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Red Sox defections leave leadership void

The World Series is about to start tonight, and there's a million reasons to be excited about baseball in Philadelphia and New York. Well, maybe we should make that a million and one in New York (at least for Yankees fans), because up the Northeast corridor, the Yankees' annual chief opposition is suddenly having a hard time retaining people in leadership positions.

After three consecutive seasons with nearly no turnover, the Red Sox are hemorrhaging members of their front office and managerial staff. First, Jed Hoyer, longtime assistant general manager and the highest ranking member of the front office below Epstein in charge of the Boston farm system, accepted a position to run the Padres. Then Brad Mills, Terry Francona's longtime bench coach and right-hand man (not to mention his college roommate), bolted town to manage the Houston Astros.

That's two key departures in one week. Sure, the Red Sox held on to pitching coach John Farrell (who may be considered even more important than either Hoyer or Mills), perhaps thanks to a clause in his contract, but there's little question that he'll be hotly pursued for a managerial opening at some point in the next year or two as well.

Whenever a team is successful, it's bound to lose senior members of its front office and managerial staff. That's no surprise. Perhaps what is a surprise is that Boston is losing so many bodies all at once. Yes, Josh Byrnes, Epstein's former top-lieutenant, has been running the Diamondbacks for three years, but he was the sole departure before the past week.

There are two key questions that evolve from these departures: 1) Why are Hoyer and Mills leaving now? and 2) Can the Red Sox rebound without them?

The answer to the first question may be as simple as opportunity. While Hoyer had been mentioned in past openings, it's possible -- and, indeed, likely -- that the Padres were the first team to officially offer him the reins of their franchise. That's a hard offer to turn down, particularly for a new owner who has a pretty aggressive business plan. The same may go for Mills, who has received consideration for past openings, but never as much as Farrell.

As for the Red Sox, their ability to rebound may be a more tenuous proposition. There's little doubt that Francona will be able to plug a highly qualified coach into his staff to fill Mills' opening, and given Francona's ability to steer a level ship, that's unlikely to cause much of a long-term disruption with the team.

Hoyer's departure, however, leaves a much more sizable hole. When Epstein briefly abandoned ship in 2005, Hoyer and Ben Cherington were named co-general managers, positions they held together until Epstein's return, when they became a two-barreled assistant General Manager weapon. With Cherington focusing on negotiating contracts and payroll, Hoyer was put in charge of development, an area in which he and the Red Sox in general have excelled in recent years, producing a handful of major leaguers and highly valuable prospects.

It's almost guaranteed that the Red Sox will promote or re-assign Hoyer's duties from within, but any time a figurehead like Hoyer leaves the nest, a void emerges. Whether Boston has a person ready to fill that void may go a long way toward determining how competitive the team will remain in the coming years, particularly 2011 or 2012 and beyond.

By Cameron Smith  |  October 28, 2009; 10:05 AM ET
Categories:  Astros , Padres , Red Sox  | Tags: Astros, Brad Mills, Jed Hoyer, Padres, Red Sox, Theo Epstein  
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Comments

Cameron, this is timely and important analysis! It's critical that The Washington Post address this issue now, at the end of October, as I am sure it is eating up Boston Red Sox fans everywhere! And I know that The Post is the first place that they will turn to for insight. On their behalf, I thank you.

Seriously, couldn't one of you Post baseball editors spend a little time covering the Nats on the other blog, assuming Harlan is on vacation or assignment? The Nats have had plenty of developments in their front office recently also, and all we get is a link to mlb.com and a re-write of a press release? And oh, by the way, the Nats are also in the middle of a managerial search. Do you guys even care about covering them? I know you are personally a Red Sox fan, but the home town team should come first where coverage is concerned.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | October 28, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Uh, two people does not a "hemorrhage" make. But on behalf of Red Sox fans everywhere, thanks for your concern.

Now, maybe, as CoverageIsLacking suggests, you could post some real news? Just a little? Please?

Posted by: EinDC | October 29, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

The Boston Globe, Herald and other New England newspapers aren't agonizing over Hoyer and Mills. In fact, they're pointing to them as examples of what is right with the Red Sox organization, similar to how great NFL coaches have "coaching family trees" throughout the league.

Posted by: ericp331 | October 29, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

One more point to add on this.

If you're not going to reallocate baseball resources to the Nats while Harlan is apparently away, and you're not going to focus this MLB blog entirely on the World Series while it is being played, there are still at least 2 other current MLB developments which are more topical and blog-worthy than this nonsense speculation about the Red Sox. Specifically, (1) the Cards hiring McGwire as their hitting coach, and the McCourts' divorce and its impact on the Dodgers. The fact that you are a Red Sox fan does not merit a post like this about them.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | October 29, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

CiL - It is kind of funny that my post here is the first substantive reply to Cameron's post. Yes, there is a there is a minimal series tie in, and the point of this blog (v. Nats Journal) is to cover the broader MLB beat, but coverage of the Nats should be first on WaPo.com. Arguably, there is not much to say about the managerial search other than idle speculation, and the various organizational signings are covered when they are announced, but it does seem that whatever is breaking, breaks somewhere else. The Washington Post - if you don't get it, you don't miss much Nats news.

Substantively, the Hoyer loss has been anticipated for a few years. Cherington, as was noted, has been with Epstein and the team for a long time. Craig Shipley is the head of their international operations, and that seems to be something of a focus in terms of player development for them. Last year's Tazawa signing, the Iglesias signing, perhaps the recruitment of Chapman, even the signing of the top player from Columbia (who played Indy ball this year out west - Reynaldo Rodriguez), are Shipley's domain. The organization also has Allard Baird as an adviser. Finally, Epstein worked for Kevin Towers and Towers has a standing offer from the Red Sox (and NYY) if he wanted a job.

The Red Sox have had turnover on the coaching staff almost every year. The 2004 pitching coach was Dave Wallace, Tim Bogar (who was interviewed for Houston) was new this year, DeMarlo Hale has been at 3d only 2 years. While Mills it Terry Francona's lng time friend, the replacement of one or two coaches a year is not unexpected.

Frankly, I'd not be surprised if Hale gets some interviews. He has a strong minor league managing record and MLB coaching experience with a couple of organizations. To the extent teams are looking to interview and hire new (not retread) African American managerial candidates, Hale is a when, not an if.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | October 30, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Red Sox minor league director interviews with Padres for Assistant GM job.
http://fullcount.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/2009/10/31/sox-farm-director-hazen-interviews-with-padres/

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | October 31, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

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