Terry Francona? Yep.
John Farrell? Um-hum.
Grady Little? Believe it or not, yes.
Don Zimmer? … Just messing with you. Unless the Gerbil and Glenn Ordway shared a bottle of Rosé back in the day.
All three of these recent Red Sox managers were rumored – or confirmed by well-placed sources – to be sneaking side-pieces around Fenway during their tenure as skipper of the local nine.
It’s baseball. With apologies to Hyman Roth, this is the business they’ve chosen. The media, the players, the front office – they all make strange bedfellows, and they keep even stranger hours. Your work turns into your play when there’s no one else to play with when the workday ends at 1:00 a.m.
The list of names of those in the business who found love when the bright lights went dim is long in Boston. Former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington and outstanding ESPN journalist Wendy Nix were married, then divorced. Current Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski met his wife — former TV sports reporter Karie Ross — when he was the GM of the Marlins and she covered the team. There have been at least two marriages between Red Sox front office types and NESN personnel. America’s sweetheart Jenny Dell and Will Middlebrooks famously got together and now they’re newlyweds much to the chagrin of the angry mobs who claimed their hookup was just a sordid affair. Former NESN sideline reporters Hazel Mae and Heidi Watney dealt with their fair share of stories tying them Red Sox uniformed personnel. And there are countless more whispered tales of short and long-term pairings that are forever part of Red Sox media folklore.
But we’re not here to judge. Humans are humans and the heart wants what the heart wants.
So what to make of the news that the tireless, talented, and hilarious Jessica Moran resigned her position from Comcast SportsNet (CSN) on Friday amid allegations she’s in a relationship with Red Sox manager John Farrell?
Consider the source.
This long-known story regarding Moran and Farrell – in certain media circles anyway – was broken out of the blue Friday night and put into the spotlight by Red Sox owner John Henry’s Boston Globe.
“I have stepped away from Comcast SportsNet as I thought it was in my best personal and professional interest to do so,” Moran wrote in a text to the intrepid Mark Shanahan. “They have been extremely supportive during my tenure at the network — and with this decision — and I am very appreciative of that.” Moran has covered the Red Sox since joining CSN in 2009.
The Globe report claims there had been recent speculation among reporters about the nature of the relationship between Farrell and Moran. But the speculation and specifics have been out there for a couple of years, frankly. On Monday, WEEI’s Kirk Minihane said on air, “I heard they’re living together.” He added that he had been also been aware of the relationship for at least two years.
The 53-year-old Farrell, who has been separated from his wife and is in the process of getting a divorce, declined to comment on his relationship with the 32-year-old Moran Friday. “My private life is private,” Farrell told the Globe.
Except that the Red Sox manager’s life is not-so-private any longer as the Globe story has already been curated on Bleacher Report, Yahoo!, FoxSports.com, and The Washington Post. Sox fans have started chiming in with comments on the Globe’s website and on the paper’s Facebook posting. The snarky tweets have already taken flight across the internets. And the hosts of WEEI’s “Dennis & Callahan featuring Minihane” show are already chomping at the bit to have at this scandalous story bright and early Monday morning.
“Who and why would [anyone] even remotely give a crap?” former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling wondered. “This is a reporter with minimal baseball IQ and a vendetta against one or both. So stupid.”
The bottom line is this is not a storyline Farrell needs on his 2016 resume especially if his team gets right back on the fast track to the AL East basement. It’s just not a good look.
Beyond the personal relationship of the two adults in question, there are far more interesting elements to this situation. CSN is a competitor of Red Sox-owned NESN. We’ll soon see how much collateral damage was done over in Burlington beyond the unfortunate photo of Moran’s former colleague Trenni Kusnierek that Deadspin mistakenly tweeted and teased on their story.
— hits mcghee (@ryanmassey) March 5, 2016
The most speculated theory on why Henry’s media outlet broke the gossipy news is that the team is preparing to make the managerial transition from John Farrell to Torey Lovullo, and this story will help ensure that the Red Sox don’t have another Don Orsillo situation on their hands. The Sox and NESN brass underestimated how beloved D.O. was in these parts when they parted ways with the popular play-by-play man. The issue with Farrell isn’t that Red Sox Nation adores him. They don’t. The optics come into play because of the C-Word: cancer.
