Unknown described as Theo’s “best pal”
YAWKEY WAY (AP) — In a surprise move that stunned an already shocked Red Sox Nation, the president and CEO of the 2004 World Series Champions announced that he would hold a press conference today to introduce the team’s new general manager, less than 24 hours after former GM Theo Epstein resigned from the position.
“How do you replace someone like Theo?” Larry Lucchino said in a statement released to the press early Tuesday. “You do it quickly.” A press conference was scheduled for 4 p.m. at Fenway Park.
Epstein’s replacement, Martin Lieberman, is a longtime Red Sox fan. Like Epstein, Lieberman is 31, single, Jewish and a Brookline resident, although he has only lived in the Boston suburb for four years. He was born and raised in New York, where his parents root for the Mets.
“When I got the call last night from Larry, I thought it was a joke,” Lieberman said this morning. “But I accepted the position without hesitating.”
“I don’t know why Theo walked away from such a great gig,” Lieberman added. “Larry couldn’t have been nicer. I was pleasantly surprised, given what I’d read in the papers recently.”
Lieberman explained that he was looking forward to taking on the challenges that Epstein left behind: re-signing multiple free agents, including Johnny Damon, and dealing with Manny Ramirez’ frequent trade requests. “I’m a gemini,” he said, referring to Ramirez. “I know how to handle fluctuating moods.”
An instant connection
According to published reports, Lieberman and Epstein met one day in June 2003 on the corner of Brookline Ave. and Yawkey Way, when Epstein was on his day off and Lieberman was on his way to a tour of Fenway.
Lieberman said a connection was made.
“Even though we haven’t seen each other or spoken since that day, I know Theo must still think of me as his best pal,” Lieberman said.
A virtual unknown within baseball circles, Lieberman said he had been to three games during the 2005 campaign and had watched “plenty of others” on NESN. He attributed Lucchino’s choice to Lucchino’s “desire to try something new” with someone “who really doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing.”
Reaction from players, friends, family
Reaction from Sox players was mixed.
“You don’t get better losing a guy like Theo,” pitcher Curt Schilling told the Associated Press. “Still, I’m willing to work with this new guy. He sounds like someone I’d bloody my sock again for.”
“He’d better be good. There’s a lot to live up to there,” first baseman and free agent Kevin Millar said. “I mean, I set the bar for the jokes pretty high and if they’re gonna let me go, someone is going to have to carry that weight.”
Lieberman’s friends and family were more subdued.
“At first I was like, it’s just Marty being Marty,” Todd Kaplan, a Sox fan who lives in Los Angeles, said. “But then I decided to let him talk. He seemed so amused by the story that I thought it might actually be real. Good thing I know better than that.”
Lieberman’s sister, Mitzi, a New York-based lawyer, simply said, “Whatever. My brother is a nincompoop.” She then added, “He likes to show off that photo of him and Theo whenever he gets the chance. It’s pretty sad, actually.”
“Pretty sweet” deal
Epstein walked away from a 3-year deal worth a reported $4.5 million on Monday, just hours before his contract expired. Details of Lieberman’s salary and length of contract were undisclosed at press time, but Lieberman indicated that the deal was “pretty sweet — I’m going to get to go to every game!”
Perhaps the most enthusiastic response to Lieberman’s hire came from Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, whose column in Sunday’s issue was reported to have been one of the leading causes for Epstein’s resignation.
“Last year I drove Pedro out of town. This year I’ve done it with Theo,” Shaughnessy said. “I give this Lieberman guy three months. He’ll be gone by Spring Training. Mark my words.”