New Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made the rounds of the Sunday late night shows, with an appearance on each.
Butch Stearns had Epstein in studio for Sports Sunday, Theo says he’s right guy because they’re going to be able to continue on what they started this year, and keep the momentum going instead of starting over. Biggest surprise for Theo this week was doing national interviews at a snowy Fenway Park at 7:00 am. He commented on Will McDonough’s article from the Globe this morning, he liked Parcell’s advice. Stearns asked about free agents, asked about Urbina, Theo says they’re better with him than without him, and are hopeful they can work something out, but only at the right price. They have parameters for a budget, but nothing in writing. He’s got it handicapped though, and thinks he’s knows exactly where they will be. Stearns asked about Glavine, Epstein wouldn’t talk specifically about Glavine but talked about evaluating everyone that is out there, and having to possibly give up a first round pick for whoever they might sign, same with Clemens. Does think that Clemens has something left. He doesn’t expect the Expos to move Bartolo Colon. As for Nomar and Pedro in the long term, both of those guys are a huge part of the short term, and a big part of the long term. Epstein knows they have to be successful to be able to justify moving either. Epstein stated that he is a fierce competitor, and people might not know that about him.
Next segment was on Bledsoe and Bills. Levan Reid gave a preview of Bledsoe’s return next week. He’s never been to Gillette, he helped build it, but now will try to topple it. Reid is a little miffed still for him not showing at the Super Bowl parade, but will cheer him. Players thoughts on the return included Otis Smith, Ted Johnson and Matt Light. Reid just hopes the Bledsoe return isn’t like the Terry Glenn return. (Glenn not a factor, but his team wins handily). Reid ended by saying this game is bigger to Drew than the first game in Buffalo was. To the Patriots, it’s just another game.
Rene Rancourt was the subject of a piece by Rob Nikoleski. Rancourt, who sings the National Anthem at each Bruins home game, talked about how he got the job, (John Kiley said to show up at North Station) and how the fist pump after the anthem is taken from Randy Burridge. Nikoleski spent the day with Rancourt, and checked out his home karaoke machine and arriving at the Fleet Center, teasing the zamboni driver, and right up to when he takes the ice to sing. Last Blast was about the arrival of Joe Thornton. He is a true superstar now and is only 23 years old. Stearns touts him for MVP.
Bob Lobel hosted Sports Final promising youth with the 23 year old Joe Thornton and 28 year old Theo Epstein promised on the show. First panel of Steve DeOssie, Scott Zolak and Steve Burton. All would love to trade Tom Brady for Michael Vick. The schedules for the Patriots and all AFC East teams were brought up on the screen. Zolak is scared of the Titans game. DeOssie isn’t concerned about Bledsoe and the Bills next week. Burton noted that Miami didn’t blitz Drew the whole game. Zolak pointed out all of Drew’s deep balls today that he completed. Said we wouldn’t recognize one of those around here, and they sure are pretty. Miami appears to have the weakest remaining schedule with both the Bears and Vikings remaining. Jets have the toughest remaining schedule, Buffalo also has tough games coming up. All also agreed that you can’t tell anything about the playoff picture. Lobel opined that this Sunday is no longer about Bledsoe/Brady. But DeOssie and Burton said there will be a factor of Bledsoe/Belichick after what the Patriots did to Drew and Bills a few weeks ago.
Next segment had Epstein. His favorite joke was that just before the press conference he was spotted being dangled over a balcony by Michael Jackson. He added that a sense of humor is going to be essential. Lobel went into the it’s not the age, it’s the experience theme, and Theo went through his background in baseball. Lobel asked how decisions will be made..consensus? Epstein said not everyone is going to agree, he’s going to take all the opinions, and information and make decisions based on that. He mentioned Lucchino and Kevin Towers as his real mentors in baseball, he spoke glowingly of Towers, who taught him everything. Epstein said in response to a Lobel question about an inner voice, that it’s his gut instinct, he’ll go with that. He also mentioned the McDonough article from this morning. Lobel said everyone wants him to succeed, including all in the media. Would he have let Roger Clemens go? He couldn’t give his fan viewpoint, but said he has to look at it through the lens of a GM. He did talk about though, that there needs to be a sense of continuity with star players, and that is important to fans. Lobel mentioned Bill James’ calling Clemens perhaps the best pitcher ever in ’96, and asked if based on that would Theo has signed him then, he said it would be a factor. The contracts coming up in ’04 were brought up. Epstein said it’s good for the club that they’re here for two more years and gives them flexibility. If they were all signed 5-6 years people would be complaining that they have no flexibility. Lobel talked about when things get tough, when the heat comes will he stay in the Kitchen…Epstein said he’ll be cooking at that point. The minor deals, waiver claims rule V drafts all of which create depth will prevent the heat and tough times from coming in July. As for self-evaluation…what made him so attractive to Lucchino and Henry? Theo said they wanted someone who will work exceptionally hard. Now people are working till midnight all the time, they wanted someone who was current with all the players, someone familiar with the scouting aspects and someone who could talk to both scouts and someone like Bill James. His weakness? His patience. Needs to remember that every time he’s making a deal the person on the other end of the phone is just as smart. He also says he has a temper. If they lose from being outworked in the front office, he’s going to be mad. Known to throw things around. He says he’s an Earl Weaver type in terms of personality.
