11/25/2002 6:05 pm ET
Classy Port doesn't whine
Former Red Sox interim GM stands by Epstein
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- As the Red Sox went through their methodical search for a general manager, there was easily a most frequently uttered question.
"Why not just remove the interim label from Mike Port's title and make him the permanent GM?"
It came from fans, it came from the print and broadcasting media. It even came from a fair number of baseball executives around the country who have long respected Port for his class and diligence.
As it turned out, Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino never buckled to all the "I like Mike" sentiment.
Instead, he did what he thought was the right thing and promoted assistant GM Theo Epstein, who wasn't even born when Port took his first front-office position with the Padres in 1969.
Port could have stayed away from Monday's unveiling of Epstein at Fenway Park and nobody would have blamed him. In fact, that's probably what most people in Port's position would have done.
But during the nearly nine months Port was the interim GM of the Red Sox, he always put the team before himself. Such was the case again Monday, when he stood visibly in the audience while Epstein held his press conference.
And after Epstein was finished, it was Port's turn to conduct some interviews.
It had to be a bittersweet day, right?
"Not really," said Port, the former Angels GM who has been in the Red Sox front office since 1993. "I was aware of the ground rules when we started last spring [with] the interim element. As you know, I've been involved in this industry a long time, so I think there are very few things that really catch me by surprise."
So it's no surprise that Lucchino and Epstein have asked Port to remain in his current capacity of vice president/baseball operations.
Port wants to explore the details of the position more deeply with Lucchino and Epstein before deciding if he'll stay.
"That's still ground to be covered," said Port, who indicated his decision won't take long. "I would think that what Larry and Theo had in mind would be similar duties to what I had before. I think I just want to make sure ... the design of the job is important to me."
One of the striking aspects of Epstein's press conference was that he led it off by paying tribute to the man he beat out for the job.
"I want to start by saying a few words about Mike Port," said Epstein. "Working with Mike this year, I learned that what everyone in baseball had told me about Mike was true. Mike is the embodiment of class, professionalism and teamwork. He's done a great service for me in easing my transition from the San Diego Padres to the Boston Red Sox. He's done a great service to the organization easing the transition from old to new. I learned a lot from Mike Port about baseball this year, a lot about being a professional, and I really look forward to continuing to work with him in the future."
Lucchino also paid tribute to Port.
"Mike Port showed an extraordinary amount of loyalty and conscientiousness performing his duties this year," Lucchino said.
How did Port manage to stay on an even keel through such a whirlwind process?
"It was not my decision. I realized that all along," he said. "I didn't have control of the process, so I tried not to let it control me. Realizing it was a decision left to the ownership, I felt we should all respect the process."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at Ian.Browne@mlb.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its