Who Should Replace Larry Lucchino?

As the 2012 Red Sox season comes to its dysfunctional, tumultuous end, one question among all the chaos and disarray remains relatively unnoticed. Will Larry Lucchino return to the team next season? The President since Fenway Sports Group (then New England Sports Ventures) bought the team in 2002, Lucchino has been involved in power struggles with his GM, poor baseball decisions, and has been the source of team leaks multiple times since 2005. His contract expires after this season, and he and owner John Henry have declined to answer any questions pertaining to his future with the team.

Lucchino is a businessman, and a damn good one at that. His business decisions and marketing campaigns have netted the team oodles of money in profits and continue to to this day, with his decisions on how to market Fenway and the team for the stadium's 100 year anniversary earning the team even more money.

However, his baseball decisions are mediocre at best. While the whole truth is still not known on many moves, one can assume that at the very least, the Josh Beckett trade, the John Lackey signing, possibly the Carl Crawford signing, as well as a great deal of moves made previous to Theo Esptein's resignation in 2005, where Lucchino was instructed by John Henry to leave decisions in the baseball operations department to Epstein, were his decisions. One other move that can clearly be attributed to Lucchino is the Bobby Valentine hire. After new GM Ben Cherington brought in Dale Sveum, and then Gene Lamont for final interviews with ownership, Lucchino overstepped Cherington and hired Valentine, thus stepping into the power vacuum that was left in the wake of Theo Esptein's departure to the Cubs.

Some of the blame for the culture issues that have arrived in the Red Sox clubhouse can be traced back to Lucchino as well. His inability to be accountable and take responsibility for any of his decisions, most of all the Valentine hire which has turned out to be a complete bust, has trickled down to the clubhouse and has created a sense of entitlement among players that haven't won jack shit since 2007. The power hungry executive nearly caused Theo Epstein to permanently resign in 2005 and had to be banished to the business operations department by John Henry in order for Theo to sign a new contract, and may eventually cause a similar situation with Epstein's protege, Ben Cherington, if he continues to overstep him.

Assuming Lucchino does not return after this season, the Sox need to replace him with another executive who has experience in the front office and comes from a baseball based background, as opposed to a business one. This executive must be able to come in and command instant respect from everyone in the organization that works below him, from the coaches, to the manager, to the players, to Ben Cherington and the baseball operations department, to John Henry and Tom Werner themselves. This executive can not be the next up and coming baseball genius, as they appear to already have one of those in GM Ben Cherington. I've compiled a short list of executives around the league that I would like to see the Red Sox consider for the likely vacant President's job, and I believe they would be perfect fits for the job. However, not all of them will come to Boston, and I will point those candidates out.

Billy Beane - Wouldn't it be great to see the end of Moneyball be changed? Well, it would be possible if Lucchino's contract isn't renewed. Billy Beane, the current General Manager and minority owner of the Oakland Athletics, is perhaps the most influential executive in all of baseball. His revolutionary methods, ones made famous by the book he helped author 'Moneyball', are ones that most GM's around the MLB currently use, and are the ones that Theo Epstein utilized in putting together the 2004 World Series Champion Red Sox. His focus on applying statistical analysis to players as well as sabermetrics have turned the Atheltics into one of, if not the most cost effective team in all of baseball. Beane was originally offered the GM position by John Henry after the 2002 season, an offer which he eventually turned down to remain in Oakland. Pulling Beane out of Oakland in 2012 will be much more difficult, considering how much he has invested with that team and also with his being a minority owner of the organization. Beane would be one of the most ideal candidates for the position, but as I stated, it would be extremely difficult to convince him to come to Boston, if not impossible.

Terry Ryan - Ryan, the GM of the Twins, is perhaps one of the more underrated executives in baseball from a fan's perspective. Stuck in the small baseball market that is Minnesota, Ryan has made many successful trades to help build up the Twins' minor league system, as well as their major league team. The man who picked up future Twins ace Johan Santana, future MLB starter Kyle Lohse, as well as all stars Justin Morneau and stud catcher Joe Mauer, Ryan's heavy reliance on the constant scouting of both major league and minor league players led to deals that were often questioned by many, but ended turning out to produce future team stars. Ryan coming into the Red Sox would send out immediate respect from everyone in the organization and would be a great help to advancing Ben Cherington's abilities. It may be fairly difficult to convince him to leave Minnesota. The Twins are an old school organization that tend to keep their employees for very long stretches of time, if not the extent of their entire careers, and Ryan could very well be one of those.

