At What Point Is Larry Lucchino’s Job With The Red Sox In Jeopardy?
The Red Sox have been an unmitigated mess since last September 1st. They have changed managers. They have changed general managers. They have turned over the roster some. The one constant throughout all of the mess has been Red Sox ownership – John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino. Henry, of course, is the point and money person. Werner is the marketing and TV guy and since they are still making money hand over fist from ad revenue and ticket sales I’d say he’s not the problem. That leaves the baseball guy – Larry Lucchino.
Make no mistake, Larry Lucchino bought the Red Sox woes over the offseason when he placed organization mainstay Ben Cherington into Theo Epstein’s old role and then himself not only hired the manager he wanted, Bobby Valentine, but also added to the coaching staff as he saw fit by saddling Valentine with his own pitching coach hire, Bob McClure. Lucchino bought this mess back in the off-season and now he must be held responsible for what has taken place since.
This isn’t the first time that Lucchino has pulled a power play. He lost the first time around back in 2005 when Theo Epstein challenged Lucchino’s power by walking away from the organization for several months following the season (and his contract expiration). Red Sox owner John Henry valued Epstein too much to lose him in a power struggle to Lucchino and brokered a deal to return Epstein to an organization that saw Lucchino’s power diminished. Epstein went on to win another World Series as GM but the wheels came off the Epstein regime in 2011 and he jumped ship to the Cubs as a result. This put Lucchino back into his familiar position of power and he exerted every ounce of it that he could. As new GM Cherington was conducting an on-the-level search for a new manager Lucchino did everything he could to get his guy, Bobby Valentine, the job.
I don’t even blame John Henry for letting Lucchino take the reigns for this year. The guy, like him or not, is a proven baseball executive and has been one of Henry’s closest confidantes in baseball for over a decade. But Lucchino should be subject to the same performance evaluations as anyone else and let’s call his performance exactly what it is – not very good. Lucchino tried to put on his Theo Epstein hat and do his thing and he failed. Lucchino, while a great executive and overseer, is simply not a day-to-day baseball guy. As much as he wanted to be able to say that he could, at the end of the day Lucchino is simply not a Theo Epstein. Or a Pat Gillick. Or a Billy Beane. He’s not an exceptional baseball operations guy. He’s just a good businessman who knows the business of baseball.
Now I’m not naive enough to think that Henry will simply dismiss Lucchino but it seems like the time is coming for an organizational overhaul. That would mean a new front office and coaching staff. If Henry was smart he’d find another guy out there who he could entrust the entire baseball operations to, like he did Epstein, and tell Lucchino that he needs to back off and let that person do his thing. That means picking his own manager and letting that manager pick his own staff. If Henry goes about things the wrong way then come next season Lucchino will still have all the power, Cherington will continue to be a paper GM and Valentine will still be the manager with a lame duck coaching staff. Its clear that the changes that need to be made at this point are at the top. It just depends on whether or not John Henry has the guts to implement them.
I don’t advocate making a move now as it will amount to once again putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. If the Red Sox fail to make the playoffs for the third straight year then it is clear that the Red Sox need to change the focus of the organization. Bring a new set of eyes in and let them build around Pedroia, Gonzalez, Crawford, Buchholz and the prospects that they do have.