Kevin Towers, the San Diego general manager with the experience, persona, and resume to step into the vacuum left by Theo Epstein's departure, figured to rank high, if not at the top of a list of potential Red Sox general manager candidates.
However, Towers, in an e-mail exchange last night, said he has ''very little interest in uprooting my family at this time."
Towers seemed like a natural fit in Boston, given that he's previously worked under Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino. It was Lucchino, as president and CEO of the Padres, who in November 1995 elevated Towers, then the team's scouting director, to his current position of GM, at age 34. They operated together in those capacities for six seasons, during which the Padres made the postseason three times and reached the World Series once. Towers, during those same years, also became close to Epstein, who worked under Towers soon after he graduated Yale in 1995.
Towers indicated that his lack of interest in the Red Sox job has nothing to do with his dual allegiance to Lucchino and Epstein. Epstein, who was presented a three-year, $4.5 million extension last week to remain with the club, rejected that offer Monday, after taking the weekend and part of the day Monday to reflect upon myriad issues, foremost whether he trusted Lucchino enough to continue working alongside him.
''What has transpired over the weekend with Theo and Larry did not weigh into my decision," Towers said. ''I have tremendous respect for both of them and consider them both friends."
Towers made it clear he didn't know whether the Sox had requested permission from San Diego president Sandy Alderson to speak with Towers, nor did Towers want to presume the Sox would necessarily want to speak with him. Red Sox ownership began compiling a list of GM candidates yesterday, but principal owner John W. Henry, in an e-mail last night, said the club has not requested permission to interview the Padres GM.
''I have not had any discussions with Larry regarding the sudden opening," Towers added. ''What I can tell you is that I plan on staying in San Diego, hopefully for the remainder of my current contract, which runs through 2007.
''I have very little interest in uprooting my family at this time, and there are certainly no guarantees that San Diego keeps me in my current position through 2007. It is my hope that they do.
''The Boston opening and my name being attached to being a possible candidate is just pure speculation as far as I know."
Towers was granted permission by Alderson on Oct. 19 to interview for the Arizona GM opening that eventually went to Red Sox assistant GM Josh Byrnes. However, that permission was granted 22 days ago. Now, teams are readying for the GM meetings, which begin Monday in Palm Springs, Calif., and Alderson might be less willing to grant permission.
''At some point we're locked in," Alderson told yesterday's San Diego Union
Henry, last night, issued no timetable for concluding the GM search, saying only that the search would conclude ''as soon as we are convinced we have the right person for the job." Henry outlined no criteria, saying the club would seek ''a lot of the same things we looked for the last time" in any potential candidates.
''We will issue regular briefings on the GM search," Henry said. ''It would be unprofessional to share the names on the list. I am sure most of them would want off the list if they thought we were going to make it public."
Lucchino, meanwhile, ''has no plans to attend the GM meetings," Henry said. ''He may, however, go to Palm Springs to talk with possible candidates, if there are any executives he has been given permission to talk with."
Barring organizational departures or arrivals in the next three days, that would leave the GM meetings in the collective hands of Jed Hoyer (the Sox' assistant to the GM), Peter Woodfork (director of baseball operations, assistant director of player development), Ben Cherington (director of player development), and Craig Shipley (special assistant to the GM). Hoyer, 31, appears to have the best working knowledge of the overall baseball operations department.
Henry also was on WEEI radio yesterday in what he indicated to be a first step toward establishing a more public, involved role in the organization in the wake of Epstein's departure, for which Henry assumed responsibility in a press conference Wednesday.
Henry expressed some regret for not allowing Epstein to use an agent during the failed contract negotiations. The Sox did not allow Terry Francona to use an agent when he negotiated his contract, and the same policy applied to Epstein, who negotiated face to face with Lucchino.
''I think it would have been better," Henry said. ''Because in this organization no one in the front office hires an agent. In retrospect, you can say it certainly would have been better because maybe things would have happened more rapidly."
Lucchino, meanwhile, maintained his silence yesterday, refusing an interview request.
''It would not be appropriate to talk with one reporter from one publication at this time," Lucchino said in an e-mail. ''So I must decline your invitation."
Lucchino, in a follow-up e-mail, refused to address when and if he will be available to the media to discuss Epstein's departure and/or the search for a new general manager.
Seeking to prop up himself, and the Red Sox fandom, Henry said during his WEEI appearance: ''We're still the Boston Red Sox. We're going to be fine. We tried to say that [Wednesday in the press conference]. I love Theo. It was a very, very painful day for me [Wednesday].
''I hadn't slept. I wasn't prepared to go in front of the cameras. It was a last-minute thing. It may not have looked to everyone like we're going to be fine. I can tell you to me [Wednesday] was like the seventh game a couple years ago [vs. the Yankees]."
But now, he said, ''I'm ready to start to rebuild this baseball operation. We have to find a new general manager. We have to find an assistant general manager. Larry found Theo. Theo found the greatest people."
Henry was asked by a WEEI host whether, if he had it to do over again, he'd have said during the Wednesday press conference that ''maybe I'm not fit to be principal owner of the Boston Red Sox."
''Well, probably not, because people will repeat that, I'm sure, for the rest of my life," Henry said. ''The great thing is I'm glad now that I did say it, because it should help spur me to prove that I deserve that title.
''We said goodbye [Wednesday]," Henry added. ''It was one of the most emotional days of my life. Today is a new day."
They will move on, he said.
''Do we have a choice?" he asked.