ORLANDO, Fla. – Torey Lovullo got caught in the middle of the complicated relationship between the Cubs and Boston Red Sox.
The Ricketts family and Crane Kenney’s business side love the Red Sox model, trying to mirror Fenway Park in their Wrigley Field renovations. They lured Theo Epstein out of Boston after an epic collapse in 2011, giving him a president’s title and the keys to the kingdom.
Evidently those hard feelings haven’t completely disappeared, even as the Red Sox won their third World Series title in the last 10 years.
People here for the general manager meetings at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes rave about new manager Rick Renteria. But sources have also insisted the Cubs at least wanted a shot to interview Lovullo, the Red Sox bench coach during a surprising worst-to-first turnaround.
“We did not deny permission,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Tuesday. “There was no request for permission. I can’t comment on it any further out of respect for the Cubs and their process and obviously they’ve hired a manager.
“I’m not sure it would be appropriate to comment any further. I can say in conversations with Torey, he is very happy where he’s at and we were able to agree to a new contract with him.”
Epstein is said to be on very good terms with Cherington, but it was a messy exit in 2011. Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino had once mentored Epstein, who got tired of the power struggles on Yawkey Way and wanted a new challenge at Clark and Addison.
As part of the compensation negotiations that took months to finalize, the Cubs agreed to hire only one lower-level employee (scout Matt Dorey) across the next three years and not raid the Red Sox front office.
Privately, the Cubs acknowledge the Red Sox had the letter of the law on their side. But at the time the agreement was reached, Lovullo was a Toronto Blue Jays employee, part of John Farrell’s coaching staff.
As one National League executive said, there are only 30 of those jobs out there, and this one would have meant the chance to manage a marquee franchise.
Lovullo – who has interviewed for multiple managerial openings across the years – might not be the hot name next offseason. His visibility had definitely increased in October standing next to Farrell, who finished second to Terry Francona (Cleveland Indians) in the American League Manager of the Year voting.
“John felt strongly about keeping him, obviously,” Cherington said. “We also believe he is absolutely a very strong managerial candidate, probably not for 2014, because all those positions are filled. (But) certainly ones will come open in the future and he deserves some consideration.”