John Tomase

Biggest impediment facing Red Sox owners in GM search? Themselves

John Henry and Co. may have to overcome their own reputation.

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Red Sox ownership would have their pick of Chaim Bloom successors, except for one pesky problem: people talk.

It turns out they have a lot to say about the way John Henry and Co. run their team. Just as ownership's less-than-sterling reputation hamstrung its ability to replace Dave Dombrowski, it's going to be an issue again as they begin their latest search.

Forget about coaching trees; we're talking green growth of the grudge and grievance varieties, because Red Sox ownership has managed to alienate wide swaths of baseball with its treatment of its last four bosses.

Theo Epstein snuck out in a gorilla suit in 2005 before being lured back through 2011, but his departure was acrimonious, and the scars haven't fully healed on either side. I suspect one reason CEO Sam Kennedy could definitively rule out the return of his childhood friend is that Henry still considers Epstein's exit a betrayal.

Meanwhile, no one who worked under Epstein even wanted to interview for the job the last time it opened, in part because they disliked the leaks designed to minimize Epstein's contributions to the roster while aggrandizing former CEO Larry Lucchino. If that mindset holds, it would rule out one of the strongest potential candidates in Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen, an Abington, Mass., native who has built a winner in Arizona and isn't afraid to take big swings.

But it's not just the Theo tree. Dombrowski is universally respected and well-liked across the game, and counterparts still believe he was done dirty after winning a World Series in 2018 and then not even surviving the following season. Ownership's characterization of his farm-system failures denigrated the architect of the greatest season in franchise history.

Dombrowski has many allies who took notice, and it's worth noting that one of Bloom's potential replacements, Phillies GM Sam Fuld, is working under Dombrowski as we speak. I bet any discussions of Red Sox ownership will be frank, to say the least.

Similar sentiments have undoubtedly been expressed between Guardians manager Terry Francona and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, a rumored Red Sox target. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Francona hates the entire top of the Fenway Sports Group masthead. He'll never forgive the slander he endured on the way out the door in 2011, and it's just not possible he'll have a single nice thing to tell Antonetti should the Red Sox come calling. Sorry, but those relationships matter.

Then there's Ben Cherington. In one sense, he combined the best of Dombrowski and Bloom, building a World Series winner and a deep farm system. But another well-liked executive was kicked aside barely two years after his own title in a bout of organizational whiplash that stresses the vertebrae of the entire operation once every four years.

And that's ultimately the biggest problem. Based on the last dozen years, the Red Sox job is viewed as a meat grinder that leaves even the most successful executives broken and unemployed in less time than it takes to graduate high school. The Red Sox appear unstable, which is an incredible description to use of an ownership group that has won more championships in the last two decades than anyone else, but here we are.

With the trend towards younger executives meaning that most candidates are in their late 30s or early 40s, we're talking young families. Asking someone to move their children to a new school to serve at the whims of an ownership group that has now fired three straight baseball bosses is a tough sell. Any assurances the Red Sox give prospective candidates about job security will ring hollow. These people have eyes. They've seen what happens.

They also have ears, and suffice it to say, their peers have had a lot to talk about.

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