By David Scott
Boston Sports Media Watch

Looks like Dan Shaughnessy did his chores a bit too early this week.

When Shaughnasty penned the Sunday Globe column, “Let’s iron out some of this dirty laundry,” he thought he was putting the finishing touches on his paper’s “big coup” – the news of the re-signing of Theo Epstein.

He thought wrong. And once again, like no other writer in this city can do, he became part of the story to the largest degree possible. (If Larry Lucchino is, in fact, co-writing with the Curse Creator, he should at least be given a “contributors” credit at the end of each piece.)

You want layers? This baby has more layers than D.C.’s Libby scandal.

That might be an apt comparison in many ways: Leaks, guys you’d forgotten about and people lining up on every side of the issue. It isn’t politics, but it is surely political.

And how about our own Dick Cheney, Shaughnasty, the only guy who goes from “irrelevant” to “Category 4” in about three-point-eight-seconds. Like Cheney, Danny Boy had lost a lot of the spotlight since last September. Every now and then Cheney would go for a heart test, and every now and then DB would make a little noise like when he proclaimed the Sox had clinched somewhere near Patriots’ Day. But neither figured to ever be front-page worthy again.

Yet, here we are: Danny Boy and Dicky Boy – together in scandal of varying degrees.

Some Shots’ scoped highlights from the first hours of The Fallout Over Theo-a-thon that has kicked off in earnest at all media outposts.

Here’s what we witnessed, discovered and pondered:

. . .When ESPN’s Peter Gammons was telling ESPN/SportsCenter’s Dan Patrick (via phone) that Theo had ‘privacy’ issues in Boston and was not a fan of having to be a Sox Spin Guy, he was mostly echoing much of the same info that Michael Silverman was blogging and later giving on-air to WEEI.

And both men’s info was most clearly getting a Theo twinge either directly from Epstein or through his closest compadres. Gammons ignored the Globe connection, for the most part, on ESPN, but that’s likely because he’s wise enough to know that once you start investigating who’s ownin’ whom, you begin to go down a path that no major media company worth its salt can afford to venture on.

. . . Even juicier in the final sequence of events that led to the end of the Sox Theocracy was that ESPN, the Worldwide Leader gave the Herald credit in breaking the news of Theo’s pullout. Whether Yellow Boxer Michael Silverman had it first or not is probably a bit difficult to determine, but when ESPN delivers its considerable cache of users the news that someone has actually beaten them on a story – well, that’s big news in and of itself.

. . . Further giving a ghoulish, foggy, Halloween appearance around the Joe Sullivan sports desk is the double-bylined (Chris Snow and Gordon Edes) story from Monday morning that had the headline
“Epstein, Red Sox agree on a three-year contract.” (The troublesome nature of this shared byline is that Snow, the younger and less-connected baseball guy, is getting first billing on THE story of the off-season.)

(A Monday evening email by Shots to Globe sports editor, Joe Sullivan, seeking the chance to discuss the paper’s position on all of this, was not responded to.)

Monday’s story was attributed to “multiple major league sources” but begs the question brought up (again) last week by the Herald and Tony Mazz: Is the Howard Bryant dubbed, “Cartel” feeding news to its house organ, the Globe sports section?

And now, if that is indeed the case, did that “strategy” backfire when Theo read the Shaughnessy column (as Silverman suggested in his original post)? The Curse Maker, in that Sunday piece, credited Lucchino for – among other things – having the honor to “fall on the sword. . . .saving Epstein” during a failed Rockies deal.

If you’re scoring at home, it would appear that the only way for any media outfit in this city to take on the Globe is for there to be a joint effort put forth by silent partners, the Herald and WEEI. In this case, the Herald (and Silverman) were aided by the fact that Theo could not go to the Globe with his ultimate trump of Lucchino. He needed to go to the other guy, and in this case, it was Jeff Horrigan’s partner-in-coverage: Silverman.

Put it this way: if Fenway were the White House, there’d be a special prosecutor, or 12, dispatched to Kenmore Square, post-haste.

. . . Let us not underestimate how deep the allegiances, bedpartners and partners-in-crime of all this goes: Red Sox radio rights are now the property of WEEI, but the deal runs out after next season. With the loudest mouth in Boston, Glenn Ordway already bashing the BoSox front office and callers killing Lucchino at a heavy rate, this one could go a long way in alienating the Trio from re-upping with ‘EEI.

There are very clearly lines being drawn in the sand amongst the region’s sports media outlets. Not to be too melodramatic about it, but many of these partnerships will dictate whether or not Boston remains a two newspaper town.

As long as the sides remain this way with the Globe/NESN team facing off against the three-headed Herald/WEEI/FSN creature, there is reason for hope that the Yellow Boxers will survive. The wild card is ESPN Radio Boston (and, to a lesser extent, whoever gets smart enough to unite a few of the Bruce Allen-types and place them on one large, recognizable stage.)

In a nutshell: it’s healthy to have the wanna-be’s taking shots at you as long as everyone is on the same page at Globe/NESN/Sox HQs. Shaughnasty needs to be able to understand that he could be called ThanksLar for the foreseeable future. Or better yet, Jurassic Red: The Return. And that’s okay – because if the Globe is sleeping with the Sox it’s a lot better than the alternative: Barely sleeping at night because you think the Herald might be going the way of Theo – bye, bye.

Whatever it’s called, the resulting entity is this, with a little help from my Spinal Tappers: Boston sports media and everything it entails just got turned up to 11!

