At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lucchino the Next Sox GM?

Continuing what has become fairly disturbing trend, Atlanta Braves director of player development and general manager heir apparent Dayton Moore yesterday became the latest candidate to withdraw his name from consideration to become the next Red Sox GM. Moore’s announcement follows on the heels of similar “thanks but no thanks” statements by the Indians’ Chris Antonetti, the Blue Jays’ Tony LaCava, the Padres’ Kevin Towers, and the Brewers’ Doug Melvin, and observers can only wonder just what it is that is sending so many qualified individuals – including our beloved Theo Epstein – running in the opposite direction.

I do not know Larry Lucchino, so I am in no position to judge the accuracy or logic of the published reports that suggest his managerial style is at the root of the difficulty. As a business management consultant, however, the seeming inability to attract and hold the attention of young, ambitious, and highly-qualified individuals does seem to indicate some sort of organizational dynamic is at work that is causing good people to steer clear. Whether this has to do with politics, personalities, or philosophy I cannot say, and in fact, only those already on the inside really are in a position to know.

This salient fact brings me to my point: The fact that the Red Sox now are the only team without a general manager leads me to wonder if the person now most likely to get the job might not be Lucchino himself! For sure, he knows the internal lay of the land – he, after all, helped to create it – and since he apparently worked very closely with Epstein over the past three years, he no doubt has a fairly good handle on the state of Sox player development and the goings-on at the other 29 organizations as well. So who better, at least on paper, to step in right away and direct the free-agent negotiations (e.g., Johnny Damon) and trade opportunities (e.g., Manny Ramirez) that are demanding immediate attention?

Right now, the leading outside candidates for the job appear to be Jim Beattie and Jim Bowden, two experienced hands that seem not to have captured the imagination of the Red Sox brain trust, or else a hiring announcement already would have been made. Internal candidates presumably include the Gang of Four that represented Sox interests at the just-completed general managers’ meeting, but the relative lack of noise surrounding any one of them suggests the final choice may lay elsewhere. In some ways, therefore, Lucchino now is the last man standing, and my guess is that Sox principal owner John Henry will “request” that he assume the role, even if only on an “interim” basis. But even under these conditions, the job will be Lucchino’s, and from there, truly anything – little of it good, I fear – could happen.

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