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Theo talks Sox

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  January 6, 2006 11:47 AM

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Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein took to the radio airwaves this morning, defending the Red Sox’ offseason moves and responding to the speculation that he may return to the team in some capacity.

“I really haven’t gone into all the substantive reasons why I left,” Epstein told Boston radio station KISS-108’s Matt Siegel this morning. “I think that’s probably the right thing to do, but there were reasons why I left and it was a tough decision, left a lot of great friendships, left a great organization, left a lot of work that we still had ahead of us but in the end I thought it was for the right reasons as difficult as it was.”

More comments from Epstein during the interview:

On reports that Red Sox owner John Henry was caught off guard by his resignation:

“I don’t think he was necessarily surprised because in the final days we had been talking and he certainly knew this was a strong possibility but I think he was genuinely disappointed as I was genuinely disappointed and I enjoyed, and still do enjoy, a very close relationship with him, working relationship and professional one and it was hard on both of us to see this interruption in that relationship at least from a professional standpoint. I don’t think he was shocked but I do think he was disappointed as I was.”

Would Johnny Damon be a Yankee if he were still Red Sox GM?

“Probably, given the way it’s gone down. I hate to comment on negotiations when I’m not directly involved in them but I’ll say this, I don’t think anyone’s at fault for the way things transpired. Johnny did what was best for him and his family. The Yankees, given the need they had at leadoff and in center field, did the right thing for them. They did a good job in the negotiation. And the Red Sox offered $10 million a year and really adhered to the philosophy of setting a value on a player, remaining disciplined through the course of the negotiation, a philosophy that played a large role in 95-plus wins three years in a row and as tough as it is when you lose players, as tough as it is on the fans, that philosophy will serve the fans well in the long run because it will lead to winning teams.”

Did he make a mistake in signing Edgar Renteria to a four-year contract to play shortstop for the Red Sox last winter?

“Oh yeah, I think I did based on the results in the first year. I think we got bad results the first year (but) I think the process was good. We had excellent scouting reports universally across the board excellent scouting reports on Edgar and we’d done our subjective work and our objective work on him and we thought he was a great fit for whatever reason, physically he wasn’t the same player last year that he was and I think one of the reasons the Red Sox were open to moving him was that we… they just couldn’t take the risk that that would be the way he’d play the game going forward so he certainly could bounce back and be the player that he was for the rest of his career but if he doesn’t, that would really hurt the Red Sox at a key position so that trade was in both team’s best interest. The Red Sox were able to acquire one of the top two or three prospects in the whole game in Andy Marte. And the Braves were able to get a guy, who for all but one season, had really been one of the better shortstops in the game and fits their ball club perfectly.”

On the Sox offseason in general:

“It’s important to remember that in this offseason the Red Sox have acquired a 25-year-old pitcher of the caliber of Josh Beckett, one of the best prospects in baseball in Andy Marte, and there’s still a lot of time left to round out the club for 2006. So what I hope for the Red Sox is that soon they go on another run of three straight postseason appearances, 95-plus wins, and that fans will be able to look back and say, ‘you know what that offseason that we really didn’t think went so well was really a big part in laying that foundation.’”

More from Theo …

“All the attention that’s surrounded this (leaving as GM) probably makes me more uncomfortable than anything else, but I wish the Red Sox well and it’s good to hear all the support from the fans out there, but I’m not enjoying it per se,” Epstein said on Boston radio station WZLX’s Karlson and McKenzie this morning regarding his departure as Sox’ GM. "I’m enjoying being unemployed, but I’m not enjoying the (attention).”

“I think those rumors (of his return) are born out of the fact that I enjoy a lot of close relationships with a lot of the people over there and that as much as possible, we parted on amicable terms. So I understand the speculation and I’ve done my best to get out of Dodge for the last couple months.”

When asked if he had any employment considerations involving baseball, Epstein replied “Not right now. Well not technically. I looked at the Dodger job. The GM job there when I was available and that was an interesting opportunity but I thought it was too close to leaving the Red Sox to really jump in with both feet so not as far as GM’s jobs go, there won’t be any open until next October and there’s no guarantee even then but usually there’s a handful open each year so… I actually talked to a Japanese team about doing some consulting. That may still come to fruition. I think it would be a good use of a year off to do something that would be stimulating and also involves seeing another culture which I haven’t had an opportunity to do. ...I do not (speak Japanese)."

On the report in the Boston Herald’s "Inside Track" column today that he will be back with the Red Sox next week:

“It really is speculation based on the fact that I’m so close with people there and I understand it. You know I think the important thing is the Red Sox have moved on, they’re not necessarily waiting for me to come back, they’ve moved on and made moves to set themselves up for the future and I certainly wish them well.”

“There was nothing formal," said Epstein regarding reports that he has acted as consultant to the Red Sox and co-GM’s Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington. "Those guys, I worked with them very closely for four years, they were two of my closest confidants in my three years as general manager and we’re really good friends, so it’s just natural that we stay in touch. There were a lot of philosophical issues heading into the offseason that we all discussed together and from time to time they’d bounce things off of me, but there’s no formal relationship as of now, no.”

On the report that Manny now wants to stay in Boston:

“For all that Manny’s kind of put people through this offseason, none of it’s done, ever, with any malice. Manny doesn’t wish anyone badly, he doesn’t wish the Red Sox badly, he just wants to hit, he wants to work hard and he kind of wants to be left alone and I think his decisions and his statements reflect that desire, and if Manny ends up wanting to stay in Boston I think it will work out well not only for the Red Sox but for him, so it’s just important for the fans to remember that none of this is intentional. None of this is done with any malice… Manny likes to win. The happiest I’ve probably ever seen him is in ’04 postseason.”

And if you’re wondering what happened to the gorilla suit he wore to disguise himself when leaving Fenway Park on the night of his resignation as Red Sox GM, “the guy who runs the auction (for Hot Stove, Cool Music) asked me for it,” said Epstein. “I’m going to get it back from my buddy, who happened to wear it to work for Halloween that day and we’re going to auction it off, so hopefully that raises some money.”

Epstein will be appearing this weekend at the Hot Stove, Cool Music roundtable on Saturday and concert on Sunday night to raise money for the charities A Foundation to be Named Later and The Jimmy Fund.

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