In August, Farrell announced he had been diagnosed with stage 1 lymphoma and took the rest of the season off to beat the dreaded disease. But a funny thing happened in Farrell’s absence: The lackluster celler-dweller Red Sox showed some life, hustle, and spunk under Lovullo, the interim manager. Lovullo signed on to stay with the Red Sox even though he was highly sought after around the league and Farrell was returning to his post for the 2016 season.
Lovullo might just be the type of manager that team president Dave Dombrowski would like to have running his Red Sox. And everyone under the Florida sun has been reporting that Farrell could be kicked to the curb early if the Sox stumble out of the gate again. And having a relationship with a reporter who covered his team might make a Farrell firing just a little more palatable for Red Sox Nation to digest.
It would be the ultimate case of irony if Dombrowski had to personally axe Farrell over the ordeal as the Red Sox president also had a relationship with a TV sports reporter while he led the Florida Marlins front office in the early 90s.
“In the time we’ve been dating, I don’t think anyone can point to an instance where Channel 4 had an advantage or got a story because of our relationship,” Dombrowski told the Sun Sentinel regarding his relationship with Karie Ross when it was revealed the Marlins GM and the Miami TV sports reporter were dating back in 1994.
Ross said she was uncomfortable with the relationship from the start.
“I was brought up in an era where you just didn’t do that kind of stuff,” Ross said in a 2001 interview. “Gosh, you never gave athletes or anyone in sports that kind of indication.”
Dombrowski said Farrell story is “a personal matter.” He said it would not affect Farrell’s job status.
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) March 5, 2016
Dombrowski — the Marlins first EVP and GM at the time — actually wanted to announce to the world that he was in a relationship with a reporter covering his team.
“He wanted to bring it out in public,” Ross said. “I told him, ‘You don’t understand, this is my reputation on the line. They [other media members] will crucify me.'”
When it was revealed the two were dating in 1994, Ross defended her professional credibility.
“My personal life does not interfere with my professional life and it never will,” she said.
Miami’s WTVJ Channel 4 — unlike Comcast SportsNet — had decided to keep Ross on the Marlins beat after the relationship revelation.
“Dating Dombrowski has never helped nor hampered her reporting on the Marlins,” former WTVJ executive sports producer Regent Ducas told the Sun Sentinel. “If I ever perceived that she wasn’t doing her job because of the relationship, I would be the first one to get all over her about it. But her personal life is her personal life.”
As she predicted, Ross felt the backlash when the news was revealed and even after the couple announced their engagement in 1995.
“They just ripped me,” Ross said. “They didn’t say one bad thing about him, of course, because they still had to do interviews with him.”
Ross is also know for speaking out against the rampant sexual harassment at ESPN in a cafeteria plea in Bristol, Conn. in the 1980s as revealed in the 2001 book titled “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN.”
After Ross complained about the propositions, groping, and Playboy Channel playing on the network’s monitors, here contract was not renewed.
“I was not at the cafeteria meeting, but Karie was right, I’m sure of that,” ESPN bigwig Chris Berman is quoted as saying in the book. “I liked her. She was a great-looking woman; still is, the last time I saw her.
“As far as the other women were concerned, I will say this: we looked out for each other. If somebody had a problem, a couple of the guys took care of it. If I talked to someone, I would say, ‘Take it easy. We’re all still friends. Don’t make anybody uncomfortable here.’ If someone was uncomfortable and they came to the right people, it was ‘Cut that shit out.’ If there were a couple of the camera ladies having trouble with some guys, the would let the right people know about it and it was policed. The right guys didn’t stand for that. But maybe I was naive.”
Back to Farrell, can we say for sure that the Red Sox are greasing the skids to rid themselves of their 2013 World Series winning manager? Of course not.
But if anyone sees Bob Hohler running around town asking what’s in Farrell’s medicine cabinet, you can say goodbye to the Red Sox skipper and hello to new manager Torey Lovullo.