(Fallon in Red Sox shirt with Rachael Dratch (L), Kate Hudson, and Nomar Garciaparra / NBC Photo Mary Ellen Matthews)
'Fever Pitch' Star Drops Out of the Running to Replace
Theo Epstein as Red Sox General Manager
Red Sox Apprentice: Even as they try to attend to such pressing offseason business as making a trade for Josh Beckett, dealing with Manny Ramirez, and trying to get Johnny Damon re-signed, the Red Sox encountered another setback today in their search for a general manager.
Jimmy Fallon, Hollywood actor/comedian, converted Yankee fan, and minority owner of the Brockton Rox, withdrew from consideration. Fallon had been asked by CEO Larry Lucchino to come to Boston this week for a second interview and was considered one of the strongest candidates for the job. Fallon's decision came just hours after he was selected to play the role of Major Tony Nelson in the remake of 'I Dream of Jeannie,' which is due out in 2006 and, according to well-placed industry sources familiar with the motion picture academy's thinking, "has Oscar written all over it."
With baseball's winter meetings in Dallas just two weeks away, the Red Sox are down to 12 candidates to consider for the position. If they cannot reach a deal with one of the final 12, it's conceivable that the team may elect to operate with some type of interim arrangement in which Bill Lajoie continues to work in tandem with the key members of the baseball operations staff who had served former GM Theo Epstein.
Fallon called the Red Sox yesterday afternoon and said he made his decision after meeting with his agent and "Fever Pitch" girlfriend Drew Barrymore. He was unavailable for comment but issued a videotaped statement to the media:
"My decision not to return for a second interview for the Red Sox general manager position is an extremely difficult one. I will always cherish the relationships I developed here while filming 'Fever Pitch' and am proud to have worked side-by-side with so many great people in Boston, in and out of uniform, as together we brought a world class movie to Red Sox Nation.
"During the process leading up to today's decision, I came to the conclusion that I can no longer give my heart and soul to this process. In the end, my choice is the right one not only for me but for the Red Sox.
"My affection for the Red Sox did not begin 18 months ago when I was cast as 'Ben' in 'Fever Pitch,' it started when I was starring as 'Sully' on SNL, and it does not end today. I will remain a Red Sox fan whenever I'm in Boston but will remain a Yankee fan everywhere else I travel.
"My passion for and dedication to the game of baseball remain strong as I will work to bring a championship to my team in Brockton (Rox) and am working diligently to bring Oil Can Boyd back for another season once he is released from jail. I look forward with excitement to the future."
One well-placed industry source familiar with Fallon's thinking said "Jimmy's decision was based on the fact that 'I Dream of Jeannie' will require all his energy and focus over the coming year, and he is also reluctant to leave the comedy profession, the only profession he has known, and to uproot his family (even though he is single). Sony Pictures gave him more money and also promised him that he will have more romantic scenes with 'Jeannie' than were originally written into the script."
The source said Fallon asked himself "Who would you rather have right by your side for the next 12 months, Lindsay Lohan or Dr. Charles Steinberg?" That comparison, according to the source, made the decision to drop out of the Sox GM hunt a no-brainer.
Fallon did say the decision had nothing to do with his relationship with Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. "Larry's a really great guy, funny too," said Fallon. "And he was very accommodating to us during the shooting of 'Fever Pitch.' You'll remember that he let Drew and I go on the field to celebrate with the team right after the clinching Game 4 win over the Cardinals so we could shoot 15 seconds of meaningless footage for the movie. And he also let us take advantage of Dr. Charles Steinberg's acting talents for Drew's office scene (in 'Fever Pitch,' too."
Fallon, reading from a piece of paper, reiterated, "So again this is not about Larry Lucchino, he's a really great guy to work with."
Lucchino was not available to the media for comment, but issued a statement regarding Fallon's decision:
"Although we are disappointed with the outcome, we respect Jimmy Fallon's decision to decline a second interview. We worked hard to convince him to come back and reconsider, but he has decided to take another path. Jimmy was one of the best and brightest candidates that remained in consideration. He won the respect of the organization for his early work as the Nomah fanatic 'Sully' on Saturday Night Live back in the 1990s and most recently won the hearts of Red Sox Nation when he played 'Ben', the passionate Red Sox fan in the universally-acclaimed 'Fever Pitch.'
"People have asked me to speculate upon the reasons for Jimmy's decision. I shall not do so. Jimmy correctly characterized our meetings as 'honest discussions that are private;' he made it clear that his decision was based upon factors that are 'very personal.' I respect Jimmy's privacy, and I will not speculate publicly about the reasons for his decision. The media has had, in my view, ample opportunity to ask him, and I decline to say more than he chose to say about what are, in fundamental ways, matters personal to him.
"His departure from consideration, however, does not terminate the upcoming season. John, Tom, and I are optimistic about the future of this franchise. The Red Sox are in an excellent place, with outstanding people filling roles throughout the organization. There is every reason to look forward to exciting and, I predict, successful seasons for years to come.
"While, as I stated above, I shall have no further comment on Jimmy's decision to decline another interview, I shall, of course, be available to the media to address Red Sox issues, including, most immediately, the process that will culminate in our selection of a new general manager.
"I wish him all good luck wherever that path may take him. Jimmy and I have known each other for nearly 14 months. Let there be no doubt that I am fond of Jimmy, and I have developed over the months great respect for his mind, his energy, his work ethic, and his overall ability."