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.
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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