. . . Boston.com’s Eric Wilbur put together a nice “immediate reaction” piece for posting at the site and he pulled off a good Halloween analogy to boot. Wilbur opined, after suggesting young Theo was doing the holiday equivalent of hoisting eggs at the Sox offices: “To his credit, Epstein will stay on for a few more days to aid with the transition. That will be a comfortable working environment, no?”

And Wilbur didn’t hold back in placing the entire episode in the realm of an economics lesson. The Red Sox are a corporation, Wilbur seemed to be saying. But Theo Epstein’s just a guy.

Hard to disagree with that.

For the Herald on the other hand, being the acknowledged “Theo’s Gone” leader, allowed them to choose a different tact and allow the Silverman story to serve as their lone web element until the Tuesday paper hits the street. The real, full-staff commentary, we assume, will be in the Tuesday Herald. And that’s sound strategy too. Especially with limited resources and an obligation to put out a kickass section after making the Boring Broadsheeters look like damn fools.

. . . A Google blog search (Beta version) brought out 2,958 hits in 0.43 seconds at 9:56 p.m. last night. Try it again when you read this. It’ll probably quadruple by lunch on Tuesday.

. . . After Andy Gresh told FSN’s 10:30 p.m. viewers to “bite me” (I kid you not) if they are going to claim the media ran Theo out of town, the NESTers (Sean Grande and Greg Dickerson) went on to lob grenades at this boston.com story they found to be a little too ownership-friendly.

It should also be noted, of course, that FSN is strategically allianced with the Herald, including a Yellow Box on-set and frequent Herald guests.

. . . ABC5 lost out on the bedtime Theo update by having to wait for Pittsburgh/ Baltimore to get finished at 12:25 a.m. That left CBS4 to take on NBC7, with the pesky NECN vying for 11 o’clock ownership of Monday’s ‘Theology.”

Blabbering Bob Lobel was surprisingly stoic and poised and durable Dan Roche managed to chip in two phone interviews with Kevin Millar and Johnny Damon. (Lobel’s dinner-time report of Theo having packed his things and left the building appeared to have been refuted later in the evening.) . . . Laura Behnke saved NECN’s coverage live from Fenway with Chris Collins in-studio. And Joe Amorosino, who one might have expected to be in a Halloween costume after last week’s Sports Xtra wardrobe malfunction, anchored the NBC7 coverage. . . During the Monday nighter, WCVB did tease an “Only-on-5” video of Lucchino and Theo that wound up with Boy Wonder realizing a blind in th eoffice had still been open. Good stuff there by the ‘CVB camera man and Mike Lynch, who dissected the Herald vs Globe aspect of the story.

. . . If one good thing comes out of losing my Tribesman, Theo, it could be this: Now that the wall between the Trio’s Sox and Sully’s Sports is broken down, maybe Lucchino can do something about the DimDog at dirtdogs.com. Just sayin’ – if you’re cleaning house, you might as well include the doghouse.

. . . Here’s Gammons ESPN.com “Insider” on Theo – basically what he said on the Network all evening long:
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
Oct. 31
Theo Epstein was like so many of us who grew up in New England. All he ever wanted to do was be the general manager of the Red Sox. He and his best friend Sam Kennedy dreamed of the day they would run their team. And they did, Theo as GM, Sam as VP.

Kennedy talked to Epstein every few hours trying to convince him to stay. Red Sox ownership, specifically Larry Lucchino, tried to convince him to stay, offering more money than they ever dreamed of paying. But Epstein chose to move on, because while he loves the Red Sox, baseball and running a baseball operation, he did not love this job — the hype, PR, spin-doctoring, leaks and rock-star status it entailed.

Lucchino should have gotten Epstein’s extension done over dinner in spring training, and when he let it drag on several forces came into play. It eventually became a media circus, which made Epstein uncomfortable. With leaks and speculation, it became ugly. But Lucchino also doubled what he believed the fair-market value of Epstein’s contract, and Epstein walked away because he didn’t believe this is what he wanted to live with.

It is different in Boston, and Billy Beane has always said that the best decision he ever made was to change his mind and not take the Red Sox job. But John Henry is the primary owner, and he may be the best owner in the business, and while Lucchino may be a media machine, there isn’t a team in the business where the GM doesn’t have to answer to ownership.

The walk-off is bad timing for the Red Sox, who have several key free agents and have to try to trade Manny Ramirez and David Wells. Assistant GM Josh Byrnes, who would have been the successor, took the Arizona job. Jed Hoyer and other assistants will represent the team at the GM meetings in Palm Springs next week. As for a successor, it would seem that the line would start behind Gerry Hunsicker, unless the Tigers would let Dave Dombrowski out of his contract in Detroit.

. . . Reaction at the various red Sox message boards was predictably ravenous. sonsofsamhorn.com got to 16 pages within three hours of the news breaking for its “Theo Is Gone” thread:

Oddly, there was even some rational thinking going on: “This thread is seriously pathetic. It proves without a doubt that all those sportswriters we made fun of were absolutely right when they said that Sox fans aren’t happy unless they’re miserable. . . one reason (Theo) may have let it come down to the last minute is that he went in thinking “hey if I get X much, then it will be worth it,” and then he changed his mind. How about that, huh? Someone changing their mind?. . .”

Oh no, Son of Sam Horn friend – not in this town. And not with Theogate fomenting.

.David Scott writes from a seaside shanty on the shores of Hull, Mass. and can be reached at shots@bostonsportsmediadotcom