On trade, Henry says Epstein simply did what he had to do
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry placed full responsibility for the Nomar Garciaparra trade on general manager Theo Epstein yesterday, while offering yet another justification for the franchise-shaking deal: According to Henry, six days before last Saturday's trade, Garciaparra's agent, Arn Tellem, told Epstein he had to talk the shortstop out of demanding a trade.
"We knew from that that he didn't want to be here," said Henry, who had informed reporters in advance that he planned to be in Tropicana Field last night and would answer questions pertaining to the trade.
Reached late last night on the West Coast, Tellem said it was "absolutely false" that at any time he had to dissuade Garciaparra from demanding a trade. He acknowledged that in December he asked the Red Sox to trade Garciaparra to the Dodgers if the Alex Rodriguez deal was made.
Henry also said that last March the Sox offered Garciaparra a package for $60 million, which mirrored the figure Garciaparra had not accepted the previous March but was worth more than the $48 million offer the team had made after the 2003 season. Henry acknowledged that much of the money in the March 2004 offer was deferred, but he contended that Garciaparra and his agent never made a counteroffer after the initial impasse in March 2003.
Tellem also contradicted this Henry claim. In fact, said the agent, it was his idea that the contract be restructured to include deferred money as a way to break the "logjam." Where the sides disagreed, he said, was on when the deferred money would be paid. Tellem was asking for the deferrals at the end of the contract or at retirement, which would have made the present-day value of the deal between $14 million and $14.5 million. The Red Sox, according to Tellem, wanted to begin the deferrals when Garciaparra was in his mid-60s, making the present-day value between $12 million and $12.5 million. Henry acknowledged that it was out of character for him not to contact Garciaparra when the trade was made, but said he was too angry after CEO Larry Lucchino told him of his conversation with the shortstop. Lucchino said he asked Garciaparra about his injured Achilles' tendon, and, according to Lucchino, Garciaparra said, "It's great, now." Garciaparra has disputed Lucchino's account, which implies that he misled the Sox about his condition, saying he had little interest in speaking with Lucchino at the time and was being sarcastic.
In Henry's view, Garciaparra was not unhappy with the trade. "I thought he was actually pretty happy," Henry said. "It seems like he's happy. You're saying he's unhappy because he left? Not from what I heard from Larry."
While calling the trade "extremely difficult -- he was the face of the franchise," Henry said Epstein had his full support, in answer to a question of whether he had contemplated the fallout this October if the Sox fail to make the playoffs while a Cubs team fortified by Garciaparra goes to the World Series.
"The fact is, I support our general manager," Henry said. "I never told a general manager who he should trade or shouldn't trade. That's not up to me. Believe it or not, it's not done by Larry, either. We believe in Theo. He thought he was doing what was in the best interests of the organization."
Henry said he was in accordance with the club's assertion, after Garciaparra met with team trainers and manager Terry Francona last Wednesday in Baltimore, that the shortstop had indicated he could miss a significant amount of playing time this month because of his injury. That left the club little choice, Henry said, but to make a deal for another shortstop.
"Let's put it this way," Henry said. "I was in my office in Fenway Park when Theo called and said, `You'd better come down here; I want you to hear something.' I went down to his office and he put the manager on the phone. I heard what I also read [later] in the newspapers, directly from the manager. He has a duty to report such things.
"Do I believe it? Absolutely. After that conversation, Theo, Larry, and I met, and Theo said that everything had been fully disclosed to Chicago and that he didn't know if they still had interest [in Garciaparra], but that we needed somebody to play shortstop."
Tellem's revelation to Epstein that he had to talk Garciaparra out of demanding a trade came, according to Henry, in a telephone conversation between the agent and Epstein July 25, the day after the player and agent had met with Epstein, Lucchino, and Henry. Garciaparra expressed his desire to demand a trade, according to Henry, before that meeting.
After his debut with the Cubs Sunday in Chicago, Garciaparra said that Henry had spoken to him just once this season. He later amended that twice, saying Henry had attempted to contact him after the shortstop's charity bowling event, then acknowledging the July 24 meeting with Henry and other members of the brass.
Henry acknowledged that Garciaparra's remarks implied that a fissure existed between player and owner. "That's why three times I expressed an interest in meeting with him," Henry said. "The first time was when he came back to play [Garciaparra returned June 9, after missing the season's first 57 games]. I said, `Look, Nomar, there are two things I want to express.
"No. 1, don't come back too early. He said, `I'm coming back today.' I said, `Wow.' I also said, `I want to sit down and meet with you one on one.' He said, `I'm coming back right now; I've got too much on my mind.'
"I wanted to sit down with him and remind him of the chronology of events that had occurred, just to make sure he understood why we went the A-Rod route."
That one-on-one meeting never took place. Instead, Henry said, there was the July 24 meeting at Fenway Park while the Sox and Yankees were waiting for rain to let up so they could start their game. The purpose of that meeting was twofold, Henry said. One was to ask Garciaparra what he thought could be done to help the Sox and to help him. The other, Henry said, was to ask Garciaparra why he seemed so unhappy.
Said Henry, "The next day, after that meeting -- I don't know if I'm breaking a confidence, my general manager will probably be mad at me -- I got a phone call from Theo, who said that he had talked to Arn, who said that prior to that meeting he had to talk Nomar out of demanding a trade. We knew from that that he didn't want to be here."
So was there a fissure? "Obviously there was," Henry said.
"That was why I wanted to remind him of the Dec. 5 call between Arn and Theo when negotiations broke down between Theo and Arn. That's the point at which the A-Rod stuff took off."
Even after that, Epstein said Monday, he told Tellem that if Garciaparra accepted the Sox' four-year, $48 million offer, the team would abandon its pursuit of Rodriguez. He conveyed the same message to Garciaparra in a phone conversation just before flying to New York to meet with Rodriguez, a meeting he told Garciaparra he was planning to have.
Garciaparra rejected that proposal, and in a telephone interview Monday night made it clear he was unwilling to accept a proposal so far below what the Sox had offered the previous spring.
Henry, asked if he understood why Garciaparra might have been offended, said: "Why would you be offended? I guess you could take offense. This spring we offered him $60 million again in a meeting with Arn. Granted, it wasn't all up front. A portion of it was deferred. I didn't think the deferrals were a big deal because the Red Sox would be there and the interest rates were low.
"We were trying to find a way to sign him. We never received a counteroffer to any of the proposals we made.
"Has any position player been paid $15 million in average annual value since Manny [Ramirez]? The answer is no. No one who is healthy. No one who has an injury."
Henry said that at one point he thought he had a good relationship with Garciaparra and feared that his meeting with Rodriguez would jeopardize that. "It certainly didn't help," he said.
Asked if he thought Garciaparra might have misled the Sox about his injury to facilitate a trade, Henry said: "I would have a hard time believing that. How did he look to you on the field? Did he look hurt? I see a lot of heads nod from people who watch the team every day. To me, we had every reason to believe him."
But Henry also said he was surprised that the Cubs evidently felt differently about the injury, to the point where they would make a deal. Did he suspect the Cubs were getting information from someone in the Garciaparra camp that painted a different picture?
"That would be pure speculation on my part," he said. "I have no knowledge of that."
Both Epstein, who also was present here, and Lucchino, who appeared on NESN in the team's pregame show, also addressed some of the controversy spawned by the trade.
"It's unfortunate," Epstein said. "I was reading the papers on the plane today on the way down here. The thing that kept popping into my mind is it's best for everyone to turn the page."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.