Tuesday, November 01, 2005

One down...

Well, so much for Young Theo pulling off a Rocky and making it in Philly. Yes, no cheezsteaks for Theo (Brigs will have to give you the cheesesteak report as he spent four years cruising and bruising in Philly while at Nova), as Pat Gillick has just been announced as the new General Manager for the Phanatical Phillies.

Now, no one can argue the hiring of Gillick, who only built the early nineties juggernaut in Toronto, rebuilt Baltimore in the late nineties into a contender again, and then dumped the Big Unit, Ken Griffey Jr., and A-Rod while in Seattle - improving the team substantially with each departure.

So one more destination to cross off for Theo; one more GM candidate to cross off for the Red Sox. Like they say, this is looking to be a situation where both sides lose (unless, this is a situation not unlike Oakland where manager Ken Macha resigned at the end of this season when a deal could not be worked out, and then a week later reconsidered and came aboard. To dream the impossible dream!).

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Theo, Theo, Theo. What a staggering turn of events: whiz kid GM turns back on mentor to strike out on his own. Where now, Theo? Los Angeles? Yeah, nothing like going to work for an owner who dumped the most recent GM before he had time to do anything but start deconstructing the mess he inherited. Philadelphia? Hmm, I think Mr. Francona may have some stories to tell about the Phillie Phanatics in the area that may make the position a little less desirable. Tampa? The mind reels at the possibilities.

First off, I have no doubt that somehow Theo was offended by something major by Larry Lucchino, be it leaking negotiations info to the Boston Globe, or something personal said in the negotiations. I doubt Lucchino ever thought that Theo would take his ball and go home. Why would he? Theo has been with him for the duration, Lucchino is absolutely correct about he fact that he played a large role in shaping Theo the GM.

As far as all the nay-sayers, panicked mobs, screaming idiots on the radio, and smug writers, the Red Sox are going to be perfectly fine. Yes, Theo was very, very, very impor tant to the franchise. Yes, I still think he is a great GM and will be an asset to any organization he goes to in the future; however, not to underscore what Theo has accomplished in three years, but the Sox philosophy and operations are controlled by the triumvirate (especially Larry Lucchino) and the GM and Manager are put in the position to execute the plan. Are we to believe that Lucchino was worrying about the RemDawg hot dog stand instead of shaping the team when Nomar was traded? Did Lucchino have nothing to do with identifying and signing David Ortiz and Curt Schilling?

I am not a huge Lucchino fan, do not get me wrong, but nor do I subscribe to the theory that Theo walks on water. My main adulation for Theo is for what he did not do, which was he did not trade off a lot of the prospects. I think it is safe to say that for every hit (Ortiz, Schilling, Foulke, Mientkiewicz, Milllar, Mueller, etc) there was also a miss (Renteria, Jeremy Giambi, Foulke, Closer-by-Committee, A-Rod, Nomar, Millar, Jay Payton, Scott Sauerbeck, Jeff Suppan, etc). No GM is perfect, but I admired Theo for holding on to the prospects and not being afraid to pull the trigger and make a big move.

The triumvirate is going to get a large amount of grief and a lot of flak for letting Theo walk away, but the situation is in no ways bleak: Dan Duquette is not coming back. All joking aside, the ownership group is the biggest change in the Red Sox: from Tom Yawkey to Jean and Buddy and Haywood, to John Harrington, it was poor planning, strategy, and vision at the top that continually doomed the franchise. The Red Sox front office has had some good people running the show the past twenty years or so. The triumvirate has done so much more for Red Sox fans than just the product on the field: it is the field itself, the keeping of the charm of Fenway intact while making enough money to as a market team should compete, and for keeping the team in a situation where there is talent in the farm system, in the farm system coaching ranks, and in the front office so that no one is irreplaceable.

Time will tell: the Red Sox are so much more than Theo. They are an organization built from the top down like the Patriots are as well: built to absorb defections and to promote from within. I know in the short term it looks bleak, but this organization is built to contend for the long-term.

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So what are the options for the Sox? Kevin Towers of the Padres is no doubt the front-runner as he is on his way out in San Diego and has worked with Lucchino in the past. I would put the recently fired Paul DePodesta of the Dodgers, who cut his teeth under Billy Beane in Oakland, on the very top of any list. In fact, I would say that it is a no-brainer to grab DePodesta. The Dodgers gave him a crappy team with a bloated payroll of underachievers. For trying to work with that and keep the team competitive while trying to turn them around on the fly he is given the boot after only two years. Say what? Nothing like making a plan and sticking to it, eh? The Dodgers will rue the day they ran DePodesta out of town. Someone at the top of the Dodgers organization obviously did not like Moneyball by Michael Lewis (which, as anyone who reads this blog knows is only the most important baseball book written since Jim Bouton wrote Ball Four).

If DePodesta does not come aboard, then turn to Towers. If not Towers, then it is likely time to turn to the next whiz kid in the organization. There is talent within to run the operations.

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What a night, what a game, what a source of frustration. Of course, if you look at it objectively, the Patriots are playing exactly the way they played last season, save for the crippling injuries, game-turning mistakes, and sloppy red-zone defense. Exactly how many blow-out wins have the Pats had in the Belichick era? Not that many, that is for sure. The Bills, for the most part, were forced to drive the length of the field and made a few turnovers, made a few strange calls, and had to settle for three in the red zone. The game was close and the Pats pulled it out late in the fourth. That is atypical Patriots football, folks.

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The Revolution will not be televised

Well, maybe the Revs are on cable. The New England Revolution looked to extend their season Saturday night at Gillette stadium in the snowy mess that was New England weather. Their opposition: those hated guys from New York...or New Jersey...or both. The Metrostars were in town to finish off with a win or a draw to win the aggregate. First blood went to NY/NJ, as 70-year old Frenchman and former Blackburn Rover Yourii Djorkaeff bent a goal past the New England pipes. With the aggregate at 2-0 in favor of the bad guys, I figured we were looking at another Revolution choke-n-fold. However, the Revs have been a second half team all year, and they shot three goals past the 71-year old Tony Meola to win the aggregate 3-2. Goals from Jose Cancela, Khano Smith and Pat Noonan provided the spark to send the Revolution to the next playoff round.

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No, I'm not acronym-ing something rude. I'm just wondering why MLS insists on referring to their Dallas club as "FC Dallas." FC, as all followers of EPL football know, means "football club" (speaking of which, I saw a kid with a Fulham Cottagers hat on the T this weekend, what's up with that?). Last I checked, we in the good ol' US of A referred to it as "soccer." My question becomes, who are the MLS trying to fool with "FC Dallas" and "Real Salt Lake." There's only one "football" in Dallas, and it's got Jerry Jones' money and Parcells' sweat all over it.

Next week, I may actually talk about European football.

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- Christopher J. Brigham, Footy Senior Writer & Head Columnist

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