Joe Thornton of the Bruins was in next. Thornton said Theo’s a “good Brookline boy” and is going to do well for the Red Sox. Thornton talked about losing guys, but people stepping up. They’re playing as a team. Bryan Berard has been huge. Thornton says being named captain has lit a fire under him personally. Lobel noted his confidence. Joe said it’s easy when he’s playing with great wingers like he has. Lobel says he’s playing as well as anyone in the league right now, admires his modesty, Thornton again gave the credit to his teammates. Lobel then talked about the offseason losses, goaltending was going to be a problem, etc, Thornton said everyone is together, close, have confidence in all the guys who are putting on the Bruins jersey. His breakthrough difference is maturity, knowing his worth on the ice, getting stronger, being more confident. Wants to bring a cup back to Boston. Lobel asked about the fans. More people are staying home and watching on TV…Joe says they expect the fans to come back…he’d pay money to watch this team play, to watch PJ Stock fight…home ice has been huge, they’ve been scary at home this year. Lobel says the Bruins have the most loyal fans. Thornton agreed and said the fans are great.
Last segment was a guest from the CBS affiliate in Buffalo, Dennis Williams. Williams says the Bledsoe angle will be downplayed by the Bills this week, they know if they lose, they’re likely out. Drew will want revenge, but it will be downplayed. Burton asked is Belichick is in Bledsoe’s head…Williams says the numbers are there, always more interceptions when facing him. He added though that the Bills coaches have been outstanding in making adjustments this year and feels that they will have great game plane for next week. He is concerned about the Bills defense. Lobel said that Antowain Smith is no Ricky Williams though. Miami always plays bad in Buffalo, Williams thought this Dolphins team would be better prepared, but it was the same old story. Bledsoe’s 300 yards were amazing today. Burton said in the first Pats game perhaps Drew’s teammates didn’t want it as much as Drew did. Williams disagreed, they just got behind, and couldn’t catch up, he thinks they’ll do a lot more underneath stuff in this next game, dumps to Larry Centers and Travis Henry. They want a shootout next week though.
Sports Xtra on channel 7 had Theo in as well. He mentioned almost all his morning have been interviews, the afternoons have been business. He acknowledges the age factor has been a novelty, he expects that to be over by the winter meetings when it will be fully time for business. He will draw on his experience in San Diego, where he ran a department there, (Head of Baseball operations) a response to a media type who said he had never been in charge of anything before. He’s been pleasantly surprised by the reaction people are treating him like an underdog, and people generally like an underdog. Lavanchy talked about the Boston fans being cynical. They moved on to his relationship with Lucchino…he will not be a “yes man” — they’ve had some heated debates over time. Lavanchy asked about Roger Clemens, Theo said certainly he can still pitch. But any move they make has to make sense in the short and long term and make financial sense. About his getting his 300th win here, Theo said it would be more important for the team to get 100 wins next year then for any one pitcher to pick up his 300th career win, but he did acknowledge the sentimentality that it would be nice for it to happen here for Roger. He think there will be some moves of significance at the winter meetings in a few weeks, but more for the Red Sox near the end of December. No one is untradeable, but they have several hall of fame caliber players on their roster that they plan to keep around. The biggest need is the bullpen. Lucchino was at the White House and the President teased him about hiring a 28 year old, and also chided him more because he was from Yale.
Tim Fox and Fred Smerlas were in next. Fox is very happy with the Thanksgiving win, there are four games to win and they’ve put themselves in the driver seat to win the division. That’s all you can ask for. Smerlas said that the game ending drive was very important and impressive. Fox said they were much more aggressive on defense than they were on offense and he liked that, since they were able to get a lead. They took some chances at going after Harrington and it paid off. Smerlas noted the short week of preparation probably also affected Harrington to face a complex defense like the Patriots. They considered the remaining schedule. Fox was glad to see how Buffalo played today. Bledsoe could’ve had a few passes picked off today, but all things went the Bills way. Smerlas said the Patriots are a tougher matchup for the Bills then Miami is. Miami seems really affected by the weather, which is good for the Patriots. Fieldler will likely be back and in a rhythm by that game though. Smerlas expects a fairly easy win for the Patriots over the Bills next week, and Fox thinks the Patriots offense will have success against the Bill defense as well.
The last segment was Michael Holley and Tony Massarotti. First topic was Theo…Holley likes it, he’s young creative and smart, something the Red Sox have never been. This brings them far away from the Yawkey way of doing things. He represents the new ownership’s ways of doing things well. Massarotti says he’d better be allowed to do the job, instead of having Lucchino looking over his shoulder all the time. He seemed to think that that will be the case. Holley disagreed, saying if Lucchino was like Pitino, that Theo wouldn’t have stayed here. Massarotti asked why has he followed him to place to place…Holley said that from his understanding, Theo and Lucchino go at it behind the scenes, they have some big battles and don’t see eye to eye on everything and that is a good thing. He said that Theo has “guts”.He isn’t going to be afraid to make big decisions. Tony asked how do we know this? Lavanchy agreed, how will be know? Tony just said we’ll have to see as time goes by, we’ll be able to get a sense over time as to who is making these big decisions. Holley said it should be pretty easy as Lucchino is not really a “baseball guy”. Massarotti agreed, that Lucchino is here to run the offices, build the stadium, and shake hands. Holley says the bottom line will be his results. His age won’t matter if he gets the job done. They talked about 68 year old Bill Lajoie, brought in to assist. Holley joked about his age, and Massarotti told him to “be serious”.