Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Unintended Consequences
2005-11-01 07:17
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Here's why it never pays to ignore any team in baseball, even one as lowly as the Rockies: it's a small, closed community. Reputations matter, and folks have very long memories indeed. What am I talking about? Well, remember the three-way Orioles-Red Sox-Rockies deal that fell apart on Boston's end way back in July? At the time, it was reported that it was Boston assistant GM Josh Byrnes (now GM in Arizona) who was at fault for promising Colorado Kelly Shoppach and Adam Stern for Larry Bigbie. Now according to's Sean McAdam, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino was simply using Byrnes as a scapegoat. It was the higher-ups who made Byrnes and GM Theo Epstein pull out of the deal, and at the time Byrnes was the one who had the least to lose by taking the blame. In conversations with Colorado's management and the local media, Lucchino threw Byrnes under the bus so that Epstein's reputation might remain clean enough for him to continue dealing with Colorado and the numerous organizations who hold Dan O'Dowd's word in high esteem.

Now Epstein is leaving his job with the Red Sox, and the reason according to McAdam might have something to do with Lucchino going one too many times to the well on the Shoppach story. After once deflecting blame towards Byrnes to help Epstein, Lucchino's purposes were now served in his negotiations with Epstein over a new contract to make the young GM look bad. So Lucchino spread a story about his stepping in to save face for Epstein, Theo got wind of it, and basically said, "That's it." He'd had enough. The younger generation of baseball minds -- the Epsteins and Paul DePodestas -- have very little use for the P.R. games the wily old guys like to play. They're in it to win baseball games, or at least they thought they were.

Apparently Theo Epstein will take a year off to do social work with his brother, and good for him if that's the case. There are things more important than winning all the time, things more important than always seeming to have the upper hand. You have to wonder if Larry Lucchino appreciates that.

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