Former Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein went to great lengths yesterday to paint his resignation as a personal decision, one not based on a power struggle with his former boss, Red Sox President Larry Lucchino.
"It's not fair to attribute my decision to any one factor or any one person," Epstein said during a news conference at Fenway Park, his first public comments since his decision was announced Monday night. "There were many factors that went into the decision."
Epstein said he and other Red Sox officials, including Lucchino, "had a lot of honest talks in that last week, reflecting on ourselves and the organization and the job, and whether it was right for me and for the team."
Epstein, whose three-year tenure was highlighted by the 2004 World Series championship and marked by three postseason appearances, said that at various points he leaned toward staying, then toward going. His decision to reject a three-year, $4.5 million offer has sent the Red Sox' fan base, obsessive by nature, into a frenzy, because the 31-year-old is a native son from nearby Brookline, Mass., and figured to be in his job for the next decade or more.
In the end, though, Epstein said he couldn't "go all-in" in committing to the organization. But he also made it clear that he could work again in baseball very soon. He said one team had contacted him through an intermediary, but he said he was committed to helping the Red Sox through this week in preparing for the upcoming general managers' meetings. The team, believed by several baseball sources to be the Los Angeles Dodgers, will have to wait until next week, Epstein said.
"I am not burnt out," Epstein said. "I have tremendous passion for the game. I have tremendous dedication to the game. I believe that I will find myself in a position of leadership with an organization, but I have no immediate plans."
Lucchino, who was with Baltimore when Epstein was an intern there 14 years ago, brought him to San Diego and then hired him in Boston after Oakland's Billy Beane turned down the job in November 2002. Lucchino has taken heat from Red Sox fans who blame him for Epstein's departure, but both Epstein and Red Sox owner John Henry said at the news conference that Lucchino was not to blame.
"For about 14 years, we've had a very successful working relationship," Epstein said. "I think Larry and I like each other. As with any long-term relationship, there are complexities. There are ups and downs. There are times when you have philosophical differences. But I owe him quite a bit."
Lucchino did not attend the news conference, which Henry said was by design. Henry said he wanted to take the blame for Epstein's departure, which he considered a "great, great loss."
"I feel responsible," Henry said. "What could I have done? There's plenty I could have done. I have to ask myself, maybe, if I'm not fit to be principal owner of the Boston Red Sox."
-- Barry Svrluga