Thoughts On Theo

I have this feeling that the late-afternoon of Monday, October 31st, 2005, is going to be one of those ‘Where were you”-type moments that are pushpins on the large, ever-developing maps of our lives. Well, at least for Red Sox fans anyway.

I was at work when one of the West Coast Posse sent along the following email:

Did Theo Epstein resign? What are you guys hearing about this … breaking news as we speak … er … e-mail.

You would expect the usual responses from those outside of the loop. “No way..they were supposed to announce something today” or “Nope, haven’t heard anything. Where are you seeing this?” I began searching around a bit for any info, but I couldn’t find anything. I was sure that someone 3000 miles away must have been mistaken, but there was this little tinge of fear that what Ben was emailing about was actually true. “No way,” I told myself. “There is no way that Theo leaves the Sox. He’s from Brookline and is a GOD in New England. Why would he ever want to leave?”

After work, I jumped in the Gray Go-Slow and turned on the famous (and infamous) WEEI of Boston and despite the crappy reception, you could feel the tenseness among the on-air group, a sort of confusion that combines bewilderment, exciteability and anger all mixed into a pot of ‘What happens next?’ Then, it hit me: Theo Epstein was no longer going to be the General Manager of the Boston Red Sox.

For those that are not Sox fans or for those that will never understand what the 2004 title meant to a legion of fans, this decision will be talked about in the lighest of senses. But for everyone that was along on the ride, Theo became as much of a hero as David Ortiz, Curt Schilling or Manny Ramirez. Without Epstein, the Sox don’t win the title last year. It was Theo who went to Arizona to dine with a workhorse over Thanksgiving dinner. It was Theo who inked Ortiz and then proceeded to re-sign him to one of the most amazing financial deals for a premier slugger in MLB history. And while it was Theo who averted near-disasterous deals with Adrian Beltre, J.D. Drew, Carl Pavano and others, he also pulled the trigger for Dave Roberts and Dougie Mineketiseraweqwiz (I give up on his spelling) in a little deal involving an Boston icon that was not easy to do. His hiring raised eyebrows and eventually would cause tears after the final out was made in St. Louis just 13 months ago.

For the age group that reads this blog, however, Theo was something else altogether. A young guy, Epstein was promoted to a position that most people dream of and that very few people under 30 attain. He gave hope to others that the X and Y generation could make a huge difference in an industry that actually means something to people. He was a rock star, hanging out with Pearl Jam and playing with his own band at various benefits. You saw how pissed he got at losses, how excited he was at winning and how much he loved the job that he grew up wanting. Then again, you could also picture him coming in on a Friday, hungover as shit from the night before and grabbing a Large No. 5 at Dunkin’ Donuts. That what was great about him – he seemed like a normal guy living an unreal life with stress that most of us would find hard to imagine and impossible to ignore.

Quite simply, he was one of us.

But now, he’s gone and with him, an era of fun has been ushered out as well. The writing is on the wall that the team will definitely change, but no one expected this much. While we’ll still cheer the Sox wins and grumble about the losses, whoever comes in and takes over will be like the teacher that comes back from sick leave and replaces the cool substitute. More questions remain than answers, but at least for one night, it’s fair to say that a new martyr has been created by the Nation while two new pariahs (Larry Lucchino and the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaugnessy) are left to assess the benefits of leaking ‘inside information’ in a Sunday newspaper.

See ya, Mr. Epstein. Class will never be the same without you.