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Existential Crisis, Theo Edition

The winter of our discontent continues.

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Chicago Cubs v Boston Red Sox

Well, we’ve had some time to digest Theo’s part-time return to Red Sox Nation. Time to consider more angles and get a tiny bit more information. But it’s tough that when the Red Sox finally do something interesting this offseason, it still feels kind of flat. One of the best baseball minds ever, hometown guy Theo Epstein, will be coming home in a sense. But even as he signed on as part-owner (and part-timer) at FSG, he’ll necessarily be spending much of his attention on concerns other than the Sox, namely, Liverpool FC, the Pittsburgh Penguins, golf, and racing. Sigh.

And he’s an owner now. He’s not one of us anymore. He hasn’t been for a while, really, not since he left for Chicago. But he still felt like he was working for us—for fans, for baseball—even though he wasn’t working for Boston.

And we’ve seen what owners are wont to do. They stick together, like unanimously voting to support John Fisher in his terrible-yet-successful quest to drive the Oakland franchise into the ground and then out of town.

So Theo’s concerns are not necessarily ours and vice versa (though there is chatter that his work at FSG may eventually come to focus more specifically on the Sox). Even though I believe his heart is with the Sox, that’s not his focus anymore.

I think MLB, as a whole, will miss Theo. His specialty as an advisor there was “on-field problems” and he successfully made games more exciting by decreasing time spent between pitches and by encouraging more base running. I was looking forward to having him grapple with other baseball-wide problems, the solutions to which might have an even greater reach and make a true difference. One of those is the decline of Black players, coaches, and managers in baseball. Bob Nightengale at USA Today recently took a more specific look at the hurdles faced by aspiring Black catchers. I would call this an on-field problem worth solving.

FSG’s gain leaves a Theo-shaped hole in MLB, and I remain in limbo as someone who deeply loves the Sox. There seems to be a general acknowledgment that Theo has Henry’s ear, that this hire was a concession to fans’ discontent, proof that FSG has heard us.

I question whether this is true, but time will tell. Theo is in an odd position, too, as the last owner on the scene, and a part-timer at that. And I agree with everyone who has posited that he’ll grant Craig Breslow, his friend and mentee, the courtesy of letting him be his own man in Boston, especially because of the way Larry Lucchino stifled Theo once upon a time. It seems unlikely to me that we’ll see Theo’s thumb on the scale for a good, long while, unfortunately.

And it’s February anyway; what can we do at this point to change the trajectory of the 2024 season? Oh right, we can sit back and know that Netflix is filming the whole upcoming season in order to air a documentary on the 2024 Boston Red Sox. Hooray?

If the 2024 season goes the way almost everyone is predicting, who will want to rewatch the travails of this team in 2025, when the series airs? What could there possibly be to dissect and relive that could shed light on, or generate retroactive excitement for, the 2024 team? Triston Casas had better bring it.

Anyway, the die feels cast; the cards feel dealt. This a good move for Theo, once named the greatest leader in the world by Fortune magazine, who wanted to be an owner. An excellent move for Henry because Theo will surely make his company more money and burnish its reputation. But for baseball, never mind a Sox fan?

It’s hard to see the win—yet—for us. Progress, even if that means simply righting the ship or allowing fans to see goodwill and interest from our owners, still feels so very far away.