Indeed, as Feeding the Monster winds down, Mnookin shows us how a concerted effort has been made by the team to bring the burner down to a simmer, lest all this hysteria do even more damage. (Witness a new approach to the press that’s more tight-lipped than ever, and the signing of workmanlike “professionals” such as Mark Loretta and Mike Lowell.) At the end of the day, after all, we’re talking about a baseball team. A very good one. And now that — hopefully — the hysteria of ’04 and the hangover of ’05 are safely in the rear view mirror, we can keep winning. That, after all, is the name of the game.
Two Sundays ago, as the 2004 World Beaters began a game against the reigning champs, the Chicago White Sox, that would last a grueling 19 innings, the Phoenix talked with Seth Mnookin over the phone from his home in New York City.
What is it with this team, anyway?
A big part of it is not that the team is so different from any other major-league team, or any other sports organization, but that the interest, both the media interest and the fan interest, is so unique and so intense.… Everything that happened in Boston seemed so magnified compared to most other cities. Even New York. If you look at Theo’s situation, and compare that to Brian Cashman’s situation, Brian Cashman can walk down the street pretty much unmolested. If people recognized him, they might say, ‘Hey, good job,’ or whatever. But it’s nothing like the frenzy that goes on with Theo. Theo is basically treated like he’s a member of the Beatles, circa 1964.
So, this book came about after an article you did for Vanity Fair about the 2004 post-season?
In the period when I finished the book about the Times [Hard News: The Scandals of the New York Times and Their Meaning for an American Media], and the time when it came out, I was sort of casting around for a shortish-term assignment that was gonna leave me free to do all the promotional stuff I was gonna have to do once the Times book came out, but would keep me busy for a while. I thought, “What could be more fun than doing something on the Red Sox?”, chronicling what I hoped would be a successful playoff run. Obviously, that ended up being even a much bigger story than I could have imagined. Simultaneously, I was interviewing John Henry and Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner. I sort of felt like the story behind the sale hadn’t been covered in a sort of retrospective way. I think [the owners] also felt like the story of the sale had never been told. A project that went back that far was more intriguing to them than something that just recounted the World Series, or just recounted 2004. And since the New York Times is a minority owner, they were obviously aware I wasn’t a sportswriter, but they were familiar with [Hard News] and with what I had done. So they knew I wasn’t coming out of left field, so to speak.