Limelight too bright for ex-Sox GM Theo

by Beacon Staff • November 9, 2005

Last Halloween, ghosts were out to scare people and tales of goblins and ghouls filled the air. This year, the scariest thing to happen during Halloween came just after dusk. Theo Epstein, one of the brightest young minds in baseball, gave up his general manager (GM) job with the Red Sox and more than $4 million.

This decision has left many people asking the simple question-why? Many will argue that a power struggle with Red Sox President Larry Lucchino was the reason, but it's simpler than that. Epstein was a victim of his own success.

In the three years that Epstein was the GM, the Red Sox won the World Series and Epstein restocked the organization's farm system with quality players and prospects, signed David Ortiz and Curt Schilling and made a trade that sent local icon Nomar Garciaparra to Chicago to obtain the parts needed for a championship team.

Oh, did I mention he was voted Executive of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America-twice?

And while some may ask why Epstein is leaving in the midst of all his good doings, it is exactly that success that has him packing his bags.

Last Wednesday, during the press conference on his departure, Epstein spoke from the heart and said it was "difficult to adapt" to being a public figure.

"I guess, in a way, I became a popular local figure, and that goes along with a lot of responsibilities," Epstein said. "I made a difficult adjustment and handled those responsibilities. It's not the way I would choose to go through life. I don't want to be a celebrity my whole life."

The bottom line is "Theo evolved into Boston's version of JFK Jr.," as ESPN's Bill Simmons put it. There are many comparisons to be made between Epstein and JFK Jr. They are both "hot," according to every girl I've talked to, and they are both famed for their intelligence-and that's aside from that celeb status both acquired throughout their lives.

Epstein loves baseball, but he never wanted to be as outspoken as Lucchino or Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Epstein was always a private person and admitted in one interview after the Sox won the World Series that he did not want to be a GM for the rest of his life. He just saw the job as a stepping stone, possibly into social work like his brother. So with an entire city praising him and what he was able to do, Epstein felt he could not live up the expectations that Red Sox Nation and the baseball world had for him. The spotlight was too bright to handle.

This is not uncommon. Nirvana's lead singer, Kurt Cobain, went through the same thing in 1992 when the band exploded into the mainstream with the album Nevermind.

Cobain was perceived as a genius who revolutionized the music industry. That never rested well in his head, and it drove him to heavier drug use and his eventual suicide.

In the end, Cobain will always be known as someone who changed music for the better. Epstein will be hailed as a genius for the rest of his life as well, even if he never takes another GM job again.

During last Wednesday's press conference, Epstein said he will always love the Red Sox and that he hopes they do well. He just needed a break from being in the pubic eye. He asked to be left alone in a polite way; I hope Red Sox fans, who have already driven Manny Ramirez and David Wells to breaking points by suffocating them in public, don't cause a meltdown with Epstein.

Let the man live his life the way he wants to live it. Who am I to say he made the wrong choice? It's his decision, and he's not going to lose any sleep over it.

I can't say the same, however, for the rest of the Fenway faithful.

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