2002-11-30 / Sports

Red Sox Hand The Reins To New Generation

Baseball Columnist
By Bryan Hoch

Baseball Columnist

How cool is it that perhaps the most prestigious and coveted position in New England sports – general manager of the Boston Red Sox – has been given to a fresh-faced 28-year-old?

Moves like this one, naming bright young talent Theo Epstein to hold the reins of the Red Sox despite the fact he’s just several years removed from handing out game notes as a teenage intern in the press box at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, are exciting.

They’re daring as well, but it’s high time the Red Sox try something different. After all, this is the team that sold Babe Ruth to finance a Broadway play, hasn’t won a World Series since 1918, choked in the 1978 pennant race, etcetera, etcetera.

Boston’s decision to slot in the youthful, Yale-educated Epstein may signal the dawn of a new millennium among baseball executives – guys who really ‘get it’ and know what it is to be a fan again.

At his press conference Monday, Epstein recalled jumping on his couch as a 12-year-old in his family’s Massachusetts home, elated that the Red Sox were finally going to break ‘The Curse’ and defeat the Mets in the 1986 World Series.

But the inning dragged on… and on… and finally, when asked to describe his gut feeling when Bill Buckner let Mookie Wilson’s grounder trickle through his legs into the battered Shea Stadium outfield, Epstein could only grimace. "It was painful," he said.

Yup, he’s got that Boston pedigree, and that more than makes up for the experience he lacks over a guy like Oakland’s Billy Beane, who was Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino’s first choice to check into Fenway Park before the tides shifted in Epstein’s direction.

But Beane, highly regarded as baseball’s finest GM today, was once a rookie decision-maker himself. It’s also not as though Epstein’s going into the challenge cold. Here’s a wildly successful guy who worked his way up to the director of baseball operations with the Padres, tagging along out west with Lucchino when the steady weather beckoned.

Now the youngest general manager in baseball history, Epstein will do just fine. We’ll be rooting for him.

• Timeless Wonder: For all those who are complaining that Tom Glavine wouldn’t look so keen in a Mets uniform come 2006, when he’d be in the final year of a four-year contract with the Amazin’s at age 41:

Look no further than Jesse Orosco, who continued his supernatural career last week by latching on to an $800,000 deal with the Padres. Orosco, who will be 46 by Opening Day, will be assigned the all-important task of retiring divisional rivals Barry Bonds and Larry Walker, against whom he has solid career numbers.

It all goes to prove one thing, parents; if you think you might have a future major-leaguer on the way up, the best thing you can do is to teach them to throw with that left wing of theirs. A three-decade long stint in the bigs might be just around the corner…

• Been There, Done That: Okay, Orosco isn’t the best example; perhaps it’d be better to take a look at John Franco when we think about 41-year-old Mets lefthanders. Acquiring Glavine would be a great public relations move, stealing the thunder from the Braves, but he’s not the perfect guy for the situation they’re in.

What the Mets could really use would be a younger, left-handed potential number one starter to slot in with Al Leiter atop the rotation – someone like, hmm… Mike Hampton? Never mind…

• Rumblings and Grumblings: I heard from an old friend this week who was in Colorado on business recently, where he ran into former Mets manager Bobby Valentine at a Denver bar.

Valentine, who was in town to accept the Branch Rickey Award in honor of his humanitarian service for New York City following the events of Sept. 11, was reportedly grousing to the bartender and a male companion about his inability to find a managerial job following the Mets’ decision to let him go in early October.

"I couldn’t hear too much, but I think I caught him say the name ‘Phillips’ a few times," our source tells us. Bobby V., making harsh comments about his former colleague behind his back? No, that’d never happen.

Enjoy the holidays, and have a happy, healthy and safe one.

Bryan Hoch appears regularly in the Wave and covers the New York Mets for FOXSports.com. He can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.

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