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Nov 7, 2005:

Barks and Bites

Did Bruschi's Return Sack Theo's?

Tedy Bruschi and Theo Epstein

(Bruschi: Getty Images Photo / Nick Laham | Epstein: Boston Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)

WEEI’s John Dennis Believes That Theo Epstein Would Be Here if the Sox Scheduled a Press Conference Announcing His Re-signing Sooner

"What a fine mess you've gotten us into!" -- Stan Laurel to Oliver "Ollie" Hardy, 1932

Could it be that a public relations mistake and a football player’s return to action resulted in the Red Sox being without a GM today? WEEI’s John Dennis thinks so and told his audience that on last Friday’s Dennis and Callahan program.

Dennis, who refers to an “inside source” who gave him information throughout the Theo Epstein negotiations, described what could be called a fatal public relations miscue by the Red Sox.

His comments:

“John Henry loves Theo Epstein. And somebody in his business ran this kid out and he’s not firing anybody? Off with no heads. And I know he’s a gentle, quiet, calm man, but doesn’t it seem like somebody really screwed up?

“It will be interesting to find out. People in this organization will be dispatched from it or big time players -- partners and limited partners -- in this organization bail before the likes of a Charles Steinberg might get fired. Word has it there are at least a couple of limited partners who are pissed to a fare-the-well about this. Not big fans of Theo either. They are very angry at Larry Lucchino and Dr. Charles to the point that they might be considering bailing. Two, in fact. One that’s a limited and one that’s much bigger than a limited (partner).

“…(Henry) knows who took a tactical mission, regarding the release of this whole story and screwed it up and out-thought himself and the entire organization. Did it occur to you when you read or heard Dan Shaughnessy talking about the conference call he had with Theo and Larry simultaneously …. they were (celebrating). (The deal) was all but done. They were presenting a united front. Dan even describes the conversation as hunky-dory, everybody’s happy.

“Now the second thing is that sometime on Friday, maybe the Red Sox public relations staff, or maybe The Maestro himself, put out the word that there would be no announcement about Theo’s future with the club over the course of the weekend and Monday would be the first time we hear anything. That’s weird that they would put out a statement that they’re not going to make a statement until Monday rolls around.

“Here’s how The Maestro, Charles Steinberg, out-thought himself. My guy tells me that Dr. Charles went to Larry and said, ‘Listen, we have this all done, we could announce this Saturday and have a press conference or we could do it Sunday, but there’s something that’s going to blow us off the pages of the newspaper, that’s going to happen this weekend, that’s going to make Theo’s re-signing with the Red Sox a one-day story.’

“Charles, being the bright guy that he is, says, ‘If we announce on Saturday that it’s all done,’ and it essentially was, ‘it will get lost in the Bruschi (return story) until Sunday night. Then we won’t get any publicity out of this deal. I got an idea, Larry. Why don’t we do the little conference call, we’ll make nice with Dan on the phone. Don’t agree that it’s done… just sort of hint that we’re moving that way. We’ll have a press conference on Monday, and the best thing is, we’ll cut the Patriots off at the knees, so the Bruschi story will be a one-day story, Sunday, Sunday night, I guess a little bit on Monday, but on Monday afternoon, we’ll trump the Bruschi story, and stop it in its tracks, with the Larry Lucchino jack-o-lantern smiles sitting next to Theo announcing Theo’s continued employment with the Boston Red Sox.’

“The little fly in this big time pile of ointment was the fact that more leaks happened. Shaughnessy writes on Sunday, and then the stuff happened on Monday, and between Friday night’s hunky-dory conference call and Monday morning’s discovery of ‘Hey, it’s all but done, it’s gonna happen whenever’ in the Boston Globe, Theo changed his mind, got pissed off, realized the circle of trust had been broken, and walked away.

“So in the interest of extending this story a little bit longer, delaying it until Monday, getting Bruschi off the front or back pages, this thing fell apart. That’s called out-thinking yourself from a public relations standpoint.

“So this takes you back to your question: Does John Henry look at the people he is paying good money to, not to leak, not to spin, not to smear, but to create, you know, publicity to get him on the back page, and they screw up this badly, is that person’s job in jeopardy?

“You know what the irony is? If Dr. Charles wanted this Red Sox-Theo story to be longer than a one-day deal, he sure as hell got his wish.”

Today Dennis added that his source, whom he described as a limited partner, told him that John Henry said, “It’s a good thing we left on good terms with Theo, because we don’t know how long Larry Lucchino is going to be around,” lending credence to the theory that Epstein may return to the Red Sox someday in a larger capacity than general manager.


On a related note, Murray Chass wrote in Sunday’s New York Times: “In seeking to be his own man, Epstein felt he had outgrown Lucchino and wanted to get out from under what he felt was Lucchino's suffocating oversight. Lucchino was willing - reluctantly - to give Epstein the money he wanted but wasn't about to relinquish the control he felt was his as team president.

“In addition, Epstein was upset with Charles Steinberg, the executive vice president for public affairs for the Red Sox. Steinberg was conspicuously absent from the Epstein news conference, lending credence to that aspect of the story. For Epstein to turn on Steinberg is especially strange because Steinberg was perhaps more responsible for his career than Lucchino.

“Steinberg hired Epstein as a public relations intern in Baltimore, took him to San Diego, then steered him to law school with the idea of getting him into baseball operations after he graduated.

“Like Lucchino, Epstein and Steinberg did not return calls seeking clarification of the circumstances of Epstein's departure.”

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