breed. Epstein is 34 days shy of his 29th birthday; Randy Smith was 29, six days short of his 30th birthday, when he was hired by the San Diego Padres in 1993.
''Irrespective of his age, we are confident Theo is among the best and the brightest in baseball,'' Werner said. ''We believe that the team he'll assemble will achieve results for which we so yearn.''
Epstein takes over a team that had baseball's second-highest payroll last year, more than $110 million. The Red Sox finished second in the AL East at 93-69, 10½ games behind the New York Yankees and six games behind Anaheim for the AL wild card.
Epstein said he supports manager Grady Little but had less to say about the roster. Among the issues that will come up during his three-year contract are whether to re-sign shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and pitcher Pedro Martinez, who could become free agents after the 2004 season.
''I grew up second-guessing Red Sox general managers,'' Epstein said. ''I guess now I'll be second-guessing myself.''