McAdam: Red Sox owners muddying the waters

McAdam: Red Sox owners muddying the waters
November 17, 2011, 10:09 pm
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Perhaps, somewhere in the future, we can say that the Red Sox, thanks to their famed "due diligence'', did the right thing in their excruciatingly thorough search for a new manager.

Perhaps all the time spent, all the interviews conducted, all the mockery invited, will make sense in the end. Perhaps they will, eventually, get The Right Guy for the job.

Perhaps.

But right now, the process appears ludicrously out of control, run not by the upper management and ownership of a model franchise, but instead, a modern-day Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.

If perception is reality, then the perception around baseball is that the Red Sox are turning this managerial search into some sort of slapstick production.

Think new general manager Ben Cherington is having any second thoughts?

Cherington -- along with former GM Theo Epstein, and in hindsight, how foolish was that? -- compiled a list of candidates, vetted them through contacts throughout the game and invited them to Boston for day-long interviews.

From that group, Cherington identified Dale Sveum, clearly, as his top choice. Sveum was invited to the GMOwners Meetings in Miwaukee and presented to ownership.

How do we know that Sveum was Cherington's clear favorite? Because while Sveum was being invited back for a second, follow-up interview, the Red Sox never had anyone else lined up for a return visit. Cherington said as much Tuesday when he said he and others were still "narrowing'' down the other candidates.

But something about Sveum didn't pass the sniff test for the owners. After a two-hour lunch meeting with ownership, the Red Sox weren't prepared to offer him the job. By late Wednesday, the Cubs were sufficiently convinced enough to make Sveum their choice.

Ownership's decision to take a pass on Sveum was a rebuke of Cherington's judgment. And as if to emphasize the point, CEO and president Larry Lucchino answered "absolutely,'' Wednesday night when asked if the team might expand the search to include new candidates.

What message does that send to Cherington, who has focused his first three weeks on the job in identifying and interviewing his choices for the team's new manager?

If Lucchino had walked into the middle of the lobby of the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, patted Cherington on the head and said: "Nice try, kid, but we'll take it from here," he couldn't have embarrassed the new general manager more.

All along, the Big Three of Lucchino, principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner have dismissed any suggestion that the search is unwinding and taking too long.

Daily, they remind everyone how -- all together now -- "Terry Francona wasn't hired until Dec. 8" back in 2003, which is indisputably true.

Here's what else was undisputably true: That offseason, the Red Sox went to Game 7 of the ALCS before their season was through. That meant they were playing into the third week of October. The team didn't pull the plug on Grady Little until after the World Series was done.

This year? The Sox were finished Sept. 28, then clumsily parted ways with Terry Francona two days later. Even allowing for the time it took for Epstein to leave for Chicago, the Sox will have been without a manager for eight weeks, an absurdly long time.

(By contrast, the world champion St. Louis Cardinals replaced Tony La Russa in about 10 days, while the Cubs hired Sveum less than three weeks after dismissing Mike Quade).

In Boston, however, there's no apparent urgency. The contingent left Milwaukee Thursday, with Cherington and other members of the baseball operations team headed for the Dominican to work out some international free agents and the owners presumably headed back to Boston.

No hurry.

Wonder if Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski feels the same way? Or Toronto's Alex Anthopoulos? Or Cleveland's Chris Antonetti? All three have coaches who are still, on the face of it, candidates for the Sox' managerial job, unclear about their own futures.

Now comes word that the Sox are in discussions with Bobby Valentine, yet another telltale sign that ownership -- and not Cherington -- is calling the shots. Henry is known to be a proponent of Valentine and may have already met with him to discuss the job.

The inclusion of Valentine may satisfy those who moaned that there weren't enough "big name'' candidates on the Sox' wish list. But just as surely, he defies Cherington's desire to have someone who will work collaboratively with baseball operations.

Then again, maybe yet another name will surface and be hired before all is said and done.

"Spooky World'' is over at Fenway. But the circus, it would seem, is here to stay.