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Spurned by Beane, Red Sox go back to drawing board

Posted: Monday November 11, 2002 9:59 PM

BOSTON (AP) -- With permission to interview Billy Beane for their general manager's job and just a couple of days to close the deal, the Boston Red Sox turned on the recruiting charm, even arranging for Katie Couric to sing "Happy Birthday" to Beane's wife.

"We were told by Billy that Tara was a big Katie Couric fan," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said Monday, a day after the Oakland A's GM backed out of a deal to take over in Boston. "We knew that Tara's comfort was an important part of this process."

Couric, the girlfriend of Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner, called and left a message on Tara Beane's answering machine. But neither the TV host's star power, nor the meal at the Florida home of billionaire John Henry, the Red Sox majority owner, nor an offer to let Beane set up a branch office in California could persuade him to move across country from his daughter.

"He always reminded us as we were moving along in the process that the issue of his wife and daughter -- he wanted to make sure she was comfortable with this, too," Lucchino said. "But the way it's set up included the Red Sox playing in Boston. I think that was part of the problem.

"I really do harbor absolutely no ill will toward Billy. ... He's not going to be part of our team, but we're going to watch with great interest the success he has going forward."

The Red Sox have been searching for a general manager since the group headed by Henry, Werner and Lucchino bought the team in spring training and fired Dan Duquette. Mike Port served as interim GM during the season, and he remains a candidate for the permanent job.

Lucchino has coveted Beane since Day 1 -- longer than that, considering he almost hired Beane when he was looking for a GM in San Diego in 1995. But Beane is under contract to the A's through the 2008 season, and Oakland owner Steve Schott said he would expect significant compensation to let Beane out of his contract.

When the Red Sox asked Oakland for permission to talk to Beane, Schott never formally responded. Lucchino decided not to take that as an answer, and he persisted until Beane persuaded Schott last week to let talks proceed.

The parties flew to Florida to meet at Henry's house. They had dinner on Thursday and stayed up into the night discussing their baseball philosophies. Beane left the next day, but on Saturday he accepted an offer estimated at $13 million over five years.

"There were a lot of good feelings and positive vibrations," Lucchino said. "The words were spoken: 'OK, we have a deal."'

Still to be decided was how to compensate the A's. Beane and assistant Red Sox GM Theo Epstein began negotiating with Oakland over players to send out West. Lucchino got on a plane to come back to Boston, and turned off his cell phone.

"Next thing I heard there was a press conference scheduled in Oakland," Lucchino said.

And Beane announced that he would stay with the A's, saying, "I was never really gone, but I'm so glad I'm back."

"We are disappointed, but not devastated," Lucchino said. "We think Billy Beane would have been an outstanding GM here and we believe that he would have adjusted to the East Coast ways and culture and lifestyle. But we respect the judgment that he made for the reasons that he made it."

The Red Sox now return to their search. Among the candidates are Port, Orioles adviser Mike Flanagan, Philadelphia assistant GM Mike Arbuckle, New York Mets assistant GM Jim Duquette, Cincinnati director of player personnel Leland Maddox, former Chicago White Sox general manager Ron Schueler, and Port's special assistant, Lee Thomas.

"We thought we had brought this process to a very timely and dramatic conclusion. What we'll do is go back to the process and continue our examination of the alternatives," Lucchino said. "I said we'd have somebody in place by November, and I still think we will."

Lucchino said he will start winnowing the list this week. And though the new GM will know he wasn't the first choice, Lucchino is confident it will be the right choice.

"This is not a situation where there is only one piece to the puzzle," he said. "Billy represented one particular approach, a very strong general manager. But there are other approaches to this."

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