Citing the emergence of a ''guiding, long-term baseball operations philosophy" and a commitment to ''a productive collaboration" with his former protégé, president/CEO Larry Lucchino and the Red Sox welcomed Theo Epstein back last night to what appears to be his old job: executive vice president and general manager.
The club, 85 days after Epstein quit, and four days after announcing via e-mail that he would return in a ''full-time baseball operations capacity," released details of Epstein's return through the same medium. The 32-year-old Epstein's title did change somewhat; he walked away Oct. 31 as senior vice president and GM and returns as executive vice president and GM, which signifies a promotion, in title if not in organizational clout. Details of his contract, however, were not revealed, though he is believed to be returning to a deal similar to the three-year, $4.5 million offer he left on the table on Halloween.
And while Epstein's title suggests a heightened organizational presence, Lucchino's role ''has not changed at all," according to principal owner John W. Henry, who added, ''No general manager in baseball could ask for more autonomy than Theo has. This has never been an issue for us -- only in the media."
Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington were both reassigned, ending their atypical arrangement as co-general managers after only 44 days. Hoyer, the assistant to the GM before becoming co-GM, becomes assistant general manager, which makes him Epstein's chief lieutenant, a role last occupied by Josh Byrnes, who left the Sox in late October to become GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Cherington, the director of player development up until partnering with Hoyer, will become vice president for player personnel. The Sox, according to the team release, had intended to elevate Hoyer and Cherington to these roles as far back as November.
The team, as expected, did not hold a press conference, steering clear of a mass cross-examination by releasing a collection of statements from Henry, chairman Tom Werner, Lucchino, Epstein, Hoyer, and Cherington. The Sox also promised to make Lucchino, Epstein, Hoyer, and Cherington available to the media today in small group sessions.
After today, the organization will not address the Epstein matter publicly, according to Lucchino, who said the team has ''grown a bit weary of all of the conversation about front office intrigue -- real and imagined."
Henry, apparently, will be conspicuously absent today, which runs counter to his early November promise to be more accessible and informative in the wake of Epstein's departure. Henry did not respond to an e-mail seeking further comment last night. He was somewhat vague in his prepared statements, at one point calling a perceived power struggle between Lucchino and Epstein ''simply mythology" but later adding that he's ''happy to see Larry and Theo working together again."
''People sometimes disagree," Henry continued. ''I don't think you can have healthy relationships without disagreements, and an organization is not going to evolve beyond mediocrity without them. This is not the same organization that Theo left. There was enough discord then to give Theo legitimate reasons to move on."
Much as he did Nov. 2, at Epstein's farewell press conference, Henry acknowledged his own missteps.
''I have certainly made mistakes in the past by not being more assertive when bumps in the road appeared," he said. ''Larry, Theo and other managers in the organization do not need me in order to excel at what they do, but I have a responsibility to ensure that divergent views and our overall direction lead to a better and stronger organization."
Though Henry isn't scheduled to be at today's press conferences, Lucchino and Epstein are expected to sit together to answer questions. Both Epstein and Lucchino, in the statements released last night, publicly acknowledged for the first time discord between them.
Epstein cited ''fundamental disagreements among members of upper management with respect to organizational philosophy, approaches and priorities."
''This lack of a shared vision, plus the stress of a far-too-public negotiation," Epstein continued, ''strained some relationships, including mine with Larry Lucchino. Regretfully, we all made mistakes."
Over the last 2 1/2 months, Epstein said, time and perspective helped the two executives address personal issues and organizational philosophies that now give him ''the comfort of a shared vision for the future of the organization, including the role of the baseball operations department. I deeply regret that the Red Sox were placed in a delicate position while we worked out these issues."
Epstein thanked Hoyer and Cherington for providing the club continuity and direction, and concluded that, ''with our new vision in place, with renewed lines of communication, and with a real sense of unity, we have a chance to be a greater organization than we were before. We thank Red Sox Nation for being patient with us, and we promise to work tirelessly, quietly, and in harmony to field clubs that can contend for a World Championship year after year."
Lucchino called the Sox ''stronger, deeper, bolder, and more effective" with Epstein. He indicated that the title Epstein would return to was a recent topic of discussion, until the ownership group and Epstein determined he should be GM because ''such a structure would be better and offer greater clarity, internally and externally."
It remains to be seen what exactly the ''guiding long-term baseball operations philosophy" is, and what Lucchino meant by the implementation of ''new mechanisms which enhance internal communication and which streamline external communication."
By ''external communication," Lucchino certainly was referring to Henry's offseason campaign against perceived media leaks and the owner's intention to undercut the media's ability to cite unnamed team sources.
''Over this period," Lucchino added, ''walls have crumbled, perceptions of one another have changed, and appreciation of one another has grown . . . On a personal level, Theo and I have concluded independently that the Red Sox is a stronger organization when we are both part of it.
''We have been comfortable assuring each other that a productive collaboration lies ahead, and we pledge to Red Sox Nation that we will devote our combined energy, undistracted, to the goal of producing a team that will continue -- and increase -- our competitive success for years to come. Make no mistake: much work lies ahead for all of us, and we fully realize that our future conduct must conform to our sincere aspirations."
Hoyer, 32, and Cherington, 31, both said they went into the jobs of co-GMs understanding that Epstein could well return.
''During our meetings with John, Tom and Larry in the days preceding our announcement as co-GMs, Ben and I were not only aware, but also quite hopeful, that this structure could pave the way for Theo's return," Hoyer said. ''We are thrilled that it has.
''Ben and I are confident that our investment in the last ten weeks has been worthwhile, and we are proud of the job we have done during this period. With Theo back as GM, we will shift to new roles -- the roles we were excited to take prior to Theo's departure -- and are eager to continue the work of this offseason."
Added Cherington: ''I was aware that by accepting the co-general manager position I was helping to 'leave the light on' for Theo's eventual return. Since preserving the direction of our baseball operation is so important to me, I welcome Theo's return as an opportunity to continue what we have started to build."
Cherington also confirmed that Epstein remained an informal consultant, providing counsel in signings and trades.
''Because of our relationship with Theo, we were fortunate to be able to consult him on many of these moves," Cherington said. ''Although the last several weeks have been a challenge, it has been well worth it."
Bill Lajoie and Craig Shipley, who along with Hoyer and Cherington represented the Sox at baseball's winter meetings in early December, both will remain with the club. Lajoie, a special assistant to Epstein who resigned minutes after Epstein walked away, returned days later as a special adviser for baseball operations, and climbed to be the team's de facto GM at the winter meetings, will remain a special adviser.
Shipley, formerly special assistant to the GM for player development and international scouting, will remain special assistant to the GM but pick up the title of vice president for international scouting.