Posted: Friday January 20, 2006 1:00PM; Updated: Monday January 23, 2006 3:36PM
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The position of co-General Manager, Boston Red Sox, isn't No. 1 on the list of jobs I wouldn't want, but it's rising with a bullet. You remember Ben Cherington and Jed Hoyer, the two-headed management team the Red Sox promoted after Theo Epstein's gorilla-suit getaway from Fenway Park on Halloween night. They're young and smart, the Red Sox told the world, and having worked closely with Epstein when he was still on board they are uniquely qualified to carry on the good work done by the boy genius GM.
They're also front office eunuchs, now that word is out that Epstein is back with the team. Of course, no one knows what he'll be doing. He might be the GM, perhaps a vice president, maybe he'll be serving chowder behind home plate -- the Red Sox have said only that his exact role in the organization will be defined next week. We do know this: Cherington and Hoyer just lost their clout. (If you worked for another team and felt like talking trade, would you call them?) And the Red Sox now appear even more dysfunctional than they looked two months ago.
The Boston front office has devolved into a bizarre love triangle. Owner John Henry loves his CEO, Larry Lucchino. Henry also loves Epstein and wishes the kid never left, which explains why Henry has kept in contact with him all winter. Theo and Lucchino had their problems, however, and it's hard to believe they've all been solved and that Epstein will now happily report to the boss he used to find so overbearing. Henry looks like a weak owner for not simply moving on when an employee he loved decided to leave the organization. Lucchino has been a whipping boy all winter in Boston, taking abuse for everything from forcing Epstein out to botching the Johnny Damon negotiations.
Now Epstein's reputation is diminished too: After leaving the Red Sox for supposedly lofty reasons -- he wanted to try something new, and couldn't work in a situation he found uncomfortable regardless of how much money he made -- he's coming back to the exact same situation. He never wanted to leave. The Red Sox never wanted him to leave. But he did, and all parties should have moved on. Cherington and Hoyer aren't the only ones who will wish they did.