Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It takes a genius to do something really stupid

Genius is a curious thing.

On Monday, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein walked away from the Boston Red Sox. He is only 31-years-old. He had been hired by the team as the youngest GM in baseball just weeks before he turned 29. And then last year, he was credited with “genius” when the Boston won its first World Series in 86 years.

I am sure there is outrage in Boston since he left haggling over money. He was offered $4.5 million for the next three years. But that was less than the $2.5 offered by the Red Sox to the A’s GM Billy Beane, who is also considered a genius — but has never made it to a World Series let alone won one, before they hired Epstein. If you were willing to pay that much for someone to get you a ring, Epstein is thinking why not pay me for doing it.

How do you let someone like Epstein walk away for what in baseball terms is “chump change?” In Boston or New York that much jack doesn’t even get you a utility infielder.

But like I said genius is a curious thing. If Dave Roberts had been caught stealing last season, the curse would still be in full bloom and George Steinbrenner would be a little less tense.

Epstein says he might take a year off — or until the Boss gets around to firing Brian Cashman and ponying up the dough, right?

Maybe, but this is a guy who grew up blocks from Fenway Park. Lived and died for the Sox. The Rooney family could offer me one billion dollars and I still ain’t moving to Pittspuke.

But let’s explore what this really is about. Epstein has been the toast of Beantown. He has been living large along the Charles River. This tends to happen when broken hearts are miraculously healed. Trust me when I tell you that the first Cleveland team to win a title will see its general manager never have to buy a dinner or a drink again — then add Babe Ruth’s ghost to the mix. You can see how that might tend to stroke an ego.

Theo’s boss is named Larry Lucchino. Never heard of him right, well now you are starting to see the problem. Lucchino is the team president and has been mentoring Epstein for years. Epstein followed Lucchino from the Baltimore Orioles to the San Diego Padres before reaching Boston.

While Epstein is now a genius because Dave Roberts is fast, Lucchino is well just the guy who hired him. It is never good when the student gets more famous than the teacher.

So ego and hurt feelings wrapped in the shell of more money caused the Boy Wonder of Baseball to bolt his dream job. What happens when you are 31-years old and you have already left the only job you ever wanted? Trust me when I tell you — it is not a good thing. No matter what success comes your way, you can’t get back what you had.

I know Epstein will say it is not about the money and truly it is not. It is about respect. A respect so important that it caused him to do something incredibly stupid.

Public opinion may be on his side. Maybe even big bucks in the future. But when your hard work lucks into genius. You don’t leave even if your boss is a dolt like Epstein’s.

So why I am writing about Boston rather than Cleveland. Because folks this is why as soon as Cleveland wins one title (and I recover from the parade) I am leaving sports and moving to a Mexican beach where I will pretend to write my novel and sip Noche Buena.

Today was supposed to be the first day of that life. Stupid Indians. Guess there is always next year.