More Than A Numbers Game
"There's nothing easier than spending someone else's money." -- anonymous
After wallowing in the shadows of defeat for nearly a century, the Red Sox, under new ownership, won a World Series. Is once enough? It's easy enough to assign blame, but difficult to compensate credit. I believe, from a business standpoint, that better management can produce superior results for lower costs. All this makes finding, supporting, and retaining the best management vital.
We have to ask ourselves three questions, which will determine the outcome of the Red Sox General Manager's contract negotiations.
First, what does Theo Epstein want? Does he want to remain in his hometown, to get the Damoclean sword of recognition and loss of privacy. What dollar figure is a deal-breaker? Can he work with the man whose ego dominates the Red Sox media presence, Larry Lucchino? Every manager has bosses to whom he must report, but Theo must chafe under the 'supervision' of Lucchino, whose self-promoting style seems at odds with Epstein's approach and intellect.
Second, what do the Red Sox want? Do they believe that on balance Epstein's performance merits both an extension but the going rate? Do they think that someone else in the Kiddie Korps Baseball Operations group can replace Theo? Is one of the higher ups in the Front Office (Lucchino?) playing Cassius to Epstein's Caesar?
Finally, and most important, what is the public relations impact of failed negotiations. Baseball celebrates the 'Old Boy' network, with the apotheosis not of the young but recycling of the 'secure' choices. In money management circles, people discuss making safe choices to protect one's career. Nobody gets fired for buying IBM, because everyone else buys it, too. The Sox have shown a willingness to take chances, hiring Epstein based on ability and competence, not favoritism, nepotism, or experience. Losing Epstein, especially to the Team That Must Never Be Named would be a PR faux pas with repercussions, with Lucchino the likely fall guy.
Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Fenway Park offices, not to hear John Henry's thoughts on copper or coffee futures, but the willingness of the powers that be to share not dollars, but power with Broookline's Baseball Boy Wonder. It's more than a numbers game.
-- Ron Sen, Boston Dirt Dogs contributor and founder of Red Sox Reality Check