Brian Sabean - An executive that may very well be overlooked by other members of the media when discussing this topic, Sabean has been at the helm of the Giants for many successful seasons, including the 2010 World Series Championship year. Never afraid to make a move to bolster the team, Sabean has often traded top prospects that never amounted to anything in the major leagues for all stars such as Jeff Kent, Jason Schmidt, Andres Galarraga, Rob Nen, Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez, Kenny Lofton, Joe Carter, Jose Mesa, and Ellis Burks. He also was the man who retooled the giants roster after losing many key players after the 2002 season, leading to a 100 win 2003 season for the Giants that saw Sabean be awarded the 'Executive of the Year' title by Sporting News in 2003. Sabean has also made many successful draft picks, including current standouts Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Sabean has also been at the helm of the Giants for the dark period of 2004-2008. Through this, he learned the effects of building an entire team of veterans, and has since learned the right mix of players, eventually leading the Giants to a World Series title in 2010. Coming to the Red Sox, Sabean would be able to give the Red Sox a defined direction to head in and would be able to correct the culture in the organization.

Andrew Friedman - My personal favorite for the job, Friedman is one of the top executives in the game right now. Currently the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, Friedman is perhaps the most sought after executive by teams with vacant General Manager and executive baseball operations positions. Friedman turned the Rays from the laughing stock of the league to a World Series finalist in 2008 and a playoff contender year in and year out. Some of his best transactions include the drafting and extension of Evan Longoria, trading for Matt Garza, drafting David Price, and drafting and extending Matt Moore. I view Friedman as the Felix Hernandez of baseball executives. Everyone knows how good he is, but he's trapped in a small market. Put him in a big market such as Boston, and you will see him thrive and turn the Red Sox into one of the best teams in the league, all while demanding immediate respect and changing the culture of the organization immediately. It wouldn't be easy getting Friedman out of Tampa Bay, but Boston could be just the right team to pry him out of the Sunshine State.

Theo Epstein - This will never happen, but it's worth pointing out that the Red Sox let one of the best executives in baseball walk out the door and take the promotion that they should have given him in Chicago. Epstein would have been the perfect in house replacement. There's no requirement to trade prospects for him or run the risk of being denied permission to interview him to begin with. The Red Sox could have very easily promoted Epstein to President of the team while also giving Ben Cherington the promotion to General manager. That would have been the best possible outcome. A guy who has been here and will always command respect gets the promotion he deserves and the guy who appears to be the next baseball genius gets the promotion he deserves. Two birds would have been killed with one stone. Instead, the team was too busy smearing Terry Francona's name after firing him (make no mistake about it, he was fired) and catering to the players' every wish. Epstein will thrive in Chicago and, hopefully, will eventually bring the Cubs their first World Series title in over 100 years.

Brian Cashman - Another man perfect for the job, Cashman is well known around Boston. His success as General Manager of the Yankees is legendary and has always kept the Yankees at or around the top of the league. His ability to not only make big name trades and free agent signings, but also use Theo Epstein's style of finding diamonds in the rough while digging through the scrap heap of free agency has created the perfect blend for the Bronx Bombers. However, Cashman would be impossible to obtain. The Yankees would never allow the Red Sox to even interview Cashman, never mind hire him.

Kenny Williams - Another one of my personal favorites, Williams has often been praised for his success with Chicago. Currently the General Manager of the White Sox, Williams has had success with his focus on pitching, speed, and defense as opposed to strictly offense. His ability to seek out and acquire players who fit his style accordingly has brought the White Sox great success since he took the reigns in 2000. Also known for his many ballsy moves, his ability to make under the radar trades and signings have been praised by the likes of Yahoo! Sports' Gordon Edes, specifically for his acquisition of former Padres ace Jake Peavy. Williams has also had success on the manager front. His hiring of former White Sox short stop Ozzie Guillen as manager in 2003 and hiring former White Sox infielder Robin Ventura to replace Guillen, who was fired and subsequently hired by the Miami Marlins. Guillen had a lot of success in his tenure in Chicago, leading them to a World Series Championship in 2005, and it appears that Robin Vetura could be heading down the same path after having a successful rookie season as manager thus far. Williams has balls and isn't afraid to make any kind of move (as shown by his acquisition of outfielder Alex Rios, who has seen more success in Chicago than he was having in Toronto) and would immediately come in and set all bad apples in the clubhouse straight.

While many still hold out hope for the Red Sox to make the playoffs, the fact of the matter is they are out of the Wild Card race for the most part. It's time to look to the future, to next season and beyond. Replacing Lucchino would be one step towards fixing this team, but it isn't the only one necessary. Heads will roll this winter, and one can only hope that Larry Lucchino is finally replaced by someone with a background in baseball and not just business.

And hey, just to spice this up and give you a good laugh to close this out:

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