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Sox talk

By Steve Bailey, Globe Staff, 5/12/2000

ream Teams, like dreams themselves, don't come with a script.

Take our Red Sox, for instance. When it came time to build a new Fenway, John Harrington went out and hired the best - to say nothing of the most expensive - team in town. Among them: John Sasso, the Boston lobbyist with a batting average better than Ted Williams; Bob Walsh, the former head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the mayor's best pal; Mark Robinson, Massachusetts Port Authority chairman and former Weld adviser; and Micho Spring, whose political connections date to Kevin White's City Hall.

But all hasn't been smooth with the Dream Team. Sasso and Walsh, the Sox's two top hired hands, have spent months advocating opposing strategies, both inside the Sox's clubhouse and out. The strategies very much reflect who they are.

Sasso is the Sox's top political guy, a man who helped Mike Dukakis win the Democratic nomination for president and won big battles on Beacon Hill in recent years for Raytheon and John Hancock. Sasso's credo: Keep it simple. The strategy must be understandable to the man on the street.

That strategy translates into the Sox's so-called ''private plan,'' which calls for public financing for infrastructure, but building the park itself with private funds. Sasso also argued that the Sox should focus on building the park, not redeveloping the Fenway neighborhood. If the park succeeds, development will follow naturally, he preached.

Walsh, on the other hand, is a developer and was hired to manage the Sox's development plans. Real estate is a business driven by complicated financing schemes, and it was Walsh who drove the Sox's more expensive ''public'' financing plan. He pushed for a public authority as a financing mechanism and for a city-owned ballpark. Walsh has also championed a big-bang development for the Fenway.

In addition to their different roles as political and development advisers, the two have had different roles lobbying for the project. Sasso was assigned to dealing with the state; Walsh, the mayor's friend, was responsible for the city. If the noise coming out of the city these days - Tom Menino to the Globe's Meg Vaillancourt: ''Why should we kiss the ring?'' - is any indication Sasso is in better shape with the state than Walsh is with the city.

Both men say their disagreement is business, not personal.

''We best serve the client by providing advice,'' says Walsh. ''It isn't necessary that we all agree.''

Says Sasso: ''I just want to get it done. The approach doesn't matter.''

Has this ongoing disagreement muddied the waters? Should Harrington have acted more like the CEO he is and made a decision? Would the Sox have been better off with one person, not two, directing the city and state campaigns?

If the Sox get their stadium, none of this will matter. If they don't, we'll be beating this to death on talk radio for the next 10 years.

Who did struggling financier Abe Gosman turn to when he got into a scrap over millions with the Fish family, his old friends who run Suffolk Construction Co.? Joel Kozol, the same lawyer who represented Gosman's wife, Betty, in the couple's contentious divorce. Call it the Good Lawyering Seal of Approval... Speaking of lawyers, the Boston Bar Association this week endorsed a separate court docket to handle complex and commercial disputes. Look for Suzanne DelVecchio, chief justice for the state's Superior Court, also to buy into the plan for a so-called business court... Finally, friends of good-guy William Coughlin, the one-time ''Mr. Business'' of downtown Boston who died way too early in January, are working to establish a scholarship at Boston Latin School, Coughlin's alma mater. Contributions can be sent to the Greater Boston Corp./Bill Coughlin Fund, One Beacon St., Fourth Floor, Boston, Mass., 02108.

This story ran on page E01 of the Boston Globe on 5/12/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.

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