Front-Office Fantasy

 

Galen Carr and Brian O'Halloran live their dream as they help shape the Red Sox

By Gerry Boyle '78
Photography by Fred Field
 

Like most Red Sox fans, Galen Carr '97 has some advice for Sox Manager Terry Francona. Carr's friend and fellow fan Brian O'Halloran '93 prefers to scrutinize the moves of Theo Epstein, the fast-trading Red Sox general manager.

Difference is, when Carr offers his two cents (actually, highly detailed analyses of hitters and pitchers on opposing teams), Francona listens. And when Epstein, the front-office prodigy charged with bringing the Red Sox to the World Series, wheels and deals, it's O'Halloran who goes to work to make the deals happen.

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Brian O'Halloran '93 (left) and Galen Carr '97 at Fenway Park
Carr and O'Halloran are living a Sox fan's dream: to be a part of the team they've cheered since childhood (in New Hampshire and Boston's South Shore, respectively). To leave for work every day and end up at Fenway Park. To rub elbows with players who are the stuff of legend (or at least the sports pages).

"A lot of people would love to work in baseball," O'Halloran said over lunch at a pub off Lansdowne Street. "The supply-and-demand factors make it very difficult to get into, but then to be able to do it in your hometown and work for the team that you grew up rooting for,the odds are astronomical against it. I'm totally fortunate to have that opportunity."

Long odds, but not dumb luck.

Carr, advance scouting coordinator, and O'Halloran, coordinator of Major League administration, landed with the Red Sox after months and even years of persistent pursuit of their goal.

A baseball pitcher at Colby, Carr did an internship with the minor league Vermont Expos the summer before his senior year. The job whetted his appetite for a baseball operations career and enabled him to make contacts with the parent club, the Montreal Expos. Carr continued to maintain his contacts as he taught and coached at Northfield Mount Hermon School, then moved to a job at Salomon Smith Barney in Boston. Then one of his contacts, Ben Cherington, was hired as director of player development for the Red Sox. Carr came to Fenway Park as an intern in 2000 and soon was added to the "baseball ops" staff. "Right time, right place," he said.

O'Halloran's route to Fenway was more circuitous. A government and Russian studies double major, he quickly turned a passion for things Russian into a career. O'Halloran spent his junior year in the Republic of Georgia and won a Watson Fellowship to return after graduation. That was followed by a five-year stint with a Washington-based logistics company that did a lot of business in Russia and the former Soviet Union. After five years abroad, he decided to come home.

"I was twenty-seven years old, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life," O'Halloran said. "It kept coming back to baseball."

But he knew no one in the business and went looking for advice. The bottom line: O'Halloran didn't have enough to offer. His response was to get his M.B.A. with an emphasis in sports management at The Anderson School of Business at UCLA. Alumni connections led to a meeting with none other than Epstein, then with the San Diego Padres. O'Halloran was offered an internship with the National League club, but a month later Epstein moved to the Red Sox. After six months in San Diego, O'Halloran moved back to Boston (his fiancé was starting grad school at Harvard) and got in touch with Epstein.

"I'd come in whenever a workstation opened up," O'Halloran said. "Some games I'd come in at the end of the game, like eleven o'clock at night, and work until five in the morning, by myself, charting games. Nobody else here but the mice."

He was substitute teaching during the day and interning for the Red Sox at night when, last January, O'Halloran was invited to join the staff. Now he,like Carr,spends most days (and nights) in the warren of basement offices under the ticket windows on Lansdowne Street. O'Halloran's job is to handle the administrative aspects of any transactions the Red Sox make: helping to write the contracts, working with players' agents, making sure the deals are approved by Major League Baseball. "Every day is different," O'Halloran said. "Today we just made a minor trade so there's a lot of paperwork related to that. I just finished talking to the player we traded for [a left-handed pitcher] and the club [the Minnesota Twins] to finalize the details."

Some deals are relatively simple. Some are more complicated, like the trades that brought star pitchers Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke to Boston this season. "So far so good," O'Halloran said, grinning. "They're both pitching well."

He'd actually feel guilty if a player didn't perform to expectations?

"I think we all do," O'Halloran said. "Theo is making the ultimate decision, but he's asking all of our opinions. . . . If it doesn't work out, we feel responsible."

Carr's job is to help ensure that things "work out" for the Red Sox. That means winning games, and Carr's contribution is sheaves of reports on opposing teams.

Along one wall in Carr's office are racks holding a dozen DVD burners with satellite TV hookups. The Red Sox burn a dozen games a day onto DVDs, which are archived on adjacent shelves. It's a library of baseball information, and Carr peruses it with an analyst's eye, turning hours of games into succinct reports that sum up opponents' strengths and weaknesses.

"Yesterday I did Paul Abbot," Carr said, popping a disc into his laptop. "We're probably going to face him when Tampa Bay comes here."

And the Red Sox would be ready.

"Generally, for a pitcher we establish what his pitches are. We have to make sure everybody knows what he throws. We'll keep track of velocity; we'll keep track of movement. We'll keep track of his ability to locate each of those pitches to a certain spot in the strike zone."

The book on the big right-hander Abbot? For non-baseball readers, Carr's assessment may seem like a foreign language. "Yesterday his fastball was eighty-eight to ninety-one. He had a split finger that was at eighty-four, eighty-five. It's a lot like a two-seam fastball so it sinks a little bit. It would run in on right-handed hitters. Slider was his go-to pitch. He varied the angles on it. Eighty, eighty-one was his slower down-angle break."

Divining that sort of information about an entire team takes about 40 hours, Carr said. Note that he did not say a 40-hour week. "Forty hours over three days is manageable," he said. "Forty over two days is not."

That morning Carr was preparing his report on Tampa Bay. A report on the Yankees, who had just been swept by the Red Sox in the Bronx, was on the shelf. It had gone to Francona, the manager, and all of his coaches. "We'll also give copies to [catchers] Varitek and Mirabelli," Carr said. "Schilling has gotten in on the action this year. He's big into preparation."

This analytical approach is a Red Sox trademark under Epstein, and while the club still relies on more traditional reports from scouts on the road, the statistical era has opened the front-office door to people like Carr and O'Halloran, who never played in the big leagues. In the case of the Red Sox, that means a front office staffed by alumni of Amherst and Colby, Harvard and Haverford.

"In the past it was always, 'You don't belong in the front office. You don't know what it's like to play in front of 30,000 people,'" Carr said. "I think that philosophy has dissipated substantially over the last ten years.

"Overall, front offices are understanding that if you're educated and you have a passion for baseball, and at least limited [playing] experience, that means you can do something."