Epstein will return to former role as Red Sox GM

BOSTON -- Theo Epstein's new job is the same as his old one: general manager of the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox announced Tuesday that Epstein would resume his former duties -- nothing more and nothing less than when he left Oct 31.

"While Theo was contemplating returning to the organization in an advisory role," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said in a statement, "he and I talked and agreed it was best for the organization if he returned as general manager -- a title more appropriate for him because it accurately reflects the role he will play.

"Theo returns as general manager to an organization that is different from the one he left on Oct. 31. The 14-year relationship between Theo and me, and the passage of time over the last three months, have helped to put behind us the friction that developed during last year's negotiations."

Once the youngest general manager in baseball history and still the only one to win a World Series in Boston, Epstein walked away from his dream job on Halloween after a never-explained internal squabble convinced him he could no longer put his whole heart into the job.

But even after leaving -- fleeing Fenway Park in a gorilla suit to avoid the encamped media -- Epstein remained in touch with his former colleagues.

After a halfhearted search to replace him, the Red Sox announced Dec. 12 that Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington, two of Epstein's former lieutenants, would serve as co-GMs. Last week, the team said Epstein would return to baseball operations full-time, in a capacity to be determined. Epstein's resumption of the GM title was first reported Tuesday by the Boston Herald on its Web site

Neither last week's statement nor the one released Tuesday specified what led to the friction, though Lucchino alluded to an improved relationship between the business and baseball sides of the organization.

"Walls have crumbled, perceptions of one another have changed, and appreciation of one another has grown," Lucchino said. "As an enhanced sense of 'team' has emerged, we have rediscovered that, whatever our differences may have been, baseball is at the center of our operations and our lives, and working toward the success of the Red Sox is a commitment which all of us share."

Epstein said in his statement that there were "fundamental disagreements among members of upper management" about organizational priorities.

"This lack of a shared vision, plus the stress of a far-too-public negotiation, strained some relationships, including mine with Larry Lucchino," he said.

"Gradually, with the benefit of time and greater perspective, we tackled not only our personal conflicts but also the differences regarding our thoughts for the organization. We emerged, 10 weeks and many spirited conversations later, with the comfort of a shared vision for the future of the organization."

Hoyer's new job will be assistant general manager, and Cherington was given the title of vice president of player personnel. Bill Lajoie stays on as a special adviser for baseball operations and Craig Shipley was named vice president for international scouting and special assistant to the general manager.

Hoyer and Cherington acknowledged that they knew when they took the GM job that Epstein was expected to return. They were told then what their roles would be, Red Sox owner John Henry said.

"So this is hardly a demotion," he said. "It is a fact that Red Sox baseball operations have been and will continue to be a collaborative process that its members enjoy."

Much of the media coverage of Epstein's departure focused on a power struggle between him and Lucchino, his longtime mentor. Henry also has those reports were untrue.

"It was simply mythology," he said. "I can assure you as we move forward that Larry's role has not changed at all, and no general manager in baseball could ask for more autonomy than Theo has."

Last week's confirmation of Epstein's long-anticipated return was hailed by those who credit him for assembling the team that won it all in 2004, ending Boston's 86-year title drought.

"Theo's back. That's all I care about," pitcher Curt Schilling said Tuesday morning in a radio interview transcribed on www.boston.com. "That's all any of the players care about. I would like to think that he's in more of a situation that he wanted when he left.

"The way I look at it is, there were a lot of issues that were unresolved that he felt he wasn't going to compromise some things and be here, and those things changed over the last 10 weeks. And they changed, and he came back."